My house is stirring with children’s busy feet, backpacks, messy rooms, and laughter. Two teenagers and a vivacious 8-year-old bring new adventure to every morning. My oldest son is out the door first, keys in hand. I still can’t believe he is old enough to drive. I sneak into to my youngest son’s room and dive into the covers with him. I could lay here all day soaking in his playful and positive energy. I can hear my daughter in the bathroom down the hall, curling iron on, music playing from the waterproof speaker and the smell of sweet floral body spray.
I pack two lunches, round up some breakfast, then shut the door as the chaos leaves to start a new week. My house sits still. I soak in the silence. I make a sweep of the house, cleaning up whatever rubble was left behind from this morning’s tornado. Often, the curling iron is left on, dirty clothes rest on the floor of every bathroom, lights in every room still shining, and vitamins left on the counter. I wouldn’t change a single thing.
The afternoon sun beams across the floor of my kitchen, and I know the quiet corners will be filled with busy feet again. Each day is the same, but conversations are continually changing. We discuss school, friends, beliefs, affirmations, what we’re eating for dinner, who left the almond milk out, and where the homework computer is. We also discuss adoption.
When I placed my little butterfly for adoption, I knew she would continue to be a part of my life, forever. When my husband and I started having children, we decided that my little butterfly would not be a “family secret.” Our children have always known about their sister and how she has different parents and lives in a different state. If they were old enough to talk, they were old enough to know — pictures of her lined the hallway of our then-three-bedroom condo. Our third bedroom was filled with gift baskets, all addressed to birth mothers. My oldest son would crawl into this room and pull out sheets of tissue paper, scattering them all over.
His first “sighting” of my little butterfly didn’t come until he was in preschool. The elementary school bus stop was right outside of our rental home. Every morning, the kids would line up on the sidewalk. My oldest son yelled out, “Mom, your little butterfly is waiting for the bus! I see her!” His enthusiasm was so genuine. I cried at his statement. I explained that it was not her, but the two girls looked very similar to each other. His disappointment was heartbreaking for both of us. That year, we let him blow out her birthday candles.
My daughter asked the most questions about adoption, birth mothers, and her only sister. Her old soul was curious from the minute she could form sentences. We talked a lot about what my little butterfly enjoyed doing; how they both liked to dance and at that time, liked Hello Kitty. She found a picture of her sister and placed it on the shelf in her room. Every year, the picture seemed to change from the latest one we had received from her adoptive parents. When I became pregnant with our last child, my daughter wished on every star that it would be a girl. Her outward disapproval, at my ultrasound, was hysterical and crushing. I had “given” away her only sister; words I often heard until she was old enough to understand. She started sneaking a picture of my little butterfly into her younger brother’s room as soon as he was old enough to say her name.
Every fall, we gather together and sing happy birthday to my little butterfly, but questions fill our home year-round. I don’t always know how to answer their questions. I don’t know the “right” thing to say or not to say. Our family would always talk about adoption with a hint of hope that we would all be together again, someday. I also prepared my children that we may never meet my little butterfly. She had a family, she was happy, and that was all that we could hope for her. In the back of my mind, I begged the Universe for this reunion. Not only for myself but for the three beautiful children that turn my home into a circus every morning.
Adoption is a word of love in our home. Birth mother is a word of courage. “Placing” your child, instead of “giving” your child away, is taught and enforced. Family is a word not just about blood, but an open heart. Sister is a word of pride. Words matter, and teaching my children the appropriate adoption language is the seed to change. My teenagers know that an unplanned pregnancy takes away choices and opportunities for them. They know the heartache that comes from being in that situation, and they know their options. They understand the domino effect it will have on their lives and their children’s life if they are faced with such a choice. My children have all witnessed grief swallow me whole, at times, and my strength to beat grief over the years. Grief is a word we all know.
Adoption has a meaning for each of my children that is uniquely their own. The way they process emotions is different for each of them, and various stages follow their age. Our home is open to adoption questions, concerns, and curiosity. Nothing is a secret when it comes to adoption. My husband and I do our best to answer sincerely and with honesty. My family discusses adoption openly — the good, the bad, and whatever lies between, each day at a time.
As a public speaker and birth mother, Gina has engaged audiences at adoption conferences and birth mother retreats nationwide. After placing her baby for adoption in the fall of 2000, she founded Birth Mother Baskets, a non-profit organization focused on providing emotional support to birth mothers post-placement.
After 14 years of running Birth Mother Baskets, Gina stepped away to pursue a career as a Creative Arts Manager. A severe concussion in 2016 led Gina back to rediscover her real passion for writing and adoption. She has been working on her adoption memoir since that time.
Her writing has been featured on America Adopts, Adoption Today, American Adoptions, Adoption.com, AdoptionLife.org, and CAIRS News Room. Gina has received the UAC Community Excellence Award for outstanding contributions to adoption in Utah.
Gina currently works as a content writer, blogger, and birth mother advocate for CAIRS Solutions. She lives in Utah with her husband and three children. You can read her independent work at ginacrotts.com and follow her on Instagram at @ginacrottswriter.