It’s been a while since I got down and dirty here with the nitty-gritty of adoption issues. A long while.
One reason — and seemingly the simplest believe it or not, is the major life changes going on round here for me. From starting my own craft biz geared toward children and also experiencing a serious career-shocker regarding my day gig, it’s been all about new patterns, new priorities and new timeframes in which to manage them. I’m still learning on that one, and from what I can tell, the next month or so will add yet another new layer of changes to what my life is, or who I am, becoming these days.
(Yes, that was the simple reason.)
The more difficult reason, if you will, for quiet time around here is because I’ve always liked to think (naively, I know, so don’t burst my bubble) that I’m only venturing in here and donning this specific writer’s cap when I have something I need to say, something that’s worthwhile in the moment.
I’ve never wanted this to be a space to talk about the deal I got on such and such at the shop downtown or what I had for lunch that day, and unless I could devote the time to musings:mamahood&more — even after the house is finally still and the thermostat plunges into its insanely low sleeping temperature so my tapping fingertips are numb and hard to move — and be able to say something of value (even if only for myself), well, I’d rather it let it stand on its own. Quiet, but standing tall nonetheless.
Sure, every writer who is a mother and an employee and a juggler of many things she loves has the same issues. So I suppose that’s not the truly difficult part, either.
Rather, it’s difficult because the ebb and flow of adoption as I know it sometimes hits so hard and so personally that I’ve not yet processed it in a way that is 1) ready for public consumption and 2) even something I’ll want to share here.
Those of you who are regulars here, friends here and in real-life know I’m touched by adoption in two ways. Both my daughter and my husband were adopted. One is meant to be open, the other is terribly closed due to unrealistic laws that disrespect those they affect.
Tonight, while avoiding the To-Do list that sits before me as this weekend is packed with things I must attend/do/finish and prepare for, I popped in on one of my favorite bloggers. It was meant to be a quick read, a small diversion from what I must do tonight before my head hits the pillow.
Instead, the floodgates opened and salty tears came a’flowin. (Yep, I’m lookin’ mighty fine right about now.)
The words she shared today, on the eve her daughter’s birthday, had me awash in tears not only for her and her daughter (whom she placed for adoption five years ago but remains active in an open-adoption arrangement), but ultimately, I suppose, for my own daughter as well.
A few simple sentences and I was a goner. She’s done this to me before, and since I’ve been reading her since Maeve was just a wee one, it’s happened plenty. I dunno, maybe this time though it also has to do with the season. After all, just around the corner from where I sit right now, my family’s Christmas tree sits in all its splendor, centered before two front windows, glistening in its white lights, sentimental ornaments and cranberry garland. My large and stately fireplace is softened by garland Tom has wrapped it in, white lights and berries and all. Our knit stockings dangle with anticipation and the staircase leading upstairs is wrapped in garland and lights and love.
And running about among all this light and love in my life is my beautiful three-year-old daughter. She wakes up each morning to find “her” tree “stayed there” all night and delights in that fact (whatever that means, goodness knows what she’s worried about!). She’s enjoying the events of the season this year as she’s now old enough to participate more actively, chatting with St. Nick today on his lap (“What would you like for Christmas, Maeve?” he asked. “A present,” she says simply, before thanking him for letting us take a photo of them together.)
I am so lucky to have her in my life. Even at 4 am when her cool little hand touches my warm leg as she hoists herself high into our big bed, having just pitter-patted across the hall into our bedroom. And as she works to tuck her legs under the tangle of all the blankets, nestles in alongside me and rests her arm on my hip, she groggily begins a full-blown conversation, pulling me from my sleep:
Can I go ride my tricycle outside now? (Despite it being dark and cold.)
Is the sun still in its nest or has it left to find the sky so the morning can come?
Is the moon tired from all night? Will it sleep all day in its nest, mommy?
Do girls have mustaches? Can I have a pink one? Right …. here? Look, mommy, open your eyes. (She taps me from the oblivion I’m trying to rediscover and points to her upper lip.) Can I have a pink one … right … here?
Despite this burst of inquisitive imagination, within moments of my answers, the rhythm of her breathing falls into a pattern I have come to know as if it were my own.
I cannot help but smile in these simple moments. It’s a reflex gushing with thankfulness for this light in my life. So sweet, so genuine and somehow, because they happen under the cover of night, these moments are even more special, more sacred, more … gourmet. As if I was the lucky recipient of a little bit of heaven. Moments one might not notice so easily had they happened once the dawn, with all its duties and responsibilities, has broken.
It is not at all uncommon, though, that in these joyous moments, her breathing lulling me back to a blissful sleep, my happiness turns to a bittersweet reality. A cloud has rolled in and I am pulled awake again.
After all, no matter how much I love her, no matter how deeply or how perfectly (in goal only, of course) I love her, I will never, ever be her first mother.
Don’t get me wrong, or jump to an incorrect conclusion: I’m not pondering my own short-falling. This isn’t at all about me.
It’s not something I can change, no matter how hard I try, who I know, how much money I have or how many magical powers I can muster from a genie’s lamp. I Will Never Be The Woman Who Made Her Who She is.
And therein, my friends, lies Incredible Loss. Loss for Maeve. Loss for B., her first mom.
Loss that I cannot sweep under a carpet or pour into a box to perch on a dusty old shelf to be long forgotten. I cannot do that, because B. is with me every single day. She is entwined in my heart so completely there is no parting us. She’s there because Maeve is there. B is there because of everything she and I have known together, because of how she has forever changed the course of my life, the story I am living.
Bittersweet is an overused and shallow word for what I’m trying to describe. So I will try to say it as succinctly as possible (for verbose me): The depth of my joy in being a mother seems matched only by a constant and acute awareness of a sadness equally as deep.
Anyone reading this who is a mother but who is not touched by adoption, try to gather the myriad feelings, emotions, thoughts and experiences that are permanently wrapped in to your motherhood. A scope and depth of love so serious and raw and real that it’s hard to adequately find the words.
Now take that powerful mix, relish in the joy you feel in being the mother to your children, and add to that wholehearted devotion the strength of your instincts to protect and nurture.
Being a mother means doing everything in our power to ensure our children are whole, healthy, happy and kind. We work to ensure they are comforted in the strength of our fierce love for them and the power it ultimately gives them to thrive.
As Maeve’s mom — but not her first mom — it’s something I struggle with. How can I make her whole? I believe her happiness comes from that wholeness. Yet my very presence in her life is because something else, someone else, is missing.
And not for nothing, but if I feel this strongly, how will Maeve feel as the flesh and blood of a mother not nurturing her on a daily basis?
This Spring, contact was the best it had been. Leaps and bounds in connections, in conversations, in sharing — whether small, idle chats or more serious discussions.
It was Exhilarating. Exciting. There was Relief.
And then, like a thief during the dark of night, while we weren’t paying attention, while Maeve was busy coming to our bedside and nestling in close, a part of us, a part of her, integral parts to the puzzle assembled ever so slowly since she was born, simply vanished with the arrival … of silence.
I cannot help but grieve the loss for them both, all over again.
Is it an ebb and flow (its own issue to make peace with and make the most of) or was it just too much?
I’ve spent far too long, in those rare quiet moments alone the last few months, wondering. We continue to let B. know we’re here. Our arms are open, our hearts are committed. Tender now from the pain, but our hearts are always, and will always be, ever-so committed.
After all, she is part of us. She is part of Maeve. Maeve is part of her.
The simple sentiments in the aforementioned blog post that released all of this from me tonight were thoughts reminiscent of where the blogger was five years ago tonight.
Five years ago the baby inside her tossed and turned and made her presence known as if she were having “a party” in her belly. Now she recalls that evening and writes:
“I did not know, however, that it was her going away party.”
Today, in describing that night, as she tried to get comfortable amid contractions signaling the end of one part of her journey, she writes:
“It was the last day that I was ever her only mother. It was the last day that she was truly mine.”
My heart hurts for her, for B., for Maeve. As I told this blogger in an embarrassingly long comment, despite feeling sadness for her tonight, I also cannot help but revel in the blessing her daughter has — because no matter how difficult it has been for these five years since placement, she has, without a doubt, stuck it out. Been there. Worked on her pain and healing and kept in contact. Visits. Letters. Phone calls. Emails.
Reaching out to the little girl that is still inside her, although in a different way now.
No matter the road before her these last five years, she has chosen to travel the journey. She has not walked away.
It seems to me it will never be easy. How can such things be? But the path she’s chosen to take, despite the personal struggle it might be at times, is one that brings her the highest esteem from me.
I am in awe of how she continues, for the good of her daughter, her family, and the story she weaves of her life by living it each day.
Jenna, may this weekend’s bitterness and sweetness somehow mesh for you in a way that is bearable.
Happy birthday to your daughter. Relish in wishing the stunningly beautiful girl whose own eyes mirror yours all the very best.
Oh, and Jenna? Thank you.