In Part I of this post, I shared my worries and hopes about what the first reunion with our birth family would be like. Now two weeks past, I can say, in short, it was a weekend of worries allayed, hopes fulfilled and lots of surprises.
I’d imagined our initial meeting many times. I’d imagined how much our daughter’s birth mom and sisters would want to scoop her up for hugs and kisses and how uncomfortable it might be for all of us when she was likely to start crying and reaching for me. That turned out to be exactly what happened. But after some warming up, everyone was able to reconnect with our little lady, and it felt like what I’d hoped for: that we were all her family, and it was clear I was her mommy now.
After a first day of reintroductions, it was time for the start of our daughter’s kemem festivities. The kemem, as I shared in a previous post, is the traditional grand celebration of a child’s first birthday. And what a celebration it was! Dressed in traditional clothing, which had been made specially for us for the occasion, we were treated to this beautiful ritual. Over the course of two evenings, which went late into the night, small groups from each side of the family, from work and from church came through the home to sing songs of happy birthday blessings and to make offerings of small gifts of money- a few cents or a dollar- to help with the baby’s needs for the coming year.
And for hours, people came streaming through! Over the course of two nights, we received birthday wishes and blessings from roughly 250 people!
It’s hard to describe exactly what it feels like to be embraced so completely by an entire family and community. Especially through a Western world view in which most of us barely even know our neighbors. And as we were honored to be part of this amazing family, we were also honored by the recognition we were given that our daughter is our daughter.
Her birthday banner read, “Happy Birthday Sophie Jenkins.” It was everything I’d hoped for- a beautiful expression of the wonderful world my daughter comes from and the wonderful world she’s become a part of with us.