Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Kids Who Aren't "Ours"

The first time I looked at him, he was grayish and wrinkly and wasn't doing his job very well. 

Our first baby needed extra oxygen and a little stay in the NICU before coming home to live with his unprepared parents. Not the seasoned mom you see in the photo. No, no. This one was wide-eyed.

That little seven pounds and seven ounces of wiggle changed everything for my husband and I. You parents know what I'm talking about. From then on, it was all different. When talking about events, ideas and dreams, everything had a place: before kids or after kids. 

That little boy was ours. Not "ours." We didn't pose it in question form or bother to assume it could be anything else; it was simply a reality. He came from our bodies and he belonged to us. 

As did his sisters and his brother after him. 

We all know what the definition of family is, but I imagine they all vary subtlety. My husband and I had each belonged to one up until the day we ceremoniously stepped away from them to form our own. 

My first one was neat and tidy and I had no reason to believe that my latter would not be as crisp.

There is something about the adoption process that tangles up so many things for a neat and tidy person like myself. There is nothing predictable and sleek about what happens. Not that there isn't beauty, but it's not an immaculate beauty. It's a wild and stretching kind of beauty. 

By the time we met our last daughter, she had spent almost 3 years with her people in her country drinking porridge and playing in red dirt. Those first four weeks with her were spent sharing her. Everywhere we went, her people smiled at us and acknowledged her as their own. 

Making her our daughter was a process. There was a time she existed without us and was not ours. And then she was claimed by us but was still cared for by others. We knew she was ours but she did not. 

Even today, though she has been ours for exactly four years, there are others who claim her in part. My African friend puts her arms around my African daughter's shoulders and pulls her close and talks to her in a language neither of us understand. She belongs to them too.

There is also a brave young woman in this country who claims my son as her own. Not with her words, for she is careful and kind. But her heart and her body have created his and she will never forget, nor should she.

There are grandmas and aunts and uncles and there will be brothers and cousins that will unknowingly claim my son. People whose faces would be complete strangers to both of us will belong to my son for his whole life.

I share my son.

My youngest two teach me something about my older five:
Not one of them is ours. 

Not really. 

I was the one changing the explosive diapers. I was the one catching the puke and rocking and scolding and teaching and listening and loving. It was me. Surely I can claim. 

We like to use the word Mine. With our damp eyes and our tight grip, we like the feeling of belonging, of clamping down on what is rightful to us. 

But it just isn't true. 

Every last one of "our" kids belong to God; he is only loaning them to us.

Even though I've heard it my whole life long, it didn't become real to me until I looked another woman in the eyes and said "Thank you for giving him life." 

I guess he never really belonged to her and he will never really belong to me.

Oh, but we love them. Don't we? 
We love them like they are truly our own. 

For in some crazy way, they are.