They’re dropping like flies. Little white enamel-covered flies.
Tonight, when Maeve is sleeping, floating in slumberland, her body resting up for another day of intense summer play, the quarter-laden Tooth Fairy will make yet another appearance in our neighborhood, at the homes of two of Maeve’s friends.
As for Maeve, she’s not yet welcomed this mysterious visitor. There’s been no flutter of wings that brush by her sleeping face or tiny bits of sparkle left behind on her pillow. And if her deeply rooted pearly whites are any indication, that visit isn’t on the Tooth Fairy’s itinerary anytime soon. (This, despite her pulling and pushing on each, sure that “this time” something’s come loose.)
Tooth talk is fast and furious among the five- and six-year-old set, with gleeful announcements and excited displays of tooth-wiggling and look-at-my-tongue-poking-through-the-new-hole moments.
Inevitably these casual celebrations of coming of age turn to tallies – who’s lost how many and when. Then, as if on cue, comes the natural jump to tales of genetics: When Sally’s mom got – and lost – her first tooth, if Harry’s dad was in preschool or first grade when he lost his and whether his teeth came in early or late, and what all of this means for their progeny.
At this point in the conversation, of course, there’s not much I can contribute. Spurred by maternal instinct, my mind wanders to my own childhood and tooth timeline in an effort to uncover some sort of predictor for Maeve. But in a flash I am back, a bit embarrassed I’d sort of forgotten about my path to parenthood and the lack of DNA threads tying Maeve and I together. There simply is no charted course we can follow as she nears these biology-based milestones.
The truth is, of course, I never really forget. Not just because, as an adoptive mom and a wife to an adoptee, adoption has hugely impacted my life. No. I don’t forget because each day I am presented with yet another opportunity to see my daughter learn, struggle, celebrate, fail and overcome – and I know her first mother is missing it all.
Sometimes I am there with tears of joy – seeing her dance her heart out in the year-end recital, graduate from kindergarten, earn her next karate belt with ease, or finally conquer the sight word that had eluded her. When Maeve left her training wheels in the dust, her eyes lit and my heart swelled.
Other times, I shed tears of frustration – a friend’s rejection that left her broken-hearted and confused, her recent wrestle with particularly intense stuttering (the medical forms at the speech pathologist’s office asking if there was a genetic predisposition), or a temper tantrum or bad choice that comes seemingly out of nowhere and with full force.
Still, whether celebrating or struggling, we are together and this could make it possible to “forget,” to consider myself and my carefully crafted family a whole unto itself – daily reminders like developmental milestones and medical history forms be damned.
But the fact is, we are not whole. Maeve’s own story is missing key players. And because of that, our family’s cast of characters is not quite complete.
At this time, contact with Maeve’s first mom B. is entirely in her control – her stepping back some time ago means we can only wait, our arms open and our hearts committed, for her to be ready. Honestly, it’s not an easy place to be.
No matter how much I love Maeve, or how “perfectly” I try to love her, celebrate her and support her, I will never be her first mother, the woman who made her and brought her into this world. The world in which she now celebrates, struggles and finds herself landing in all the confusing places inbetween.
And therein lies a loss that cannot be swept under the carpet or placed neatly into a box to rest on a forgotten shelf. As Maeve’s mom — but not her first mom — it’s a struggle: How can I make her feel whole when she has such a fundamental loss? I am all too aware that my very presence in her life is because someone else is absent.
My mama role means ensuring my child is healthy, happy, generous and kind; that she is whole. The work to do that, of course, is monumental. It can be exhilarating and uplifting, it can be exhausting. Depends on the day.
As we merged onto the highway after leaving this year’s adoption picnic, Maeve shared an observation from her perch in the backseat: “Hey, Mom? Dad? I didn’t see B. there.”
No, Maeve, you didn’t.
But oh how we wish you did. She could try to wiggle a tooth loose for you and share with you her own tooth timeline. She could hug you hard when you fall, try to make sense of confusion, twirl your curls around her own finger and clap as loudly as we do when you soar. We could all work on being whole together, in our own version of a family that makes sense for everyone.
And it would be monumental. And exhilarating. And uplifting. And exhausting.
But most of all, it would be amazing.
This is the latest Musings of an Adoptive Mama column from the quarterly publication, Adoption News, by Adoptions From The Heart.