The Letter

Since shortly after receiving Caleb's referral, we'd heard rumors that his file contained a letter from his birth mother. No one seemed to know for sure - first there was a letter, then there wasn't one, then there was one, but we were told it "wasn't what we thought it was." Since we were not going to have the opportunity to meet her (yet), we were desperate to compile as much "history" for Caleb as possible and a letter from his first mom would be priceless. What a wonderful piece that would be to the puzzle of his life - especially as he matures and begins to form his own identity.

When we traveled to Ethiopia in February, we saw the original letter in his file. We should not have left without it, but the agency assured us that it would be translated and sent to us. It was about ten pages - handwritten in Amharic. Upon returning home, we continually followed up...we
had to have that letter. And finally, several months ago, we received a copy of the original along with the translation (the original has somehow gone missing again).

So, this letter - the one communication we have directly from Caleb's birth mother, has been sitting in an envelope on my desk since that day. I wanted desperately to read it, but I couldn't bare to open it. I knew it would be heart-breaking and it never seemed like the "right" time. Sure, I could have just thrown it in the car and read it at some break in my day - or maybe while I stood in the kitchen eating lunch. But that just didn't feel right. This was another mother - his mother - pouring out her soul and I wanted to give her the respect she deserved. I thought maybe Mother's Day would be a good time to sit quietly. Or maybe on Caleb's first birthday. But the time to sit, to be quiet, to process and pray, never came.

One night this summer, my house was quiet. My husband and oldest son were out of town and I had tucked the other kids in bed. The t.v. was off and there were not a million chores to be done. Caleb and I had a particularly sweet bedtime that night - with a lot of smiling and cuddling. When I finally laid him in his crib, I felt an intense desire to know more about from where he has come.

It was time.

So, I plucked the letter from the chaos that is my desk and I sat down on the couch...and I read.

"My dear son..."

The next ten pages felt as though I was reading a Psalm. This precious woman poured out her heart and soul to this little boy, this piece of her - in the hopes that he would someday, possibly years from now - read her words. It was heart-breaking and her agony was palpable. I would love to share her words here, but out of respect for Caleb, we are going to protect this for him...until he is old enough to decide how much of his story he would like to tell.  She wrote the letter to her dear Gebremedin...and I will save it until he is ready. It was amazing though and I wept as I thought of her sacrifice...what a mother is willing to do for her child...it is a fierce and painful love.

One of the most surreal things for me about adoption is the concept of birth parents...not that they exist - of course they do - but what to do with that emotionally...how to process the information. Caleb feels so much mine, that there are many days when I forget that I didn't carry him in my womb. Of course I know that he has birth parents...I think about his mother and pray for her often. But to know that I am not his only mother...at times, they really seem like disconnected issues...obvious, but still so abstract and difficult to grasp. It is a challenge to sort through the depth and complexity of emotions. Some days I have so many questions I'd like her to answer about the early months of his life...and other days, she never crosses my mind because Caleb is such a seamless fit for my soul and for our family.

I long for information about Caleb's past. There are 9 months of his story "missing" and I will be grieving that loss forever. But for Caleb, as he matures and begins to discover his identity, the pieces will be even more crucial. To know who you are and from where you have come is an innate human desire. Any clues we have to aid his journey will be critical.

This letter is scarcely enough. It is almost unbearable to have just this, when my mind is racing with countless questions about this little boy who has captured a piece of my heart. I pray - actually, I beg God - that someday He will give us the opportunity to meet his mother. Based on her words, I think she is a believer...what a comfort to know that she will be in Heaven. But if God will ordain this meeting sometime during our course here on Earth...how sweet and precious.

For now, we have ten pages from Caleb's first mom. The mom who carried him in her womb for nine months and then cared for him for as long as she was able. It doesn't feel like enough - it isn't enough. But, when you have very little, it is amazing how grateful you can be for just a small crumb.

This crumb is one of our greatest treasures.


Shea said...

oh tiffany.....I'm so thankful you have that beautiful letter....I'm finding as Eli gets older, it's harder to talk with him about how we all ended up together because I want it to sound "just right" to him. But I can't get around the tragedy of it all. it's a sad sad story. But redemptive, right? A Miracle.
Miss you, Friend. Eli looks at Caleb's birth anouncement on our fridge all the time and says, "That's caleb. He look like me!" :)

April D said...

Tiffany, I'm BAWLING as I read your post. What a gift to have this letter. What tragedy surrounds adoption. What beauty comes from ashes. We got our referral 3 weeks ago and the strongest emotion next to celebration for our children finding a home is the GRIEF of their birth family. It is devastating. I'm praying so much for their story to be whole someday. Thank you for sharing. I'm going to link this post to my blog!

myfourgems said...

oh tiffany, tears are pouring down my cheeks. what a precious treasure these words are.

Rebecca Lujan Loveless said...

I am a friend of April's and have never adopted. But I am a mother of 3 and have a deep profound "knowing" of the painful sacrifice it would be to give my child to another mother because it was best. May God grant your wish to meet your son's precious first mother. May He sustain both of Caleb's mommy's until that sweet day.