I’d wanted to be a mom for so long. And of all the things I imagined about the day my children would be born — whether my water would break while inconveniently out in public, if I would whine for an epidural in the hospital parking lot — I never considered that I wouldn’t actually be there for the occasion.
I never thought it would be another woman’s water breaking, another woman who may or may not have gotten an epidural. I hope she did; I hope she ordered it before she got to the hospital like a pizza. She was delivering twins, after all. Twins who would eventually, as toddlers, become my sons through adoption.
Adoption, I have come to understand, is a joyous and complicated miracle. Since my husband and I first received the news that we were chosen as our sons’ adoptive parents, I have contended with the mix of blessed awe and terrible sorrow that has made the four of us a family.
And we are a happy family, day-to-day, I think. Our house is full of all the love, laughter and dinosaur books I had dreamed it would be back when I was struggling through years of infertility treatments and adoption false starts. My chance to mother children is finally here, and while I am able to absorb and enjoy every second with the boys, I can’t seem to let go of the fact that our story began with: I didn’t give birth to my boys. Will the pain of this ever recede? Will it always lurk in the shadows, trying to catch us while we chase each other as tyrannosauruses stomping around the house?
Sometimes I’ll forget. I will be catching the boys at the bottom of the slide, and I’ll forget that I wasn’t there when they took their first breath — or their first steps. I’ll see a pregnant woman pushing her older child in the stroller, and I’ll remember that I didn’t get to carry my boys and nourish them in my womb. I didn’t speak to them in utero. Nor did I try and fail at the baby yoga classes I always expected I would take… if I could only get pregnant.
This reality of having not given birth to my sons weighed particularly heavily on me as I prepared for their third birthday — their first with us. I rejoiced searching for Pinterest party ideas, a welcome Pin board next to the nursery-themed one I had never used. But as I glued tiny pom–poms onto tiny paper party hats for tiny toy dinosaurs with my brand-new glue gun, it occurred to me that no matter how many pom–pom’ed party hats I make, I still did not give birth to my kids.
That monumental birthday, when it happened three years ago, had been just another day to me. I’m not able to share with my boys any details about it: how they arrived early or late, how their father and I rushed excitedly to the hospital, how their family couldn’t wait to meet them. I can’t tell them how they came into this world or how their names were chosen. I wish I had those details to share with them.
I thought about this paucity of particulars as I set up for the boys’ party in the park, taping down all my many decorations I had spent hours working on. It was a particularly windy day, and before our family and friends arrived, a huge gust of wind blew everything I had made away.
Balloons and garlands were strewn about the park. Everything was gone — save for the few bare picnic tables I had started with. I wanted to cry. But I saw my husband in the distance, carrying the boys, with our dog in tow, and I was overcome with the joy I can only assume mothers feel when they see their new baby for the first time. My husband set the boys down in the grass, and as they came running toward me in their new name-a-saurus shirts yelling “mommy,” my mind’s eye clicked knowing I will carry that perfect image in my heart forever.
I am their mom now, and that’s enough. I am their present and their future. I will help them honor their past.
Giving birth is one day. Two if you’re unlucky. But it is a single occasion — one occasion among so many wondrous, difficult, incredible and impossible occasions in the scope of raising children. I missed that one, but I am here for all the rest.
And we will tell the boys new stories: about how they filled deep, dark unreachable parts of my heart, and how they’ve even turned me into a person who owns a glue gun.