That afternoon when we drove away from the agency, I sat in the backseat, squeezed as close as I could to this little human boy cradled in an infant car seat.
As we made our way to the hotel, and I nervously chattered to my husband, I slipped my index finger under this tiny baby’s palm and willed his little fingers to wrap around mine.
But they didn’t.
Who was I to him, but a stranger? Though the dream of him had been growing in my heart my whole life, I was a brand new being to him. A stranger who was now his mother.
Once back at the hotel I wrapped him to my chest, and I began the process of becoming his mother. And I did it, very simply put, by mothering him.
In adoptive parent circles the “when did you feel like a mom?” question is oft asked. For me, it was a split answer. I felt like he was mine instantly. There hasn’t been a moment from when I first heard of him that I haven’t loved him. He invaded and spilled over into every crack in my heart.
But it took awhile till I felt like I was his.
Someday he will come to his own terms on what it means to have two mothers, but for now, in toddlerhood, it is answered in the simple refrain of “mommy mommy mommy” that carries down the hall.
Whenever he holds my hand, gripping so tightly to my finger as we walk together into new scenarios like the busy lobby of church or across parking lots or into school, his whole hand holding onto me as tightly as he possibly can, I think back to that cold November afternoon when I wanted this newborn baby to grab a hold of me the way my heart had grabbed a hold of him.
I smile now when I remember it as we sit together rocking in his room and he traces his hand up and down up and down my arm. When he drops everything to come running to me when I pick him up at school. When he raises his hand in response to my “I love you” sign. When he comes up behind me and hugs my knees.
Do not fear, waiting woman, that your someday child won’t recognize you as mother.
He will see you as mother in the way that you comfort him. In the way that you do for him. In the way that you love him.
I know there will come a day, sooner than I’d like, that his sweet brown hand will pull away from mine. When he will walk ahead of me. Maybe even a day when he’ll no longer look back.
But until then, I’m gonna hold on tight.