On December 21, we celebrate William Bassham Day--the day we officially and permanently and forever and always solidified Will's legal place in our family. On April 21, we celebrate Matthew Bassham Day for the same reasons. While the day Will joined our family felt like a formality as, after his birth, there were no adoption complications whatsoever, Matthew's day feels like a lot less of a formality and a lot more of the-day-I-finally-exhaled-after-not-breathing-for-nearly-fourteen-months.
If you're new here which is doubtful because back in the days of our contested adoption I had a great deal more readers than I do now, you can look at the archives for 2009 and 2010 to read more about our drawn out adoption process. What I want to say about that now is this...
Matthew's mother never wavered in her desire to place him with us. Oh, to be sure, she struggled in her own heart. While I don't presume to speak for her, I can only imagine that she experienced a daily tug of war of grief and sorrow and possibly regret mixed with the feeling that hopefully she made the right choice. Publicly though, she only ever said that he was ours.
I've been thinking about this recently. If the number of times I fail as a mother were written down, I fear no volume of pages would contain them. Just a couple of days ago, irritated, once again, at Garrett, my eleven year old, for being a terrible, horrible, pack rat slob, I started yanking things out of his backpack and scolding him for carrying around trash. I was throwing several plastic water bottles onto the floor when two thoughts struck me at the exact same time.
1. The "trash" was very colorful and cut in such a way as to indicate treasure where I saw only garbage.
2. My son's face and, therefore, his spirit were crushed.
"Mom," he said quietly before I could fix it, "it isn't trash. It's my art project I've been working on all week."
In my defense, my son is notorious for carting actual trash around in his backpack for days and weeks on end. Still, I'm a horrible parent. The prosecution rests. I did apologize, telling him I realized it was something special and I had assumed too quickly that the empty water bottles were exactly what they seemed. But I will probably carry the look on his face to my grave. I could weep even now.
My parenting fails are great. I desire such a higher standard for myself. I imagined I'd do this so much better than I am. Yesterday, as I got Will ready for bed, I said, "Hey, buddy. You're adopted. Can you say adopted?" He muttered something that suggested he was trying. I continued. "Adopted means that you were in your other mommy's tummy and when you came out, she picked us to raise you." He's not even two. It's going to have to stay that simple for now.
I thought about his other mommy. I thought about Matt's other mommy. And I thought about the weight of what I'm doing. I love Will and Matthew like they were birthed out of my very own body. Perhaps that doesn't make sense if you've never adopted a child but there are times when I forget that their story did not start with me. But the truth is they didn't begin with me. They began with their first mothers.
Regardless of circumstances, each of those women chose me. In a way, they hand picked me out of all the other mothers. Not only did they invite me in to one of the most intimate relationships known to mankind, they then turned around and walked away, leaving their heart in my arms and trusting me to love it more than my own life. I do not just owe it to myself and my children to hope and pray they turn out alright. I owe it to their mothers.
I will fail. I know that. I hope they know that. I hope that they will forgive my failures and my short comings. And I hope that, when their children are grown, they can say that they would choose me all over again. Raising their children--raising my children--is not a responsibility I take lightly. Motherhood is the single most important job I will ever have and I'm doing it, not only for myself, but for them.
On this day, eight years ago, I breathed a deep sigh of relief that my boy was mine forever. But he will never be only mine. He is ours. And I will strive to do my very best with him. For him. And for her.
If you're an adoptive parent, regardless of how your children came to you, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their placement with you, be sure to think about their first parents and your responsibility to them. You are holding a significant piece of them in your arms. Love well. Love honorably. Love in such a way that when your child connects with his first family--whenever that might be--you are held in high esteem in the eyes of your child and in the eyes of his family.