The Other Mommy

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When my boys were little, I use to worry about handling them as teenagers. I hoped this….I wished that…

A wise woman told me not to worry about those days ahead. When I got there they would not be as tumultuous as I expected. The same grace that God gave me in the present, would be waiting for me there, in their teen years, when we arrived. God’s grace, she said, is given in daily doses. She shared with me that I feared the days ahead because I did not yet have the grace I needed to live them. I only had the grace of the moment.

Here we are, many years after that advice, our boys 18 and 15, and you know what?

She was right.

When Hope came into our lives, there was a day I fretted about with her as well. It wasn’t her teen years.

It was the day she would finally know that she had another Mommy.

I’ve never experienced jealousy towards her birth mother. Perhaps my time in China prior to Hope’s arrival, working with oppressed women there, gave me a compassion that united me to them rather than divided me from them. I’ve always felt a pain in my heart for the pain in her birth mother’s heart at the reality of having to give up a child. No matter the reason, whether it was purposeful because she was a girl or not purposeful because Hope was dying of heart failure and she could never provide the care she needed, a mother still had to lay the child she carried in her womb, delivered, held and nursed at the gate of an orphanage- and walk away. Forever. Never knowing what would become of her.

You don’t dislike someone who walks in shoes that you could never wear. You respect them for doing their best with a tragic situation. Even if their best is one that has left heartache in its wake. All you can do is respect it and honor it. Casting doubt and negative feelings on her mother and her father’s choice, doesn’t help anyone heal. Especially my daughter. And the fact is in the end, we just don’t know why Hope had to leave their lives.

Late last year, Hope began to struggle emotionally a bit. I could tell something was amiss in her heart. God has always been faithful to nudge my heart many times when my kids are struggling. I knew her struggles were China-related. In other words, she was struggling with something in regards to her story.

Now in preschool, and quite a smart little cookie, she can see the Mommies with growing bellies. She sees them come strolling in one day with a baby in a stroller and no big tummy anymore. She sees friends who get brothers and sisters from their Mommy’s bellies. She ponders this. She wonders. She gives it the old college try and asks me if she came from my tummy. I start with the simple answers- “You didn’t come from my tummy, you came from my heart.” She doesn’t ask more for a while. Then another day comes and she wants to know where she was born and I tell her China (which she knows). She asks why God wanted her born in China and not here. I tell her I don’t know but He decides where we are born and I’m so glad He let us come to China and give her a home and a family. She says she’s glad too.

Days and weeks pass. I’m thinking about how we are getting really close to “the tummy mommy talk”. I strategize what to say and don’t come up with much. Such a huge concept for such a little girl. I grieve a bit that my sweet one has to mull such grown-up scenarios in her head and her heart. I press on, wanting to be prepared. We await her questions that demand answers like awaiting the birth of a child. “We’re getting close”, I tell my husband. “It will be soon that she asks.”, preparing him and myself too. I pray real hard, ask God to just give me the words to say when the point of no return arrives. He does.

Rather than her hearing it from someone else, knowing that she knows we are different and don’t look alike, believing that she already knows in her heart there is another, I take the plunge.

I free-fall into God’s grace, His grace in the present, in the moment.

I sit down with a book about families created through adoption, with a story line that includes discussion of the tummy mommy (A Family for Eve by Kristan Keefe Struck). Right before I open the pages to read, it is as if time stands still. At the beginning of this book, I am still the only Mommy she is 100% aware of. When I close this book, I will begin a new journey. A journey of shared motherhood and it will last the rest of our lives together. The air I breathe in, heart beating out of my chest, is pregnant with emotion, fear and doubt. My desire to live in absolute truth and to be the one who guides my daughter’s perceptions of her past pushes me forward. It’s not about me, it’s about her. I read it and the life-long discussion begins.

Fast forward several months to today. Getting ready for preschool she is eating breakfast, getting dressed in front of the TV watching Dora or so I thought. Then I hear, well, I hear a documentary playing. “She must have pushed that button on the Roku by mistake.”, I guessed. A few minutes later Hope walks in and says, “Mommy. When Katie Joy comes home she needs to watch this China movie.” (Katie Joy is the name we have given to our next adopted daughter, who we are in process with now.) I realized she was watching a documentary on China, Wild China, that we both love to watch. She exits as quickly as she came.

Then I hear a still, small voice, “She’s looking for her China Mommy.” It dawns on me that the reason she is watching this movie, so out of the blue, so randomly on a Friday morning getting ready for school, is that she is looking in the faces of the women of this movie for- her mother.

She enters again. “I just saw my China Mommy.”

Me: “You did. How do you know it was her?”

Hope: “Because….I remember what she looked like.” In a tone that sounded an awful lot like, “Gee Mom, she WAS my Mother after all.”

Me: “Oh. I see. That’s true. Well, you know what Hope? If I was you, I would be doing the same thing. I would be looking for her face too.”

Again, she exits without a word, returning several minutes later.

Hope, looking a little forlorn: “Mom. I miss my China Mommy.”

And the words I had dreaded, the words I thought would cut me to the heart years ago when I imagined this day, fell on me like sweet honey. There was such a peace to it all, the peace that passes all understanding, especially my understanding. That grace, my wise older woman friend told me that would be here on this day, showed up in boundless, overflowing quantity.

Me: “Hope. I know you miss her. Of ‘course you miss her. It is okay to miss her. I would miss her too. I am so thankful you tell me that you miss her. I am so thankful you share that with me. I want to know when you miss her so I can comfort you and hold you. It does not hurt my feelings when you tell me you miss her. Your heart is SO big. It is big enough for two mommies. It is big enough for your China Mommy and for me. I’m just glad I get to be one of your Mommies.”

And as quick as the conversation came, it went and she began to chatter on about something completely unrelated.

While she was at school, I thought about this new journey she and I are on together. Believing her heart is big enough for both Mommies, yes, but hoping she always feels it is big enough too. But Grace will be there on the days when she isn’t so sure and it will hold us and carry us through to the day when she understands that God made her heart, He healed it once when she was dying on the steps of that orphanage gate and He will heal it again when she deals with all of this one day with Jesus, just the two of them.

I’m pushing her in the swings at the playground after school. Another Mom is next to us doing the same. Hope yells over her shoulder to the other Mom,

“Hey! You know what? My Mom is the best Mom in the whole, wide world.”

And I push her swing, get misty-eyed, and I thank God for the Grace.

For today and the years to come.

Comments

  1. Kathleen Richardson :

    Hey Amy, Just read this entry. I’m speechless at the moment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as you’ve gone through the process of adopting Hope. What a blessing you are to her. You have given her such a gift as you validate her feelings and express your desire to be with her as she works through her thoughts, feelings, questions, grieving. And she has, and is giving you and your family so many blessings as well! It’s wonderful to see how God is working in and through you and your family. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kathleen thank you for your kind and gracious words. They will keep me warm on those days when the journey is harder.

  2. Wow, Amy that’s amazing. I wish I would have kept notes of all the conversations that Mia and I have had over the years. I would give them to you so you can write a beautiful story for us!! You are so eloquent, what an incredible gift. Grace is a beautiful thing and you described it well.

    • Thank you Jaci so much. I suppose if we each had a record of every conversation there wouldn’t be enough libraries in the world to house them. Such a unique journey isn’t it? Glad we are in it together.

  3. Amy,
    Every time I read your writings, I more aware of how God has awakened in your soul His true purpose for your life, and some people go through life not ever finding theirs. God has truly given your a gift, a gift to share with others your Journey. As your Mom I am so glad he is giving me a chance to travel and experience it all with you. I might add also, God blessing our family with Hope has been one of the true joys of life.

  4. Beautifully expressed. Tears on my keyboard. But the grace of God.

  5. Beautiful story. I love your tender mother’s heart, full of the joy and the sorrow.
    When we adopted our girls we lived in China. Many expat family friends were also adopting. They heard and saw lots. So far they haven’t asked many questions. They are 13 and 15. Time for me to write our story.

  6. Caroline Arcand :

    Amy, thank you for sharing. You touched me deeply within my soul. As I journey with my daughter I must remember God’s grace is always with me. Sometimes, I forget …. and the burden feels heavy.
    You are a gifted writer …

  7. Beautiful. thank you…. (we are waiting for a match, and often wonder about these conversations in the coming years)…

  8. Amy, I love your beautiful story! Adoption is such a miracle…a true calling by God. Our precious Alec is 5 months old, and I love him so much my heart hurts! Your blog is so helpful. I am using these resources for the conversations I will have with him about his adoption. God is with us on this journey. Much love to you and the family!

  9. I have no idea how old this post is, but I just want to say that it was beautiful. It blessed me so much. As a Chinese adoptee, it is SO encouraging to me to hear about adopted moms who are loving their little ones and encouraging them through the emotional struggles of adoption. Thanks so much for sharing your heart through this blog!
    God bless you!

    • Julie thank you so much for not only taking time to read about mine and my daughter’s journey, but letting me know it resonated with you. To know as an adoptee, it touched you in any way, is the highest honor for me. Your comment has made my day!

  10. Thank you for posting your story! My son is 5 and asking very similar questions. It really helps to hear how similar our children’s experiences are. Makes you feel like your not alone

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