Most days, I don't think about the fact that Grace was adopted. She is my daughter. I get her to school, take her to gymnastics, feed her, help brush her teeth at night, do her hair, and care for her in countless other ways, like every mom does. A part of me loves when I talk about my daughter to people who have never met her and never seen her, because then I don't get any adoption questions, just regular questions about preschool, or gymnastics.
Most days, I don't think she thinks about it either. She calls us Mama and Dad, knows that Remington is her brother, and refers to all of the extended family members exactly the same way that he does. She calls it "my room" and "our house" and is not an ounce a lesser citizen than Remington. She knows Remington grew inside me, and she grew inside someone else, that he was born in our house and she was born in Ghana and we brought her home. She knows about the orphanage, but hasn't gotten to questions about her birth mother yet, or why she didn't stay with her. I am following the wisdom of books on the topic, where we answer her questions, but don't over provide information. When she asks, we will answer, but we don't bring it up.
There are a few lingering effects seen on a day to day basis. The biggest one is food. I don't think she could explain it, but she gets very, extremely, distressed when she is hungry, and food isn't immediately provided. This goes way beyond hangry. This is Grace screaming at me that she wants to go to the restaurant, as I am literally driving to the restaurant, but just not there yet. "I want to eat at the restaurant NOW!" kind of a thing. When she sees other people eating, and she isn't, again, she gets frustrated. This particular kind isn't a mad scream, but a stare down at their food, standing right in front of them, clearly hoping to be offered some. Most people actually do offer her some at that point, and I usually don't say no, because it is a lot easier to let her eat her desired object than have a fit. Sometimes, we do have to pull her away, and she isn't happy about it.
Drives home from preschool were another time that she was clearly experiencing mental distress over wanting lunch, and not having it immediately, and I would deal with screaming, kicking and tantrums on our somewhat of a drive home (preschool is about 20-25 minutes away, long story). So, as strange as it seems, I instituted lunch snacks, for my own sanity. I would always provide a medium healthy thing (applesauce packets, veggie chips, kind of a thing) to eat on the drive from preschool to home, and it made it so the ride home was pleasant instead of grumpy.
I saw another instance of what I think is a lingering adoption affect at my sister in law's when I was apparently paying too much attention to my niece, and Grace started to cry. When I brought her in the other room to talk to her, that's what she told me about why she was crying. Remington, on the other hand, was totally fine.
But the biggest thing, in my mind, that is hard about having adopted her instead of giving birth to her is the chunk of time that we missed out on. This was especially hard today as we were watching baby Remington videos, and little Grace videos, and then Grace asked, "What about baby Grace videos?" We talked about how we watched little Grace videos... but she was older when she came home, so we don't have many. I told her we have some from when we visited her in Ghana. So we watched those... but too few. We took a ton... but we were only there for a week, and every single one was taken the only place we could be with her... i.e. on the ground, in the parking lot of the orphanage.
I cannot even put into words how sad I am that I don't have a video or a picture of the day that Grace was born. I don't have a picture of her first smile, her first roll over, and I have no idea how she learned to crawl. I don't have those cute pictures of her at each month old. I barely have any pictures of her before our Ghana trip, and that was after her first birthday. I have two, literally two, pictures of her at 10 months old, when we got the referral. I have a few from the day she legally became our daughter (just before 1), and only because God was good enough to miraculously make it so that THE DAY we became her legal parents, our coordinator (from Oklahoma) happened to be visiting her orphanage in Ghana. She took a few pictures, and we are thankful for them, because otherwise that would be yet another moment we don't have. I suppose we have her passport photo too, but even that was after 1. So yeah, no monthly pictures for our sweet Grace.
I am so thankful for her, I am so thankful of our times together, I am so thankful for all the memories and time I have had with her, and I know that there are families out there (my heroes) who adopt kids significantly older than Grace, but I am confident they miss the days, months, and years that they didn't have their child too.
If I had three wishes, one of them would be for those years back, to be able to have her from day 1, shoot, I would love for her to grow inside me instead, so that I could have felt her little kicks inside me too. But only if I had three... because I also would need one for her to be 100% healthy, and not have the different health problems she has to deal with.
Honestly though... as strange as it is, and I have no proof... I think her medical problems are why we were able to become this sweet girl's parents. I believe that her birth mother may not have felt equipped to take care of her health needs, or pay for her health needs, and did the best thing she could think of. True or not, somewhere in our paperwork was also that another couple wanted her... till they found out about her problems.
You know... I should wish that her birth mother decided to keep her. I know that she might not have some of her issues if she could have just lived with the family that gave birth to her, live in a country where everyone looks like her... but I don't.
Selfishly, I want my spit-fire daughter. This girl who made me a mother, something I longed for. The girl who makes me laugh and smile and who has a passion for life that I just adore. I am very thankful for Grace, and even though it means I don't have those moments, pictures or videos, I am thankful I have the girl.