Dear Moms of Adopted Children, This Is Why I Recognize You from a Mile Away…
by Kathy Lynn Harris
First, a quick note: I wrote this piece after reading an essay written by Lea Grover in the Huffiington Post, titled “Dear Less-Than-Perfect Mom.” The post by Lea was wonderful, and it made me think about us moms who found our sweet babies through adoption, and how we face unique challenges. I hope you enjoy it, whether you are the parent of an adopted child or not.
Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,
I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident. It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy.
You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have. Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the right thing. Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to their cousin’s neighbor’s friend. Maybe you ignored them. Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your first choice. But maybe it was.
Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it? I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones, too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language deficiencies. About counseling support services, tax and insurance issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.
I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.
I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted. I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because, well, these things fall through, you know. Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it to your cheek every night. I know about your home visits.
I know about your knuckles, cracked and bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara before the social worker rang the doorbell. And I know about the followup visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks because the baby had colic.
I know how you wanted so badly to show that you had it all together, even though you were back to working more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants. And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying, nesting, coming home.
I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t have to go through with this.
I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those moments—while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so much.
I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long enough to give yourself over completely. And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours. I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss. I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge, the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.
I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.
I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of things — but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so intent on celebrating sameness.
I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories, leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into big problems later on. I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come, mama? How come? I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded, “You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.
I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way around. But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing yourself.
Kathy Lynn Harris is a transparent writer whose greatest accomplishments to date include raising the world’s smartest and most beautiful little boy, marrying a handsome and funny husband who cooks up a mean taco, and adopting two untrainable golden retriever mixes who rack up so many food and vet bills she has to crowdfund them. Read more at her blog.