Friday, September 4, 2009

The Wide Open Heart

A little over one year ago, I witnessed the birth (as best as you can outside a hospital delivery room door) of my first grandchild. Samuel James was brought into this world only to leave too soon with his adoptive parents. His birth parents, two good-hearted teens dealing with the tumult life sometimes brings, chose to place their little boy with an equally good-hearted couple who had been yearning to adopt for some time.

The day Sammy came was one of the giddiest highlights of my midlife, my heart so open it felt close to bursting. The day after, or rather, the evening of the day before Placement Day, was the hardest thing I'd ever experienced. Not the death of a marriage, not raising kids as a single mom, not an early miscarriage between my first two children, not kidney stones, not job loss; but the giving up of a child--my birth grandchild. On that day I learned that a heart could keep beating after shattering to bits.

You fall in love on day one and still in love, must say goodbye. So far the sadness has been staunched because his new parents, embracing an open adoption, have kept up a blog with photos and an occasional get together (I've seen and held Sammy twice since he was born; Christmas and his blessing day).

It is one of the sweetest experiences, and still, there is a sadness that lingers in a corner of my heart. Do I wish things were different? Daily. Would I try to change it if I could? No; the bond between Sammy and his new parents is set.

I've come to a place of gratitude for the sacrifices made. The birth mother, and my son, who gave up someone they loved. The adoptive parents, who gave up their privacy to allow our family into their lives. Sammy's birth relatives, especially his birth father's siblings, who want to so much to keep in touch with their nephew.

What touches me most about that day when Sammy was born, was watching his 16-year old father protectively follow him and his nurse down to the neonatal observation room (that's what I call it; don't know what it really is) and for the next hour and a half, keep his hand on his naked son as he lay in the bassinet being observed for vitals. The tears that trickled down his face, the exhaustion from the long birth night and the emotions of the weeks and months before. The way his large hand cupped around his son, the love he was giving him while he could. I'd never witnessed this side of my boy, and it moved me beyond tears.

On Placement Day I was driving with my youngest daughter, tears streaming down my face, and she said something to me I will never forget; with wisdom beyond her years, "Mom, just remember, this may be the worst day you've ever had, but it's also the happiest day Emma and James have ever had." Just that unexpected turn of phrase, the circumstances seen in that light, opened up a crack in the clouds and let some rays shine through. It lightened my grieving heart with the possibility that this family would love this baby boy with all their heart.

And so it seems to have become. The times I've seen Sammy with them, he's happy and devoted and completely trusting. And so are they. It's remarkable really, the love an infant brings into this world. The power to open hearts. And that's what this experience has left me with. The desire to keep my heart open no matter what shows up to break it. Because despite the pain and sadness I would not trade this experience for the world. It has been worth every moment, just to get to know Sammy, his birth mother, my son in unexpected ways, and Sammy's new family.

So thank you God, for bringing Sammy into this world to share with so many. Thank you Sammy, for being your amazing self, thank you Jaycee and Jason for loving this baby more than yourselves, and thank you Emma and James for your love and generosity.

Names have been changed for privacy reasons.
Credit: Photo courtesy of


  1. That was a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Thanks Kim; I didn't want to get all emo sad, but, well, it couldn't be helped. But also a catharsis, which I often find true in writing.

  3. A heart wrenching post, indeed. The image of your son standing with his hand on the baby. Very touching. I think it wonderful that you can write about it. Helps, I'm sure.

  4. Thanks Julie, writing is definitely a healing tool. It lets you revisit the past and see it objectively out of the heat of the moment. Sammy's birth mom and adoptive mom both posted their own version of the story which also turned out cathartic for me. Another reason to love the Internet; seeing life through other's eyes besides your own. You start to see we are all very much alike after all.

  5. I popped in from Midlife Jobhunter after seeing your comment to one of her posts, not knowing that I would be crying within seconds! As an adult adoptee, and as a grandmother of two, I saw this from actually three sides - my birthmother's, mine as an adoptee, and as a grandmother. I wasn't just shedding a tear or two, I was on my way to sobbing. What a difficult decision for all involved, but how wonderful that it wasn't shrouded in mystery and guilt. That you were involved up to the delivery and were able to actually hold your grandbaby, that you were able to help your son through this, that they found such a loving and open family that's letting you share this adventure ... well, I cried not just for my sadness or yours, but at joy for all concerned that this appears to have such a good resolution to such a heartrending situation. Well, ok, as your daughter said, a happy ending for the adoptive family, which means a happy beginning for your grandchild.

    If written about my own adoption several times, and the private responses I get are truly a testiment to what a common incident it is, and what a complex array of feelings are involved for everybody.

  6. Linda, thank you for sharing your multi-dimensional connection to my post; what you said about the experience not being shrouded in mystery and guilt...well, that opened up another vista of gratitude for me. What I love about life experiences, including and sometimes especially the difficult ones, are how much love appears to come into the picture. I love that we humans have this unlimited capacity for love. I'm looking forward to spending time on your blog reading about your adoption experience...Peace.

  7. Hi, Lorna, thanks for visiting me. I redid my labels so you can find my adoption posts easier - I'm still getting the hang of doing all that, and usually forget altogether! My story is a lot different than yours - that was back in the day when adoption WAS shrouded in mystery and guilt, for one thing, plus my mother's situation was a lot different. I still have quite a bit more to disclose on the subject, like finding my maternal family, etc. It looks like Sam won't have to go 30 years to find out from whence he came!

  8. Thanks Linda. Does this mean you did find your maternal family? My teens have friends who are adopted and they are all wanting to know about their birth parents. Usually the mother, which I find fascinating. Experiencing this from the birth father's viewpoint, it is so complicated and heart-wrenching. But I'm glad to have had the opportunity to come to see and feel that aspect of adoption. There's so much silence on it. No, they do not carry the baby, but that doesn't mean they don't feel the love or pain of losing the child. I also find that women are able to grieve more openly and get the emotional support to heal from the loss, but men find the pain just as unbearable and don't seem to have the same support system or sympathy. Love is love, after all.

  9. Hi, Lorna. I have an award for you at my place ... the Honest Scrap Award, for those bloggers who write from their heart. Come on over and get it!

  10. Wow, this was... Just so emotional. Thank you for sharing, this was a wonderful, wonderful post.

  11. I had to ask the same question ... in a perfect world, you will go to my blog and (1)click on the award and it will go to a separate page with just the award. (2) You click on that (maybe left click?) and save it as or send it to 'my pictures'. (3)Then after you've done all that and left my blog, you go to your blog and do 'add a gadget', and use the 'add a picture' option, and (4)browse to go to 'my pictures' and put the award on your blog as a picture gadget. Gosh, it's not near that complicated, it just sounds like it! And if the color clashes with your blog decor, you can put it on the bottom!

  12. I stumbled upon this post while searching online.

    It is difficult to give a child up for adoption, almost as difficult as being a young, unmarried pregnant woman without resources or family to care for your baby. It is also difficult to be a birth family member and not be able to be part of that decision making process.

    My sister was unable to have a child so she and her husband adopted a baby. We couldn't love or care for the baby more had we been the biological family. I am sure the family that adopted your birth grandson love him like we love our baby.

    Sometimes families are not made by blood, but made by love.

  13. Thank you for finding my site. I do not in any way wish to diminish the love you have for your sister's baby, and I hope I have expressed the deep gratitude for the loving family my grandson has adopted.

    But if by some chance your own child gave their baby up for adoption in the future, you might be able to feel the ache that is in my heart as a grandmother not able to share her love with her grandchild. I have had people say that a child can never have too many people loving it. That's my position as well.