Lifebook Schmifebook

Oh blurg.  I kinda forgot I had a blog for a while there.

The strange this is, I LOVE writing. I love blogging.  But no matter how much I tell myself that my posts don’t have to be long or witty, I get stuck in the trap that if I don’t have a solid 30 minutes to write something thoughtful, then it’s not blog-worthy.  Turns out I NEVER have 30 minutes to write something thoughtful.  So I just gotta write.  Whenever. Whatever.  Starting now.

This week I approached Asher’s lifebook with a new determination.  For the third time.  Or seventh.  I’ve lost count.  I always get stuck.  In fact, choosing to write this blog post is a form of procrastination.

Background: “lifebook” is a special adoption word.  Common best practice research tells us that adopted children benefit from a simple, honest explanation of their story–the story of how they became part of your family.  The most ideal way to “tell” a child that they’ve been adopted is to start before they’re cognitively able to even understand what that word means.  These days it’s very rare (and unadvised) not to discuss a child’s adoption openly in the family.  The lifebook is a way to write out the information in a way that is accessible, matter-of-fact and age-appropriate.  By reading this book often, you send a message to your child that their story is important and is not a taboo topic.

From my own interactions and readings, this much is widely agreed upon.

However, the exact contents of the lifebook, the wording, the pictures, the detail, the emotion, the point of view, the format, the material of the actual book binding itself….all of that is up for debate and varies from family to family.  I normally pride myself in being a very decisive person, never at a loss for words–as my close friends and family will gladly testify with rolled eyes.

But there’s this lore around the lifebook.   Oh, the pressure!  I’ve heard of children sleeping with it under their pillow for years.   I’ve read of children who mistook subtext in their lifebook and therefore misunderstood basic aspects of their adoption story, but never bothered to ask clarifying questions until they were much older.   I’ve heard that you should not say it was God’s plan.  I’ve heard you should say it was God’s plan.  Something about choosing words to tell my son that his biological mother did not choose to raise him, then putting those words in permanent ink in a hardback book does not come easily to me.

I don’t think it should.

And there it is.  That’s what’s so hard.  The lifebook is just one of a hundred tangible reminders that adoption is born of loss.  It’s complicated to articulate, because it’s…complicated.  I love making little shutterfly photo books at the end of each year, and I let myself be reminded of the fun and happy times we’ve had.  But although this storybook will end in smiles (mine and his), it begins with unimaginable heartbreak (hers and his).  We’re so very blessed to have a photo of Asher’s birthmother, and I’m going to include it in his lifebook. I’ve read my instructions to just add captions with basic facts that are known, and not project emotions.  But as an adult, as a mother, I CAN’T HELP IT.  I can’t look at the face of this 16 year old girl and not want to hold her in my arms and sob with her.  I can’t help but assume her solemn expression masks deep, profound sorrow.  I can’t help but wonder–if family situations and financial situations and cultural expectations were different…would she still feel like she had no other choice?  And I have to assume Asher will ask the same question and many more.

It’s important to me, because I think it’s going to be important to my son, so I will, therefore, press on.  The dichotomy of adoption will never fade.  It’s ugly and beautiful.  It’s bitter and sweet.  It’s loss and redemption.  It’s pain and healing.  And it’s all those things at once.  I’m suddenly very glad that I’m only having to write this book for a toddler level of understanding.  This grown up has a hard enough time wrapping my brain around it all.

Asher Saran has been home for 11 months.  Eleven!  Prepare yourself for many nostalgic and emotional posts next month.  Maybe by that time I’ll have made it to page 2 of the lifebook.