The Photo on Somebody’s Nightstand

The Photo on Somebody’s Nightstand

There is, perhaps, no greater honor in life than to be pictured in the photo on somebody’s nightstand.

To be the person in the photo on somebody’s nightstand means you are precious to them. It means that yours is the face their eyes fall on in the morning when they rise, and you are the last sweet vision they see when they turn in at night.

When you are that person in the photo on somebody’s nightstand, you know you truly matter to them. For all the people with whom you cross paths in the course of a week or a month or a year, you have a place in someone’s heart that is precious and special and true.

Every child deserves to be the photo on somebody’s nightstand, and yet, our nation’s foster care system is filled with legally-orphaned children whose faces appear in nobody’s photos in anybody’s home… and far too many “age out” each year without ever having gained the loving family that each so certainly deserved.

To be in the photo on somebody’s nightstand is a testament to the connections that matter most in life.

We were reminded of this last week, when our Rachel, our maternity services coordinator, went to visit the expectant mothers living in our agency housing. In one of the units occupied by a mother estranged from her own family, she was touched to find a very special picture on the nightstand. It was a sonogram picture of the baby she is carrying, a child she already loves more than life itself, but whom she feels unable to parent for a multitude of reasons too personal to share here.

We think she’d make a great mom, and we’ve told her this. We’ve urged her to consider a host of community resources that would enable her to raise her own child, and she has politely (but firmly) rejected our counsel. What she wants most for her baby starts with two loving parents in a long-term marriage, not a single parent set-up with an abusive ex-boyfriend forever lurking in the shadows. She does want to be a part of her child’s life, though, and this is why she is planning a full-disclosure open adoption through Abrazo.

We know those who are not familiar with open adoption might question why a mother who is not opting to parent would want to be involved in her child’s life, but we think the more applicable question is this: why wouldn’t any mother dedicated enough to go through a nine month pregnancy to give her child life and then place that child for adoption want to see for herself how her child’s life unfolds after placement?

Birthparents who make loving open adoption plans love the child/ren they place, regardless of the circumstances of the conception. It is that kind of love that compels an expectant mother to treasure her sonogram picture of a child who isn’t going to grow up in her care, and it’s the same kind of love that drives an adoptive couple to proudly display photos of their child’s birthfamily around their home, as so many Abrazo families do.

Pictures can be powerful tools for understanding our lives and those who change them, just by being in ours. We hope all our adoptees know their pictures have a permanent place of honor in their birthparents’ hearts, the-photo-on-somebodys-nightstandand that their birthparents know they are remembered just as fondly in our adoptive parents’ homes.

How will your place in someone else’s life change the picture of their life?

One of Abrazo’s birthcouples keeps a photo of their child and his adoptive family on their refrigerator. Their own relatives know about the adoption, and ask how it’s going whenever they see it. When visitors who don’t know them well ask who it is, however, the birthcouple said, they just reply “‘that’s our family”… because it is.” That adoptive family has a prominent place in the birthparents’ lives, as well as in the life of their child. The birthparents say they cannot imagine how much they would have missed out on, had they never known the couple who is raising their birthson.

Another adoptee we know recently shared a very special collage she had created on one of Abrazo’s private social media sites. She started with a picture of her birthmother, with whom she reunited in recent years, in the left corner. She added photos of the two half-brothers she hadn’t known she had in the middle, then included her own photo on the right, followed by pictures of the four children she placed in two open adoption plans, and the three children she later birthed and parented.

She says she only realized when observing her own finished artwork that all the beloved faces from the middle to the right could never have existed had it not been for the woman on the far left, who (like she herself) had had to face life’s hardest crises and make her own best choices in the midst of them.

Our pictures all look different, she noted, depending on the paths we take; in 40 years, how will the life photos of your loved ones have been impacted by your place in their lives?

In Texas, when a parent gets divorced, the standard possession order requires both parents to keep a picture of the other parent in their child’s room. It is a poignant reminder that even the State recognizes the deeper meaning of the photo on somebody’s nightstand, and the importance of honoring children’s family connections even in times of unavoidable absence. How would the lives of countless adoptees have been more complete, had they grown up with at least a photo of their first family on their nightstand– lovingly placed there by their secure and compassionate adoptive parents?

(It’s definitely a thought worth pondering.)

The best of family photos honor connections that transcend years and miles.

One of our favorite moments at Camp Abrazo every year is the raucous gathering on the front lawn of the ranch, right before the final steak fry and the fireworks. It’s when Abrazo’s staff tries to corral over a hundred parents and children for our annual camp photo– but it’s what comes after that makes our hearts smile the biggest.

For after the group photo is snapped, that’s when our families (the forever families made up of birthparents and adoptive parents, the interstate families formed by our orientation groups, and the Camp families whose children are like cousins having been each year) gather to take their own special photos. These may or may not become the photo on somebody’s nightstand, yet these do become treasured family memories, nonetheless, and the memory of these moments are likewise woven into the tapestry of the greater Abrazo family forever.

It’s long been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Being so loved that you are pictured in the photo on somebody’s nightstand is surely worth ten times that much, and more.

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