If you had been a customer of the Longhorn Steakhouse on Highway 19 in Palm Harbor, FL last Sunday night, you may have seen two couples walking through the restaurant, oogling a sweet baby boy on the way to their table. You may have commented on how cute he was. You may have thought he looked a lot like the woman carrying him. You may have wondered about the man in the wheelchair. But you likely would not have assumed you’d be witnessing this baby’s biological parents sit down to dine with his adoptive parents. It’s a scene I’ve been playing over and over in my mind as I recount the wonderful experiences of our trip to Florida. The magnitude of that moment, that evening, will never be lost on me. It was incredible to be a part of – and I’m so very grateful we had it.
We had met up with Ethan’s birthmother, L, earlier in the day. She hadn’t seen him since he was a few hours old and was anxiously waiting for us outside a local mall. As soon as we saw each other the tears welled up in our eyes. We embraced and smiled and both looked at this beautiful boy she had brought into this world, and into our lives. As we made our way to the food court we talked and talked and the tears started flowing. It seemed to take forever to get to the food court and finally we just stopped to have a moment. Her, thanking me…telling me how I’ll never know how much this means to her. How happy she is to see him so happy and loved. Me, thanking her…telling her how she’ll never know how much this means to me. How grateful I am to and for her. We hugged again and I had to get Ethan out of the car seat so she could finally hold him again. She closed her eyes, breathed in his fuzzy head, and smiled and talked sweetly in his ear. He smiled and giggled back – always a flirt. It. Was. Perfect. She was able to feed him his lunch as he happily sat perched in a little high chair next to the table. We talked about how things are going for us, for her, for them. She was filled with happiness, it was obvious. Despite how bittersweet the reunion was – she remained firm in her decision. She had no regrets. She had made a beautiful family and she was so happy…so proud that she could do it. My heart was so full. We took pictures and laughed at the goofy baby and genuinely enjoyed catching up in person. I gave her a photobook I had made of Ethan’s first 8 months. Pictures from the hospital, coming home, all the 1sts…holidays, pets, teeth, bites…she cried and thanked me for the gift. Soon she had to leave and we made plans to meet later for dinner with her and J, the birthfather.
After she left we sat, dumbfounded. It was so beautiful for me to see Ethan with her. I felt so much love for her. I wanted her to see how much love I have for Ethan and feel reassured…and she did. It was incredible and meant so much to us all.
Later that evening as we nervously made our way into the restaurant to meet them, I had a million thoughts running through my mind. I was so comfortable with L – we have established a very open relationship since our first contact last June. But we didn’t know what to expect from J. As we made our way towards them, I reached out my hand to introduce myself to him…he shook it, then pulled me in for a hug. A hug. I was stunned. He was nervous. Gracious. Friendly. Trying to make a good impression. As we made our way to the table – our little procession L, carrying Ethan, me, pushing Matt with the empty car seat, and J, bringing up the rear with L’s purse in his hand. Again I wondered how anyone could know how our little group was related. So bizarre, and so wonderful.
The evening flew by as we talked about Ethan, about life here and there, about their hopes and plans for the future, about our love for this child they created. It was bittersweet for them both…seeing him with us. Seeing their own features reflected back on a child who will call us Mommy and Daddy. But they seemed happy and grateful for the life he’s been given with us…and the open relationship they know they can have with us and Ethan over the years. Before long they had to go and we made our way back to the door of the restaurant. I stopped and asked the host to take our picture…the five of us together. And oh how I will cherish forever. I want so much for Ethan to know how loved he is, by us all. Looking at the pictures, it is easy to see that love. That beautiful, beautiful love. Adoption, my friends, is beautiful. As hard and complicated as it can be…