They are lined up on the shelf, or will be as soon as I get around to doing Lucy’s. These albums with hard spines and shiny pages, chronicling their starts, my Smalls. Filled with glossy pictures of the days following their births, first encounters with siblings, grandparents, family, friends. My kids spend hours lying in sun puddles poring over these pictorial accounts of how it all went down and I never realized how precious those albums were until I had my China babies who lack them. No birth pictures, save a grainy black and white finding picture taken at the police station. No record of how their mama felt or who came to visit. No list of gifts given or weepy snaps of wonder filled faces seeing them for the first time. Just a one inch by one inch photo and an address of their finding spot. They come with nothing; literally the clothes on their backs. Maggie also had a rattle, all the little plastic pieces broken off so only the ring remained.
But adoption, if nothing else, is a redemption story. And so our birth pictures look like this:
No stripey blankets to secretly steal because they swaddle so well. No balloons shaped like bears. Just us in a Chinese Government office becoming 7. What came before us will always be a part of her story. A vital part. And we will tell it to her. But her birth happened this day. And the day we walked off the airplane in Grand Rapids, MI and all our family and friends were waiting. That was her birth story too. And someday our China babies will wonder, of course they will wonder, if anyone ever really wanted them at all. They will be trying to make sense of the cruelty of being left and they will wonder and we will tell the story of their adoption birth and we will show them the pictures and we pray it helps them understand how very very much they were wanted.
Which is why I’ve asked a dear friend to photograph at the airport. Walking off to a crowd and a photog all feels a bit showy, no?, but please hear me on this: we want nothing to do with ticker tape parades or fanfare. We are deserving of neither, but are only simple sheep doing what our shepherd has bid us do. But we do desire, very much, to record that moment when everyone who has loved our China babies home, who has supported us and loved us and who have wanted Maggie and Abram to join the family finally lay eyes on them. And so we asked for professional pictures, not as a record of how brave/obedient/philanthropic we are, but as proof to them, to our China babies, that they are wanted. Nothing says that like a crowd of people waiting for a first peek. A family who cheers when they see you for the first time, running down that hallway. This, then, will their birth story. And I want to fill an album with it to join the others on the shelf, to be opened in a sun puddle, feet crossed and lips pursed. So if you join us at the airport, please know that you are sharing in Abram’s birth story. If you have prayed him home, please join us and give him the gift of proof of his wanted-ness. Just get out of my way, please, until I have my girls in my arms.
This is me being real. And challenging you that if photography is a gift for you, then offer your services to help an adopting family somewhere record their child’s homecoming. It’s a beautiful way to care for orphans and to give tangible proof to the redemption work that happens when a child becomes one less.