I log in to social media today and look through the many posts from the weekend - family photos, people having fun with friends, pictures of fireworks, sunsets, cookouts, camping trips and other fun.
I linger over one photo in particular. It's a picture of a family: a mom and dad with four kids ranging in age from a teenager to a five year old. "Great 4th with the fam!" the caption reads. It's obvious that this family is related by blood - they resemble each other, and I can see elements of mom and dad in all four kids. They are all beautiful, especially the sweet littlest one, a girl with her hair braided in a crown and then up in one single puff.
Y and I reconnected on social media a little over a year ago. I found her and sent her a message - we exchanged photos of our kids and exclaimed over how beautiful everyone is. When her youngest turned five I sent a little happy birthday message, and we talked for the first time about the day I held that baby and thought she would become my daughter. I got to tell her how grateful I am for her decision to trust herself and parent her child.
When it happened, when Y changed her mind, I was full of complicated feelings. Underneath the disappointment and sadness, much quieter but just as present, was relief. I was relieved because I could see that she knew how to parent, that she was emotionally capable, and this felt so dissonant with her stated desire to relinquish. On several levels I wasn't surprised by her choice, despite disappointment. I was clear that if her choice was to parent, we would support that.
Now I look at her pictures (and she looks at mine) and I cannot imagine another way. I am grateful to see the little girl who wasn't my baby safe and happy with her mama and papa and siblings, big and strong and almost six years old.