Throwing sand into the sky: Adoption talk and loss

August 14, 2012

in Adoption, Adventures in Parenting, The Tough Stuff


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“You’re the best mommy in the whole world,” Molley said several times a week. “I don’t want any other mommies. Just you.”

I can recite that line in my sleep. Molley has been lovingly delivering it to me for almost a year.

If she ended it after the first sentence, I might have believed it was simply the sentiment of a 3-year-old who thinks her mommy is just that amazing, but the second sentence always gave it away.

“I don’t want any other mommies. Just you.”

That part? It was never for me. It was for herself. Reassurance. Reinforcement that she wasn’t going to have yet another mommy.

I always knew. But I didn’t push. I always listened. I told her she was an amazing daughter and that I loved being her mommy and that I always would be her mommy. Sometimes I’d mention that her other mommy was pretty incredible – that she brought her into this world.

Moll would agree. But she always noted that she didn’t want another mommy.

And then one night, over pho and spring rolls at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, she finally felt ready to say it.

Mattix started the conversation – a pleasant surprise because he’s my internalizer.

“Mommy?” he asked. “Did my mom in Vietnam look like me?”

We’d been talking about Vietnam and the language he would have spoken if he’d remained there. The question was one he knew the answer to because it wasn’t a new topic, but I was glad to hear him asking so openly versus just listening to me talk.

After a bit of discussion, Molley delivered the stab to my mommy heart. It was the question I knew would come from both of my kids – rightfully so – and the one I knew I would need to answer “one day” and the one that was only natural. And yet it came from her so much earlier than I expected it.

It shouldn’t have been surprising, I suppose. It came from my Molley, my girl who potty trained herself at one, who asked for a pierced belly button at 18 months and who has the vocabulary of a child twice her age. Of course she thinks about the loss the and the implications well before I’d expect.

“Mom,” she said. “Why didn’t my mommy in Ethiopia keep me?”

Every part of my heart began to ache. My eyes threatened to well up. Maybe it was the first time she wondered it. Maybe it was the hundredth. She’s the most expressive child I’ve ever met, so I believe it was the first that she put it together completely.

“I’m so glad you asked that,” I said. “It’s a great question.”

I ever so briefly ran through the things I always knew to consider when answering such a question.

It’s simple in theory to remain logical – you know what you should and should not say.

But when it comes from the mouth of the little girl whose life matters more than your own a million times over, it suddenly becomes so hard.

Don’t mention money or means to raise a family. If she ever hears you discussing financial strains, she might worry.

Don’t mention single parenting. You believe your marriage is forever, but what if it isn’t? If anything ever changes, she might worry.

Don’t mention health. If either of you gets really sick, she might worry.

Don’t fill in the holes with feel-good info you don’t know for sure to be true. You don’t ever want to break her trust, and you will if what you say turns out to be untrue.

“Well, honey, there are a few reasons moms aren’t able raise their babies,” I said. And then I gave her the information I had in the simplest terms I could in the most age-appropriate way I knew.

She absorbed it all.

She mulled it over.

She asked a few clarifying questions. Ed and I answered them.

“Okay,” she said. “Well, I love you.”

I told her I loved her too.

And then Mattix asked the same. As much as my heart began to ache all over again, I was so glad for our situation. It wasn’t the first time Moll’s openness and questions encouraged him.

At one year old, she was completely fine with the fact that she grew in another mom’s tummy, while her big brother, 18 months older, wanted none of it. Only after months and months of talking about it did he come to feel the same comfort with that fact.

So at three, it wasn’t surprising that she first wondered why her mom couldn’t “keep her” while her five-year-old brother hadn’t given it a second – or even a first – thought.

Later that evening, when we were at home again, Molley hugged me. “I love you the most,” she said. “You’re my favorite mommy. You’re my best mommy. I don’t love any other mommies. Just you.”

“I love you, too,” I told her. “More than anything. I always will. And I’ll be your mommy forever. You’ll always be my daughter.”

“But you know what?” I asked. “You can love your other mom in Ethiopia, too. You can love her and it doesn’t change anything. You’ll always be my daughter and I’ll always be your mommy. But she’s your mom, too, and it’s okay to love her. You’ll always live here with us and I’ll always be here for you. But it will never hurt my feelings if you love her too, or just as much, or even more. And it will never change that you’re here with us and that I’m your mommy who will take care of you.”

“Thanks, Mom,” she said as she hugged me. “I love you both.”

“I love you, too,” I said.

“But you’re my best mommy,” she added.

Adoption talk is like throwing sand up into the sky. You know you’re throwing it. You know it’s going to fall down. You just don’t know exactly where – it might all land in clumps on the beach. Or it might scatter a bit. Some might sprinkle in your hair. A little might even get in your eyes.

But one thing is for sure: it goes up and it’s going to come down.

You’ll always throw it up in the sky and you’ll always do your best to prepare for the landing.

But it’s okay when it catches you off guard. As long as you remember that it’s your job to just brush it out of your eyes and recover quickly.

Because your kids need you to comfort them when it lands in theirs.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronnie August 14, 2012 at 5:00 am

Beautiful. You are an awesome mom!

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Laura August 14, 2012 at 8:27 am

Thank you so much, Ronnie!

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Melissa August 14, 2012 at 6:16 am

I talked about health when my 22 month old child asked me that question. Then he freaked out every time I had a cold. Sigh. I never expected the question at 22 months. Glad you were better prepared. At 14 he is now really understanding after a birth family visit. Sad and interesting and fascinating all over again to see how his mind at this age processes what he is learning and understanding.

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Laura August 14, 2012 at 8:33 am

It’s amazing how much kids can understand at such a young age, isn’t it? I just hope that they keep talking and asking.

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angela August 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

You put this so eloquently and beautifully. I know your words will help others who find themselves faced with these questions.

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Laura August 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

Thank you so much, Angela.

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Sherri August 14, 2012 at 8:23 am

Oh, Laura…tears in my coffee over here. Seriously, these little ones are so wise and such old souls in a way, aren’t they? And the questions…oh my. So sweet and so sad at the same time.

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Laura August 14, 2012 at 8:41 am

Yes – so wise, Sherri. It blows my mind regularly. I’m always glad for what they ask because it’s one less thing they try to figure out themselves.

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Kaylan McCord August 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

This made me cry. Love this!

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Laura August 14, 2012 at 8:58 am

Thank you!

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Christina August 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

And now I’m crying before 9am. This is amazing…

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Laura August 14, 2012 at 8:58 am

Thanks, Christina!

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Sarah Caron August 14, 2012 at 9:07 am

Beautiful! Your kids are so lucky to have such a wonderful mom.

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Doris August 14, 2012 at 9:16 am

What a beautiful post. You are an amazing mom. Thank you for my morning tears :)

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Nichole August 14, 2012 at 9:27 am

There’s so much beauty here…both in the way you handled the tough questions and the way you wove your words here.
Truly stunning, Laura.
You’re an amazing mother and your beautiful babies are so blessed to have you beside them on their path.
xo

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Devan McGuinness August 14, 2012 at 9:34 am

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Kori August 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

You handle things so beautifully — it’s inspiring. I often wonder how / if I will be able to handle such questions from my kids.

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Debbie in the UK August 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

What a fabulous post. Loved reading it x Hope you are on the mend Laura x

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Mandy_Fish August 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

Dagnabbit. You brought tears to my eyes. Oh my gah that girl of yours is something special. Good grief. Loved this.

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Jessica August 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

Oh this is absolutely beautiful. How lucky your children are to have you and how lucky their birth mothers are that they landed in such loving arms.
It is a completely different situation but my children lost their sister and when they bring it up I too struggle with what to say and how and go through those same things in my head about what to avoid saying about her death (sickness, hospitals, etc.) because I never want to place an ounce of fear in them.
Such a delicate balance being a mother is, I remember always thinking my mom had all the answers. I hope our children feel the same.

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One Funny Motha August 14, 2012 at 11:37 am

Well done and beautifully written. My son is adopted and those questions are so tricky. I try to be as open and honest as I can and love him beyond words.

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tina August 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Laura, what a beautiful post. It amazes me how far the world of international adoption has come. You are such a wonderful parent and so obviously sensitive to Molley and Mattix’s past and future. BUT, I also wanted to say it’s ok if you don’t have the answers and right words sometimes, too. :) My (adopted) mom didn’t have the same resources/support that are available today when I was young, but she was always honest with me and just answered what she could, the best she could . Together we worked through what life threw at us. The things that mattered most were that I knew she loved me and I loved her. She respected my past and supported anything I wanted to learn or inquire about my birth mother or Vietnam. I had my “adoption” issues for sure (which I can share another time, lol), but I never doubted my mom’s love and commitment to me. Just continue doing what you are doing because you are an awesome parent!

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Liv August 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

As an adoptee who didn’t receive support in asking questions or in my search, it truly brings joy to my heart to read a post like this. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us, adoptees, adoptive parents, and first parents alike. Sharing these stories helps all of us in different ways. It brings me joy to know that parents like you are out there.

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Ellie {Musing Momma} August 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

Oh, wow. What an absolutely beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes. You handle your children’s curiosity with such grace and compassion and understanding.

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Lisa Steinke August 15, 2012 at 9:33 am

You are a beautiful writer and a wonderful mom. They are lucky to have you!

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gayla August 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

So beautifully written. And you are an incredible mom.

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Denise August 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm

They are so lucky to have you as their mom. You are so caring and loving and comforting. Beautiful family.

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KelleyO August 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I love this so very much.

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PartlySunny August 18, 2012 at 12:52 am

That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. You are amazing my friend.

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Kimberly August 18, 2012 at 7:26 am

As an adoptee, I love hearing other stories of adoption. I’ve grown up with a relationship with my birthparents, and while I love them with all of my heart, my parents are the only people I’ll ever fully see in that light. I’m eternally grateful my birthmom chose life for me, but even more than that, I am grateful for my mom, who has always been there for me. You’ve got a wise little girl on your hands.

I love hearing how kids process the concept of adoption. Like your kids, my parents always told me that I was adopted. Because I look like my adoptive parents, they could’ve disguised it, but they never did. My biggest confusion came shortly before my third birthday. I had received a gift from both of my birthparents (who had broken up before I was born) and my mom was trying to explain it to me. I knew that Rachel was my birthmom and Alvaro was my birthdad, but insisted that it couldn’t be from both of them because, “They don’t know each other!”

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laura August 18, 2012 at 8:48 am

Absolutely beautiful. I’m amazed by you.

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christina August 20, 2012 at 5:27 am

wow. i found you via becomming supermommy and while this is my first time here (but not my last), after reading that, yes, you are the best mommy! so beautiful.

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Stephanie Elliot August 31, 2012 at 10:33 pm

That was so beautiful you make me want to cry. How did you KNOW all of that?!?!? You are an amazing mother! Love you!

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natalie koprowski February 7, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Now you’ve gone and made my cry. She sounds so much like Taylor who asked me over and over again at age three “but why mom, why didn’t she(birth mom) want me.” No matter how prepared you are for that question, it always hits so hard. And I cry way to easily which doesn’t help things. You are such a great mom, thanks for sharing this beautiful post.

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Lee H. July 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I was an adopted girl and also adopted a girl myself. A conversation like the one you had with your Molley would have been a dream come true for me…keep having them. Our daughters desperately need to know that they can love both moms and dads without any risk. And you are right about the money part. I worried about money even though my parents were of the elite, and so does our daughter. She asks almost every week if we are running out of money.

My adoption grief peaked this year…at 46. I have been so lucky to get some great help and have great faith that has grown, not shrunk. My parents did not know how to do it any differently than they did. I have to do better.

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