By Debra Brennan
Something strangely predictable happens every year as the holidays approach. Even before Labour Day, retailers seem to bypass autumn and Thanksgiving, and barrage us with Hallowe ‘en merchandise. One aisle over from the screeching zombies, the shelves are being stocked with Christmas. Must they remind us that tree decorating and hanging stockings is next up on the holiday calendar? I find seeing poinsettias beside pumpkins, quite disconcerting--it is consumerism gone mad!
We hardly have time to savour the meaning of those special occasions and family connections during the frenzy of turkey dinners, gift giving and church bazaars.
As the years pass, I feel the desire to slow everything down--the hours, the days, the months, to reflect on the blessings in our lives. We can easily take for granted the most important gifts in life, amidst the commotion of every day.
One such gift to our family was born on September 14, 1999. She was a tiny beautiful bundle, weighing 6lbs-2oz, and I was present to see her born. My husband and I were already parents to six year old Daniel, whose thirty-four hour labor bore no resemblance to this arrival. Diana’s birth was a “labour of love”. We had met her birthmother, Artrina, four months earlier, during which time we got to know each other, while discussing an open adoption plan. This would mean that Artrina would continue to be part of her daughter’s life, a concept that many still don’t quite understand.
Perhaps it made perfect sense to me because I had experienced childbirth. Becoming parents was never a surety for my husband and me. Diana’s birth when I was 44, felt just as miraculous as Daniel’s.
As I watched Artrina with her baby girl, I could not fathom how difficult the decision to place her in an adoptive family must be. For us, this was the ultimate gift. The gift of a daughter, the gift of a sister for Daniel, the gift of a niece and cousin to our extended families.
September 17, 1999, the day we brought Diana home, would have been my mother’s 80th birthday. She did not live to see her new granddaughter. I felt my mother’s presence very strongly, that emotionally charged day. I knew in my heart, that Diana was her gift too.
In private adoption, a potential birthmother has a month after her baby's birth to consider this most monumental decision of her life. I kept trying to put myself in Artrina’s shoes. I know I would not have been able to muster her selfless courage. Diana could have been cared for by foster parents in the early days of her life, had that been her mothers’ wish. As we sat with Artrina in her hospital room, Diana in her arms, I reminded her that she could take more time if she needed it. She told me she was sure of her decision--certain that it was the best for Diana and for her. I asked her how that was possible. With tears in her eyes Artrina quietly said, “Because I know I will see her again.”
In that solemn moment, I felt that not only had Artrina given us the ultimate life-changing gift, but that we were also able to give her the gift of our promise. The promise of seeing and knowing her daughter forever.
Eighteen years later Diana becomes more precious every day to us all. Her adoption teaches us important lessons--lessons about joy, truth, and about love for family. All the shiny gifts under every Christmas tree on earth can never measure up to that.
So this year, look for all of the gifts you have, that cannot be found in any store or under any tree--I know they are there.
Deborah Brennan lives in Oakville with her family and a dog named Darcie. Her book “Labours of Love – Canadian’s Talk About Adoption” can be found in your favourite bookstore . Visit Deborah’s website www.laboursoflove.ca, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org