When I was engaged, I once had a woman tell me that I would never understand what being a mom meant until I birthed my own child. That I would never understand the true depths of the heart of a mother, the very heartbeat of motherhood, until my body carried, delivered, and nursed a baby of my very flesh-made in love and intention.
I didn’t know how to respond. I had just lost two precious children as a foster mom. They were my biological half brothers and my foster sons at the same time, and they were reunified with our birth mom, a devastating decision by the Orange County Juvenile Courts, for me and for them.
They were mine to love for two years. I bottle weaned, potty trained, and endured the storm of tantrums for one. I laid on the ground soiled with the tears of meltdowns and helped with math and reading, and sat in parent teacher conferences with another. My body was exhausted all the time. The bags under my eyes felt beyond just an expression of tiredness-I felt them physically weighing me down. My body did not deliver these boys, but my body felt motherhood deeply.
After losing them, my body turned more exhausted, more tired; my mind turned over the events daily, and my bed became a place where I imagined what their new life looked like without our stability and love. I’m not anti-second chances, but I am for the child, not the birth parent, first. Unfortunately, this circumstance favored only the mom who still drank, still hit, still screamed, still left.
In the midst of our loss, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first. I carried our daughter for nine months and ate all my greens and had the experience of birthing her and nursing her and experiencing the helpless neediness of a newborn babe. She’s forever my girl.
But, the birthing, the nursing, and the physical act of carrying her in my womb didn’t replace the loss of the two I carried in my heart. No; if anything, it made the loss all the deeper for those nine months.
Fast forward some time-we have an eleven month old, are expecting baby number two, and receive an unexpected, but oh-so-hoped-for phone call from Child Protective Services-the situation worsened and it’s time to bring our boys home.
After two years of not seeing and not hearing from them; not knowing who was tucking them in, or if they even had a bed to be tucked into. Two years of not knowing who was reading them stories or crying with them when life felt too heavy for such a little heart…not being able to comfort or scare away the monsters (both real and imaginary)-they were coming home, maybe this time for good.
And something interesting has haunted (for lack of a better word) my mind these last six months of having our boys home. We now have a house of seven, three adopted, two birthed, one still nursing, one enjoying her new found favorite word, “no…” and there has never been a moment where I look at one child as more “mine” than the other. My sons are not less ours because we didn’t birth them. They have a background we must fight to understand, yes-But our hearts do not lack a deep love for them because they were not brought home from the hospital with us. Our daughters are not more ours because we experienced the 30 hours in the hospital of laboring and waiting and yearning for them. Yes, that’s an experience to treasure and remember-but so is the anticipation we experienced on our drive to Orangewood to pickup our sons.
They are different chapters of the same book; different layers of the same love. One does not make me more of a mother than the other. Each child has initiated me into this role of mommy-hood-releasing in me the fire to fight for whatever is needed for one the power to love at any cost for all, and the soft whisper of nurturing that is birthed with becoming Mom-no matter how the title was given.