What I wasn't prepared for were the questions that I simply cannot answer. "Will my mother want to see me when she gets out of jail?" "Where is my sister?" "Is she safe?" And, the one that keeps coming back, especially since the baby was born: "Why don't I have any baby pictures?"
My friend, Jen, said it so well:
"I don't think about it much. Those hours and days before.
I try not to think of the cries that went unanswered or the meals that went unfed. I try not to think of the cuddles that weren't given or the multiple strangers who stood in my place. I can't fathom the scary times or sad times or even the possibility of happy times. It is just too much.
I parent in a way in which I hopes help to heal the pain of what wasn't done then and what was lost when she became my daughter. I take countless pictures of every special moment of her life. Literally thousands and thousands of pictures taken in the last two and a half years.
There are 12 months of my daughter's life of which there was no photo record. I have asked. And asked. And begged. And asked. This isn't uncommon for many children adopted at an older age but that doesn't make it any easier. I have been this route before. We have one photo of our oldest son as an infant and it is a priceless treasure.
But she has nothing."
The oldest photo that my daughter has, she was 14 months old. This came from her last foster mother. When she moved in with us, we were given copies of several pictures from her 7 months there. However, I have been unable to get any photos from prior to that. Despite spending virtually all her life before us in foster care, not a single photo existed in her CPS file. I wrote letters and left voicemails to her first foster mother, with whom she lived for almost her entire first year of life. All went unanswered.
I know baby pictures of her exist. I have seen them. Her mother carried them with her to the court hearings that she showed up to. I asked, and begged, for copies. I tried to explain how important it might someday be to her. I even offered to bring my own scanner to the courthouse at the next hearing so that I could copy them without them ever leaving her sight. Alas, by the next hearing, she had been jailed so no longer had the ability to bring them with her. I requested the same from the grandmother who, although thrilled when I gave her updated photos, attempted to pretend that she didn't know of any baby pictures. This despite my having had a discussion about the pictures (where she showed them to me) with her a few weeks prior.
My daughter is 6 now and she notices. She realizes that, even though I have taken literally thousands of pictures of her since she moved in, there are none of her as a baby. This seems to be on her mind more lately as she watches her baby brother grow oh so quickly, and sees me recording it photographically. She asks me why she can't see her as a baby. She loves her life book and the story it tells, but there is the ever present void of any record of her as an infant.
I have no answers for this one. I hope that maybe, someday, she will either be able to get these pictures...or be able to accept "I don't know..."