.... So you can embrace the love around you.
I was younger, heavier and childless. Married just over a year, infertile, and hopeless. And it was Christmastime.
I had thought I'd have a baby by then. I had married the previous October at age 23. My husband had been 21. It was 14.5 months post-wedding and I should damn well have been celebrating my first Christmas as a mother, cradling my newborn, named Arthur or Serah, as I shopped for bright red booties and silly baby hats.
Instead I was alone at a crowded bookstore, surrounded by strangers and noise, just trying to wade through the crowd and find presents. We had just received even more bad news in our adoption journey and I was barely holding on to the hope that maybe, just maybe, by the next Christmas I might be buying those silly hats.
In front of me there was a woman, older than me, and hasty. We were waiting in line at customer service. She seemed irritated and disgruntled, and she kept snapping at two children nearby, older kids and not swoon-worthy babies, who called her mom and chattered on and on.
She got to the front of the line. I never heard the question that was asked but I did hear her response: "I'm having a bad day! I have TWO KIDS to deal with!"
Her words were easily heard by the children, who turned to look, smiles faltering, before going back to their childish nonsense.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
She took her children for granted. Openly. Loudly. She wasn't just unappreciative, she was downright vicious.
And I would so, so have loved to switch places with her right then. Because the thought of having THAT kind of problem? Two kids? Oh, honey, I could handle that...
The end of the next summer we received our referral. Shell shocked eyes stared out of a photograph, stuck haphazardly to our fridge. I spent months memorizing his face. I kissed his cheeks goodnight. I would stroke the photograph and wish and hope and pray that maybe, just maybe, this was it and that sometime soon we would be meeting this little person for real, holding him, loving him.
And days marched on and on and on, without word, without movement. Seconds crawled by and I knew he existed -- or did he? -- and he was on the other side of the world. Losing weight. Eating poorly. Sick. Scared. Angry.
And there was not a damn thing I could do to speed it all up so we could go and bring him home.
I had been pumping for months, night and day, on a schedule. I altered our son's schedule around it completely. I felt guilty, always guilty. And hopeless.
It was all up to fate, wasn't it? Whether we had a second child? We'd already been blessed with one, but would it happen again? I was pumping, and pumping, waking up at 4am every day, again at 7, pumping through breakfast lunch and dinner, pumping before bed and during nap, eating carefully, charting supply, taking cocktails of medication 4 times a day. And there was no guarantee there would ever be a baby to feed. I had all the emotions of a nursing mother, all the weepiness and all the bizarre euphoria, but no baby. Just a cold, emotionless pump.
Then there was an email. An adoption situation. A baby girl, preemie, just born. Were we interested? Yes!
We applied for the situation. And waited. And waited.
Normally we got our rejections while we were out somewhere. At a park or kid's museum, someplace where I could see it on my iPhone, hit "delete," and go on with my life.
This time? I was pumping. For the future baby. The Maybe Baby. The Feels-Like-It's-Impossible-He-Could-Ever-Be-Real baby.
And as I was creating nutrition for the child that may never be, I get an email. I check it. I read the words. I press the off button. I detach the pump. I stand up. I walk away.
I need to see my son. I need to see my hope.
I'm fumbling down the hall, trying to walk normally, listening to him playing with toys in his room, holding on to that, holding on to the present, the what is, holding on to the joy...
I make it halfway down the hall.
The sob grabs hold, so fierce and strong, and I cannot control it.
I feel my stomach contract, my face contort.
Oh God, the pain! Like my heart is being ripped in two!
I gasp to breath. In and out, in and out, in and out.
I feel my blood pressure dropping.
Finally having control of my feet again, I take another step forward, into sight of my beloved treasure. He looks up at me, quizzically. I smile. I get down and hug him. I read to him.
Later on I hit delete. And I move on. But, oh, it hurts.
Today I chased a toddler all around Target. He was shrieking and running as fast as his tiny legs would carry him, weaving around corners, hiding behind racks, and playing peek-a-boo behind pants in the men's section.
My heart was full of nothing but joy.
Oh, sure, I got some dirty looks.
How dare I let him run and make noise? How dare I encourage it no less?
Oh, I dare.
Today I looked into my preschooler's classroom window. His eyes locked with mine and his whole face lit up into a beautiful smile. My heart swelled. I knew I shouldn't bother him, but I couldn't help but smile back and wave.
Every day I hug them. Every day I tell them I love them. Every day I kiss them goodnight.
And every day, no matter what, I remember the pain. I remember what it was like to not have them in our lives, to wonder if they ever would be in our lives. I remember what it was like to feel the lack of someone important.
I remember that feeling of emptiness. I remember it well. And I'm fine with that. I want it that way. Because so long as I can remember that feeling of emptiness, I can also remember to embrace the love around me.
Even when I'm sitting on my butt checking Facebook, I can't help but fall in love all over again as I watch them play on the floor together.
Even as I fold clothes I can't help but laugh as the baby grabs a towel and pulls it over his head, his older brother laughing hysterically.
Even as I drop my older son off at preschool, I can't help but feel a little sorrowful that I have to say goodbye and want to linger just a little bit longer.
Even as I drop my younger son off at the YMCA nursery, I can't help but want just one more kiss blown my way, and another, and another.
And I know, logically, that I can't be a smothering mother, and I'm not really. All in moderation, right? They're very independent boys and I love that. But they're also cuddly and loving, and they don't doubt our love for them because we show them that love every day.
Some days I can't help but be grateful for all the pain and sorrow we went through for our boys, because I could very well have taken them for granted had they come into our lives easily. They are worth it, every bit of it, and more.
I only hope that I can always remember what it was like before we had them, so that no matter what I can always remember to love and appreciate them, as they deserve to be loved and appreciated.
Aaaaand, now I'm kind of hoping nap ends soon so I can cuddle my little guys :)
Lily in a loafing barn
4 months ago