PAGE # 92

As soon as "Sara" arrived home from school today, she asked for gift wrapping supplies. I gave her some scotch tape and scissors, a dozen stick-on bows, and a few selections of holiday paper. She chose a shiny blue paper decorated with snowflakes because, she explained, it looked good for both Christmas and Hanukkah. 

"Stay in here and don't peek in the living room," she said. 

I figured Sara was wrapping presents for me, until she called out, "Mom! How do you spell Yoga Bear?" 

She needed my help with the bows too. The backings were difficult to peel off, even for an adult, and once I got the sticky side exposed under each bow, Sara stuck them on some surprisingly well wrapped gifts. I read the gift tags:

To Samantha (her American Girl Doll)
To Yoga Bear (a flexible teddy bear)
To Sheepy (a tiny stuffed lamb)
To Teddy (the stuffed bear she sleeps with nightly)

To say Sara plays often with her toys is an understatement. My daughter, now age 7, has cultivated some intense relationships with these inanimate objects. Of course, she animates them herself, lending unique voices for each beloved creature. 

"What's in their presents?" I asked, pointing at the new pile beneath the tree. 

"I can't tell you. You and my stuffies have to wait for Christmas morning."

I wondered if I'll miss any household objects between now and the holiday--Sara has a history of re-purposing things. For sure, Christmas morning will be interesting. Interesting to see what Sara has "chosen" from our household accumulation of stuff for her doll and animals, but more than that, I'm curious how big brother will tolerate the unwrapping of these gifts. "TJ" is now 21 and frequently reacts to Sara's make-believe play with great concern.

"This can't be normal, Mom," he says. "She's talking to the bear again. She thinks the bear is real."

"You're hurting Teddy's feelings," Sara always says in return. "Teddy is real, Brother. You're a meanie."

Once, after a particularly long sibling debate, Sara confided in me afterward. "Even if Teddy isn't real, it's still smarter of me to believe he's real. Because Brother doesn't play with me and when I'm lonely, Teddy plays with me. So, he's real and Brother's all wrong. If I had a baby sister, she'd believe in Teddy too."

"You almost had a baby sister," I said.

"I know. We tried. But we couldn't keep her."

I doubt Sara remembers any of her time spent with Lily, but she does remember all the stories she's heard. Today, while we snuggled together beside the tree admiring her Christmas/Hanukkah gifts, I mentioned that today is Lily's birthday. "She's five today."

"How old was she when I knew her?"

"She was a baby then."

"And how old was I then?"

"You were two. I have pictures of you with her. You want to see some?"

Sara nodded. I showed her the ones I posted earlier today on Facebook. She pointed to one of the three children together: TJ, Sara, and Lily. "Look at my face in that one. I look a little jealous. Probably because Brother's hugging her and not hugging me."

The moment reminds me of how the entire trajectory of our lives was nearly quite different. I wondered for the rest of the day what our lives would look like if we'd made a different decision. I imagined how the pile of gifts might look, if Sara would rely as much on her stuffed animals for companionship. 

I let myself be lazy and spent time thinking about a little girl, now five, whose face I probably wouldn't recognize today. There's no cultural ritual for such strange loss, so I make my own way, quietly. 

I hope she enjoyed a fabulous birthday cake tonight.

I renew my promise to write this story someday, despite the challenge of confronting my own trauma history and how it intersected with Lily's story.

I fight the urge to delete all the blog posts written earlier, especially the ones filled with awful prose (and one hideous poem, composed under the influence of wine).

Happy 5th Birthday.

Below is the picture of the three children (the one in which Sara thought she looked jealous):



PAGE # 91

Dear Lily,

Today marks your 4th birthday. While it's hard to comprehend the passage of four years since our short time with you, so little seems to change in the land of adoption.

I still see stories of babies stolen from biological fathers in the name of adoption.

I still see adopted children treated like objects in the popular media. For instance, just today, a story had gone viral on the web (a video actually) of a new baby (soon to be adopted) placed beneath the family Christmas tree for the older "siblings" to find. Like a present. An early holiday surprise. Others deemed this a charming introduction of the new family member, but I squirmed with discomfort upon discovering this in my news feed.

I still wonder about "Baby" Veronica, who is, like you, no longer a baby.

I still wonder about your biological family.

I still wonder about you.

Where are you? Are you still alive? I count the years until I even have the chance of finding out your fate. I count in fractions. This is 4 out of 18. Surely, at age 18, you might connect to your biological family? Maybe I will see your photo on your natural mom's twitter account? Or some other form of social media, yet to be invented. I check her online activity sometimes, like a benevolent stalker searching for some sign of you.

I still wonder: What do they call you now?

I still write, trying to unravel the mystery of our intersecting lives.

May you be blessed with only love, health, and happiness on your fourth birthday. 




PAGE # 90

Dear Lily,

Today is your third birthday. I hope you are celebrating somewhere with people who love and care for you. I hope you are happy and healthy. I hope that your natural mother and all members of your biological family, both maternal and paternal, are also well under the circumstances of so much loss.

The year has gone quick for me. It has been a difficult one, filled with many health challenges. Even the ostensibly enjoyable stuff, like building a new home, created more stress than joy. I have written little, and obviously, nothing here since your last birthday.

I think of you often. I notice all things relating to adoption. I stare too long at the faces of little girls around your age. Perhaps we've eaten near each other in a restaurant somewhere? Is it possible you have played beside our Sara, now age five, at a local park? You are probably far away from here. Where are you?

I have received a handful of comments and some emails from my readers--most ask when I'll be finishing the story here. I am struggling with this. I do intend to finish writing "Where's Baby Lily, Mommy?" The question is whether I will continue blogging it here, or continue privately, in hope of ultimately reaching a wider audience through a more traditional book. 

I attended a writers' conference earlier this year. Many suggested that this story could indeed be a book, but that publishers are not likely to print something already online. So, I have suspended further posts. But I miss the online community here; I'm not quite sure how I will proceed.

Please say a prayer for "Lily" tonight. Her story, though she had no voice, is an important one. I hope to find the right path toward telling it fully. Each narrative, each story that helps illuminate the unethical practice of adoption in this country, is worth sharing. The challenge is how to bring these stories, mostly consumed by the minority of us online here, to the mainstream culture. The challenge is transforming the cultural schema of adoption or, at the very least, making room for new voices. 

Story by story; word by word. 

Happy Birthday "Lily."

Wishing you much love,



PAGE # 89

Dear Baby Lily,

Happy 2nd birthday to you, no longer a baby, but a toddler now. You probably have a different name as well, which would put you on at least name number three, and it strikes me as crazy that any toddler should have been named more times than her actual number of years old. 

I still look for you in the faces of other little girls. If a child looks genetically unrelated to her parents, I tend to suspect adoption immediately. In these cases, I really study the child's face for clues of your baby face. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, I may even strike up a conversation with a parent. If they were to share an adoption story, I'd make an apt listener. 

I wonder when or if I will ever stop looking for you. It's not as if I am in ongoing pain; no, I think I am fine. I think it's just the nature of such a bizarre loss--surely it is not the normative experience--plus, I am curious. So, I predict the habit will continue on till my dying day.

The chances, I think, are actually good that we might someday meet again. I recently found the daughter of my mother's ex-fiance on Facebook. This is impressive for a multitude of reasons:

1)  My mother was not very forthcoming about the fact that she had been engaged to someone else before marrying my father. In fact, she only told me about her broken-off engagement after I'd been married myself. This once-upon a time engagement was over 40 years ago.

2)  After learning of this other man, it took me another ten years to find out his last name. Finally, a few months ago, my mother told me.

3)  That very day, the same day of finding out his last name, I learned that the man had unfortunately passed away less than two years ago. Also, I found one of his daughters on Facebook. And then I noticed that the daughter and I have a mutual friend. And many of my friends are friends with her friends. 

4) We connected and are now Facebook friends. Her dear mother even scanned old photos for me of her late husband, then a young man, with my then-young mother. So people save stuff. And they are happy to share! It was super exciting to see these resurrected pictures of my mom and to finally get a look at the man who almost cost me my very existence! He was indeed handsome.

5) The daughter and I are planning to meet in the spring. We both almost never existed and yet--we are now connected by this immutable detail of our parents' history. AND I FOUND HER IN LESS THAN AN HOUR once I learned the last name of my mother's fiance (which, by the way, his daughter no longer shares, and still, it was easy).

I tell this seemingly unrelated story now because it gives me hope that someday I will be able to find you. Finding a person is easy nowadays, given all the social media. The hard part, on the other hand, will be getting your name in the first place. But that too, I do not believe to be an impossible task. I have hope--some of that hope rests in the fact that your biological mother, according to her twitter feed, became a private investigator. Just like your maternal biological grandfather is. 

In any case, your footprints will be waiting. And your hospital identification bracelets. And your earliest photos. 

I wish you a very happy birthday, wherever you are, and hope that you are loved, healthy, and enjoying life. 



A Note to Readers: Please note that my writing time has grown quite narrow these last few months. This lack of output is not related to the Baby Veronica case outcome--it is merely the result of other life events (including recurring illnesses and building a new home). I intend to complete Baby Lily's story in its entirety. Thanks for your patience. 



PAGE # 88
Morning Through Afternoon

I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  I was not supposed to be at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Not even close.  

It was Friday--the one day of the week that I have babysitting help--and I had planned to catch up on some chores, maybe even take a nap.  But Tom, who was supposedly off from work for the holidays, ran out for a business meeting early in the morning.  And my father-in-law, with no prior warning, decided that this very day would be the day when TJ got his driver's permit.  He appeared in my house even before I'd had my coffee and immediately dragged TJ out of bed.

"But Grandpa," TJ protested, "I haven't even studied yet."

"Study Shmuddy!  Who needs to study for a driver's permit?  You can study while we wait in line," my father-in-law told him.

"Wait!" I said.  "I can't do this today.  I have things I need to get done.  And I'm too tired for this right now."

"I'm taking him," my father-in-law said.  "You don't need to come."

"I doubt that," I replied.  "I don't think he can get a permit without a parent there."

"Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer.  Don't worry so much.  I am the grandfather.  They will deal with me.  Relax."

They left for the DMV, and within the hour, Tom texted me instructions to head to the DMV right away.  Of course a parent needed to be there.  And, I needed to bring my license and two utility bills for proof of address.

Oh, I was so mad!  I was exhausted from the new baby and the holidays.  I wanted to rest.  Instead, I spent hours at the DMV, waiting in lines and feeling totally annoyed at my father-in-law--who left upon my arrival so he could grab some lunch.

TJ and I were still waiting, when at 12:56 pm, I received this text message from Tom:
Nate and the whole clan are coming over around 2:30, after lunch.
Nate is one of Tom's best friends.  The "whole clan" referred to Nate, his wife, his two daughters, his two sisters and their respective husbands, as well as his parents and parents-in-law.  A grand total of twelve unexpected house guests. In addition, Tom's parents would attend the impromptu event, along with Tom's brother, his wife, and their two children, raising the head count to that of party status.  I wanted to punch my husband between the eyes, but since I was still stuck at the DMV (where Tom was not stuck), I sent him back this text message instead:
I'm still here at the DMV!  The whole clan is coming?  I need a fucking shower!  I'm going to kill your dad too!  I'm stuck here for hours like a moron!  On my special babysitter Friday!  I need to shower before they come.  Seriously.  I am disgusting.  I am gross.  Very gross.  
Tom did not empathize with my frustration.  All he wrote back was:
U have time.  No cursing.
I was livid.  All I wanted was a few hours to myself--already impossible--and now I had to prepare to entertain guests?  At the last minute?  

TJ failed the permit test.  When we returned home, he carried his despondent self straight to his room and slammed the door behind him.  

Tom, on the other hand, did not let the bad news about the permit test affect his mood:  he was beaming, looking radiant as he held Baby Lily in his arms. He was eager to show her off to his friend.  He smiled over at Sara, who was playing with the babysitter.

I ignored Tom when he said hello (maybe I gave him a dirty look), and ran straight toward our bathroom.  I wanted to check my email again (Kendra had still not replied to me), but noting the time, I hopped in the shower.

Weeks later, after Baby Lily was gone, I would remind myself of this day in an attempt to console myself.  I'd convince myself that having a third child was too much for me anyway.  I could barely handle a day at the DMV and some unexpected visitors that day--how could I handle a third child for the rest of my life?

To Be Continued... 



PAGE # 87
Throughout the day...

Pretend you were there that day, watching me from a window, observing my activity morning through night.  What would you see and what would you conclude if you knew nothing further about the details of my life?

You would have seen this:

A house full with me, my husband, three kids, a dog, friends and neighbors stopping by (and later that night--my aunt and uncle), holiday decorations and new toys.  There was a flurry of non-stop social activity.  Shared meals. Diapers changed.  The mundane details of an otherwise ordinary life.  

You would also notice that in each and every opportunity between feedings, laundry, and conversations with others, I was engaged in a most obsessive pursuit: checking my email.  You would have seen me on my iPhone, scrolling madly through my online mail.  You would see a middle aged woman, surrounded by her domestic obligations who took each and every spare moment to check her phone again.  And again.  And again. 

And except for those captured moments--me, looking frantic and wild for something on my iPhone--for someone--you would be otherwise bored. There's not much intrigue associated with washing baby bottles.  

But...you'd want to know what was going on with all that checking of my phone. You'd probably think I was having some secret love affair--waiting for my lover to make contact!  It would explain the compulsive checking behavior.

But you would be wrong.  I was waiting for Kendra to reply to my last email.  I would calculate the passage of time between our previous correspondence--Kendra had always replied quickly and within the same calendar day--and I did, in fact, suffer from a feeling of abandonment by nightfall.

When my aunt and uncle arrived that evening, bringing with them a homemade Italian feast, I was so grateful for the nourishment and the distraction.  We ate and we laughed.  My aunt held Lily most of the night, and again, as I had noted during my mother in-law's visit, I realized I was more able to "share" Lily with others than I had been with TJ and Sara during their newborn stages.  Again, I wondered whether this indicated that I loved Lily less than I did my biological children?  Or, maybe all mothers hand off the third child with greater ease? Perhaps it was simply a matter of exhaustion. 

After my aunt and uncle left, and all the kids were sleeping, Tom practically leaped into our bed.  "Come on, what are you doing?  Let's go to sleep already."

"One sec," I told him, as I checked my email again.

But there was nothing from Kendra.  I plopped down beside Tom. 

"Goodnight," Tom said.  "I love you."

"Kendra hasn't written me back from last night."

Tom rolled over to face me.  "She's probably just busy.  Don't forget, she still has two little boys she's caring for.  Let's go to sleep.  I'm sure you'll hear back from her tomorrow."

"But she always writes back the same day."

Tom sighed.  "Jen, come on, I'm exhausted.  She's probably exhausted.  Forget it for now."

"Okay," I said.  "I just hope she's alright."

As I closed my eyes, I wasn't just worried for Kendra.  It was more complicated than that.  I felt the anxiety of a cast-off lover.  I felt the pain of rejection. There was something humbling and humiliating about being chosen by a birth mother and then, in a mere day's time, feeling neglected by her.  But what exactly did I expect from this younger woman--a daily ongoing partnership? What more could I possibly want from a woman who had already given me her baby!  

To Be Continued...



PAGE # 86
Just Before Bedtime

After a busy day with the kids and Tom's parents, I was eager to go to sleep, but I sat down to write an email to Kendra instead.  It was her birthday, and I'd been thinking about her all day.  This is the email I sent Kendra at exactly 9:51 pm:

Happy Birthday!

I'm pretty sure the paperwork said it is your 25th birthday today!  Happy Birthday from all of us!

It sounds like you guys had a great time on vacation.  Did they decorate really well for Christmas?  It must be lovely there during the holidays.

The coupons you mentioned would be great, thanks!  The next time I see Shelley, I will bring that photo album we got for you, along with some photos of Lily.  Then, you can just add future photos to the album.  I have to tell you, she is an eating machine!  She is already almost nine pounds.  Moreover, I think she is a future Olympian athlete.  I have never in all my life seen a stronger baby.  She is lifting her head all the time and even grabs the nipple and aims it right into her mouth!  She is super coordinated already.  She even looks like she is ready to scoot across the floor when we do tummy time with her.  I'm telling you:  future gold medalist!

Sara and TJ are really enjoying her.  Sara absolutely loves watching her get her diaper changed.  TJ is great with feedings, not so much diapers!  Everyone is simply thrilled.  My in laws met her for the first time today.  They came straight here from the airport.  They said she is a beautiful baby, and I told them she looks just like you. 

I hope you are doing well.  I think about you and your boys all the time.  Our son asks about you too and he says hello.  I think you have left a profound impact on him for the rest of his life.  This experience seems to have matured him, as I'm sure it has all of us, in ways that leave him well beyond his peers.  

I also hope that the trip with your in laws went well.  In laws are never easy, even under the best circumstances!  My friends and I all joke that we should co-write a book about what NOT to do to a daughter/son in law, so at least we will have a written reminder for when we are in that role someday.

By the way, please tell your mom that her story (how her birth mom took 8 years to start a relationship with her after your mom found her) was an inspiration for one of my best friends.  Also adopted, she found her birth mom a few years ago, but after initial contact, the mom declined any future type of correspondence/relationship.  Your mom's story gave her hope, that maybe her birth mom will come around too someday.  It's really amazing how this adoption story is touching the lives of so many people around us in so many different ways.  I hope that people around you, unlike that one friend you mentioned on the phone, are responding to your experience in all this with grace, love & support.  Perhaps you will even inspire someone else to not get an abortion and to choose adoption.  You never know how far reaching your impact can be on others.

One last thing--I'm so happy that we got to spend the time we did together in the hospital.  I think Lily is very fortunate that we were able to connect and share her birth experience together.  

Hope you ate a delicious piece of birthday cake!


At the time this email was composed, I see now that I was beginning to deviate from the social worker's script:  I start off with the more mundane details of feeding and diapers, but then I start sharing more personal subject matter--that I think about Kendra and hers sons all the time, that my son is having an emotional reaction to the adoption placement, and that I've thought more about our time together in the hospital.  I was interested in an authentic and continuous relationship with Kendra and her boys, and I can see here, that I am beginning to share more of my true feelings.

Of course, how I felt about things then, are altogether different from how I feel about things now.  For instance, my opinion on PAPs being present in the hospital and even pre-birth matching has entirely changed.  I now think such methods in newborn adoption are coercive and unethical. 

To Be Continued...