When did you know in your heart that you were a mother or a father?
Sick daysAs many of you know, those first few weeks go by in such a blur. A month after arriving home, my daughter, Kate, caught a cold. As I sat with her into the wee hours of the morning, I found myself wishing that I could be sick instead of her. I knew at that moment that I would do anything to protect my daughter: I was finally Kate's mom. Five years later, I still think of that night whenever one of my kids gets sick.
A knowing scent-sationMy husband was hooked the second our daughter looked into his eyes, but it took me a little bit longer. One day, when she was a few weeks old, it occurred to me that, given a room with a hundred babies in it, I could pick her out blindfolded, based on her scent alone. It was then that I realized how deeply this beautiful little person was a part of me.
A moment's hesitationAfter investing much time and effort in our paperwork, I was ready to send it off with a courier. As I handed over the bundle—all of the documents necessary for our daughter's adoption—to this total stranger, I hesitated. It struck me that I was, essentially, entrusting him with my child. At that moment, I knew for the first time what it feels like to be a mother.
In her eyesTwelve years later, I vividly remember walking into the orphanage in Russia, scanning the room for the 16-month-old girl whose face I'd memorized from her photo. I recognized her immediately, sitting quietly on the floor, a large, red bow atop her hair. As I sat down next to her, she looked up at me as if to say, "Hi, Mom, what took you so long?" In a flash, I lost my heart to her completely.
Stamp of approvalIt sounds funny, but the realization that I was really a mom came during a television commercial. It advertised a popular breakfast cereal, and I had seen it a million times. But this time, when it said, "Kid-tested, mother-approved," it hit me that I really did have kids, and I could actually approve of what they eat!
His and hersThe first night our daughter slept with us, in a hotel in Russia, I woke up countless times, hearing her roll over, yawn, sniffle, gurgle, or sigh. "Mother Radar" was on High Intensity—what a surprise to find how fast it kicked in!
I knew in my heart that my husband was "Dad" three days later, when we traveled from St. Petersburg to Moscow. I wasn't feeling well, and he jumped in and took charge. Without a word said between us, he knew I'd recover and that his little girl needed him more than I did. Interestingly, my husband says he felt the realization of parenthood only weeks later, when he had begun to look forward to seeing her (as well as me) at the end of a workday.
The magic wordsWhile we waited, I tried to learn some Vietnamese, but I must confess that I mastered only five words. Finally, after months of waiting—and 30 hours traveling—my husband and I arrived at the orphanage and saw our tiny, beautiful, 8-month-old girl. Chattering happily in Vietnamese, the nanny handed my baby over. I heard the word Ngoc, my daughter's Vietnamese name, and, in the same sentence, Me. That was one of my five Vietnamese words! It means "mother," and it hit me that I was being introduced to my baby as her mother. What joy!
Making the callWhen my son, Ethan, was 6 weeks old, my brother asked me, "So, do you feel like a mom yet?" The question caught me off guard. I was present at my son's birth, I cut his umbilical cord, and I fed him his first bottle, so I was ashamed about not feeling "motherly." I loved my son dearly, but was just not in "mom mode" yet.
Soon thereafter, a medical problem became apparent. As soon as Ethan had stabilized and fallen asleep after the surgery (which went without a hitch), I made a phone call. When my brother answered, I said, "I feel like a mom now."
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