So, has anyone out there said this journey was going to be easy?
No? Because I want my easy button. A big giant easy button that will erase every difficult emotion, every conflicted thought, every bit of failed humanness I don't like in myself and I want to FEEL like Super-Adoptive-Mom-Of-The-Year. I imagine other moms feel strong and secure and never question or worry. I imagine that other moms never weep from the stress of juggling the needs of their children, the needs of their children's family of birth and their own needs and failings.
I hope I imagine wrong.
What follows is a stark confession of my humanness as an adoptive mom and I am choosing to share it here not because I believe these feelings are right but because I believe they are common. This who I am today and where I am at right now. It is my reality and I know I will process this and move through it, but at this moment, at this time I lay it before you so that hopefully I won't feel quite so alone.
I really like the theory of openness in adoption. It's the practice I am finding a tad disconcerting.
When my daughters crawl into my mom's lap and snuggle her, it warms my heart. When they demand that grandma read them a bedtime story instead of mommy I am secretly relieved that I am unburdened of that nightly chore for a moment. I thrilled that they love, and feel loved. I feel there is no subtraction from my motherhood or the depth of their love for me, or my love and commitment to them.
When they squeal with joy and race for that first hug when a favorite aunt comes to the door, I celebrate the fact that they have a circle around them that loves them, and that they love in return. When a sleepy toddler kicks and screams to get away from me and into the arms of her brother or aunt or friend as I carry her to nap time I laugh at how transparent her disgust for nap time really is. I don't wonder if I am failing her or if she hates me or question if I am making the right parenting decisions for her. I do not wonder if maybe she loves those not taking her to nap time more than she loves me.
I am thrilled when my daughter reaches for the computer screen to pat the familiar face of my sister. I feel nothing but a firm understanding of their emotions when they sadly recount the names of favorite cousins far away and missed or beg to stop at a friend's home when we pass a familiar driveway.
I do not feel threatened. I do not feel ambivalent. I do not feel jealous. I do not feel fear. I do not feel alone. Or less than. Or unloved. Or sad. I do not want to grab my children, run out the door, quit answering my phone, move and pretend that these people do not exist.
And yet when my daughter reaches for her mother instead of me during one of our frequent visits my heart sinks. When my 2 year old smiles and asks for her first mother to carry her on our walk instead of me I die a little inside.
I know who she is. She is their first mother. The mother they look like. The mother whose motherhood will never be questioned when we are out together. The mother who spoils them with treats and plays fun games the whole time we are together and she is the mother that never has to say no or put them down for a nap or take them to the potty. She is the mother who struggles, but it is my job to make sure the girls are protected from those struggles and only know her as the fun, loving mother they see.
Her mere existence makes me question who am I. Her presence makes me question my very worth. Is my place in their hearts secure? Is my role acknowledged? Does it matter if it isn't? Where does my security lie?
The girls are growing up. They aren't the babies they were a few short months ago whose entire world revolved around only the 6 family members they spent every day with. They have friends they love and they are remembering and responding with recognition to many people in their little world. Their other mother is no longer a stranger we visit while they cling to my legs.
She is a friend. She is a playmate. She is a source of junk food and silly games.
She is known and loved. She is a favorite.
I have built the foundation of this relationship. I have done all the right things. Things I believe in doing. Things that are right to do. I have pictures of their mother in their room. I talk about upcoming visits with excitement in my voice and recount stories to them of past visits during the weeks in between. I am present at every visit so there is never any fear of loss or separation. I throw all the rules out the window and let her spoil them with treats. I do the disciplining. I end the games when it is time to go. I do up the car seats and give reminders about pending naps. If you are 2 years old, I suck.
I don't mind sucking to my child in front anyone else but HER. With her, I want to be the loved mama. I want to be the favorite. I want to be the center of the world of these children we share. It may not be right, or mature, or Godly, but it is true. I don't want her to question who they love more. And I want the answer to be me.
These emotions are hard. They are real and they are hard. If it was just about me, and what was best for Jen, I might consider not answering the phone the next time her number pops on the call display. I might not be quite as available for visits or quite as willing to leave two thirds of my family to take the girls to her home for another visit, especially one that is being asked for weeks sooner than I had planned on going. I might shut down conversations or put away pictures. I might quit sounding quite so dang thrilled when I talk about the WONDER OF HER when I talk to the girls.
I won't, but I might, maybe, possibly, sometimes want to.
And so I give myself permission to sit back and say to me "Holy Freaking Hell I am being triggered!!!". I give myself permission to admit that I am human and selfish and raw and scared. It is ok to look at the darkest parts of my heart and admit failure and humanness. It's ok to feel it. It's not ok to pretend those feelings are reasonable. This journey isn't about whats right or easy for Jen. It's about what's right for my children. The children that own my heart. I feel this because I love them so much. I don't act on those feelings because I love them so much.
Last night, after a long visit and a longer day robbed of joy because of my own insecurities and incomprehensible feelings, that same 2 year old who thinks I sometimes suck as a mommy came up behind me, laid her head on my shoulders, wrapped her arms around my neck and said "I lub you mommy".
I know you do sweetie. And it's ok with me if you love other people too, even if it breaks my heart.