I thought God had circled the Earth twenty times until He saw me wringing my hands after another failed home pregnancy test and decided to bring me babies from somewhere else. That’s how far gone I was. I absolutely believed that I was purposely plucked from the vast sea of infertility to mother these two specific boys. All of that business about how adopted kids aren’t born of your womb but are instead born of your heart, I bought all that. I reeked of Hallmark.
When they were babies, I laid them on my chest. Although they were born in another country and born of other mothers, nothing about them was foreign. I knew every inch of them. Their tiny hands, their beautiful backs, the smell of their hair. Though they were toddlers when adopted, their illnesses and delays made them like infants. They were weak and dependent and it was easy to decide that adopting them was the same as physically bearing a baby but better. More noble, maybe, selfless. Certainly, if I was to believe I’d been singled out just for them, more divinely inspired than an everyday pregnancy. That, anyone could do. This, you had to be chosen.
And I wasn’t religious, making my belief that these children had been sent to me by God all the more striking. Adoption can do that to you. And it is a good thing it does. Armed with God’s favor, adoptive parents embark on slaying many dragons. At first, the dragons are wee, like the ones in the movies that have wings and perch on little kids’ fingers and then they get bigger like friendly but rambunctious dogs that chew your shoes and then the dragons get bigger and tougher, not so cute and not so easily maneuvered. When the dragons in charge show up with their giant claws and fire breathing, an adoptive parent wants to harken back to those glory days when the moon shone through the window at night at a newly arrived infant asleep in his new mother’s arms.
Eventually, in my case anyway, it became clear that believing so strongly that I was destined to be the mother of two orphaned boys from Nicaragua erased the series of tragedies and mistakes that had made them orphaned in the first place. When I heard other adoptive mothers say that they weren’t going to worry about their children’s past like it was just a quirky, interesting but not compelling thing that they had whole other families somewhere else, I wanted to say, ‘your child’s life started before you met him.’ But, of course, to say that to someone else meant that I probably needed to say it to myself first.
And so I started practicing that, regularly realizing that my children had had other people. That those other people had probably loved them was another step and knowing in my heart that they had probably lain, maybe only briefly, on their birth mother’s chest. I wasn’t the first woman to hold them and smell their hair.
Knowing this didn’t change how I loved them. It changed how I thought of myself. I was no more chosen by God to be their mother than their birth mothers were chosen to be relieved of their responsibilities. It doesn’t work that way. Life is a series of tragedies and mistakes, good fortune and luck, willingness and daring, bravado and humility. And I thank God for that. I really do.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Flip Flop.” The prompt asks whether you have changed your mind about an issue or topic.