The adoptions of our three youngest children would not have gone as smoothly if we didn’t have our oldest, Holden, on board.
With the adoption of Josi, Holden proudly told everyone he knew, or didn’t, that he was going to have a little sister and, – could they believe this? She was born in China! He had her referral picture in his pocket, ready to show and tell as soon as he had the person’s attention.
Upon arriving home he ripped Josi out of my arms and, holding her securely, he paraded around the waiting area, among everyone one who met our plane (pre-911). His face was suffused with joy, pride, and love. Holden and Josi’s connection was instantaneous. She trusted him immediately.
Aubry was our next arrival. Holden again opened his heart, which was good because Josi acted like the typical sibling - believing that her place in the family was going to be usurped. Not until I had her “help” me put up the other crib did she realize that that wasn’t the case. I knew I had Josi’s acceptance when she began to put gifts of her stuffed animals into Aubry’s crib. One of the items was as huge stuffed snake. “Snakey” became the item Aubry attached to as soon as she arrived home, sucking her thumb ecstatically while holding him on her face. Holden again tore this baby out of my arms at the airport and paraded around with her. He also asked to help with Aubry’s care - diapering, feeding, rocking, and reading to her.
Greyson was our final child. Mark and I had been to visit Greyson months earlier. We decided that Holden would travel down to Guatemala with us to bring Greyson home. We took Holden to visit Tikal so that he could experience and appreciate his brother’s rich heritage. With Greyson, we traveled to Antigua so that Holden could mingle with the open and vibrant Guatemalan people. It was the chance for Holden to see more of the process of how we were becoming a family. Little did we realize that he would see different aspects of the adoption process. Greyson’s immediate transition was difficult at best. Holden witnessed his brother’s pain in transitioning and had to deal with the fact that Greyson wanted no one but me.
Holden is made of good stuff. Through thoughtful reaching out and patience, he was able to win his baby brother over in a matter of days. Greyson would allow him to hold him – in my presence.
Holden’s connection to his sisters and brother is profound. He sees himself as their protective and guiding big brother. He is their rock and they adore him.
“Do I look like her?”
His question caught me unaware. It was random, inserted within the pause of my conversation with Aubry about something else (and so it is with four children). I put my finger up – the “I heard you and just wait a minute sign” – while I gave her the answer she needed. Off she went, knitting project in hand.
Turning to Greyson, I pulled him onto my lap and help him close to me, face-to-face. There was no need to answer him with a question. We both knew who he was talking about. I smiled, looking deep into my handsome son’s eyes, those that spoke of his birth mother’s proud beauty and ethnicity. “You do look like her, very much so.”
“Do you have a picture of her?” he asked.
“I do, but I have it in the lockbox with all of your very special things from Guatemala. I would be happy to go and get it for you now,” I said.
Apparently he had the answer he needed and asked if he could have a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. Hand in hand, we went to make his sandwich.
An adopted child will ask about his birth mother (I have yet to get a question on any of my kids’ birth fathers…). It’s only normal. The deep bond between them was established in-utero. She carried him inside her, nurturing and giving him life. For whatever reason she made the decision to place her child for adoption through means available to her. The adopted child’s questions are not about the love he has for his adoptive parents and family or they for him. The questions are about his sense of self, discovering who he is and where he came from. Adoptive parents need to encourage their child to ask questions about their past history and delve into their culture and heritage. Above all, the child need s to be assured that he will be loved, no matter what.
It was late. A long emotionally grueling couple of days had been underscored by a close friend’s funeral and burial earlier in the day. Mark and I had barely sat down on the couch when the kids rustled in with their blankets looking for spots to burrow into. Josi chose to snuggle in with me. The least demonstrative of our four, she seemed to understand that Mom and Dad were deeply sad and needed some intense “family time”. As she lay next to me, I put my arm around her and looked into those deep espresso eyes. I was drawn back to the first time she really took me in, at the young age of nine months, a moment when both of our souls were stripped bare and connected in the moonlight of the dark quiet Chinese night. I had found such a comfort and peace in my daughter and I did again this sad evening. I hugged her and kissed her, thankful beyond words that she was placed in my life, my daughter, a blessing cherished.
What connects one human being to another? Where does the recognition of familiarity, comfort, of knowing come from? How does the raw hunger that a mother has for her child manifest?
The Chinese believe it evolves from the Red Threads. Unseen by the naked eye, these threads extend from every newborn and permanently attach to the people in her life. The red threads shorten as the baby grows into adulthood, drawing those who will be closest to her in. They never break.
Josi is eleven now. Our relationship evolves and deepens as she marches towards becoming a woman. I am pleased that she seeks me out more than she ever has, asking for counsel and just wanting to hang with her mom – when she’s not with her girlfriends. The words I have spoken to her and my other children, run through my head, time and time again, “I am your mother. I have and will love you forever. I will always take care of you and keep you safe.” The comfort and love Josi demonstrated last night shows me the feelings are mutual.