November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Several years ago, I shared an adoption story by a friend of mine. Today, I’d like to share the other side of adoption—the birth mom’s story. Christine is an award-winning author who gave up her oldest daughter for adoption. Here, with excerpts from her new memoir about her daughter’s adoption, Christine shares her roller-coaster journey of being the birth mom.
Is God cruel? There have been times I curled my fist tight and shook it under the very nose of my Creator, blaming Him for my heartache, accusing Him of stealing my child.
I was an unmarried mother in 1979. Three days after my baby girl was born I named her Sarah. Then I did what I thought was the right thing for a Christian girl to do—a Christian girl who had blown it, that is. I relinquished Sarah to adoption.
A Birth Mom’s Dream
For the next 20 years, while I married a sweet man and we had 3 children of our own, I prayed that one day when Sarah became a legal adult, she and I would have our Adoption Reunion. Though I was happily married and adored my other children, I hungered to see my firstborn.
That dreamed-of reunion was like a glass ornament on a Christmas tree—something a child could gaze at with intense anticipation and what I thought was my great faith. My reunion with Sarah and her parents was going to be wonderful. Her adoption parents and I would hug and laugh and cry over the great things God does through adoption. Of course the reunion would include them. I’d prayed for them since the moment I chose them from an anonymous portfolio at the Christian Adoption Agency before Sarah was born. Sarah’s parents were part of the package deal that God had put together. I loved them, and I’d been told through an unsigned letter that they loved me too.
Naturally, it was only a matter of time to elapse until Sarah reached her age of majority for the files of our closed adoption to be opened, and for us to meet.
Excerpt from Finding Sarah Finding Me:
The harsh edges to the pain of giving up Sarah have gentled over the years to an ache only remembered once a day when I pray for her and her parents. Sarah belongs to that couple who remain in the shadows, unknown to me. I’ve accepted that. I’ve done my homework on adoption. They are her parents. I am her birth mother. My role is her distant guiding star while her mom and dad are the sun in her orbit. I know my role and rejoice in the marvelous things God does through adoption.
Or so I keep telling myself.
A Mother-Daughter Reunion
I was so sure that because the adoption was done through a Christian organization, and the adopting parents were also Christians, that our reunion would be easy. But people are made up of such different emotional stuff.
There are plenty of DNA parallels—similar smiles, their long-legged figures, that hint of goofiness that I only get a peek at in Sarah, as though it’s a vein of gold I must dig for. Yet with every sameness there are so many differences. With those few, slim glimpses into the real Sarah, I still feel that barrier. Her smile is so quiet, so polite.
The day wears on. Exhaustion reaches its peak for both Sarah and I, and I know that the little girl I’ve imagined all these years and loved was truly a phantom. My counselor is so wrong. There’s no way I can win Sarah’s affections. There’s no natural bond in Sarah to build upon.
David, Lana, Robert, and I say good night to Mark and Sarah, with the vague promise that she’ll send us the date and time for the wedding. We wave as they drive off. As my family disperses to the living room, I lay my head against the front door, and the sobs erupt. Not quietly this time, like I cried that day on the maternity ward floor as the cold gray, steel elevator doors closed. This time I howl. This time the swirling dark waters of loss sweep me fully out of my safe harbor, out to the depths.
All these years, have I truly understood the magnitude of my loss, understood what I did in giving up my child?
The kids hear me sobbing. The three of them stay in the living room out of the maelstrom of my unleashed emotions. David pulls me into the kitchen and holds me close. I’ve kept a lock on my disappointment all day, having hoped for so much more closeness than Sarah has been able to offer. Now it unleashes, a wounded tiger uncaged.
“I’ve prayed for twenty years,” I yell at David as I pull away, “prayed for twenty years that God would prepare their hearts so that no one would feel hurt. And this is the best he could do! This… this is the biggest disappointment of my life!” I cry out, “and God knows I’ve had enough of them.”
David takes hold of me again. I resist, but he holds tight while my mind fights to sift through the avalanche of my emotions. I want to get to know my beautiful birth daughter, but my dream lies at my feet like shattered glass. She is my daughter, but not my daughter. I’m not a part of her family, nor have Sarah or her parents ever considered such a thing.
Her mom and dad don’t even want to meet me.
Healing the Hurt
One of the greatest lies the enemy wants the followers of Christ to believe is that God is out to steal our joy. That God is out to torment us and make our lives miserable. I only remembered that our enemy is a deceiver a number of years later, when the Lord resurrected my old dream to have a special relationship with my birth-daughter Sarah. Instead of impatiently shaking my fist in His face, I should have waited in peace for the new beginning that He would devise in His timing. Instead, I began to doubt. I began to believe a lie.
Relinquishing Sarah to adoption was, I believed, better for her. And now the thought snakes in—better for her, not just because she needed a father, but because you weren’t good enough to be her mother.
And if I wasn’t good enough to raise Sarah, then maybe I wasn’t good enough to raise my other three children. I pitied my kids living under my roof. It was the beginning of a long depression that required professional help from a Christian counselor, as well as the continued support of my loving husband, and then one day…
…I read in Isaiah 49: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”
I stop and read it over and over again.
Engraved on the palms of his hands. Christ’s painful atonement on the cross for the sins of mankind. And God compares his love to that of a mother. I understand maternal love, having known true sacrificial love from my mum. I saw it in myself at the time I relinquished Sarah, knowing then it truly was best for her to be raised by a mom and a dad.
Then I read again that interesting caveat as God says, “Though she may forget…”
This I understand!
I could never forget my kids. My love for Lana, Kyle, and Robert beats so strong at times I swear it will burst my heart. And I’ve been unable to cut my maternal ties for Sarah, though I tried for a short time. If I can’t forget Sarah, but actually pine for her still, how much less can God forget me? My besotted love for my kids is often marred by my own neediness and grief, but it remains by human standards a powerful, primal devotion that will never cease.
As a human being it is not possible for me to love others as described in 1 Corinthians 13. I know that now. Yet this very pulsing of my maternal heart is a smaller picture of God’s great love. Though a pale thing compared to his love for us, it is the picture I understand.
“I will not forget you!” he says. His love is whole, perfect, unchanging over the eons, far more potent that the love of even better mothers than me, mothers like my mum, mothers like Sarah’s mom.
As the understanding of his love seeps into me, another truth glimmers. It is a rare mother who doesn’t experience failure on some level, some more than others. All mothers and fathers are wounded—so our love for our kids is flawed. When we grieve, we’re not there for our kids. We fail them. Yet in my spirit I feel the Lord’s soothing balm. It’s okay. Christ died because I am imperfect. Instead of chastising myself, I need to fill up on God’s leagues and leagues of love.
Epilogue: Encouraging Others
I encourage others these days. When you are tempted to believe that God is cruel, remember that He is the God of resurrections and new beginnings. Joel 2:25 (NIV) says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.”
I found that to be true in my own life. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years for Sarah and I to build a warm relationship as birth-mother and birth-daughter. I needed time to heal, years in fact. And she too had her burdens to bear. While the Lord worked on my heart and in Sarah’s, He directed my energies into writing Christian fiction. By taking the spiritual and emotional healing I was receiving and putting it into novels, I just might be able to encourage someone else who is hurting.
And the Lord used my writing career and her nursing career to braid our hearts together. He did it in the strangest, most serendipitous way.
I don’t want to tell you the whole story—that would spoil the book for you. But I do want to encourage you—if your heart is broken over something to do with adoption—please don’t give up on God. Don’t do what I did in the midst of my despair and accuse Him of cruelty.
Give Him the time to work on your heart. Not all adoption stories turn out sweet, but your relationship with Him can.
For a long time I wished I could turn the clock back and decide this time around not to relinquish her. But how can I love Sarah and even for a moment imagine her not in the loving family God arranged for her? I love her! So today I rejoice that I gave her up to her mom and dad, and to her brothers. Still, it does my heart good—no, it soars—when I read messages on Facebook from Sarah, like the one she posted on Mother’s Day a few years ago. “I am so grateful for the moms in my life—my mom Anne, my birth mom Christine, and my mother-in-law Susan….” A wave of pride washes over me whenever Sarah introduces me as her birth mom to her friends.
As I look back on my role as a mother, just like Hannah I can say, “My heart rejoices in the Lord.” Our heavenly Father is not cruel. He is full of heart-stopping kindness. He does not forget us. His holy love is so great, we are engraved on the palms of his hands.
Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her series Twilight of the British Raj. Christine’s Irish wit and her use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming. Her newest release Sofi’s Bridge also features a dashing Irish hero. Aside from being a busy writer and speaker, Christine and her husband live on the west coast of Canada. Coming August 2016 is the release of Christine’s non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story. Please drop by Christine’s website or follow her on Amazon or Twitter.