Sometimes when you least expect it, something ugly happens and reminds you of a long-fought, yucky battle that you thought you were finished fighting. At least that is the way it seems to me. Because even though I can't carry a child nine months in my womb and experience pregnancy and childbirth, sometimes the children that are mine through step-parenting, fostering, adoption, etc. begin to feel like they really are all mine.
And that's why it is really hard when something
slams me in the face and reminds me there is someone else - another
mother. She was first. She was crucial. She was the womb. And somehow it
always feels like she's got one up on me.
Things were just
rolling along rather nicely, and we are moving toward the *hopeful*
conclusion of adoption very soon for our three little ones. We have
settled into a nice routine and it goes like this:
the mornings, little C wakes up before most chicken farmers do. He
tiptoes into our bedroom and crawls into our bed. He usually plays with
my face and my hair, sticks his fingers in our nostrils, or our mouths,
while we try to catch just a few more minutes of rest. When he doesn't
get the expected result - getting us up- he starts whining about being
"thirsty" and "hungry" and then goes into the living room to dump out
all the toy bins or turn on the TV really loudly. This wakes the other
two little ones, who I will call "Grumpy" and "Chatterbox" for this
portion of the narrative. Grumpy slams doors, cries, screams, accuses
people of hitting him, and sulks about the house looking for someone to
fight with. Chatterbox starts having a loud and lively conversation with
herself from her crib, with her baby doll, stuffed panda, or pillow, or
whoever is close enough to hear. If no one comes right away, this
changes to shouting words like "Dadda! Dadda!! Mommy!!!
Mommmamommamommma! Daddaddaddddaadddaddddaaddd!!!!" until one of us
(usually John) rescues her from her crib. About this time, the teens
start to stir. They are mad because of the noise upstairs (even though
after six months we ought to expect it) and they begin their
cereal-slinging-lost my shoes-can't find my homework- get out of my way!
routine, while one of us (usually John) is slapping down some breakfast
for the Little people.
Georgia now drives (be afraid, be VERY
afraid) and she takes Mitchell and Samuel to school. The little people
ride with me, so while I shower and get ready for work, John changes
diapers and dresses three preschoolers. We then gather backpacks of
varying superheroes, lunch boxes, homework projects, class snacks, extra
diapers, and load everyone into the car. I drop off Lizzie first, then
big C for Kindergarten, then little C and I cross the mountain, while he
rocks himself from side to side and sings things like "I not a baby, I a
big boy!" over and over again until we get to his preschool. I take him
inside where he collapses like its the first day all over again and
then I hold him for about five minutes until he is comfortable and goes
on to play with the other children. I go to work. And recently, I've
been working out with my office friends on my lunch hour (another story,
but I'm so glad we are doing this now). John cooks, shops, runs cars to
the mechanic, cuts grass, and does a myriad of other tasks that I am
not sure how we got by with him working before. In the afternoon, I
leave the office, pick up all three Little People and return home. John
normally has dinner going, and it's a wild evening of dinner, baths,
playtime, homework, arguments over the computer, and other normal
"family stuff." Around 7:30, I take Lizzie and little C into their room
where we rock and sing bedtime songs for about 20 minutes. Then I pray
over them each, little C calls this "tell me a secret" time, and they go
to bed - sometimes. Then I'm across the hall reading two library books
to Big C, tucking him in and the obligatory "back scratch" that started
the first night and has continued ever since. When all the "I love
you's" and "Good nights" have been said, I hit the garden tub with a
mystery novel and John catches up on politics and football. All things
considered- we have established quite a routine.
And so it was
last week when I came home from work, hot and tired, worn out and
hungry. John had brought Lizzie home early and had taken her for a
stroll around the neighborhood in the red wagon. She was happy to see
me, and just full of joy like always. I picked her up and kissed her and
snugged with her for a minute, thumbing through the pile of mail on the
kitchen counter. And there it was.
I put Lizzie in her high chair
as John was bringing dinner over to the table. I ran into my room, then
shoved the letter in my top drawer and returned to the dinner table.
observant, Samuel asked, "Melissa, what's wrong? What was that in your
hand?" Maybe he saw the blood drain from my face as I sprinted to my
"Oh nothing, nothing, " I told our family worry-wart, "It's not important."
"But you look upset . . ." he began, but I cut him off. "It's no big deal Samuel, it's mine, nothing to worry about."
had dinner. I tried to ask the kids about their day. I tried to focus
on getting everyone to ingest a green vegetable, or at least some
ketchup (is that a vegetable?) After dinner, we started the bath
routine. John was playing lifeguard so I took the letter out and read
it. My mind was reeling, but the most obvious question of all was: how
did she get our home address?
I grabbed the little laundry baskets
marked with the kids names and stormed into their rooms to put their
clothes away. John put Georgia on lifeguard duty and followed me.
was trying to put away clothes but was more or less slamming them into
the drawers. John stood there with the same look he gets on his face
anytime I go into an emotional rant. The look on his face just says, "Oh
God, here it comes." And then I fell apart.
Why? I sobbed, Why, when everything is going so well? Why do I have to get a letter from their birth mom, thanking me for taking care of HER CHILDREN?
Why? Why would God allow this? Isn't it enough I can't have children of
my own, so why when I wanted them for so long, and worked so hard to
get them do I have to SHARE them with ANOTHER MOTHER? Then I spouted
off a list of my former pen-pal birth moms who had interfered (From
jail) with everything I ever tried to do for "my kids". Everything from
insisting I send school work to jail, to suggesting I help mend the
broken relationship between the two, to asking me to bring the children
to jail to visit, all the way to throwing a complete tantrum in a
kindergarten hall over who was the "real" mom at a freaking Mother's Day
breakfast when the picture was CLEARLY of me because I have blonde hair
How did she get our address? I cried to John, getting louder: This means her WHOLE crazy family has our address! They could come and stalk us outside our windows! They could follow me to work! They could try to kidnap the kids!
my entire meltdown, John was his usual calm and assuring self. He put
out his hand as if to offer me support, he nodded appropriately and he
reminded me to keep my voice down as a few choice words flew out of my
mouth. Then I cried like I haven't cried in a long time, grabbed my cell
phone, and stormed out the front door to sit on the driveway.
knew I couldn't let the kids see me that way. And I certainly wasn't
going to show them the picture drawn from their mother in JAIL. They
don't even know where she is because they never ask about her. They
never ask about her because she was so frequently absent in their lives
that they don't even notice she has been gone for months. And this is
all such a familiar scenario that my mind is growing tired replaying
I sat out on the driveway and called our caseworker
from Families First, who let me cry like a baby and never judged me. She
reassured me that I had a right to feel upset, and to feel violated
that I was receiving mail from an inmate who posed a threat to my very
desperate hopes to be a mother. She listened to me go on and on for over
an hour - in the evening, from her home. (This is why we LOVE Families
First.) And when the call ended I felt a little better. I sat there for
another few minutes on the driveway, until Georgia returned from band
rehearsal and nearly ran over me in one swift motion. After I recovered
from nearly being driven over, I dusted myself off, put away my phone
and went to get my babies and rock them to sleep. I'm glad it was a
little later than usual, and it was a little darker outside because they
couldn't tell that I was crying as I sang to them, a little song I made
up weeks ago:
You are my Rainbow, you are my shining star,
my happy ending, yes you are.
You make my heart smile, for all time,
you are my baby, and you are mine.