adoption, expectations

on loving and expecting and trying to hold two babies

Tal is an amazing human being. I guess that goes without saying, isn’t every baby? And of course I’m his mom so my opinion comes wildly biased. But throughout the process of his adoption, as we got update pictures I’d wonder of course about who he would be, what he would be like, his personality and his strengths. It’s a strange thing to fall in love with a person and then get to know then. And now that I’ve gotten just a small, small taste of who he is I can say firmly that I adore him. I adore what I know about him and I look forward to getting to know what I don’t.

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I try very hard to keep expectations far away from my motherhood experiences. Expectations of what he’ll be like, if he’ll like me, how our family will fit together. I was worried I hadn’t done such a good job this time. In many ways it was much, much harder this time. I’d already experienced motherhood, that first rush of change and excitement. With Thane it was easier to keep expectations low because I didn’t have any idea what to expect. This time, unspoken, unrealized expectations kept rearing their head throughout the process.

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At one point I sat down with myself and forced myself to imagine everything exactly the opposite of how it was with Thane. I tried to imagine a personality as far from his as possible. It was hard, but good too for me to do that. It brought a lot of those unspoken expectations to the light and let me get rid of most of them.

But of course there were some I wasn’t prepared for. I hadn’t realized how challenging it would  be to show love to children at the same time. Loving two is no problem, but I wasn’t prepared for the physical feats it would require to show that love. When Nate, Tal, and I arrived in the Denver airport and there was Thane with my family and friends to greet us it suddenly hit me. I had one baby in my arms, how the heck was I supposed to pick up another? So I ended up on my knees. Not in prayer. That’s just literally all I could do to get them both safely in my arms. Sidenote: A friend told me recently that she kickboxes to work through the adoption stress, I ate Oreos, I’m thinking now that hers is the better plan.

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The thing about expectations is they can keep me from seeing what’s in front of me. If I’m so focused on what I thought it would be I can’t see what is. And what is? That’s something I don’t want to miss. And his personality? As the stress of all the changes, and his cold, and his two new teeth subside I see it coming out more and more. And it rocks.

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adoption, cave paintings of the soul

we’re fine, really

A few days ago Nate was holding one screaming child, I was holding the other. And as I watched the blood drip down my leg I realized something: we were going to be fine. I don’t mean in any profound, the world was ours for the taking kind of fine. I mean that the babies were going to get fed and changed and loved on and the four of us were on one continent so really, what else was there?

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Sure, within twenty-four hours of parenting two children under two I had somehow managed to put a diaper on one child but forgotten to fasten it so it ended up around their ankles and completely useless, and sure I had absent-mindedly given the eight month old a piece of pizza instead of the 22 month old, and yes it was true that Nate asked to gatecheck both of the children, but we were going to be fine. After all we cleaned up the first mess, didn’t actually let the eight month old eat the piece, and Nate assured the ticket agent he actually wanted to get boarding passes for the kids, not gatecheck them. So yeah, we would be fine. I would end up limping for the next however many days and the sidewalk would need a hosing off and my favorite pair of jeans got ruined in the fall but we would be fine. Better than fine. But there’s nothing wrong with fine either.

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My parents stayed with us the first week home, that was amazing. They did everything, and we just loved on the two little ones and tried to get Tal on the right time-zone. It’s special to share those first days with the people who raised me. I miss them. Thane really misses them. They sing to him and read to him and love him like crazy.

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Nate is lucky enough to get a month of paternity leave, and we’re cocooning hard around here.  There’s something completely breathtaking about waking up and realizing you don’t have to wonder how your baby is doing, you know. You can tiptoe to his crib and listen to him breathe. You know when he’s crying and when he’s happy. He lays against my chest while I rock him to sleep and I feel lost in this fog of wondering if this is really real. Because it seems too good to be true that the wait is over, that he’s with us. That the process of making this his home has begun. It’s a surreal feeling to know that the “happily ever after” of my side of the adoption story is the “in the beginning” for his. Because he had a home. A country. A culture. A foster family who loves him and cared for him. This isn’t home. Not yet. I call it home, yes. Because it will be so. Because it’s waiting for him whenever he wants it. Whenever his little heart is ready for it.

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Next month will be three years since we dropped our application to agency #1 in the mail. At that point they said we would certainly have a child home within a year. That seems so ludicrous now.  Two years ago this month, a few days ago actually, was the anniversary of our first referral – the baby who didn’t make it. And a year ago this month Thane had been with us just two months. And now here we are, the four of us together. It didn’t go like I had planned, it wasn’t what I imagined, it isn’t even what I would have picked. But I look at these two children and I catch my breath at the thought that I get to mother them. The honor of that is more than I can say.

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{{All pictures from his first week “home”.}}

waiting

the christmas tree that made it

Today I took down our Christmas tree, it finally died. It’s March 12. It’s been standing in our living room for one hundred and fourteen days.

When his brother and his daddy and I picked out our tree the weekend of Thanksgiving I don’t remember thinking it would still be up when Tal came home. Mostly I was trying very hard to be present to the fact that our oldest was home. That all the longing and dreaming of “next year our family will be together” from the year before was now true. Except it wasn’t. We had our first baby but were now missing our second. Two Christmases with such similar longings.

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But then the tree kept living. We got home from our Christmas trip to CO for two weeks and it was still going strong. And then we thought Tal might be home in Jan and I thought – maybe it will make it. Maybe he’ll get to see his first Christmas tree. And then Jan was gone and Feb was here, and the tree kept on going strong. A few ornaments bit the dust, but the tree itself seemed reluctant to give up its needles. Like it too wanted our baby home.

I don’t remember when exactly I pretty much gave up hope. I remember posting about it on an online group. And some people said they thought it could make it. And a new friend stopped by with treats and a visit just when I needed it and she said she thought it could make it. So I started to hope again. Hope is a crazy thing.DSC_1234

Then I met my youngest. And on Thursday his Daddy, his brother, his grandparents, and I flew into Seattle. We drove home from the airport, walked through the door as a family of four for the first time, and I curled up on the couch with Tal in my arms. His big brother turned on the Christmas tree lights. Tal’s eyes got big, he laid his head against my chest and we sat there snuggled up together. And he fell asleep. He fell asleep in the glow of the lights of the tree from his first Christmas. It made it. We made it.

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{{I don’t have pictures of that first night beside the tree.  But Friday night when he woke up in the middle of the night and his jetleg wouldn’t let him got back to sleep his daddy and I spent some more time with him in its glow and I took a few pictures to remember the tree that made it, and the baby boy who loved it.}}

adoption related mushiness, adoption related seriousness, waiting

the stranger who will be my son

It won’t be long now, they’ll be placing a child in my arms, and I’ll become his mother. And he won’t know who I am. He’ll look at me and won’t recognize me, won’t love me, won’t have any bond to me. And I’ll be his mother.

So I’ll do what mothers do. I’ll hold him, and rock him, and feed him. I’ll kiss him and tell him in a language he doesn’t understand that pretty soon things won’t be so new, pretty soon we’ll know each other, pretty soon I won’t be a stranger. I’ll tell him I love him and it’s okay that he doesn’t love me. I’ll tell him that love can take time to grow, that home can take time to become a reality. I’ll tell him we’re his family and that I hope someday he knows that and feels that and believes that.

I’ll whisper his foster mother’s name and tell him it’s okay that he misses her. I’ll tell him she loves him because I know it’s true. I’ll tell him I know of his losses and they’ll always be spoken of with respect in our home. I’ll tell him I know we’re not his only family and that I’m sorry for all the upheaval he has had in his little life. I’ll tell him there are no big changes now. That this family we’re creating is his as long as he wants it to be. I’ll tell him that no matter what happens I’ll love him for all of time. And my love will be enough for both of us until he has his own. My belief in the strength of our family will be enough until he believes it too.

But most of all I will tell him of the amazing person he is. How his very life gives a unique gift to the world, one that no one else can give. I’ll tell him that it’s not a question of what he does, it’s a question of WHO he is. That who he is, is enough. Is everything.

Sometimes I stare at his picture and whisper a thought of gratitude that he’s here. That he’s on this earth. That I get a first row seat to the wonder that he is. That very soon, the four of us will be a family. Will have our lives intertwined by memories and emotions and experiences. That each of us came to this family from another. Each with a unique bloodline. And yet we’re a family. Very soon now that journey will begin. Pretty soon that stranger will become my son.

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{from his nursery}}