Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives. 

We Give Our Kids Pieces of Ourselves, and We Watch Them Go.
By Allison Banta

I am mama to two heart girls, one by biology and one by adoption. I know – have always known – that our first love was never only ours. There are heart spaces that do not belong to me. They are for her first family. They are a shape I cannot fill.

Perhaps because of this, I pay close attention to the feelings that happen in our home. Often it is complicated. There is such fun. So much joy. There is also such grief.

Healing and pain. Trauma and loss. Excitement and worry. We are short on neither laughter nor tears.

The Big Feelings are present always. They hover, just below the surface, ready to shout “surprise!” at a party we haven’t ever invited them to.

If you know grief or trauma, you know this.

We try hard to listen. To learn. To love in the face of every emotion. Adoption is joy. Adoption is also grief.

There is no “only” over here. There is both/and. We grieve the losses and reach for connection, and we do it all at once, together, in a wild mix of joy and sorrow.

And so, even as we swiftly approach having only big kids in our house – we are ok. We are learning the ordinary, heartrending love that is a child growing up.

They are eight and nearly five years old now. It seems impossible, but we are ok with the growing up. We have learned “a bit little”, as they said when they were small.

We know that real joy cannot exist unless real sorrow does. We know that happiness and grief are not mutually exclusive. Big Feelings must all be felt, or else none will be.

Our hearts break when they grow, of course. Tiny bits, all the time. Eight years in, I think it’s ok – this breaking. It’s just my heart, watching them grow.

Surrendering the child who once needed me for every small thing. One teensy piece at a time. If we had to let go all at once, we would crumble. And so instead we let them go in tiny pieces.

I don’t think we get the pieces back. I’m not sure we ever were meant to.

They stay with the people we love, don’t they?

We break our hearts, leave bits of ourselves for others. We bind up bravery and love, tenacity and kindness and strength. We stitch up our every good thing, and we give it away.

We watch them fly; on wobbly feet or a tricycle or a two-wheeler. In their first car. Off to college. Away for their first real job.

We give our kids pieces of ourselves, and we watch them go.

May the pieces hold, my loves.

The pieces will hold, my loves.

Bio: Allison Banta is a reluctant southerner who spends most of her time chasing smallish people and dogs, and ensuring that everyone wears underpants to school. In her 19 spare minutes a day, she is also a student and freelance writer. 

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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter