I can honestly say I had never imagined what it would be like having to say goodbye to my daughter’s birth family. I suppose my motherhood fantasy always ended once a baby was in my arms. But now the time had come. It was our last night in town. The next morning we’d be going to court to finalize our adoption and then immediately hitting the road for our 10 hour car ride home.
Our birth family had invited us to their home for what we thought would be a going away party. What it turned out to be was the most incredible celebration of love and family I have ever experienced. Far from feeling like a going away, in fact, it felt like a welcome home party.
A detail I have not yet shared about my daughter’s birth parents is that they are both originally from the Marshall Islands, an island nation in the Pacific. The Marshallese culture places immense importance on family and the tradition we were about to be part of would be an immensely beautiful illustration of this value. There is a large Marshallese community where our birth family lives and it seemed that everyone had been invited- dozens of people had gathered.
For the Marshallese, when a child is placed for adoption, they do not look at it as a child being taken away from their family. Instead, they look at it as the adoptive parents becoming part of their family. The ceremony that followed was a celebration of this idea. We were welcomed with traditional music and song. We were bestowed with incredible hand-crafted gifts. And at the end was something similar to a receiving line. Every person there came by to give us hugs and blessings and to kiss our daughter goodbye. Through the tears streaming down my face I saw, with each kiss, another link added to the bonds of love that will forever support and protect my daughter.
The gratitude I feel for having had this experience is immeasurable. I cannot wait to share the story of her ceremony with my daughter. We will be sure she knows that though we may be separated from her birth family by distance they will always be right here with us. In our hearts we never said goodbye.