There are many milestones in the international adoption process–home study completion, being matched with your child, receiving updates, getting the travel call. However, the single biggest milestone for me was never logged on a calendar, even though it is imprinted in my memory forever. It was the day I fell in love with my son and truly became a mom.
This day did not occur when we were matched. Granted, that was certainly an amazing day. After waiting so long for the phone call that we were matched, we finally received it and scrambled to open an email to find a photo of a chubby cheeked baby staring back at us. I did feel a sense of connection to this little being, but it was nothing like the tidal wave of love that was coming.
I didn’t become a mom the day we arrived at an adoption agency on the other side of the world either. My husband and I actually arrived an hour early that day. As we stood in the lobby with our tour guide, the elevator doors opened and out popped a familiar face–our son’s foster mother. On her back, the cutest little face peeked out from behind her. I remember thinking wow, we’re in the same space as you! It was like being in a dream, but I wasn’t quite a mom just yet.
My husband, the baby whisperer, immediately drew PMan’s attention. He made funny noises and he was the biggest person in the room, so naturally PMan took note. I, on the other hand, froze. It went from wow, we’re in the same space to WOW, WE’RE IN THE SAME SPACE–what do I do now!? I made bottles and felt awkward and out of my element with this new person in our midst. Once we arrived back home, the bonding process began and it was hard. I was on maternity leave and spent many hours charting feedings, rocking and playing with this baby I did not know. I was serving in the role of mom, but I didn’t yet feel like mom. Thankfully, our social worker was there for us and told us that this was normal and things would improve.
And then it happened quite unexpectedly. My first maternity leave coincided with Louisiana’s hottest weather, so it was difficult for me to bring the baby for walks or play outside. If it wasn’t too hot or too buggy, it was raining. This was hard for me because I love the outdoors and I wanted to introduce PMan to his new surroundings. I would call my husband frequently in tears and report this injustice or my latest feelings of incompetence. However, one morning it wasn’t raining and I was determined we were going out. So, I strapped PMan into the carrier that we were told encouraged bonding–strapping this contraption on by yourself is another topic in itself–and we headed to our neighborhood park. I was feeling pleased with myself for successfully leaving the house after we arrived. We were the only ones there–it was August after all. The swings were free, so I casually sat down on the swing and began to pump my legs. We were going fairly quickly when I looked down into that little face hanging off of my chest.
BAM! That’s when it happened.
He was looking at the world in such awe and wonder and delight as we rode together. He was in complete bliss as he looked at me. He looked at me! This little soul I had waited so long to truly see and touch and hold. I can’t explain what happened to me in that moment, other than to say that it was at that point that I fully became his mother for the rest of my life.
When we got back home afterward, I called my husband for one of my frequent check ins. Only this time it was to tell him about the magic I had just experienced. I was in tears again, but these were some of the happiest tears I would ever cry. I was a new person. I had a new identity. Every day since has been different. Where once I couldn’t comprehend a mother’s need to simply run her fingers through her child’s hair, I now run my fingers through his silky black hair every chance I get. I want to hold him and protect him and teach him and love him. I want to be his mother. I am his mother.
We recently celebrated my son’s Family Day. While life isn’t always magical and is often challenging, we are a family. Even as I write this years later, I have to fight back tears just thinking about that powerful moment and the blessing it has been in my life.
Here’s to you fellow moms–no matter how you first came to motherhood!