Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Third Mother

A few years ago I pitched a column idea to a local parenting magazine. One of the regular columnist was retiring and I thought the community would benefit from a different perspective - the perspective of an adoptive mom. As part of my query, I wrote a short piece about my motherhood journey and titled it "The Third Mother". I thought it would be a clever name for my column, and even though the magazine went with a stay-at-home dad instead, the moniker stuck with me. When I joined Twitter I made it my handle, and while the title may seem strange, it's one I am rather proud of and thought my new readers would want to know the story behind it.

The Third Mother

My sons each have three mothers: A biological mom who gave birth to them, a foster mom who raised them for the first several months of their lives, and me. I am their third mother. And while it may seem like I am second (or third) rate in comparison to the first two women in their lives, I am the one referred to as “Mommy”, a title I have earned with every runny nose wiped, boo-boo bandaged, and peanut butter and jelly sandwich served.

My oldest is five and thinks having three moms (and dads) is pretty cool. We have been open with him from the beginning, telling him the story of how he came into our family. He understands bits and pieces and has yet to ask any difficult questions about the identity of his birth parents and why they chose not to raise him. For now he exists happily with the understanding that no, he did not grow in my belly, but isn't it way cooler to have been born in one place and traveled halfway around the world to live in another? I am enjoying the fact that he is naive to the challenges that come with being adopted and instead chooses to fixate on the odd, fun parts of his story.

We had explained to him that he came to us on a plane when he was seven months old and had a lot of trouble sleeping during the first few weeks. In order to keep the peace and let the other person get some sleep, my husband and I took turns pacing the house with our son strapped to our chest in a baby sling. When it was my turn I sang endless rounds of “This Little Light of Mine” and “Jesus Loves Me” while walking circles around the pool table in our basement. They were the only songs I could sing in their entirety, and they have become anthems to soothe my son when he is upset as well as part of our nightly ritual. One night when it was my husband’s turn, he spotted a large black bear out our living room window. He thought it was a deer at first until it came closer to the house. The bear was by far our son’s favorite part of the story. “Tell me again what daddy saw,” he would ask over and over. The rest of the story became inconsequential.

When he learned he was going to become a big brother, our oldest believed that all babies arrived on a plane from South Korea. You could not convince him otherwise, despite evidence of seeing my pregnant cousin before and after the birth of her baby. He insisted that babies arrive on a plane in New York City and mommies and daddies have to go to the airport to pick them up. Clear evidence that our reality is shaped by our experiences. His current favorite is the idea that God said, “BINGO!” when trying to find the perfect child to join our family. I tossed the phrase in one night while recounting his adoption story, and after explaining what the expression “BINGO!” meant, his face lit up at the thought of some higher power proudly announcing that He had won the big prize when forming our family.

I want it to stay this simple. But I know the questions will come soon, things he will want to know that are difficult for me to answer and things that other people will want to know that are difficult for him to answer. Perhaps they will start next year when he enters Kindergarten. An innocent classmate will inquire as to why my son doesn't look like his mommy and daddy. Or ask him what happened to his “real” mother. Hopefully he will tell them he has three mothers. All real, and all with a special place in his heart. As for me, I am happy being the third mother. While I do feel sadness for not carrying my beautiful boys in my womb for nine months and seeing them open their eyes and smile for the first time, I carried them in my heart for many years waiting for that BINGO! moment.

And that is way cooler.