I don't think about it much. Those hours and days before.
I try not to think of the cries that went unanswered or the meals that went unfed. I try not to think of the cuddles that weren't given or the multiple strangers who stood in my place. I can't fathom the scary times or sad times or even the possibility of happy times. It is just too much.
I parent in a way in which I hopes help to heal the pain of what wasn't done then and what was lost when she became my daughter. I take countless pictures of every special moment of her life. Literally thousands and thousands of pictures taken in the last two and a half years.
There are 12 months of my daughter's life of which there was no photo record. I have asked. And asked. And begged. And asked. This isn't uncommon for many children adopted at an older age but that doesn't make it any easier. I have been this route before. We have one photo of our oldest son as an infant and it is a priceless treasure.
But she has nothing.
She notices now, at three and a half "Where is Baby Taya, Mommy?" as we look through albums of her brothers and sister. I ask again.
Our "Openness Agreement" has developed into a genuine and easy friendship. A sisterhood of love for the same children. Yesterday for the first time, I dropped by unannounced for a surprise visit with an extended family member. We were out of town, unable to reach them through conventional means and just stopping by was the only option. We were welcomed and embraced. We had a picnic together and then a long drive back to town. It was a lovely visit. An easy visit.
I asked again.
When I dropped them off, she asked me to wait for a moment as she ran inside her home. Out she came with a bag of undeveloped film canisters.
"I think there might be a picture on these" she said.
This morning I stood with trembling hands at the photo desk at WalMart. I tried not to hope, convincing myself that chances were, they were pictures of other people. Other days. Other times.
And I was right. The first two batches I looked through were holiday pictures and blurry faces of distant relatives. One whole roll was completely blank.
I grabbed the last envelope heavy with pictures and flipped it open. There, staring back at me were the eyes of my infant daughter.
The weight of those missed moments, the weight of the gaps in her story, the weight of her time before us hit me like a physical punch to the chest and I gasped. Tears poured from my eyes, as the poor teenager behind the desk stared at me in horror. "Oh it's a good thing" I explained "a very good thing!".
They are poorly lit and horribly fuzzy. They are taken on a cheap, old camera. We don't know exactly how old she is, or where they were taken. But they are HER. They are HERS. They are a part of her early story captured for her to see. Captured for me to see. A tiny glimpse but so incredibly precious.
My baby, our baby. I am so incredibly thankful for a few fuzzy pictures sitting in a drawer waiting to be discovered and I am so incredibly thankful I was entrusted with them.