Birthday, closed-adoption style

Today marks 36 years since my husband came into this world.

While candles, cake and jabs about him aging certainly are on my agenda, this day usually finds me pondering his bigger birthday picture.

After all, 36 years ago he became a baby waiting to be adopted.

The details of his first few months aren’t carefully chronicled in a scrapbook placed on a high shelf for safekeeping. There are no newborn photos, edges yellow and curling with time, pasted above captions handwritten by the woman who brought him into this world.

When it comes to such things, there are only questions:

After her last push, and his first breath and cry, did she reach out for him?

Was he wheeled into her hospital room so she could hold him — his little hand curled around her finger — and did she whisper into his ears all her hopes and dreams for him?

Did his hospital bracelet share the last name printed on hers, even if for a short time?


The records from the start to his life do not belong to him; they are not his to see. Instead, he is allowed bits and pieces of data broken by thick, black lines. Marks meant to protect his birthmother’s privacy. And that they do.

But they simultaneously erase essential parts to him. Parts that make up his whole.

Yet, amid the total disconnect of their closed adoption, I somehow feel connected to her.

Me, the woman loving the man that she only knows as a baby boy.

What is irrefutable is that he spent 10 months nestled in her belly, his life nurtured by her own. Also undeniable is the loss in the missing chapters of his story. Her story. Their story.

In some ways that loss begets gain: It keeps us steadfast in our commitment to openness in adoption. For our daughter. For her first mother. For the story we hope they write together.

Today, on the anniversary of my husband’s birth, I celebrate not only his turning a year older, but that I am so lucky to know him and to love him in person every day.

And the first woman to ever know him and love him?

Perhaps today she is thinking of him, too — remembering moments and whispers only they may have shared all those years ago.



Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Birthdays, Closed Adoption, Love, Parental surrenders, Parenting

4 responses to “Birthday, closed-adoption style

  1. I ask myself many of those questions about Nate’s first mother on his birthday, so this resounds with me a great deal.

    This touches me. A lot.

    Thank you.

  2. Lauren


  3. Happy Birthday Tom!
    You are 36 years YOUNG!

    I hope one day soon all your questions will be answered.

    And you can bless the fact that Maeve doesn’t have to ask those same questions that I know one day we will have to deal with as well.

  4. Alyce

    Beautiful, Gretchen! Sadly, in those days Tom’s birthmother may never have seen him. Our daughter Beth, just a few years older, was hidden away from the nursery where the other babies were, and Donna was never allowed to see her. I find that cruel — but the concern was that she would change her mind if she saw the baby. So? Maybe she should have!

    And she may have blocked the date. Our son’s birthmother thought David was born in October although the birth certificate (with our names on it, of course!) lists his birthday as Nov. 9th.

    But yes, she’s undoubtedly mourning for the baby she lost and, let’s hope, preparing herself to meet him again some time. Love to you both — and to adorable Maeve! Alyce

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