The beginning of “motherly love”

The pastor this morning asked us to think about that “moment” when you felt a mother’s love for your child. She started by describing the pregnancy and the feel of the baby within and the developing love as you bonded with this new creation. And then those first few moments after birth….and the first days and weeks when your love grew. The process is so very different when you are part of a system – the foster care system.

I was “in love” with Micah from the moment I first saw him in the hospital bassinet….barely listening to the social worker tell my sister and I about him. Yearning to pick him up as she briefly left to find a set of mismatched clothes to put on him. Staring at him in the back seat of the car….well, staring at the back of the carseat facing the other direction. Giddy about getting him home and holding him. In awe during the first few middle of the night feedings. I was in love.

But it was not a “mother’s love” – I was not his mother. There was a qualifier in front of the word.  “Foster.”  It was always there – “I am a foster mother.”  This is my “foster” child. We have “foster” children. It was not until Micah was 22 months old that I could jump over the “foster” word and leave it out altogether. Not until that moment in the court room with tears welling up in my eyes and my heart so full of love that I could fully claim to be a mother….that I could claim him as my son.

So that love was a journey….a push and pull….an embracing of the little boy and a slight holding back in fear and worry that it might not work out….that he might return to his biological mother. Yet I had a sense with him that it was almost 100% okay to love him. Similarly, it seemed so certain with Noah. He was two days shy of his first birthday when I was told that I was his mother, though the love had blossomed long before then.

And then there was Seth. Seth began with a phone call that asked if I was ready to “adopt another?”  I honestly wasn’t prepared to answer that within the 15 minutes that they wanted a call-back. I knew at that time that I was struggling with Micah’s behaviors. That Noah was just embarking on his two-year independence regime. That I was ramping up work on a new nonprofit organization. It was a busy time. Yet….and yet…Seth was blood brother to the boys. My answer was “yes to the fostering… time will tell about adoption.”

Two days after picking him up from the hospital, we went on vacation to the beach. I spent the week bonding with him – shocked and nervous about another boy. Trying to convince myself that this would and could work out. By the end of the week I was ready to be mother to another. And….a letter sat in our mailbox waiting for us to come home. A letter from a man in prison professing his love for his newborn son. Happy that he had a home to stay in until his father would be free to come get him. Struck down, I cried.

For months I received at least weekly letters and drawings from the alleged father. For months I tried to offer Seth a mother’s love while trying to protect my heart from the pain that was coming. For months I tried to talk to Micah about this “father” who would take Seth someday. Months and months (8 months and 6 days to be exact)….until the Not the daddypaternity testing.  We celebrated with a cake and my heart began to take away a brick or two, a shingle, a siding…open up some space…and let the mother love take hold.

 

 

  • To love is a very precious thing.
  • To become a mother is a very difficult journey.
  • To know of motherly love is very ephemeral
  • It is only in moments that you might touch it
  • Moments when you kiss the head of the sleeping child on your chest in security and comfort
  • Moments when you rejoice in the first touchdown or goal, heart welling with pride
  • Moments when you point to an adult and tell your 5-year-old “Someday, boy, you can be just like him. You can do whatever you want to do,” knowing of the dreams you have
  • Moments when you realize they are the air that you breathe, the last thought before you sleep, the face you delight in in the morning.
  • Cherished, loved, (entirely frustrating and maddening at times) and so delightfully mine.

My three sons…(minus the “foster”).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Visit from our first foster child!

I don’t know ­how you’re supposed to get anything done with 5 kids around. I don’t know why I ever expect to. I keep thinking that weekends should be “productive”….and then I’m in the middle of one and just hoping to survive!

I keep reminding myself that with five swirling storms, it’s pretty unlikely that I might sweep a floor or mop the kitchen. I mean, why even try? So this weekend, we decided to up the ante and try having 6 boys around – 8, 6, 6, 4, 2, 1!

Maddox, our first foster boy and now 8, spent the weekend with us while his adoptive parents were out of town. I remember the day I went to pick him up when we first met him. I had been thinking in my head “hmmmm, an almost 1 year old – how bad can that be?”  I opened the door and he was running around his aunt’s house with a bottle hanging from his teeth….and I knew right then he was going to be one active boy. He was a delight while he stayed with us.

He also showed us the classic case of foster parenting. He stayed with us for 10 months and then returned to his biological mother. A few months later, she would stress out and turn to drugs for comfort and he would be placed into foster care. After 10-12 months, he returned to his mother and months later, he and his sister came into our care (that’s when we lived for about 8 months with one 3-year-old and 3 one-year-olds!  And I’m complaining now about being busy??).  Again, the mother worked to get her kids back….again she lost them….but this time they were older and starting to act out themselves in more serious ways….and eventually were placed in “therapeutic foster homes.”  (It is this first foster family that popped into my head the moment I heard the concept of a crisis nursery – and thought that the biological mother just needed a crisis nursery – some place to take the kids for 2-3 days so that she could breathe and get things done…..and so began my quest to open Jeremiah’s Place).

It was hard to “lose” Maddox three years ago. It was hard to understand how a judge would decide to take this boy from his “biological” mother and the woman he thought was his “mother” (my sister) and place him with his 4th family in 4 years. And at the time, we had no idea what the future held….so it was amazing that as soon as he was adopted, the forever mother called to reconnect with Kathy and so began some visitations and then this weekend.

Over the past 2 years or so, Micah and Ryan have talked a lot about Maddox. They remember him and they also remember an idealized version of an “older brother.” This weekend was not anywhere close to an idealized existence as they all had to figure out how to share space and attention and the iPad and the rooms and the Wii remotes and the younger two boys who thought this strange new being was a super hero of some sort.

And Noah just walked around asking, “What’s his name again?”

Foster parenting asks you to hold a kids’ heart in yours so tightly for an unknown period of time and then let the child loose into the world without possibly ever knowing anything about him/her again.  But sometimes….sometimes you have the joy of loving them again.

Celebrating the Foster-to-Adopt completion

I’m not going to lie – parenting is exhausting…especially if you’re starting to get a cold (two weeks of wiping aside snot and I’m finally starting to succumb). So hosting a party of 15 boys (under the age of 9) and 2 girls was definitely tiring – and yet so much fun. Yesterday we had a party to celebrate Noah’s 4th birthday and Seth’s adoption. This brought together the 17 kids for the birthday and about an equal number of adults for the adoption. Today I reflect on how wonderful it is to be surrounded by so many people who care about my boys and our family.

For many people, families and friends celebrate the birth of a child. Friends gather around the new baby and the beaming parents, visitors come and go (and people make you food!), and gifts pour in. Mothers stay home from work for some time (and it would be nice if we let fathers do so too)… cooing over how gorgeous the baby is, who he or she looks like, and “napping when the baby naps” (or at least that’s what people say they do!). It is very different when you adopt a child through the foster care system.

This week I have looked down at Seth every night as I plant a kiss on his forehead and say “goodnight, my son.” It is the first time that I’ve been able to call him my “son.” And it is the first time that I realize I can bond with him as my son. It is a very strange thing. As a foster parent, you are asked to “love the children as if they are your own” and yet to “keep your distance” as your job really is to hand them back to the biological parent (when at all possible).

So there’s this closeness of rocking them to sleep every night, and this guarding of your heart in preparation of possibly losing them. You pick them up when they fall and kiss the “boo-boo,” and wonder how long they will still be in your house. You bounce them and tickle them. You praise their every milestone as they grow. You hold their hand and protect them. You take them to day care and pick them up. You take them to doctor appointments, you sit and pray over them as they recover from surgery, you worry about every cold or fever or wheeze. You ache, you agonize, you cry, you comfort….you love. You know the baby needs a “mother” and you play the role of the “mother,” but you never know if you are the one who will be the forever mother. Until that very moment, years later, when a complete stranger in a black robe declares you to be the mother.

Then you sigh. Then you cry. Then you gather your friends and family around you and say “Celebrate with me. Sing with me. Dance with me….on the “birth” of my son.”

Micah – I met you May 22, 2006, and became your forever Mommy on February 26, 2008.

Noah – I met you Feb 27, 2009, and became your forever Mommy on February 23, 2010.

Seth – I met you on June 2, 2011, and became your forever Mommy on February 12, 2013.

Tonight I lay on Micah’s bed beside him as he snored and looked around the room at my sleeping family. My sons. Beautiful each one.

And I love each of them….

now with my whole heart.

IMG_4703

 

The third beautiful brown boy…

I have a book on my shelf (or the pile beside my bed) about transcultural (transracial) adoption. I should probably read it and feel a bit more informed rather than just mosey along merrily.  But I don’t really feel like devoting the time to it right now (there always seems to be something more pressing).

But it actually is a real part of my life.  I picked Micah up from school one day this week and he started asking questions about Martin Luther King, Jr. (it’s Black History Month). He was actually most interested in the facts about his death (and what’s the name of the man who shot him). But as we galloped down the stairway (he always says we’re racing, but then takes off first so I can’t pass him), he told me about a movie they

    The boys after bath

The boys after bath

watched in school. He started explaining that there are white people and black people and that the black people were not allowed to do anything like go to school or ride a bus. Out of extreme curiosity, I interrupted him and asked him, “Micah, are you white or black?” He stopped dead in his tracks on a second step down, looked at his arm, pointed to his brown skin and said without pausing “white,” and skipped on down the steps…”just like you are white.”  I followed along with a smile and we continued the conversation about how many “important men” have been killed for standing up for “important issues.”

Driving home, I thought I might bring it up again. I said, “you know, Micah, you have absolutely beautiful brown skin because your birth mother was white and your birth father was black.” He replied, “I want to be white” and I responded that was absolutely fine. End of story for that day at least.

I was curious because this week, I added another brown little boy to my family (though his skin is the fairest of them all so far). Seth has officially changed his name and officially changed who he belongs to. He is no longer a “ward of the court.” He is a member of our family forever. Several friends joined us at the courthouse downtown to witness the ceremony. The three boys “allowed” me to dress them in dress shirts, vests, ties and slacks…which coordinated so well with their light-up sneakers (I haven’t bought dress shoes …seems a waste of money for one time wear!). They were gorgeous – until the pink and white cupcakes were served and I had to break out the baby wipes. And they were relatively well-behaved in the waiting area (a jurors waiting room) until the balloon-man arrived and equipped them with fencing swords.

As small streams of steam started to emerge from my ears and my voice started emitting at a lower octave, we were called back to the courtroom where we met the judge. The boys noisily took up the benches in the back as he introduced himself and I tried to keep a squirmy Seth on my lap. After answering a few boring legal questions, the judge read the “decree”…..that the child formerly known as KJE-G will “from this day forth and forever more be known as Seth…J…G…W….” Brings tears to my eyes. Those are some powerful words.

Naturally, I worry sometimes. Will I be able to be the best mom for these boys? Will I have the financial resources to care for them? Will I be able to cope if any of them develops significant behavioral or medical issues? Will I be able to keep teen girls away from the heart-throbs that these boys will become? Will I ever be able to keep enough food in the house? Will I be able to help them navigate the divide between black and white and develop a sense of pride in the beautiful brown children that they are and the incredible men that they will become?….

Love can. Welcome to our family Seth, my love.

Ten Bits of Wisdom for a New Adoptive Single Mother

I talked to a colleague this week who just adopted a little boy five weeks ago. She’s single and in her forties and asked me what I thought about single parenting and adoption.  I said “mothering is full of ups and down….usually within the same second.” And though my kids are still pretty young, here’s what I’ve learned so far (a bit more than I shared over the phone with her):

Five “hard” things that will surprise you:

You are going to fail. It’s really hard when you’re used to being a successful, professional woman, but it’s true. There are moments in mothering that you are going to totally and completely bomb. And you’ll know it. You’ll know it the moment you are in it…and yet you won’t be able to do anything about it. You’ll be in the moment and you’ll be doing it all wrong. But…. that moment will end. You will forgive yourself. Your ego will be bruised for a while, but you’ll forgive yourself. And you’ll learn that all moms do that. All moms fail at some moment. What makes a mom great is realizing it, forgiving yourself, trying to learn from it (yeah…..), and moving on. Because you love your child and your child loves you.

That’s the hard one. But it’s true. Here’s another hard one. There will be times that you hear this little voice in your head that says “I wish I never made this decision.” It’s probably somewhere between wiping the poop off the crib railings and stepping on a lego in the middle of the night. It’s probably somewhere in between 39 months of no more than two nights of real sleep in a row and lugging a stroller, diaper bag, kid and two suitcases down the airport hall. It’s there… somewhere. It’s fleeting. It’s shocking. But it’s also real. Life just flipped upside down, you’re on a rollercoaster in the dark, and sometimes you’re not sure you can handle it. And you are scared. But you can handle it. You really can. And you know in your heart of hearts that this is exactly what you want to be doing.

Hmm, I’m on a roll with the hard stuff, because there also comes that time when you realize that parenting has brought out the worst of you. The really ugly side comes out….like anger, grumpiness, impatience. And previously, if you didn’t like a situation you were in or the way it made you feel, you could leave. But now, you can’t. Parenting is 24/7, it doesn’t end. You wake up – the kid is there. You go to sleep – the kid wakes you up. So you must find yourself some breaks and forgive yourself again.

You are going to miss your single life. You’re still “technically” single, but it is so very different now. It’s hard to come to grips with the new limits on your life. No longer can you just jump in the car and head out of town for the weekend (without some serious planning and a trunk full of crap). No longer do you meet up with friends for dinner (without first finding a sitter and contemplating the balance of how many evenings you are away from home). Spontaneity is a whole different version now – you can still have some….until the baby is old enough to need a schedule and then spontaneity becomes “which room do I clean first today?” Gone is the time when you wake up on a Saturday and say “hmmm, what am I going to do today?”

And, you might struggle with the concept of adoption. You might have some bumpiness in bonding with your new one. You might grieve that this child, as beautiful as he is, doesn’t look the least bit like you (or you might rejoice in this). You might be hurt by other people’s glances or words. You might even go so far that you doubt your parenting ability for the child and wonder if some other family should have adopted him. And for this reason, you must have someone in your life who tells you as often as needed, “you are the very woman who is supposed to be his mom.” Because this is true.

Believe me – you will not survive this alone. Don’t even try…for many of the reasons that I’ve just listed. You must have some allies in your camp – a cheering squad, a supporters group, a cadre of friends. (And it’s helpful if all your friends don’t know each other so you can whine to at least 5 or 6 of them about the same thing that the little kiddo just did.) If you have family, move as close to them as you possibly can. Build up a network of people who can take the baby for a couple hours, drop off a gallon of milk in a moment’s notice, sit by you in the ER when the little one is sick, or get out of work early to get the kiddo off the bus on the day you have a really important 3:30 meeting. Cherish these people. They will keep you going. And do not be afraid to ask for help.

Oh – I’m squeezing in a number 6 — Parenting is painful. That surprised me. I never really considered how many times my head was going to get knocked by a flying block. Or a door slammed on my big toe splitting the nail. Or being jumped on from behind when you’re squatting to put on a siblings shoes and falling onto the floor. But the one that always kills me is leaning over your kid to plant a tender kiss on their head, only to have them rear back to look at you and split your lip open or bloody your nose. Real nice. (Okay, back to my list….)

Five wonderful things that will surprise you:

You are going to be amazed at how much you love that child. It is such a powerful emotion, that makes you wipe snot off a nose for the thousandth time. That leads you to lie down beside them long after they’ve gone to sleep just to watch them breathe and their eyes twitch for a few minutes. That causes you to fiercely defend them even when they don’t need it. The love between you and your child is better than anything you could have dreamed of and you can’t even imagine life without him.

You have never known pride until you’ve been proud of your kid. Oh sure, you have felt good about an accomplishment of yours. You’ve been happy for your team or colleagues. But when you watch your son kick his first soccer goal or your daughter stand up and take her first steps – wham! That is powerful pride.

The first time you say it – and believe it! – that you are the baby’s “mother” is pretty fantastic. When you say to yourself, “wow, I’m a mommy. Wow!” It will finally settle in…and your new identity forms. But what’s even more delightful is when your child looks at you and for the first time says “mommy” – you won’t ever forget that moment.

You will spend an entire day getting absolutely nothing done and you’ll be okay with that. You’ll be amazed at how long you can just sit and stare at a baby. You’ll wonder why it took two days to do a load of laundry when you’ve had to sort and fold the clothes over and over again when the boys have “underwear war!” You won’t worry about the dishes in the sink anymore or the crumbs under (and in) the couch – your new “accomplishment” for the day is to have fun, tickle and kiss….and keep the kid alive.

You will understand that becoming a mother was truly, truly the best decision you ever made. Sure you might want a little less vomit to wipe up, but you will know that there’s no other description of yourself that’s more important than to say that you’re a mother. You will be worn out more than ever imagined. You will be frustrated and confused at times. You will do things you never expected to do. And you will be happier than you thought possible – and so grateful for your child and the chance to be a mom.

Call me or a friend to share any of these 10 things…and for anything else.

(Oh….and here’s a couple other simple words of wisdom
– subscribe to Adoptive Families if you want to do a bit more reading and get some suggestions
– definitely sign up for Amazon Mom for free two-day shipping ….including diapers!
– always have extra milk or formula in the house – running out at 9pm is a huge mental drain!
– keep babywipes (and tissues) within an arm’s length…ALWAYS)

Happening just so fast!

I got home at midnight tonight (well, technically, 11:46pm) from a grant-writing meeting (another story) and had to rearrange two boys.  I carried Micah up from his snoring paradise on my sister’s bed to my bed (lacking sheets which are still in the laundry due to Micah’s occasional pull-up failure) and I picked Noah up off the tiny floor rug outside his room and placed him in the snuggly arms of a huge brown stuffed-animal bear which Seth is too scared of to claim as his Christmas present.

As I carried the boys, I thought how strange it is going to be soon to change this routine – because our house just sold!!   Yes, we’re shocked.  It’s been on the market for two years.  I’ve been mentally exhausted just thinking about it.  I’ve been physically exhausted by all the cleaning for showings (and by carrying boxes and boxes of things downstairs to “hide,” only to find them months later and food past its expiration dates!).  And yet, now that the reality is here, I can’t even adjust to it.  Of course, I’ve been too busy to even think about it (or even to celebrate it – though we did pop the bottle of bubbly….sparkling apple juice….that was in the fridge for the boys!!).

Congratulations!

Congratulations!

But now the questions begin.  How in the world are we going to get this house packed up in the next 6 weeks? (Guess those boxes I kept carrying to the basement are all ready to go!)  Where in the world are we going to move?  (That seems like a relatively important question…)  And how am I going to help the boys transition through this? (Was Micah’s aggressive acting out today a response to the shift in stress and energy that he felt move through the house?)  Why am I feeling depressed even though I’ve been so eager to move? (Change is hard….and this house is huge – and we won’t find such space anywhere else…and this is all going to take a great deal of energy….)

As if this isn’t enough for my poor brain to process….it follows closely on the heels of finding out that the “Termination of Parental Rights” went through for Seth.  He is cleared for adoption.  I am cleared for adopting him.  The caseworker came to visit the night the offer came in for the house.  I did hear about it via email on Monday (though the court hearing was last Friday…and I had to wait nervously all weekend to get the results!).  Monday was a busy evening and I quickly made a cake from a mix that I found (not expired in the basement) and since I couldn’t find the frosting tubes, I wrote out “TPR” in M&Ms (red and green from Christmas) on the top.  Lit some candles, took some pictures, let boys dig into chocolate gooey mess….there – we acknowledged it.

But it’s all just moving.  So fast.  And I can’t keep up with processing through it yet.  For the past 20 months, I have been Seth’s mom (even if he calls Kathy “mommy” too sometimes….).  He has been my son.  He has been the brother of the boys.  He has already gone through a name change.  But next month, he will officially change his name (not him….but the judge will sign a piece of paper….and a new birth certificate will be printed….and a woman named Hannah will no longer have any documentation of having a little boy….three little boys…..).  And a few weeks later, I will receive a piece of paper that has Lynne listed as “legal mother” under Seth’s name and birthdate and an “Adoption Certificate” which proclaims that this happened February 12th, 2013.

And I will say “whew,” and then it might sink in.  That Seth is forever part of my family.  That the man who thought he was biological father until proven otherwise is now part of history.  That there will be no more “odd” visitations to the county jail for Seth to spend time with a stranger (his birth mom).  That I can call him “my son” without the qualifier “foster….who will hopefully be adopted”… That I am now responsible for three wild and wonderful boys.  Oh boy.

At the beginning of the year, I sent an email to a friend:
My dreams for this year:
– adopt Seth
– sell this house and move!
– open up Jeremiah’s Place – the crisis nursery

Let’s see how that all works.

What I didn’t mean is for all of this to happen in the first months of the year (the crisis nursery project has taken off and I have two grants due at the end of the month….even though I have no idea how to write a grant!!!).

What I do know is that I’m going to have to find time to let all of this sink in.  That I’m going to have to find ways to help the older boys let this all sink in.  That as I become harried and stressed, that the boys will pick up on that and feel harried and stressed as well.   So, instead of starting the packing….instead of searching for a house to rent on the internet….instead of doing anything productive, I let the boys play outside in the “snow box” while I cleaned out the car.

Such gooey brown slime

Slouching in the recesses of the cup holder

You let go of the smothered keys with a long stranded release

I wash you out with clean pure water.

Oh, wrinkly brown grapes

Hiding under the car seat mat

You dream of becoming raisins in the sun

I toss you out with the hardened cheese.

Dear crumbs, crumbs, crumbs

Sprinkling the floor, the seats, the mats

You long for relief from the trampling of feet

I suck you out with the green vacuum.

Oh car, my dearest van —

You seem so clean today.

Why don’t we drive off tomorrow…

Without the boys!

Noah and Les Mis

We have fallen into a bedtime routine recently – reading 2-3 books downstairs, then marching up to the third floor where I sing to Seth as Micah does what he needs to do in the bathroom (“pee, wash hands, brush teeth” I say at least 7 or 8 times, every single night, trying to get him to go in that order!).  Seth stands in the corner of his crib curiously observing Micah watch “one….and only one” (or sometimes two) YouTube videos (usually Star Wars Lego clips) on my phone.  We then “say prayers” and lay there quietly while Micah falls asleep and Seth plops down into his crib and stuffed animals.  Eventually, I wake up from my comatose state and tiptoe downstairs to find Noah (who often is watching a short video or playing with Ryan, but tonight was helping his aunt make an apple pie!).

Noah takes a nap at preschool despite my wishes that he wouldn’t, because his body doesn’t need much sleep.  So this hour or so after Micah crashes and before Noah climbs into bed is usually “our” time.  Sometimes we are running to Target for milk or diapers.  Sometimes we are reading books or playing with Hot Wheels cars.  Sometimes he plays on the office room floor while I run on the treadmill, frequently reminding him (or scolding him) about the dangers of putting his little toys or fingers into the moving track.  At some point, when the cuteness wears off, I trudge him upstairs to bed.

He likes to climb into mine now and jump around a bit before settling into the crook of my arm.  Then, anywhere between nine and midnight, Micah wakes up, finds me downstairs, begs to be carried upstairs (despite being half my body weight), and goes to my bed.  I transfer kicked-out Noah to his crib mattress on the floor of the boys’ room and Micah snuggles into the warmed up section of bed.  (When I’m ready to sleep, I just roll him over and get the warm sheets myself – very handy in the winter!)

Tonight, as I was putting the bouncy, almost 4-year-old Noah to sleep on my bed, I whispered “I love you, Noah” giving him a squeeze and kissing the top of his head. He replied, “Thank you, Mommy.”  I paused just slightly, thinking about that thank you and said “You’re welcome.” He answered, “I like to have my Mommy love me.”

Boom.  This is what it is all about.  Despite the craziness of the days.  Despite the arguing and squealing and wrestling the boys do.  Despite the mess of yogurt flying from the end of a Gogurt tube as Seth flings it happily in the middle of the kitchen floor, mostly with joy to my yelling “no, no, no”.  Despite the cleaning and the laundry.  Despite the worry and the energy and the “mindfulness” of parenting.

It all comes down to the expression of love.  The tight squeeze.  The gentle kiss.  The whispered words.  And Noah thanks me because that’s what he needs in his life.  To fall asleep knowing that he is loved.

Cosette - illustration from original work (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_miz)

Cosette – illustration from original work (from Wikipedia)

 

I watched the movie Les Mis this afternoon with a couple other mothers.  I was misty-eyed through much of it, naturally.  The hardship and the pain and the injustice and deaths of so many.  The contrast of living by the law and living by grace.  There is so much power and truth in that story by Victor Hugo.  One line at the end, though, catches my heart every time I hear it:  “To love another person is to see the face of God” – uttered by Jean Valjean whose world was changed by love when he “adopted” little Cosette.

This is what I see in my boys.  Created by God. Gifted to me.  Loved by me.  They have changed my world and I am trying hard to change theirs, wrapping them in love each day.  I am mindful of saying it and expressing it.  Of occasionally catching Micah as he runs by to give him a big kiss.  Of whispering it in their ears when I have them close.  Of signing it with my fingers to the back of the car. They need to know it. And sometimes…..yes, sometimes, they say “Thank you, Mommy.”

A Perfectly Good (Adopted) Family

We added a new boy to the family this week (fortunately, not by the phone call of the foster caseworker to announce the birth of a sibling!).  Stephen was officially adopted by my sister in a small courtroom in downtown Pittsburgh.  He is the fifth child of his biological mother to be adopted out and the judge who followed this case for years was so touched that it was “ending well,” that she came over especially to “proclaim” the adoption.  I am so excited for my sister.

It’s been a long time coming with many heartaches.  When Stephen was about two months old at the first court hearing, the judge said she would have handed him over for adoption right then and there, knowing the birth mom, if the CYF system had asked for it.  Instead, for the past two years, it’s been up and down with numerous, numerous attempts to help the mother “be” a mother….until recently when her “rights were terminated” as a parent….and she fled the state to try to block the “system” from taking her next newborn baby a couple months ago.

So Kathy has gracefully ridden this roller-coaster of hope and heartache, and all the while has loved this little guy every single second (including, even if not actually obvious at the time, when he spills a full gallon of milk splashing across the table and cascading majestically to the floor, upending his cereal bowl on a near-daily basis, and removing his own diapers at some of the most inopportune times!).

And now, it is final.  Stephen has a new name……Karl…with a “K.”  (It’s going to take a while to get that imprinted in my brain.  I’m getting pretty good at it…except when he’s about to pull all the bananas onto the floor, or is pounding on the dining room table with the tines of his fork, or is gleefully flicking the lights on and off in the living room….and I slip into a stern “S-t-e-p-h-e-n!”)  It will probably take even longer for the boys to figure out the name change, as Noah asked today “who’s Karl? Where?”.

It’s been a good time to review “name changes” and adoption with Micah.  He likes to ask what his original name was.  We review that he was born to another woman and came to live here when he was a very tiny baby.  We review that I love him “forever, for always, and no matter what” and I renew that commitment in my head.  We discuss that Seth will also one day change his last name (I already switched his first name when he turned one as that was easier for me J) and become “forever” family (hopefully in the next few months).

And even though I can talk about this to Micah (and sometimes to Noah who doesn’t really pay attention), it still sometimes seems so surreal to me.  I know that Micah and Noah are forever mine…..that I am their Mommy (because they “tell” me so hundreds of times a day!)….and yet, sometimes, I sit back and pause and say “wow….I am a mother….”  I can easily think of many things that I am – a woman, a Christian, a doctor, a night-owl, a reader, a work-a-holic (most likely), …. and I am a mother.  This is one of those “I am” things that is palpable in the way that I become very defensive on behalf of the boys, in the way I beam with pride in their very very little league sports accomplishments, in the way I peer intensely into their eyes sometimes and say “I love you.”  Sometimes you can just touch that “mother” aspect and roll it around and bounce it here and there.  You can lift it high, you can bend it, you can smash it, you can pound it….but you can never ever ever break it.  I am their mother – forever, for always, and no matter what.  And this Christmas season I am thankful (again) for that gift in my life.

Our family

Our family

 

Kathy realized as she hung the stockings that this year, Seth’s name had changed from one with a K to an S….and Stephen’s name changed from an S to a K….and so our stockings of last year with initials embroidered upon them still reflect our family perfectly.  A perfectly good little family.