This week's Falling in Love on Fridays comes from one of my very best, dearest friends, Renee. We became friends 7 years ago while in high school and she quickly named herself (or maybe I named her?) my protege. But in the years that have passed, she's definitely not in my shadows -- she shines brightly all on her own. In fact, she's rather radiant -- both inside and out.
Dear Little Man,
Along with our mention on BlogHer, your letters are now part of a wonderful site I found called Open Adoption Bloggers! It’s a collective of people from all over who are involved (or want to be involved) in open adoptions, and our site has been added!
I’ve found other birth mother blogs (eee!), prospective parent blogs, a “roundtable” for discussions, interviews, book reviews…it’s incredible! It’s like a card catalog for adoption blogs: I love all of the info I’ve found, but mostly I just love the access to all of the other open adoption bloggers out there — you really get the 360 degree view of what open adoption is really about and how others have handled it. There’s even a few blogs written by adoptees involved in open adoptions…something you may think about one day.
However — not that I’m biased or anything — I think you and I and The B’s still top the ‘Awesome Open Adoption Chart.’ Either way, stay tuned. I have a feeling we’re about to learn a lot… :)
We’re not afraid to dance in public. I’m glad you’ve inherited my shamelessness. I prefer it be that than my stubbornness.
Dear Little Man,
One thing that you will someday learn — as unfortunate as that may be — is that news of a tragedy spreads like wildfire. With today’s social media craze, it takes milliseconds to share news of any kind. I heard about a recent tragedy around midday last Friday, December 14th. I logged onto Facebook for fun, read a few vague but concerning posts and gathered enough info to learn that it had been a school shooting. A quick Google search told me the rest. Shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. Twenty-six dead, twenty of them children. All of those children were younger than Sports Man is now.
And then, I did what every other parent in the country did: I thought of my own child. The light of my life, the sunshine in my heart, the force behind my continued existence. I thought of you, Liam. Without you, I would have nothing. That’s the magic (and the terror) behind having kids…you’ve lived your entire life without them and as soon as you have one, you’re not sure how you ever functioned before they were around.
There is a quote that I thought of in the aftermath of that sad, sad day. It goes like this:
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Right now, there are 20 sets of parents in Connecticut who have lost their hearts, and the hearts of people around the world break for them. I know mine did. My heart broke for those poor parents because I thought of you, and I wondered how in the world I could be expected to go on living if you couldn’t. In all of the details and press releases I’ve read about the children who died, it’s been mostly aunts or uncles or grandparents who comment. I can’t help but think that’s because the parents just don’t have the words yet. How could they? It can’t seem possible yet.
All of those Connecticut parents — or any parent who has survived the loss of a child — is a miraculous sort of hero to me. I imagine that they possess a type of strength that is simply indescribable in its vastness and its depth. It must be, to be able to survive something like that.
Without you, my beautiful boy, I would disintegrate, and nothing would console me. Everyone always says, “Our hearts go out to the victims,” but what does that even mean? In all honesty, it probably doesn’t mean much at this point. Those 20 sets of parents, that entire town is so enveloped in grief, it must be hard to see outside of it. But now I know what it means, because if I could give part of my heart to another mother who has lost her own, I would. I wish I could.
But you are my heart. You are walking around outside my body and it has never been scarier than it is right now. I have never imagined losing you and suddenly, that fear is not only haunting my nightmares, but my news-feed as well. That Friday, I read about those poor children and the teachers who died to protect them, and I cried. Being separated from you hadn’t hurt that much since the first few months after you were born. For the first time in a long time, I hated that you were two hours away. It usually seems so short but last Friday, it felt like too much distance to bear.
So I texted J. I texted her and I told her to give you extra kisses and hugs from me, from your Nay-Nay. And then she sent me this:
You were sleeping peacefully in your car seat, tired after a morning of Christmas shopping. I have never been so grateful to see a picture of you. I just needed to see you, to look at your face, and somehow, J knew that. I ended up telling her about the Connecticut tragedy shortly after (she hadn’t heard yet). I have no doubt that her heart was heavy with prayers as she sent Sports Man off to school yesterday morning.
Not truly being able to “raise” you, I’ve never thought of myself as the “traditional parent,” though I certainly think of myself as a mother. But this past Friday, I joined the ranks of parents all over the world, as our thoughts immediately went to our sons and daughters, no matter their age. Last Friday, we cried for our own children, along with the 20 that were lost that day…their light, love and potential taken so much sooner than it should have been.
I know I’ve said it a million times, but I’m going to say it a billion more, including now: I love you, Liam Hudson. I love you with my whole heart, with my whole soul, with everything I have. Your life will forever mean more to me than my own. I could not be more grateful for your existence or for the wonderful family you that surrounds you.
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living,
My baby you’ll be.”
Dear Little Man,
Thanksgiving was last week, but for the past three thanksgivings I enjoy my turkey, stuffing and apple pie with a little bit of reminiscence on Thanksgiving 2009.
I was in Alabama that year visiting my sister, your Aunt B. We always went to her place for Thanksgiving back then. She has two girls — my nieces — and I would hang out with them and relax as much as I could. We’d all spend the holidays sleeping in, reading books, watching movies, and occasionally walking to the local coffee shop for a caffeine jolt. Mostly, it was just enjoyable because we got to visit family and your Aunt B and her girls are as close as I get to family biologically.
On Thanksgiving Thursday 2009, we had finished our meal around mid-afternoon. It was delicious as always and we had spent the rest of the evening recovering from the food binge. However, it was nighttime now and we were all settling in to watch the Polar Express (one of my FAVORITE Christmas movies. I will make you watch it someday). I had worked up enough of an appetite to go in for seconds before we all settled in to turn on the TV. I got some leftovers out of the fridge, scooped them on to a plate and put them in the microwave to heat up.
I distinctly remember pulling myself up to sit on the counter as I waited for my food. As it heated, the smell of our Thanksgiving dinner filled the kitchen and inevitably reached my nose.
I thought I was going to vomit right there on the kitchen floor.
I pushed off the counter and headed for the bathroom that was just around the corner from the kitchen, if not to throw up then to get away from the smell at least. My first thought was that apparently, I wasn’t as hungry as I thought. I must have still been full from dinner because mere hours earlier, that same smell had smelt heavenly.
But the nausea didn’t let up. For the rest of the trip, the smell of food grossed me out. I think I ate a little more turkey, but I didn’t heat anything up in the microwave anymore. I distinctly remember talking to Grandma M about it. I remember telling her how it was so weird how all of a sudden, I just couldn’t stand the smell of food.
A little less than a month later after a particularly life changing doctor’s appointment, everything made sense. After I found out about you (and recovered from the shock of it) I thought back to those microwaved leftovers and practically felt the light bulb clicking on in my head. It was one of those “ah-ha” moments that you never really forget.
And I haven’t forgotten it. One year later, I was spending Thanksgiving 2010 with my four-month-old and The B’s at their house in NC (and my definition of “visiting family” had extended quite a bit!). Last year, The B’s came down the weekend after Thanksgiving and we went to see gingerbread houses together. And this Thanksgiving, of course, you spent with me, my family and The B’s at The Boyfriend’s (totally gorgeous) farm house. It seems to be quite the holiday for you and me :)
And even though I think about you every single day, I always think about that “first” Thanksgiving with you when the end of November rolls around.
Especially when I’m getting leftovers and I realize that this time, I can actually eat them.
When J and I first met, we clicked on a lot of things:
- We both love Jane Austen and LOVE the movie Pride and Prejudice (yes, we’re girls. Indulge us.)
- We both use Jergens Healthy Glow tanning lotion in the summer because J burns and I just like to tell people I spent the summer in Aruba or somewhere exotic
- We were both pregnancy book nerds — she read What To Expect When You’re Expecting from cover to cover when she was carrying Sports Man, and I hit Barnes and Noble less than a week after I found out about you.
However, one of the other things we discovered we had in common was dance. I played tons of sports in elementary school, but once I got older (and got braces…and terrified Pop Pop by getting hit in the mouth one too many times…), I took up modern dance and ballet instead. I danced all through middle school into high school and once I hit college I took up ballroom dancing and a teeeeny bit of contra dancing. I was never quite as flexible as I wanted to be, but oh it was fun! It was nice to find out that J and I shared such a passion.
But do you know what’s better than finding out we shared that passion? Discovering that we both passed that passion to you. And thanks to J’s lighting fast iPhone filming skills, we have proof that you will probably hate us for in 10-12 or so years. And may I just say, you have incredible, prodigious skill. It’s overwhelming. You even pose like Michael Jackson. Next time we’ll get you gloves and you can do the moon dance.
But for now, it’s just another thing that J and I can commiserate over :) P.S. — The thing you do with your legs at the end is my favorite.
Dear Little Man,
Now quite obviously, it’s not just you and me. Even when I was pregnant and it really was just you and me, it was also you, me and my gynecologist. Then it was you, me and the ultrasound tech (who got to know me realllly well). Then it was you, me and an entire medical team on the maternity ward.
Then it was you, me and The B’s, and the rest is history!
However, a few days ago I was revamping my Letters to Little Man site. There were places where it still said I was 20 and I was boasting about how you could recite the ABC’s. I turned 21 in May and you can practically read now, so yes…updating was needed. So I changed some descriptions, added a few things here and there and lastly, I changed the pictures. You especially have a tendency to change rapidly as you grow, but luckily, J is on top of taking pictures as always, so there’s no excuse to have a photo of you that is a year old.
I went to change my photo too. Though I don’t change as much or as frequently as you do (wait, that’s a lie. I just got bangs for the first time in 3 years), I figured it couldn’t hurt to update my photo as well. So off I went, hunting through my most recent Facebook pictures for one that would be suitable for the blogosphere.
Though I wanted one of just me for the “Meet Renee” section, I also thought it would be super neat to have a few pictures of us together. I began the Facebook hunt again. Only this time, I found photo and photo after photo of you and I together. I’m generally so preoccupied with getting great shots of just you, that I truly failed to realize that there are a lot of pictures of us.
So alllll of those photos, paired with my natural inability to make decisions, has resulted in way too many pictures to post in the Meet Renee section. However, there is no such thing as too many photos for a letter to my Little Man :)
I love every single photo we get together, but not just because you’re incredibly photogenic. I love our photos for the simple reason that we get to take them together. Adoption didn’t split us up, it didn’t cause me to miss out, it hasn’t separated us in any way except literal distance. The fact that I got to be around for all of this stuff — holding you at Sports Man’s party, spending Mother’s Day with you, giving you kisses and spending birthdays playing with you — it’s the part of adoption that I love the most. It’s part of the reason why I will love and owe The B’s forever, and it’s definitely the reason we will grow up knowing one another.
I cherish these photos. The silly, the blurry, the candid, the posed, the goofy the smiley, the serious and the fun. We’re creating a history together, you and me. And I hope that one day, you cherish them as much as I do.
Dear Little Man,
I’m going to share a secret of mine with you. That secret is that I dream about being pregnant again someday.
In my actual dreams, I’m generally terrified of pregnancy and, in dream world, I find myself thinking, “I’m pregnant again? Oh my, I wonder if The B’s will raise this one for me, like they did Liam…” So, so, so weird. I’m generally thrilled to wake up and realize it was a dream because I has such a difficult time going through with placing you…I’m not sure I could do it again.
But during my waking hours, sometimes I think about having a baby when I’m ready for one. I love you so very much…in that “beyond words” kind of way…and I hope to be able to someday have a little half-brother or -sister for you to meet, that I can love just as much. I never thought I wanted kids, but once I discovered I was carrying you, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to be the best mother I possibly could. Hopefully I will be able to be that mother someday. Hopefully you think I am that mother today.
Yesterday evening, Miss Manhattan (one of your many aunts, a fellow blogger with a wonderful site, and one of my oldest friends) sent me a link to a blog called Arielle Elise. This blog is mostly (beautiful!) photography, but this particular post was about a couple going through an adoption in Uganda.
In my many talks/discussions/speeches given at Bethany functions, I have heard a few stories of international adoption, though most of the ones I’ve heard have been from Asia. Though I don’t know much about international adoption (I am studying it!), I still love that adoption spreads its influence so widely. The love that adoption encompasses can span oceans…how beautiful is that?
The couple featured in the Arielle Elise post are twenty-somethings, married for 5+ years and in the process of adopting their own Little Man from Africa. Their photos are all about them and love and how love creates family (oh how I can attest to that!) Their blog, This Beautiful Truth, follows an incredible, emotional journey through adoption and their daily lives. Like one of my favorite bloggers, Infertility Awakening, these journeys fascinate me. People who have the hearts and souls for adoption never fail to astound me with their openness and their love. I always find them to be very brave, courageous people who have decided to open their hearts and look on the bright side of life…just like The B’s!
I love sharing stories of people like this, mostly because I feel that somehow, we’re all connected through this adoption experience. Birth mothers, adoptive families, adopted children…though we’re all different a spread far and wide, I somehow feel like we’re all connected at the core. I get to share our story and other couples and birth mothers get to share theirs and together, we form this network, this collaboration of people who want nothing more than to love their children and families as much as humanly possible.
And I understand. Though I am the birth mother rather than the adoptive mother, I think I get it, or part of it at least. I understand that longing to be a mother, to create a family, to want to share your love with a child you have the privilege of calling your own. Though I certainly can’t empathize with the frustrating, upsetting, sometimes devastating effects of infertility, I think I realize the desire that drives it. The desire to hear someone call you “mom.” It sounds like a small thing, but it means something so much bigger to so many people.
And that’s why I still have my dream. My dream of being “mom.” That’s why. someday, I’d like to give you those half-sibling(s) that call me “mother.” It’s a small thing, but that tiny act of love can fill a heart to the point of bursting. I would know. That’s what I feel every time you call me “Nay-Nay.” It may not be “mom” outright, but I cherish it as though it were. Because though you may not call me your mother, I will forever call you my son and I will be proud. That’s just how love works.
So enjoy this tiny piece of your expansive network, Little Man. I hope you enjoy reading the stories of this family as much as I enjoy telling the stories of my own little boy, my shining star, my bright light at the end of all of my dark tunnels.
That would be YOU, in case you were wondering ;)