After more than 13 years since they allowed their precious remaining nine embryos to be placed in a vial and frozen for an unknown period of time, it happened.
After more than 7 years since they allowed these same precious embryos to be shipped off to a facility to be adopted by an unknown family, it happened.
After more than 4 years since they learned that, although each of their embryos had been adopted, only one had survived, implanted, and was growing, it happened.
After more than 3 years since they learned that one precious embryo had been birthed as a baby girl some 2,500 miles away, it happened.
On December 16, 2014, the unknown became known. For this family, and for this girl.
Sienna met her genetic family.
It is so hard to describe this moment. It was surreal. It was beautiful. It was a moment placed in time by the hands of God himself.
Each of us had traveled hours to be there, and so much more. We were at one of Florida’s amusement parks. Tygh and the kids and I were coming out of a stage show. The genetic family was going to meet us outside.
I spotted them immediately.
I clutched Sienna on my hips, and walked briskly toward them.
I was so excited.
I showed off my daughter to them. Their blood.
I was proud.
I watched as they studied her face. Her delicate features. Her curly blond hair. Her aqua blue eyes. Her rosy, plump cheeks. Her rosebud lips.
They studied her. Searched her face and features for recognition. Similarity. Familiarity.
They smiled. It was as if they could see the resemblances, and yet knew that she was different. Knew that although the same blood raced through each of their veins, she was a unique person. Not their child. Didn’t belong to them. And yet, she was still family.
For the next many hours, we toured the parks together. I tried to maintain a comfortable distance from Sienna and them, allowing them to get to know her. To experience her.
Tygh and I have been through this before, in a sense, with Brae’s birth-family. We are comfortable enough in our relationship to each of our children to know that the parental bond between us and them will never be broken. So it is not at all threatening to allow other members of their extended family to really enjoy being with them without us hovering above.
I watched as Sienna bounced her way from exhibit to exhibit, blissfully unaware of the magnitude of what was happening around her. In one moment, I watched as her genetic mother followed her into a crowd. As we’ve grown accustomed to, people fawn over Sienna. One woman turned to Sienna’s genetic mother and asked, “She’s beautiful. Is she yours?”
“No,” she replied.
It was a strange and yet, comforting, moment for me to witness.
It is an odd thing to claim any child as belonging to you. Children, as with any other blessing, is a gift from above. On loan to us. For a time.
As Sienna’s mom, I am her steward. She is mine to take care of. But, in our view, she belongs to God. Perhaps that is why we have always been comfortable with our role as adoptive parents. Not threatened by birth families, or genetic families.
Scientifically, there is no reason why Sienna was not transferred to her genetic family, and birthed into life through them. She could just have easily been chosen by the reproductive endocrinologist as one of the embryos transferred to her genetic family.
However, from a God-perspective, Sienna was always to be given to us. From the beginning of time, God knew she would be a child placed into our family, in just the manner that she was.
So, it was comforting for me to witness that her genetic family recognized that. I felt a twinge of sadness for her genetic mom that she could not claim Sienna as “her own,” and yet, comforted by that same acknowledgement.
We ended the evening by sitting down for a meal together. I reveled in the majesty of the moment. All of us, brought together through the unique beauty of adoption, lost in quiet conversation about each of our children.
Sienna’s genetic mother and I spent most of that meal talking about the similarities between Sienna and her genetic sister, who were each created in the same IVF cycle. They are so much alike. Not so much physically, but definitely in personality.
Sassy. Imaginative. Creative. Definitely march to the beat of their own drums.
I was comforted that Sienna would likely be able to relate to her genetic sister as she gets older.
The evening came to a close and it was time to part ways. We mentioned that we may be finding ourselves in their neck of the woods in the next few years, which brightened their faces.
We hugged again, and my heart was full.
We had made an important connection, not only for Sienna and her genetic siblings, but for the donors who lovingly parted with her so many years ago. And, for us, who chose open embryo adoption for exactly moments like this.