(see Amarillo Magazine article here)
Then I Knew They Were Mine
I remember that Sunday quite perfectly.
It was Mother’s Day, 2003, and my husband and I were in our second year of reeling from infertility. We longed to adopt a child. We were surrounded by friends who were getting pregnant with ease, and on this particular Sunday we were surrounded by a congregation of mothers at church.
“We want to recognize all of the mothers in this room,” rang the pastor. “So if you’ve had the privilege and joy of being a mother, please stand up!”
The room erupted in applause, but I sat bitterly in the pew with my hands clenched. I couldn’t raise my eyes for nary a second. I choked back tears and steamed with jealous anger.
To be told you cannot conceive a child is something out of this world. The words come out of the doctor’s mouth and float around the room before stabbing you right in the heart. What once represented hope and anticipation was suddenly a ripping of what should have been natural and easy. You grow up, you get married, you get pregnant and make a family. It felt as if we’d been robbed.
What I didn’t know, as I pouted in the church pew, was that there was a plan already in motion. Unbeknownst to us, our son was already growing in his birth mother’s belly, and in early August, we were introduced to her by a mutual friend. By September, she gave birth and placed in our hands a most treasured gift. Finally, I was a mother.
All of the bitterness I held on to for two years was instantly replaced by an immeasurable well of love. I had not carried him tenderly inside me for nine months, but from the moment I laid eyes on Jeremy’s tiny body, I knew he was mine.
By his fourth month, I had to defend my position as Jeremy’s mother. He was scheduled for a minor day surgery, and on the early morning of his procedure, we sat in the hospital room filling out all of the standard paperwork. When I arrived at the spot to fill in his social security number, I called for the nurse. We were two months from the adoption being final, so Jeremy didn’t have a number yet. The nurse went across the hall to the physician and my face went flush as I eavesdropped.
“We can’t do this surgery,” said the doctor, “unless we have permission from his real mother.”
Instinctively I stormed into the hallway and before I could censor myself, the words flew out of my mouth for the whole floor to hear: “I am his real mother.”
They stood there in shock before gently explaining their legal dilemma. The solution was an early morning phone call to our lawyer who provided custody documents on our behalf. Though Jeremy’s surgery went about as planned, I fumed for a solid week on the doctor’s tactless slip of the tongue.
Nearly three years later, we were delighted again to receive a second son. This time, instead of having the luxury of four weeks to prepare for a baby, we had 24 hours. We woke on a Saturday morning an oblivious family of three, but by Sunday night we had grown to a family of four. Even in the rush of his birth, being chosen as his parents and meeting him for the first time, from the moment I saw six-hour-old Jackson through the hospital nursery window, I knew he was mine.
Fast forward seven and four years respectively. Our house is busy, noisy, and, depending on the day, it is a galaxy far, far away, a battlefield for Army men or a super-speeding race track. It is a place where laughter fixes nearly every problem and table manners may never be achieved. It is place of properly set boundaries, where hugs are given free and clear, and one bite of your vegetables is good enough for now.
It is also where we talk openly about their adoptions, using words like sacrifice, gift, and, above all else, love. It is because of love that you are here.
With Jeremy, we’ve reached a pivotal place of starting to answer hard questions, and we agreed a long time ago that we’d always answer them as honestly as possible and with age-appropriate information. Our conversations are sweet and mostly benign, which confirms that the hardest challenges are yet to come. It is never far from my mind to affirm both boys of their place in our family.
In the quieter moments of this bestowed motherhood, I imagine my boys at an age of rebellion, when they are looking for answers that I cannot give, and it’s then that I imagine the worst. It’s a fear every adoptive parent harbors. There could come a day, when in anger, they might yell at me, “You aren’t my real mother.”
Now, I can’t say for sure what the context of this argument may be, and I can’t say for sure how I will respond as a whole, but if my instincts are correct and my love is still strong, then I’m certain I’ll begin with, “Oh yes I am.”