Today was the day that my daughter started Kindergarten. It was a big day for both of us. I walked her in the pouring rain to her school and down the hall. Tomorrow I will not get to go to her classroom. She is a big girl now. But today, I got to go.
Hand-in-hand, we walked and I looked at her. I am so fond of her. She is light and salt and a blessing. She looked back at me and gave a hint of a smile. She was excited!
In these innocent moments, these milestones, I often have company—birthmother grief. It’s unforgiving and quick, like the thud of a punch on my cheek. She found her name and sat in her chair. I got down on her level and looked her in the eyes. Then, kneeling there beside my sweet daughter, I lost it.
I kissed her goodbye. I walked out of the classroom and went to my car with tears falling as freely as the rain. I felt a shadow. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I felt a sense of guilt; this was my daughter’s big day. I felt tired. I have been running this race a long time.
Last year I took a job as a Pregnancy Counselor, and this job has put my personal story front and center. I see women everyday walking through different parts of a narrative I have lived. While I am honored to be a small part of their story, it still surprises me how true my Pregnancy Counselor advice is for myself.
I have waxed poetically about resurfacing grief. Last month at Imprint, the post-placement support group that I facilitate, I talked about it like it was for the other birthmothers in the room. But God knew it was for me.
“Grief comes up at life events. It doesn’t get easier; you begin to recognize it. When it comes up, take a good look at it, hold it, allow yourself to feel it, and give yourself grace.”
This morning, I grieved missing the joy of taking my first born son to his first day of school. I felt the distance between us, between parenting and birthparenting.
It’s not just the milestones I miss, but the moments too. The excitement in his eyes as he learns. The thrill of running on the playground. The stories from school about his day. The little moments, where he smiles and waves goodbye to his mom.
His mom who takes him to school, not me. And I love her, and I love her for it. I love her for all of it. For providing for him and for catching the moments and for treasuring him. I am thankful.
Still, on days like today, I can’t help but feel the pull in a million different directions, like my heart is a preschool parachute.
Grief comes at life events. It doesn’t get easier, you begin to recognize it.
I recognize it.
I know what this is, I think. I take a deep breath. I begin to drive, and I give in to it. I proceed to bawl my eyes out the whole way to work.
And as I park my car, I remember playing with a parachute in Mrs. Diven’s P.E. class. I remember the way the parachute works. Pulled from every direction so tight it might split in two, we would hold on and yank that thing in a million directions. Everyone got to play. Everyone was needed to participate and make the parachute work.
It was a group effort.
And I wonder then, about my heart. I feel it being pulled. I feel the danger of it splitting in two. Joy for Cadence. Sadness over my oldest son. Pride in my children. Grief over my children. The sweet gains. The significant losses. The hopes, the anticipations, the hurts, and the fears. My heart feels them all.
And I wonder about God. Jesus was a man well-aquatinted with grief and the Savior. He was moved with compassion and had righteous anger in the Temple. He commanded demons and He wept.
And I wonder about that preschool parachute. How it only works with a group of individuals working together all around the edges. How pulling it taut allows it to work properly. How each person attached to the parachute is necessary.
And then I recognize it. This pain reminds me that placing my son for adoption was the hardest thing I have ever done—-still, to this day. I welcome the reminder. I take a good look at it, hold it, allow myself to feel it, and give myself grace.
This pain is important. This pain is connected to all the other things that I feel.
This pain lets me know I still love him this much.