Saturday, January 5, 2008

Born From My Heart

I have been pondering recently over birth stories. Bear's birth story was one of the first things I posted on this blog, and so that got me thinking about Wolf. Wolf was not born from my body...but I am his mommy, he is my son, and he was born from my heart. I love him a great deal, and I wanted to tell the story of how he came to be my son. This story is very different from other birth stories—which usually cover a few hours or days. This story happened over several years.

I first met Wolf just a few days after he turned 3. His daddy and I had known each other for a while, but for the sake of Wolf’s tender emotions, we did not bring him into the picture until we knew we were going to marry. Hubby and I lived three states apart at the time, but my family was holding a reunion in the middle (eastern Idaho), and so I invited Hubby to come, and to bring Wolf. It was a warm evening at the end of June in 2003. The sun had begun to set, but was still warm and bright. W had been playing in the tent when I arrived, so when I came over to Hubby, I didn’t immediately see Wolf. Hubby stuck his head into the tent and said “Wolf, come out here, there is someone I want you to meet.” A round-faced, rosey-cheeked boy with blond hair and big blue eyes stuck his head out of the tent and said “Hi!”
“Wolf,” Hubby said, “this is Mommy.”
“Hi Wolf,” I began.
“Hi Mommy!” he said, and hugged my legs. Then he ran to play in some dirt.
Up to this point he had never really known a mother, so ‘mommy’ was not so much a title as a name. It was a name that I would begin living up to almost immediately.

A few weeks later I moved to Utah. Hubby was in school, and Wolf had been going to various babysitters. When I arrived, we decided that I should begin caring for Wolf immediately, rather than sending him to a sitter and my seeking work. After all, might as well start doing the mommy thing right away, right? We figured it would make the transition a little easier when we got married. A few incidents stand out from that time.
Wolf had recently discovered the fun of running anytime we were in a large space, so we were trying to teach him about what to do if he got lost. One afternoon I was reviewing with him.
“What is your name?
“Wolf S__ Brighton,” (he always used his full name—often still does!)
“What is your daddy’s name?”
“D__ Brighton.”
“And what is your mommy’s name”
He paused and thought for a few moments… “Mommy Brighton!”

Wolf was at the age of just beginning to notice gender identity. He had been around dad of course, and they had talked about their parts. He had been around a few women, but none of them were very when he met me, that was something new. One day he walked up to me, put his hands straight out, placed one on each of my breasts and said “Mommy, what are those?” So I explained that they were breasts. “How come Daddy doesn’t have them?” So I explained about boys being different from girls. “Oh, well, I’m a boy, like Dad.”
He was still piecing it all together a few weeks later. While on a plane ride to Ireland (8 hours across the Atlantic), he leaned over to me and asked in one of those loud toddler whispers “Mommy, do you have a scrotum?”

The adjustment to having a new parent was still hard for Wolf. He quickly found that I was not just another babysitter—I was there to stay, I had rules and consequences, and I wasn’t always fun. Wolf had spent most of his life with Dad to himself, and resented the attention that I now received (although we both made great efforts to still give Wolf lots of attention). Changes are hard, even when they are good. In those early months before and after our wedding, Wolf would accept me as a second-place comforter or care-giver...but if he could have the choice, he ALWAYS wanted Dad. If Dad was in the house, but I was attending to something, Wolf would ask me to go away and just get Dad. Sometimes he told me he hated me.
The adjustments were hard for me too. A newborn is so dependent that instinct drives affection. Wolf was 3, independent, mischievous, and said he didn’t like me. It took time for love to develop between us. I learned firsthand that serving someone brings love for them—as I cared for and taught Wolf, I came to love him—but I wasn’t always sure how he felt about me, or even if he really knew how I felt about him.

The first time I knew that Wolf knew that I loved him was in early February, 2004, shortly after we were married, when Wolf was 3 1/2. He had been playing in the basement playroom with his cousin, and they had been bouncing a basketball. One of them threw it at the ceiling, it hit the overhead light, and the glass cover shattered and fell, one piece cutting Wolf across the bridge of his nose. We adults had all been upstairs chatting, but when we heard the glass shatter and screams, we ran for the playroom. Wolf’s cousin was only scared, and his father was able to calm him, but Wolf obviously needed stitches. Hubby cradled him and talked to him as I found a cloth to hold to his head to slow the bleeding. As we piled into the car to go to the hospital (Hubby still holding him), Wolf asked where I was. He smiled when he realized that I was right there. He still preferred Dad for comfort, but he knew I cared, and wanted me around too.

The first time I really knew that Wolf loved me was a couple of months later, in early April of 2004, when I miscarried. I was 14 weeks pregnant, and when I miscarried I bled a great deal all at once. Hubby was in class at the time, so as I ran to the bathroom I asked Wolf to pull over a chair to reach down the phone for me. I called Hubby, who hurried home and took Wolf to the cousins (next door) and me to the hospital. I was able to come home later that night, but of course Wolf was already in bed. The next morning, Hubby brought him home, and as they came through the door I heard the following:
“Is Mommy home?”
“Yes, she’s in bed”
“Is she ok?”
“Yes, she is tired, and she will be in bed a lot, but she is fine.”
“I was scared about Mommy.”
He came in and crawled into the bed with me for a while, and I finally knew that he loved me too.

The story doesn’t change much for the next two years. We had always planned that I would legally adopt Wolf, but Utah law required that we wait until a year after our wedding to do so. Around our first anniversary, Hubby was just finishing school, but didn’t have a job yet. Since Wolf’s birthmom (Hubby’s ex) had indicated that she was supportive of the adoption, we didn’t feel a particular urgency about it, and decided to wait until Hubby had a job so that we could afford the adoption without going into debt. In August of 2005, Hubby began teaching, and we called birthmom to let her know we were starting paperwork. She, however, was now engaged to be married, and seemed less interested in letting go of her parental rights. So we enlisted a lawyer, in case she tried to make a fight of it. The lawyer wrote up the paperwork in September and submitted it to the District Court in early October. We expected to have the hearing by Thanksgiving and have everything signed and sealed before Christmas…but that was not to be. First the courts lost the filing fee check (someone neglected to attach it to the paperwork, so the ‘unpaid’ paperwork got set aside for over a month). Then, after several phone calls from our lawyer, they finally found everything and got it assigned to Juvenile Court (since Wolf was a minor). Juvenile Court also lost the paperwork for a month. So it was not until early January that we finally got a court date for our hearing—the first week of February. We appeared before the judge, and stated that I wanted to adopt Wolf, and that if birthmom was not willing to sign away her rights, we wanted the court to terminate them. (The situation surrounding the divorce was such that we, our family, and several psychologists all felt strongly that legal adoption was the most healthy thing for Wolf.) Birthmom (now married), stood up and said she didn’t see why things couldn’t just remain as they were. The judge ordered that we have a mediation meeting to try to figure things out, rather than him having to force something. We enlisted family and friends to fast and pray for us in the intervening weeks, and at mediation, after several hours of talking, we did finally reach an agreement.
Three weeks later, on March 28, 2006, after nearly three years of being his mommy, I finally became Wolf’s legal mother. Hubby wore the judge’s robe and W tried out the gavel.

And, like any birth story, that is just the beginning...


Christi said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

My Dad adopted me when I was nearly 3 and I still remember the day. I remember sitting on the judges lap and the judge asked me to go home with him and I cried for my Daddy. Not my Mommy - but my Daddy. I have never thought of him as anything but my Dad, even when I met my biological father, who still is not my Dad.
I am almost 32 years old and my father and I still remember and honor the day I was adopted. December 7th. I will never forget.

You are an amazing woman and I hope that your love continues to grow for little W. He is a lucky, lucky boy to have such a loving mommy.

Mae said...

The name "mommy" in our family is indeed reserved as special. I spend so much time with my niece and nephews that they sometimes slip and call me Mommy. I never made a big deal about correcting them, but one day, the 5 year old said impatiently after correcting herself, "Can't I just call you mommy?!" I explained that mommy was a very special name and I hadn't earned it. They still slip, and I don't usually correct them because they catch it themselves. Humorously enough, they're close friends with their babysitter (who is my age) and they use our names interchangably so the babysitter and I answer to both.

Nemmer said...

That was beautiful. Adoption stories are dear to my heart of course, and your was very touching. Thanks so much for sharing it.

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