I was flipping through a journal the other day, looking for some notes I had taken during a workshop. On an otherwise blank page I came across this single sentence, hastily scribbled on the diagonal: "Someday Marian will likely be pregnant and I won't be able to share that experience with her."
It was jarring, a little strange to see it. I can't recall now why I wrote it or how I felt at the time. It came in the middle of the presentation notes, completely off-topic, apparently a random thought I felt compelled to get out.
At the time Mari was just a few months old. I would have been settling into the idea of raising a daughter. I sound saddened by this thought. Was I troubled by the idea that we wouldn't be able to swap morning sickness stories, that I wouldn't be able to stand by her side during labor and know what it was like? Reading it now, I don't have any emotional reaction (other than to roll my eyes at my self-centeredness and fretting about something decades away). But clearly it once was, at least for a moment, important enough to me to write down.
Back when we adopted Eddie, I had that "positive adoption language" list memorized. One that I really grabbed onto was saying your child "was adopted" instead of "is adopted," to signify adoption as a past event rather than an ongoing descriptor. I liked that idea that adoption was over and done. Completed.
Then I started listening to people who had been living with adoption a whole lot longer than I had, both birth parents and adopted adults and adoptive parents. Over and again I heard that adoption was an ongoing reality for them, not a distant event. Sometimes it was at the forefront of their mind, sometimes deep in the background. It meant different things to different people and at different times. Often it popped up when they didn't expect it. But adoption had never stopped being part of their lives and their identities.
It's been five years since we finalized Eddie's adoption, over three years for Mari's, but adoption is still as present in my mind as the day they were born. It's always going to be part of the warp and weft of our family life, of my life as a mother, of my children's lives. There's nothing negative about that fact, no reason to avoid it by insisting on the past tense. We are an adoptive family. My children were adopted and are adopted, the same way Todd and I were married on our wedding day but are married every day.
Adoption is still here with us because their first families are here, in our conversations and our lives. It's here in the stories they love to hear about themselves. It's here as my kids work out their self-identities and what it means to be part of overlapping families as they grow. It will be here if they have children themselves one day, as we share grandparent-hood not just with their partners' parents but with Kelly and Ray and Beth. (Won't that be a shock to our kids' partners' parents. Although in this age of blended families, perhaps not so much?) And of course the flip side to that random thought I scribbled years ago: it will be there with Mari if she is pregnant one day, in the different ways she might turn to the mom who carried her and the mom who raised her.
I think that random thought I left in my journal is evidence of a little lightbulb moment for me, one more realization that I'm going to be experiencing new aspects of what it means to be an adoptive parent even when I'm 50, 60, 70. We--Eddie, Mari, their first families, Todd, and I--will be discovering new layers of what it means to be part of these adoptions our entire lives. Sometimes it will be challenging. Sometimes it will be a joy. But it is something we will carry with us, always.