Over the weekend, I had made my kids poached eggs and then started cleaning up the kitchen. Just as I picked up the pan of boiling water to move it to the sink, my son TJ came running around the corner and collided with me.
Steaming hot water poured over his head, and I immediately knew that he had been burned. Soon the blisters on his scalp appeared, and I realized that for the first time I could remember, I had caused one of my children to be seriously hurt. Obviously with seven children, there have been lots of times my kids have been injured, but this was the first time I felt a deep sense of responsibility that I was part of their pain. Throughout the day, as I held him with tears streaming down his face, I tried to put words to the range of emotions I was feeling inside. I could never properly describe it – but it was a mixture of panic and heartbreak and an ache so deep inside me that I almost couldn’t breathe.
As I sat holding him in my arms, for some reason my mind kept going to his birth mom. For him to be with me today means that a different family, one somewhere in China, had made the difficult decision to give him up.
All afternoon, as my own heart was hurting wondering if TJ was going to be okay, I just kept imagining what it would feel like to carry a child inside you for nine months and then have to set that baby down and walk away. Or to have an extended family member come into your room after the delivery and take your child away from you forever. When I thought that I had hurt TJ, it was one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced. I kept thinking I wanted to turn back time and have that moment over. If only I would have waited five more minutes to clean. If only I would have turned the other direction heading to the sink. If only, if only, if only. But there was no way to change what had happened. It was done, and my son was the one impacted.
Thankfully in our case, a few hours later TJ was back to running around, albeit dosed on Motrin with a huge gauze bandage on his head. And while I still felt such sorrow that I was involved in him getting hurt, that night I got to hold him and hug him and know he was going to be okay. How very different for his birthparents who have no idea whether he is safe, loved, or even alive. I simply cannot imagine the feelings that must come with placing a child in front of a bank or a busy street or a hospital and not ever knowing what became of him or her. How many times would you lie in bed at night and wish you could turn back the clock as well? How many times over the years would you wish you could get that moment back and perhaps do things differently? If only your extended family would have accepted your child’s special need. If only you had the funds to provide your child with medical care. If only, if only, if only. But then the realization would wash over you yet again that there is no way to change what had happened. It was done, and your child was the one impacted.
I worry that tens of thousands of birth parents in China every year carry that deep feeling of despair and sorrow that I felt in their hearts, multiplied exponentially since they have no way of knowing if their child is now okay. How often does TJ’s birthmom think of the tiny baby boy with a full head of black hair she brought into this world? What I wouldn’t give to let her know that he is loved beyond measure. I would hate to think she is feeling even the smallest amount of the anguish I felt when he was hurt, because it was a pain I felt deep down to my soul.
It’s the part of the adoption story that we prefer not to think about though, isn’t it? As adoptive parents, we are the ones who are ultimately blessed to call these amazing children our sons and daughters, but it only happens because a birth mother or father most likely first felt great anguish and grief. I only get to tuck TJ into bed because someone else experienced a great loss. How I wish I could let TJ’s parents in China know that just as I hold him tightly in my arms, I will forever hold them as well, deeply in my heart.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer