Since June, I’ve been wrestling with the emergence of Hope’s biological extended family finding us. The irony of their emergence is that I had initiated my own search of them a mere six weeks before. I was curious about them. Hope had memories, both good and bad about some of the folks in her family. I wanted to know about them; I wanted to know where to find them if Hope wanted to reach out to them. I wanted to have some control over when and how the connection was made. And then the first day of our celebratory vacation, I got the Facebook inbox message.
I remember immediately feeling threatened—What did they want? Even though we were “legal” would they try to take her from me? Would Hope choose them over me? Would she run to them if she got pissed off at me? Was blood going to trump me? How did they find us? I had given Hope a pseudonym on social media and our privacy settings were pretty high. I remember feeling so panicked and so very threatened. I didn’t want to lose the kid that I had just put on lock, so to speak.
It has taken some time to navigate advancements in this relationship. I insisted that they go through me for contact. I asked questions on her behalf. I sent pictures and very modest updates. I got royally frustrated, no pissed really, when it was clear that some family members had higher expectations about my engagement with them. It has also been rough because people who have hurt her seem to have selective memory about their relationship with Hope.
Of course this has been emotional for my sweet girl too. The first few mementos they sent triggered anger, sorrow and so, so much grief. But this time has also represented so many breakthroughs. Hope is busy constructing an identity that includes two last names (She kept her birth surname and just added mine—it’s long, but it works!); she now has some items that are priceless to her; she has begun to make peace with a lot of her grief. We’ve developed a few new rituals to commemorate key dates in her life before me, thanks to the emergence of her family. It hasn’t been easy and Lord knows I’ve griped, but being found has not been a bad thing. It’s been a hell of a challenge, but it is not a bad thing.
Recently, Hope’s paternal grandmother sent her a package. I’ve been on the road so much recently that I just picked it up this week. The package included some cards, poems, some of her granny’s arts and crafts (there’s an apron for the liquid dish detergent bottle <quizzical grin>), and most importantly, Hope’s father’s American flag.
I pre-open things, and even though I knew it was in the box it was a shock to see it, lovingly wrapped in plastic, preserved for when they found Hope. The cards were addressed to my daughter using her full name, her new name, my surname.
Seeing her name and the small simple thank you card they included for me changed everything.
They acknowledged that I was her mother. There is no threat; Hope just has a really big family. I cried more than Hope did.
Hope went through everything in the box; I continue to see her grow and thrive. I’m so proud of her. These developments are so important to her.
We’ll be integrating these arts and crafts into our home; they are special to both of us. (There are bar soap cozies too. I imagine that there’s a plastic slipcover somewhere to be seen in my future; my spidey sense tells me so.)
We will be moving to phone calls soon and a visit eventually; Hope’s family is a reasonable drive away. All in good time.
This journey continues to teach me so much.