April 17th is the anniversary of my birth daughter McKenna’s adoption finalization in 2001.
I remember back then, a few days before the court date, when much to my shock, Vicki, the adoptive mom, asked if I’d like to meet the family for lunch after court. At that time I didn’t think I was going to see McKenna until she was 18, so I was beyond thrilled. When I got there, there was this huge gathering and they had flowers, cards, and gifts for me, and I got to see and hold McKenna for the first time in eight months. We took pictures and though it was a whirlwind visit because Larry, the adoptive dad, had been up for hours working then to court, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I have the pictures around the house.
Five months later, after 9/11, Vicki decided that she wanted me to be able to see McKenna a couple of times a year at least.
And that’s how it’s been ever since. I’m very grateful because on Placement Day, when I put McKenna in their arms as a newborn, I thought I wouldn’t see her again until she was 18.
I had no idea how my life was going to change.
Since then, McKenna has published two books through her elementary school, was on the cover of Pasadena Lifestyle Newspaper while she attended their space camp along with some other kids, became first chair in the marching band (percussion), got invited to join the National Honor Society recently, battled and overcame a health condition that she was born with, got her first job, volunteered for a few years at the zoo, earned awards, modeled in a fashion show for several years, performed at Mayfest twice, danced in recitals, got her license and her first car, and earned her first paycheck.
And I have gotten to be a part of all of it.
It will be 16 years ago this August when I placed my only child for adoption, the hardest and smartest thing I ever did.
At one time, my daughter McKenna was just a happy memory, and I understood only a few years ago for the first time in my heart what one birth mom told me a long time ago — that it would get to be like I have a child out there somewhere and that she was happy, but I wouldn’t get sad every time I thought of her and that she would be like a long-lost relative. Today, what a lot of people think is a tragedy because I’m not raising my child, I feel is a great thing because my daughter has a fantastic life, something I couldn’t provide for her.
It was a weird feeling back in 2001 and one that I never thought I would get to. I didn’t believe all the moms who had placed seven, ten years ago or more that I would ever feel the way they assured me I would. I imagined myself telling new birth moms that the first year was the hardest and how I hated hearing that when I was new at this, too. I had begun feeling what felt like a little closure as McKenna’s first birthday crept up on me in 2001. It was coming soon and fast.
I have a semi-open adoption, which means I get letters, videos, pictures, cards, gifts, emails, and I send the same. I made a scrapbook for McKenna before she was born about my life, and I write her letters on significant holidays and birthdays every year.
Luckily, I also get to see her every few months — highly unusual in adoption cases.
Unheard of in closed ones.
When I used to go to a post-adoption support group, I tried not to bring this good stuff up to the other birth moms who I knew didn’t get many or any pictures or videos, emails, etc. I didn’t want to make them feel bad. And I felt bad for them. At one point I was asked not to talk about seeing her, so I stopped attending the group.
My best friend Stephanie, who was my labor coach and with me through the whole thing, once was surprised to hear that I was so privileged. She said she just assumed that all the birth moms got the same information.
It used to be that the sound of little girls’ laughter would echo as I left a store, and I would wonder if Id’ ever get through a day when that sound or the sight of a little girl didn’t jerk at my numb heart or threaten to stir up tears. At the time I told myself I’d moved beyond it, but I knew better.
A few years passed before I would hear a girl’s laughter or voice that was the same age as McKenna and I’d smile inside and wonder what she was doing that day. People didn’t understand why I sent McKenna gifts or why I wanted to set aside some money for her. “She’s got everything she needs,” they’d say. I do it because I am her mom, because I love her. It wasn’t about McKenna having plenty of toys or books. It is about me being her birth mother.
People just didn’t get it.
One time, in a packet of pics and letters from the adoptive mom was a copy of “Bright Futures,” a Gladney publication. Gladney was the adoption center where I lived for nine months while pregnant.
An article the adoptive mom had told me about was in there about adoptive parents dropping pebbles (hints) about birth moms to adopted kids as they grew up to prepare them to understand adoption.
With every new day, I looked forward to McKenna hearing good things.
Terri Rimmer has 33 years of journalism experience, having worked for ten newspapers and some magazines. She wrote for associatedcontent.com, later bought out by Yahoo Voices from 2005-2012. Ms. Rimmer published her e-book “MacKenzie’s Hope” on booklocker.com under the family heading. It’s also listed on adopting.com.
In Jan. 2017 her article “Living in Foster Homes as a Teenager” was published by Blue Ribbon Project and in Nov. 2016 her editorial “The Darkest Day” was published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and Out in Jersey Magazine. In July 2016, her essay “Pet Tales” was accepted for publication in Pet Sitters World Magazine. Her story about her dog Ripley was published in Dogs Monthly July 26, 2016. In 2007 she won a media award from Associated Content and in 2005 she received a grant from Change, Inc. Also in 2005 her life story Merged Life was published by Lulu and is available online at scribd.com.
In 2003 her life story was published online at Adoption Week E-Magazine’s website and in 2002 she received a grant from the PEN American Writer’s Fund in New York City. In 2001 her adoption journal was published online at adoption.about.com and in 1991 she won a Florida Press Association Award for a series of articles she wrote regarding prayer and Bible reading in the schools. She also has experience in public relations and in 1987 earned a journalism scholarship while attending The University of West Georgia as a Mass Communications major.