So so very brave (countdown check in)

So so very much is up for my family this week, this month.

Because he is my son, and I really want and need to protect him,  I am only going to share that this is much harder than I expected. But what the hell did I expect?

Adoptive+parenting ain’t for sissies.

Suffice it to say that it is hard.

Suffice it to say that when research says that an infant’s emotional life is far richer and deeper than we previously understood, I believe them.

Because this six year old is full of big feelings, and those feelings began over six years ago in a hospital room. Over six years ago when her Mama love, her laugh, her smell, and her beautiful singing voice were all that he knew.

Then thirty-six hours later–and all that was her was gone.

Replaced by my new mama awkward and is-this-the-way-a-baby-works-loving. By my unknown smell, then timid laugh, and wildly out of tune sing song voice singing none of the songs he’d been hearing for the last however many months since those precious ears were hearing her. And with each hour he missed her more, as I became more and more the Mama me–but was still, of course–me.

And he cried a lot when he realized he wasn’t getting the first Mama back.

And now I’m asking him to go back to that moment in time, but this time with open arms, a smile on his face,  a good looking line up, and a button down shirt?

I’m asking him to manage all of that wordless grief, and turn it in to anticipation and ease and excitement?

Last night he let me know, in other wordless ways that that was not what he had in mind. It ended with a lot of hugs, and sobbing and shaking. The twenty minutes in between are for only the three of us to talk about.

And the counselor we’re breaking in tomorrow.

I reached out for help last night, after I got him and Marcel to sleep in my arms.

That help came in many forms.

When my adult, transracial, adopted male friend who has lived an open adoption all his life-asked if I felt like I could ask the birth mother to send some reassurance in some form that she was looking forward to seeing him too--I felt the waves parting in my heart.

I asked seconds later  in a text if she could leave him such a message–because all my reassurances that she was excited too-weren’t cutting it. She wrote right back:

“I’ll send him a video message to your email after work tonight.”

I thanked her, and then asked if she would please include how much she was looking forward to meeting Marcel too…

Of course.

When I think of him being tossed upside down  and back and forth-on the roller coaster upside down thing over and over again this afternoon, with a huge smile on his face–it suddenly all makes sense. For an instant the outside world, was even more out of whack than the inside one.

Man my kid is brave. And I don’t even know the half of it.

What’s in a birthday? A birth story.

When I was born, or so the story goes, my mom asked the doctor if he was SURE I was a girl. He was very reassuring that he knew the difference.

Talk about the situation of your birth dictating your life story! I am the mother/father, the tomboy, the choice mom, the single adoptive mom, the donor assisted pregnant woman who came to all her prenatal visits alone. I have short hair, and big bones. I played soccer, and feared the ballet teacher. I can wear a dress with cowboy boots.

But even if she couldn’t believe I was really a girl, my mom did not have to question where I’d be in forty-eight hours. I was coming home with her.  I was not leaving the hospital in the arms of a relative stranger*, carefully chosen or not. All this time, I have known only my first mom. My entire biological family would come to know me in all my glory and greatness. In all my whiny spoiledness.

The first thing I saw was the top of Sam’s soft, fuzzy brown head, cradled in his first mom’s arms sitting in her bed in the dimly lit hospital room. He was one and half days old. He was sleeping. It was 4:45am. She didn’t even look up, when I knocked  softly and entered the small room. I was coming to take her son from her.  I have never told the story this way.

Birthing Marcel, and waiting to hold  him in my arms was not what I imagined. It was touch and go there at the end, what with wrapped cords, and inconsistent heart monitors. For a few minutes I thought I had lost him, before I had him.  I still can reach that terror place, if pushed. I lived with that moment for all of three minutes.

That is not the same as birthing him, to lose him.

Then when I finally got to feel Marcel’s precious and perfect little curly haired miracle in my arms, I sobbed. I wailed. I went primal. The nurses thought I was postpartum crazy. I was.  I was wailing for Sam, and everything he lost the moment I arrived in his life.  I felt their combined loss on a new hormonally infused, and physically painful way.

Taking him from her, was not joyful. It was devastating and crushing. It was supposed to be the “happiest” moment of my life, and I can still feel the terror and dread in my heart as I approached them both. I felt that I had no business being in that room. I was overcome by the grief. She said; “I need you to give this baby only your joy. Save all the sad part for me.”  Her maternal and selfless plea to me, was to give him relief from this devastating sad. She wanted me to leave the hospital and come back with joy. She gave me permission to enter into the happiest moment of my life.

I was born forty three years ago today.  My mother makes sure to remind me, all humor aside, that having this  little girl was a dream come true. Marcel made me a card of a blue bear eating a Storm Trooper while wearing his fireman outfit to keep us safe when I blew out my candles. Sam hid in the living room, and copied the words “Happy Birthday” off of a sign we made him for his birthday on the wall. He added the “Mom”, and the “Love, Sam.” At the bottom of the card he drew the two of us, side by side.

Unlike the birthday card he drew for his first mom on her birthday, he and I were not holding hands.  I can interpret that as all the independence he feels with me. I can remind myself that he gets to hold my hand when ever he wants. I can also feel very deeply that if the world were a different place Sam’s first mom would be the only one receiving cards from him on her birthday.

Marcel just woke up, climbed in my lap and asked me if it was time to eat cake! The kid is on to something.

To allowing the sadness and the joy of all of our birth stories to be told. That is my wish for today.


This post is a reminder to myself, that there is a reason we normally celebrate birthdays. This post is to help me understand all of my deep feelings on the subject. This post was a response to John Riable’s post Decolonizing Transracial Adoption, brought to my attention by Inventing Liz on her roundup post of good reads last week. This post has taken me a week to write. No this post has taken me six years and three months to write.

*There is no way to represent the countless ways in which an adoptive parent and a birth parent/family are matched. From completely closed, or unknown birth parents, to adopting your niece and everything in between my intention is to make the point that in most cases the adoptive parent is more or less a stranger considering the context of the placing of a child in that person’s hands and life.

The best stocking stuffer-EVER

a page from Sam's lifebook

The nurse insisted that I have his picture taken, with him inside it.  I was too scared to let anyone touch him, let alone stuff him a big old stocking a volunteer had made for the new mommies at the hospital. The new mommies, the relinquishing ones, the adoptive ones…

That was six years ago.

Tomorrow Sam turns six. I got the call that he had been born, at about 4:45am.  I had woken about ninety seconds after he was born, and sat straight up. He and I like to believe, I could hear his newborn cry from across the country, and into my waiting heart.

On Monday, Sam pulled that stocking off of the wall, and shoved it into his backpack. He took it to school to show his friends. I don’t know what he told them. It was nice for once- not to play twenty questions. He used to say he was born in there.

What I love is that his birth story is so everyday normal to him. He was born, after an uneventful two hour labor, and Tea his first mom, got to love on him for twenty-six hours until we (my dear friend Ronda and I) arrived three snow storms later.

Marcel holding Sam's stocking.

Tea called him “Fatso,” and said that he was so big he was “scaring all the other babies in the nursery.” This is all part of his lore, his umbilical story. That he now says he was born in that stocking fits right in.

Honestly our becoming a family, totally eclipses Christmas for me. I covet moments with Sam-and alone-to look at the album from that trip, to relive all that sweet new mama terror and joy.

Buckets and Buckets: Telling his story again

Present: I am sitting across from his preschool teachers, nervous. They are young, eager, compassionate, well intentioned to the nth degree.

We are gathered here  to have a follow up meeting, a post incident check in.

Part I: The Back Story
The incident: Sam pours bucket of dirt and sand in it’s entirety over his friend’s head.

Their conclusion: Child is withdrawn, needs help expressing feelings.
Their Suggestion: Sticker chart for rewarding verbal expression of emotions vs. withdrawing and acting out. Continue reading “Buckets and Buckets: Telling his story again”