It's hard to teach people to be aware of their face, much less have control over it on the level required to be a good model, but she has it. I postulate that it's because she spent so much time non-verbal, and had to find other ways to communicate. The challenges of our lives shape us, just as much as the triumphs (if not more), it seems.
The moment when I first saw her raw photos on the screen hit like a truck. I was simultaneously struck by how talented and gorgeous she is, as well as the renewed realization of how far she has come.
Before my eyes, she has gone from a toddler that was selectively mute & whose case worker was concerned would never be able to form healthy attachments; to a kind, compassionate, wonderfully artistic, and expressive young woman.
I remember so vividly, holding her hand for hours, to help her feel safe, so she could sleep, when she wasn't even two. I can still taste the tears that I cried, as I held her tiny toddler body through seizures & prayed, like I had never prayed for anything, that she would be ok. So many hours poured into research, to figure out ways to help her & to get her services that she needs.
Advocating for not just her, but realizing the toll on her biological family & advocating for them during times I felt they were being discarded by the system, fundamentally changed who I am. It made me more empathetic & compassionate, more human.
So, in that moment, while I looked at her face light up in pride, seeing herself the way we all see her, I was both awe struck at the strength of this young woman and so unbelievably sad for her biological family.
I'd love nothing more than to share these photos with her mother. That was something we used to do. I remember how happy is made her to see the photos of our daughter, in her costumes for dance recital. And I know that a few years ago she found photos of our girls online & posted them to her Facebook. So, she obviously still cares and enjoys seeing them. Yet she hasn't opened the door back up to receive updates or anything else, since her release from prison.
I can only assume it means she feels she's not able to handle that, which is understandable. It must cause a lot of pain to know you're children are out there but to not be able to care for them. It has been suggested that I contact her, but I have decided against that because substance abuse & mental health Issues are difficult enough to navigate without someone introducing additional pain and upset at a time when you aren't prepared for it.
So, I shall continue on, as I have, focusing on raising her two oldest girls, and trying with all my abilities to help them be the best version of themselves that they can be. If she ever feels ready, she can find me, as I told both her & her mother, many times over. But I will always carry a metaphorical burden for her, and will pray for her (there's nothing else I can do), because I am fully aware that each wonderful moment & milestone is one that she missed, and that they have many unresolved questions that make their puzzle somewhat incomplete.
Endless work, with mixed rewards and a constant balancing act. Finding yourself connected to & caring about people you barely know, some of whom may have even done things that break your heart & outrage your senses; but, still, recognizing the humanity & the connection they have to the child you love more than life, and honoring that in and way possible. THAT is the reality of foster-adoption, done right.