Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Time Before

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.




21 comments:

Joy said...

Beautiful - what a treasure these photos are :)

birthmothertalks said...

Very happy for the newly found baby pictures. It's sad. My little sister feels sad that out of my parents four children she is the only one that doesn't even have one baby picture of herself. We are not sure if none was taken or lost. Very happy for your daughter now she can see her baby pics.

Tiffany said...

PRICELESS!! I also only have a very few photos for my little boy and know of a little boy with nothing. He longs to know what he looked like. It is so hard for them to understand. What a gift.

Robynhood said...

Worth more than gold!

Marcy said...

Those are amazing pics even if they aren't "perfect". They are precious. What a cutie! so glad that they came into your hands and into your lives.

robyncalgary said...

Thank you so very much for sharing

stellarparenting.com said...

what a gift got you and for her, I have the same issues around photos, they are few and far between and it is so very hard on my kids.

My name is Andy. said...

How wonderful!!

Shana said...

I am so happy for you!!! I could have written this post myself...almost. I'm still waiting for photos of my babes but I think I will get them soon!

Not a Spring Chicken said...

What a treasure! We have baby photos since our son was taken into care at birth, but have no pictures of his birth mom. What we would give to have a picture for him - to see her. All we have is a description that she was fair (likely blonde hair/blue eyes like him). For my son that is not enough and he wishes he had seen her just once. To find an old photo, even if it was not the best quality, would be a gem to him. I'm glad that you have photos of your daughter for your daughter :)

ManyBlessings said...

I agree. What a priceless treasure! :) She is a beautiful baby!

Anonymous said...

Yes! I'm cheering internally that someone cared to take photos of her and someone cared to give them to you when you asked! Yes!

--AdrienneG

Jo said...

I took my adopted daughter to meet her bio sister on Sunday. As we drove the highway to that McDonalds in the hot California desert, I told my husband about the time you took your son to see his father. And how you sat in the home of the mother. I told him how you take your girls to see their bio family. I told him how you have chosen to do the right thing, not the easy thing. I told him that is why I found my daughter's bio sister- even thought it would be easier to hide her away from them, I found them.

I have followed your blog for years. Thank you. My daughter doesn't know it, but the stories you have shared with us about your sons are the reason my daughter now knows her full bio sister.

If you would, please tell your sons that it was their story that changed the life of my little girl. Years from now she will have someone in her life that looks just like she does, and I think that is something very special.

Penelope said...

We don't have photos of Stinkpot from his birthfamily. What an amazing treasure. The birthfamily probably doesn't realize the priceless gift they gave.

Jensboys said...

Jo - thank you. There are no words.

Pipsylou said...

Wow, so great to have those photos! I have taken scads of photos of our 9 month old foster son. We've had him since he was 2 days old and he's leaving today. What a gift to him.

Abby said...

Jen, where are you?! I've missed your posts terribly.

Kelly said...

What a wonderful gift. My two oldest adopted children came to us at 4 and 5 and we have nothing until their arrival day. So sad for them and I have cried many tears for this missing piece in their lives. What a true treasure you have. So happy for you and your little girl!!!!

Lina said...

I also found you because of the R house. I'm going to keep on coming here! What insight you have! And you have a wonderful writing talent. I cried reading this post. I'm so happy you have these pictures.

As part of National Adoption Month, I linked "Why Openness" on my FB wall, so you might be getting some more hits. :)

Thank you!

Momma Chaos said...

Wow! I am so happy for you that those pictures were found! I have one that was not placed with us at birth and I have ONE picture of her before she went into care (at 3yrs old) and it was right before she went into care.. No baby pictures, it's like she didn't exist until she was 3. She looks at our family pictures prior to her time with us and asks where she was? What did she look like? I'm thrilled for your daughter.

Summer said...

I read this when you first posted it...but here I am, crying as I read it again. I know how precious those pictures are. My H has been very sad lately, asking why we have none of her as a baby. I know they exist. Her mother brought them with her to the court hearings she showed up for. No amount of asking, begging, or reasoning would get them to give any to her. I'm so happy that your baby got hers...and I hope that someday, my H will get to fill in some of the blanks in her story.