Milestones

I’m not sure why, but I’m feeling inspired to write about what it is to be an adoptive mom.  Maybe it’s because there is yet another visit coming up tomorrow, or maybe it’s because somewhere in the recesses of my mind I’m realizing that in just about a month it will be birthday season at our house…

I’m just not sure how I feel about birthdays.  I can’t even imagine them.  I have no idea what it means to be a birth mother.  I don’t know what it feels like to bring life into the world. I haven’t got a clue what a birth mother’s heart feels when she thinks of the day that her baby was born.  But I know something that other mother’s don’t.  I know what it feels like to have little hands reach up for a hug.  I know what it feels like to have little kisses planted on my cheek unexpectedly.  I know what it feels like hear, “I love you, mom!”  Why is any of that different from any other mom?  Because for these kids, those little things mean something very different.  Those things all translate to “I’ve known hurt and neglect in my life and now I know safety and love.”  And they do.  And I’m the mom who is partly responsible for that.

When I look back over the last 3 years, so much has changed and yet so much feels so normal.  There have been 4 birthday parties here.  4 cakes, 31 birthday candles, countless cards and way too many toys.  But those milestones are not mine.  I count my milestones in “I love you, Daddy!” s and “Thanks, Mom.”s.  I count my milestones in knock down, drag out sessions with kids struggling to understand their place in our family.  I watch report cards as they steadily improve from semester to semester.  I count among my milestones all the teacher conferences, meetings, frustrations.  Most of that is just normal stuff for birth moms, not run of the mill, but I’m sure some of that was thought of during the time that their bodies, their families, were growing and changing.  During the quiet times in the middle of the night rocking a crying baby back to sleep.  But for me, those moments didn’t happen and so now I get to be consumed with this stuff, as I think of it and experience it all at the same time.

I have been given a gift, not unlike birth mothers.  But my gifts didn’t come in the form of newborn babies.  My gifts came as first graders with missing teeth and trepidation on the part of both children and parents alike.  My gifts did not arrive unscathed.  They came with ugly baggage and some very deep scars.  My gifts came with confusion, and confusing emotions.   I wish I could say that it was in love that they were given over to me.  But that just isn’t the case.  Yes, they were loved by their respective birth parents, but love was shown to them in very different ways.  Sometimes it was in overindulgence.  Sometimes it came in the form of unhealthy but tasty foods.  And sometimes it came in the form of unpredictable responses to their predictable immature (age appropriate) behavior.  The love they are familiar with often gave in to their whims, but more often was poured on them out of guilt.  It was not in love that any of the birth parents that are part of our circle of acquaintances came to being without their children.  It was not in love that they attended court dates and meetings that sometimes included us.  It is not in love that they really think of us, but rather as, in some ways, the adversary.  And that is where I am so different from other birth mothers.

In my life, there are the “other mother’s”.  In my life there is always the word “real”.  Real for the children is the mother who gave birth to them.  Real is the life they knew before coming to live with us.  For one, Real is slowly becoming life with us.  For the other, Real may always be somewhere outside of us.  Real for me is knowing that I’m going to give them my all, and not always give them what they want.  Real for me is knowing that when one of them is sick, or hurting, I will be there.  And I have told them both, I will be there to take care of them for as long as they need someone to take care of them.  And that’s as real as it gets.

So birthdays are great, and I’ll help the kids celebrate the day they were born, the first days of their lives.  But I will always secretly celebrate November 1 and December 23 as the first days of my life…

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