How my love for my son who is adopted and my son who is biological is the same, yet different

Momwithkidsbothbioandadopted

Only one person has had the chutzpah to ask me if I love my son whom we adopted less than I love my son whom I carried and birthed.

She didn’t phrase it that bluntly, of course. And I knew she was inquiring out of genuine curiosity, as she was contemplating adoption after having two biological children. It was good for me to recognize her naiveté; otherwise, I might’ve snapped back something less than cordial in response to what is, in fact, a thoughtful and weighty question.

This mama asked me what I think countless people wonder, but don’t have either the courage or guilelessness to speak to my face:

“I know you love both your boys. But do you, you know, feel differently about them? Do you feel as close to Calvin as you do to Linus, since Linus is the one you actually gave birth to?”

Somehow, by the grace of God most likely, this didn’t shock or fluster me. I simply stated that yes, I love them both tremendously. No, I don’t feel differently about them because they’re both my children. Yes, I feel close to both of them and believe we’re securely attached through the bonding that takes place over time not just in the womb, but also in and throughout the hours of feeding them, changing their diapers, reading to them, tickling their feet, kissing their wounds, holding them in my arms however long it takes for them to feel safe.

This incident occurred about four years ago, and I don’t think I’d answer any other way if someone else would dare ask me the same question today.

Yet this concept of different feelings lodged in my head, where it was treated to days of rumination as I considered how I truly felt about each of my sons.

And when I sifted through my sentiments toward either one, and realized how all of it is so precious beyond what I could’ve ever imagined to experience, I felt moved to share how my love for Calvin and for Linus manifests in both similar and unique ways because of the two different and surprising ways God brought them into my life.

My love for both sons

My oldest son, Calvin, was the sudden surge of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel of struggling to grow our family.

After years of aching over my empty womb and paying a good fortune on fertility treatments that amounted to nothing but tears, I had almost given up my lifelong desire to be a mother.

Then, only two months after enduring the devastation of a failed IVF cycle, we got the call from the adoption agency that changed our lives.

I was a mom. I had a baby – the most adorable, perfect, happy little boy – and he was my son, from the moment I first held him.

This baby filled my heart with joy, relief, and overwhelming gratitude. Those words people spoke with good intention but in reality drove a dagger right through me – “everything happens for a reason” – actually made sense now.

I see him today – a lively, smart-as-a-whip 6-year-old – and I burst with affection for my cheerful little mister. He looks so much like his kind-hearted birthmother, and takes after her nurturing, creative personality. His appearance and character remind me of her love, her sacrifice, and the fact that he belongs to two families who care for him immensely.

He is a long-awaited miracle, the fulfillment of oft-uttered prayers, a testament to God’s faithfulness and delight in astonishing His children with blessings beyond expectation.

He is the baby I’d longed for, delivered to me via another remarkable woman’s womb, and I love him dearly.

My youngest son, Linus, was the realization of a dream that had nearly died.

When Calvin turned 1, we began talking about our options to expand our family again, and cautiously proceeded with finding a new doctor and re-starting the whole miserable process of fertility testing and evaluation.

Then came the day I was stunned to find two pink lines I had never seen before, and I have never seen since.

I was pregnant. I had a baby growing inside my body, and I loved him the moment I discovered that blessed little plus sign.

From hearing the thrum of his heartbeat to feeling him tumble around my belly, I got to experience the sensations of my son developing within me, as well as endure the fatigue and pain of carrying and delivering a baby.

I see him today – a sweet, social, wears-his-heart-on-his-sleeve 4-year-old, and I smile with amusement at my expressive little bud. He looks like me, as well as my husband, and displays some aspects of both our personalities. This combination of physical traits resulting from the mixture of our genes reminds me that nothing is impossible with Him who loves me.

He is a long-awaited miracle, the fulfillment of oft-uttered prayers, a testament to God’s faithfulness and delight in astonishing His children with blessings beyond expectation.

He is the baby I’d longed for, delivered to me via my womb, and I love him dearly.

My love for both my boys is equally deep and wonderfully multifaceted. I feel close to both because I’m their mom, and they’re my sons. Neither relationship is greater than the other, but each has its exceptional qualities.

My son who is adopted made me a mother, gave me a fuller life and larger extended family through his birthmother, and demonstrated God’s redemption of my broken heart.

My son who is biological made me a mother of two, granted me the amazing experience of pregnancy, and demonstrated God’s redemption of my broken body.

Both my babies are undeserved blessings, and I will forever thank God for the vast and varied joy they bring into my life.

If I had a daughter

Hair bows, leg warmers, ballet flats – things that shimmer, things that tie neatly, things that smell pleasant – sequins, ruffles, and all the shades of pink that could ever be squeezed out of the palette.

This is a world that is foreign to me, a culture I don’t belong in, much less comprehend, because I don’t have a daughter.

I have two sons, the rough and tumble kind, children awaited and prayed for – and I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way. I embrace the boymom role full on, arms wide open, anticipating the tackle and dogpile to come.

There are times, though, that my mind wanders to that sparkly realm of possibilities, like when I’m venturing into the princess section shopping for a friend’s daughter’s birthday. It makes me wonder, or I guess you could even say, dream:

What would it be like to have a daughter?

Read full post at Her View From Home.

Ain’t no shame in feeling a little mom guilt

I wasn’t a cheerleader, but I don’t have anything against them. I mean … I might find them a tad annoying, but just when they overdo their performance beyond the average person’s tolerance level for perkiness.

It only takes a quick scroll through any popular parenting blog site to find cheerleaders of another squad than your local high school baton-twirlers. Mommy bloggers ’round the Internet are stepping up to the social game, rooting for fellow beleaguered moms in the trenches with empowering posts that chant for us to bring on the solidarity, sister:

Good job, mama! Hang in there, mama! You’ve put up with your whiny, messy, unswervingly disobedient children all day, mama, so when bedtime rolls around, treat yourself to a glass or four of your best $7 Cabernet and binge watch the heck out of a season of “Gilmore Girls.”

One major impetus for this maternity pep rally is retaliation against those who shame other moms for any and all possible reasons, making them feel awful and look like sad sacks of child-rearing-failing crap.


Read full post at Her View From Home.

When you can’t use a gift because you’re giving another

reading-kids-narnia-gifts

I have an unusual entry in my Top 10 list of favorite Christmas movies. Growing up, during the insufferably lengthy holiday break, my mom tried to snatch a moment of sanity by popping in a VHS of the luminous masterpiece that is the BBC’s version of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” My siblings and I merrily binged on the B- grade videos, captivated by the monstrously sized animal costumes and enthralled with the child actors’ British accents and whiny line reads.

One of the memorable scenes in the first movie, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” is when Father Christmas makes a surprise appearance and delivers gifts to the children – to Peter, a shield and sword; to Susan, a bow and horn; to Lucy, a dagger and bottle of healing cordial. The St. Nicholas doppelganger explains that the presents “… are tools not toys. The time to use them is perhaps near at hand. Bear them well.”

While Peter and Susan use their tools/weapons shortly afterwards, Lucy doesn’t implement her potion until much later in the storyline, right after the battle, when she dispenses the remedy to save her other brother, Edmund. The youngest character – and inarguably, most loyal believer in the Lion/Redeemer Aslan – has to wait through most of the plot to use her incredible gift of healing.

There’s a gift I had to wait many Christmases to impart. I knew it was an ability I possessed – a longing God placed in my heart – I just lacked the opportunity to carry it out because I could not conceive or carry a child.

God did what He does, in providing mercies beyond what we ask or deserve, and blessed me with two loud, energetic boys that allow me to fulfill the gift of motherhood and engage my skills of nurturing, teaching, and cleaning all manner of messes.

Now, the tension between which gifts I want to give and which gifts I can give is different. Being a mom is gratifying and challenging and joy-bringing and humbling, and it also takes a lot of time. Sometimes I wish I could do more, cultivate other talents – specifically, writing. But my parenting style and annoyance threshold are such that I can’t ignore the chaos long enough to concentrate at the computer. So I can’t do more; I can’t give more.

And honestly, it can be frustrating. Buried talents bear no fruit.

Others might understand these feelings of gift neglect. I know individuals who are talented speakers, teachers, and medical professionals who cannot readily implement these skills because they’re caring for their families, and tending to sick loved ones, and guiding important ministries – doing hard and good things to serve others at the cost of letting certain gifts lie dormant.

This holding back can make you discouraged, upset that your current commitments are stifling your other abilities … making you ashamed for feeling discontent about your present acts of service … making you become disillusioned with the idea of who you thought God created you to be … making your work now seem labored, overwrought from all the overanalyzing you’ve done about this whole gift thing. Or maybe that’s just me.

Maybe God is simply stashing away our gifts to mature us, or to teach us some truth during our wait, or to preserve them until the exact moment someone needs saving, as in the case of Lucy and her cordial.

Regardless of the reasons for His timing, we know from God’s Word that gifts should be used for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) and for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Sure, we can find joy in our jam, but the main purpose for any special abilities God grants us isn’t our personal gratification. They’re for the edification of others and the exaltation of His name (1 Peter 4:10-11).

There’s encouragement to be gained when we recognize the ultimate goals for our gifts and focus on the truth about God’s character and our worth in Him.

Be patient. God is honing that beautiful bent of yours – the one He gave you through the overflow of His abundant goodness – and He will not fail His purposes for it, and for you.

Live now. Each day is full of new mercies and opportunities to draw on the Lord’s strength and diffuse His blessings to others through whatever services your hands find to supply.

Walk by faith. The Spirit gives gifts as He wills according to His manifold grace. We can live assured that His love poured out to us for others will not be wasted.

We can bear our gifts well regardless of whether or not we can yield them immediately. All we must do is trust God to let us use them when and how He wants and take the present step of obedience glorifying Him as the Giver of life everlasting.

Swan song for the little season

As the leaves are shifting colors and the millenials are rushing to grab their long-awaited pumpkin spice lattes, I’m passing into a new season that’s eliciting emotions as variegated as the shades of fall.

I’m now a school mom. My kids are going to school. One in kindergarten, one in preschool, which means that for six hours out of the week, there are no children in my home.

That’s cause for celebration, you might think, and you’d be right. Not just for me, gaining valuable “time for myself,” but for my sons, who are growing in knowledge and facing constructive challenges and discovering more of this big, beautiful world God created. I’m excited for them, excited to see how they will flourish in these new adventures, and excited for me to be able to go grocery shopping and not have it be an adventure.

But honestly, I’m also sad. My season of motherhood is changing. Six hours without children means I’m mothering less. That’s not to say that a mom who works full-time outside the home or a SAHM with all school-aged children is any less of a mom – their children are continuously present in their minds and hearts and daily activities. They’re just in a different season or situation.

As my oldest stepped foot inside his kindergarten classroom, I crossed a threshold of another kind, entering the school phase, starting to leave the early childhood phase.

I’ll miss this phase – the getting down on the floor building train tracks, shaping Play-Doh cuisine, reading and snuggling on the couch, soothing hurts with kisses and tickle fights phase. It is a time when – to my ever-living vexation, as well as my gratification – my kids were almost always with me, and needed me for so many different things. It is a role I longed for, for so long, and finally got to experience, and enjoyed immensely.

That’s why, when I waved goodbye to my son and stepped foot outside his kindergarten classroom, I let the tears loose and marveled at how five years passed by in a blink of milestones, building upon one another, leading to greater possibilities.

It is the beginning of something new; the closing of a chapter of something precious.

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I took my youngest to toddler story time at the library the other day. Yea, I know. Potential big mistake. Spending time with younger mothers, or at least, mothers with younger kids, might be a painful reminder of what once was – their tiny scampering tots and snappy strapped baby carriers and swelling belly bumps a blatant, flashing signal: THIS IS NOT YOUR WORLD ANYMORE.

I smile at them. I watch their little ones waddle around, fall down, cry.

I remember those days, caring for two 2 and unders. They were hard. I was exhausted all the time, frazzled half the time, probably legitimately semi-crazy.

I’m glad I’m not currently in that season. I loved my babies when they were babies, but I don’t need them to be babies anymore. I don’t need to turn back time. Getting past spit-up and tantrums and potty training is a blessed thing.

Why, then, do I feel this twinge of sadness knowing all that is behind me? I see these other sweet mamas, scooping up their children and cradling them at the hip, and my heart bursts with thankfulness for my own children – that, and a sort of wistfulness for the times I used to scoop them up and cradle them.

This amalgam of emotions is hard to explain. The best comparison I can come up with is perhaps a woeful commentary on what we all now hold dear: our own entertainment. Imagine Netflix (because network TV is mostly terrible) just announced it is still airing your favorite show, but with four fewer episodes. You’d be bummed, right? This means you’ll have less pre-prison flashbacks, alleyway fight scenes, and stranger things to savor. Your enjoyment has been diminished.

There’s another way to think about it. I have several female friends who are amazing craftswomen. They create exquisite works of art with ink, with thread, with wood, with both inert and organic materials. They pour their love and lifeblood into their designs – you can tell – and in doing so, bring pleasure and beauty to those around them.

Being a hands-on mom of young children is like that for me. It’s where I thrive. I have hobbies and other creative pursuits – writing being one of them – but this mothering gig is my favorite. Of course I’m not perfect. That’s not the point. It’s simply something I enjoy. One of the best things in the world for me is making my kids laugh, and laughing with them.

God gave me this gift of motherhood, and I have relished it.

Motherhood gift new

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I have a list of approximately 142 topics I want to blog about, and this isn’t one of them.

I don’t know why I’m writing this jumble of words. Usually, I have some type of higher purpose for writing and sharing personal reflections beyond mere emotional appeasement.

Certainly, it’s not to make other mothers who disliked the early childhood phase feel bad about themselves. We all have ages and stages that aren’t our cup of tea. Middle schoolers scare the crap out of me.

Perhaps it’s to encourage young mamas to “cherish every moment.” *Gag* No, that’s not it.

Or it’s to warn others about idolizing their children and seeking satisfaction in ways that only their Savior can fulfill. Oh wait. Been there; done that; felt the regrets; blogged about it.

Lacking a solid concept, I go to the all-wise Internet for guidance. I find a reassuring article by Jen Wilkin talking about the back to school blues and Christian mommy guilt – that is, the tension a mother feels as she questions if she loves Jesus as much as she loves her kids. She explains that although we might view love as limited and quantifiable – like a “cosmic batch of heart-shaped cookies” – our love for our kids can express our love for Christ; we take the cookies He gave us and give them to our kids, which, ultimately, gives the cookies back to Him.

Jen Wilkin cookie quote new

That’s a lotta cookies and a lotta love. I like the sound of that. Maybe that’s my point.

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Besides that part of me that wants to turn this into a moralizing mommy lecture, there’s the part that wants to slap myself upside the head and shout “Pull yourself together, woman! This is not a Bachelorette breakup-level crisis! It’s not like your boys are going off to college yet.” (As a word of advice, do not read Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post describing when she dropped off her oldest son at college. Just don’t. It’ll destroy you. Same goes with the Nicole Nordeman slow-the-heck-down-time song.)

Really, this is not a crisis; it is a process. We are transition-ing, adjust-ing.

My boys are adjusting to the lengthened time apart from one another, and figuring out how to manage their divergent strategies for coping with that separation (wrestling vs. talking). I’m adjusting to having a modicum of peace and quiet. My husband is adjusting to me having a modicum of peace and quiet during which I plan new cleaning and organization projects for us to work on.

As the four of us continue adjusting and learning and growing individually and together through this new school phase, I look forward to seeing how God continues writing our family story. I anticipate discovering what my kids will learn in school, who they will love and marry, how they will bring light and goodness to the world around them.

Through all of that learning and loving and light-bringing, I will thank Him for giving me this family and for making me a mom. And as I thank Him, I will fondly, gradually bid farewell to those early childhood days and a season of life I will treasure forever.

swan-song

Kindergarten

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This boy is going to kindergarten.

This boy is a little nervous, more than a little excited, and so very eager to learn and engage in the world around him.

This boy has an inquisitive mind, a servant heart, and a mischievous twinkle in his eye that both disturbs and delights those entrusted with his care.

This boy has challenged my authority, besieged my sanity, and turned many a hair on my head a lovely shade of gray.

This boy was the answer to numerous prayers, a testament to God’s prevailing faithfulness, and a living expression of the meaning of “worth the wait.”

This boy will grow up, look back and read this sappy post, and likely be mortified by my mushiness – and I will nonetheless write it, because I love him.

This boy – the one who leaves messes in his wake, who embraces new adventures and leaps into opportunities, whose hugs come in the form of a tackle – the one who made me a mama – is going to thrive in school, in vocation, in life in general, all while bringing light and laughter and hopeful enthusiasm to those around him.

This boy is going to kindergarten, and I am going to miss him.

#HonorAllMoms

Hands

Mom. A word that evokes…

So many labels:

Biological. Adoptive. Foster. Expectant. Bereaved. “Real.” Birth. Legal. Spiritual. Single. Working. Stay-at-home. Soccer. Helicopter. Teen. Grand. Great-grand. God. In-law. In-love.

So many descriptions:

Sleep-deprived. Stressed. Worn out. Exasperated. Caring. Strong. Selfless. Gracious.

So many emotions:

Grief. Bitterness. Worry. Disappointment. Joy. Pride. Gratitude. Love.

So many seasons:

New. Veteran. Challenging. Fulfilling. Full house. Empty nest. Waiting; waiting; waiting: For the positive test. For “the call.” For the paperwork to go through. For them to come home. For them to leave home. For you to go Home and see them once again.

Whichever your type, whatever you’re called, however you’re feeling, wherever your place…

You are important. You are worthy. You are loved.

Your Heavenly Father is carrying you, His precious child, as you carry yours in your arms, in your heart, in your clinging to Him.

#HonorAllMoms