Joy and Sorrow and Heart Transplants

 The anniversary of Ali joining our family and some recent news I got about her biological mother has stirred up a lot of sadness in me. I’m keenly aware that Alianna is my daughter because she was taken from another mother. September 21, 2011—day that I look back to and reflect on with joy and gratitude is a day that another woman’s heart was deeply wounded…not for the first time and not for the last time. I cry for her because I know what she is missing out on and I can’t imagine the pain of loss after loss.

It seems to be hard for others “on the outside” to understand why I have such sadness about this. Yes, she made mistakes and losing her child(ren) was a consequence. Yes, she released her to us and gave us her blessing. Yes, life is good for us and Ali doesn’t exhibit any signs of trauma or loss. But this woman who I barely know will forever be important to me and honored as such. We have a unique bond as two mothers to the same little girl. She carried for nine months, gave birth to, loved and did her best to care for my daughter for the first two months of her life. That’s a reality that will never be erased or replaced by adoption. Ali had a mom before me—her first mom—and I love and bless her for the gifts she gave to Ali of life, love, beauty.

The best analogy I can conjure for how this feels is to imagine a heart transplant. In the movie Return to Me, the main character Grace is painfully aware that she received a new heart because another woman died. She and her family gained because another family lost. That’s how it goes with adoption. Most of our family and friends only see the benefit to us but we also see the damage done to her original family. So, it is with heavy hearts that we celebrated this past weekend. Saturday we celebrated being a family but Sunday we spent time talking about Ali’s first mom, reflecting on events of the past two years and praying for her.

(Face covered and identity concealed for her privacy.)


The first picture I have of me with Ali:


I felt a little funny about this “mommy adores me” shirt that came to our home with Ali until I realized how much her biological mommy AND I (her foster mommy at the time) both adored her. She was the most content and happy baby I’ve ever seen.



I doubt that Ali’s first mom will ever see this post but just in case you do read this one day:

We will never forget about you. We will include you when we tell Ali the story of how she became part of our family and we will show her photos of you. We always speak about you with respect and dignity. We won’t lie to Ali about the realities of you and her and the part of your lives that was spent together and when she’s ready and old enough to understand we will answer every question we’re able to answer. We think about you and pray for you all the time. We love you.


5 Responses to Joy and Sorrow and Heart Transplants

  1. Esther says:

    So, so good. I understand the feelings, life is so messy and so good 🙂 Love to your sweet family!!!

  2. Liz says:

    I love the analogy of the heart transplant. There is so much loss when a child is adopted, for the child and her biological family. I wish more adoptive families would acknowledge and respect that, instead of whitewashing the initial loss with their own love, or worse, seeing that loss as a threat to their own family security.

    I wonder if there is any chance of your family having a degree of openness or communication with Ali’s birth mom?

  3. Ashley says:

    Thank you for articulating my feelings. My boyfriend and I are fostering two sisters, almost 3 and 18 months… We are working towards adoption. It is with great anticipation I follow your blog. We have been parents for 4 months and I can’t even begin to describe how our lives have changed. Our girls are actually my third cousins, so we have and will continue to see their father at family events. This post hit me hard, as I sympathize with my girls biological parents and their first foster families (they were separated for a year when initially placed in the system). My almost 3 year old was also wearing a “mommy loves me” onesie when I picked her up to be reunited with her sister and join our family. Thank you for your dedication and insight!!

  4. Mrs. A says:

    Thank you so much for this post.

    Our daughter (Ms. A) just turned 1 year old. It’s hard now to even imagine she is adopted – we gained custoday when she was 3 days old and she looks so much like our biological son. Her birthmom endured a very traumatic childhood and was experiencing a very sad life when we met her. However, she clearly loved her little girl and made what she thought was the very best for her – to choose us as her adoptive parents. She wanted her daughter to have a better childhood than she had and made a choice that I respect and am so grateful for.

    I am currently working on our first annual letter and pictures to Ms. A’s birth mom. Your post definitely helps! 🙂

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