Valentine

Valentine cropped
She wore my baby dress when Grandpa Burl dedicated her on our last day at the hospital.
There’s something I stopped telling people a couple of years ago, not because it’s a secret but because the words carry responsibility. I wasn’t ready to be responsible. One birthday passed, then another, then another.

When I was growing up, we regularly visited the most romantic couple in the universe. They loved each other, they embraced our family. They treated me like a person and not like a little kid. They played Scrabble with me and let me borrow grown-up books like The Hobbit. They would have made great parents, but they couldn’t have children. I was a high school surprise to my own parents, so I knew that pregnancy isn’t always planned. I was ten or twelve when I decided that if I ever became a teenage mom, I would let some wonderful would-be parents raise my baby. Of course, I told my previously teenage mom that I’d never be that stupid. Ah, the tactless innocence of childhood. Moms take so much crap.

I knew it the moment it happened. I was fifteen. I had planned to be a virgin when I got married, but at some point I chose the Cosmo girl for my role model and decided virginity was an embarrassment. After a wild year, I met a boy who actually  treated me like a lady, even if I didn’t act like one. He wanted forever with me and made me feel so grown up, it seemed possible. He put my name on the windshield of his truck. I made him French toast, because that’s what I knew how to cook. We saw each other nonstop for three months, and then my dad broke us up. Well, he tried to.

“Mike,” my grandpa said, “Do you think this is gonna work any better than it did when we broke you and her mama up?”

“I know it will. She’s my daughter.” Ah, so that’s where I got my tact.

A couple of months later, before he crawled out my window one night, my boyfriend said, “I hope I didn’t get you pregnant.” I gave a convincing smile but knew it was too late. I cried for two months, until I decided I didn’t want my baby to be sad. I was sent across the country to live with my other grandparents, which turned out to be a blessing I’ll share some other time. A week after I finished 11th grade, I gave birth to this gigantic, precious little girl. In the hospital, they called her Valentine, because she was a gift of love to a family who had only one child and couldn’t have any more. They were ready to raise her and give her a life I could not.

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, giving up my little buddy after nine months of talking and singing to her. At seven months, I went to a Chuck Mangione concert, and my shirt fluttered with the force of her strong legs dancing. Apparently, we both like Latin rhythms. At eight months, she took over the show in our drama class—everyone stopped to watch her kick. The law gave me 90 days to change my mind and keep her, but I couldn’t do that to this couple who were so close to finally having a child. Many of those 90 mornings, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, deflated and alone, hoping I was doing the right thing.

I thought I’d have another baby some day, but I had bands instead. My oldest stepdaughter is four months older, and my stepson is eleven months younger than my Valentine. Every year since I met them, I’ve watched them grow and wondered about her.

She’s 28 now. Somehow, I lost seven years. I hoped she’d find me when she was eighteen, and then I was sure I’d find her when she was 21 and I was allowed to initiate a search. When she was 21, I hadn’t made anything of myself yet. I was ashamed of who I was. The year she turned 22, the first rocks fell in a landslide of loss for me. I spent three years watching people I love pass away.

When my heart healed a bit, I made a feeble attempt to search, but life got busy. I knew when I found her, I wanted to have time, to be there for her. I didn’t want to wave and run off. She’s 28 now. For the past year, I’ve had this image in my mind of her sitting on a curb, waiting for a ride after school. 5:00. 6:00. Night sets in. Where’s Mom?

Honestly, if she’s anything like me, she’s not sitting anywhere—she’s wrapped up in living every moment. But when you’re adopted and you have low times, sad times, you don’t realize everyone gets those. You think you’re different, the devil tells you you’re unwanted. It’s not true at all, Valentine.

I talked about it with my friend, Jennifer. She could not believe I’d kept this a secret. I didn’t think I had, but we met around the time I stopped telling people. Jennifer prayed for me. She didn’t say, “Lord, please light a fire under Kristi’s slow tushy,” but in her gentle prayer for God to do things in His time, I heard a heavenly Zippo go chhhk!

Three days later, the boy with the truck found me on Facebook. I called my mom, and she said, “Oh good! The ladies and I were praying for you to start the search!” I could almost hear God tapping his foot, so at midnight I emailed the adoption agency. They think they know where she is, so I’m hoping she responds when they reach out to her. I don’t have the right to expect anything, but I’m kind of excited.

Today, I am sharing this intimate story with friends and strangers. It’s a little awkward. I almost kept it to myself, but we learn about God and ourselves by watching others live. I’m determined to live visibly, in case I might help anyone else find hope, connection or forgiveness.

I’m also asking for a little inspiration. If you were adopted and got your first letter from your birth mother, what would you like it to say? What answers would you want? What questions would you want to answer?

Comment below if you’d like to give me tips for my first letter to Valentine.
Also, I don’t say it often enough, but there are children living with their own parents who don’t have food, shoes, education or hope. Please visit Compassion International and sponsor a child today.

Valentine's parents letter sharper contrast
The letter I received from Valentine’s parents when they took her home
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18 thoughts on “Valentine

  1. Wow! Thanks for being transparent. I continue to be amazed by your courage, openness, and willingness to allow others to be blessed by your own life challenges and successes. Blessings

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  2. Oh my dear…. I am so proud of you! Any young girl should be proud to know that she is a product of you! You are such an amazing woman. Your love for God and others overflows. As an adoptee, my advise would be to accept responsibility for the situation and let her know that You did what you felt was right for her. Other than that, just let her know your heart and all will be well. I love you friend!

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  3. I can’t imagine you not loving your child with everything in you. What a difficult and heart-breaking decision for you to make at such a young age. I don’t know if i could have made such a decision…but, knowing you over the years, I believe God has given you the grace to accept what you thought was best for your daughter. Let your daughter see your amazing smile and beautiful countenance early on as you reconcile. Let her know that God has sheltered you from the hurt and pain you have endured through the years every time you saw a baby that reminded you of your precious Valentine. You may have to apologize…but, I believe God will give you His grace and favor even in that apology. I believe your daughter will be open to all you have to say to her and to the love you have always had in your heart for her. God bless you and may you have the Mind of Christ and the words of the Holy Spirit in all your conversations with your daughter.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, Kristi! I believe you are doing the right thing by reaching out to her…just in case she struggles with any of the feelings adopted kids can struggle with in “low times”. Whether or not she reaches out to you, the fact that you reaching toward her will speak to her heart and give her some rest for what could possibly be a somewhat restless mind at times. My advice, do you best to love her and don’t worry about being loved or needed back. Whether or not that comes now, it may come in time and it will most assuredly be a gift to her regardless of her response!!!!! While I have not dealt directly with adoptive children and parents, I have connected with a LOT of fatherless children and dads who are not present in their children’s lives. It is sometimes due to the father being or having been in prison. It is often due to his own shame or sense of not being good enough and/or it can be about the mom keeping distance from him and a whole host of other issues. I ALWAYS tell fathers to keep a journal and write down their thought concerning their child when it comes to them. Then when and if they have the opportunity to connect when the child is grown, they can share that the child was on his mind and heart the whole time. If you have done anything like this, sharing that may be a good thing too. If not, what you have already said here will show your heart you have had for her always too! I think one thing kids want to know (even grown ones) is “Were they on their parent’s mind at all?” Now, every situation and every person is unique and what they would desire is unique as well so there are no guarantees. However, I know you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and will let HIM guide your every word and every step! Again, just LOVE her the best you can in that letter and let the rest fall into place as it shall. God will direct your paths in this season as he already has. I’ll bet one day you will find out all the little and maybe not so little ways He has had HIS hand on her all along. I’ll be praying for you and “Valentine”. Much love, my friend!

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    1. Thank you, Julie! You’re so right–we have to love without expecting anything in return. It’s honestly the only way to stay sane in this world!

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  5. Kristi, I often think back to those days of being pregnant with you. I also placed my daughter up for adoption, but with a family I knew. I didn’t have much contact with them but knew I could and would find them when she turned 18 if I hadn’t before. I met her the weekend before Mother’s Day 2004, right before she turned 16. We have had a relationship since that has been rewarding and emotional. I was even able to find and introduce her to her bio father. We have been through so much in the last 12 years, and it was definitely God’s timing! The biggest thing she asked was why I placed her. I told her that I wanted her to have a life I could never give her, one with a Mom and a Dad that both loved her and wanted a baby right then. I told her I wanted to make something out of myself that she could be proud of. I told her if I could have changed anything it would be to have had her a few years later when I was ready to have a baby. Her adopted family is like an extension of our family. She always says that her family just got bigger because now she has all of us too. I think back often about you and where you are in this journey. I know God will reunite you both in just the right moment. I love you sister and I am praying for you and Valentine!

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    1. Wow Becky, you said it exactly–we wanted to give our children and ourselves a chance at being the best we can be. Oh man, I’ll never forget that oven we sang in, wearing full choir uniforms, on the navy base!

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  6. Kristi…. first, thank you for sharing. Second, although I do not know from my own experience, I have a cousin whose dad found out about her at 18 and co,texted her. No big deal…..except he freaked her out by asking if their eyes were the same and wondering if she did things like he did. She didn’t know him and felt violated by the letter. My only advice would be to not include those questions in your first letter, no matter how much you want to know. That will come in time. And if she gives you just a moment, she will fall in love with the person you are and the relationship will be blessed. I will be praying for you….adoption is hard on both sides…

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  7. Kristi, I continue to be amazed and in awe of you. Your sharing of your very personal experience and love will surely stir the same in many of us, who are still too shy to do the same. Thank you for your courage and all the love you exude everywhere you go.

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