Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to me!

I am a step-mother, an adoptive mother and (recently), a Godmother.

I am an "older" mother. ;-)

I am a card carrying member of the "I survived infertility treatments from hell" club.

Gary and I met in 1999 and as we dated, I immediately fell head over heels in love with his children (whom I had not met). As he told me stories about them, what they were like, I felt my heart growing for them. When I finally met them - that love just quadrupled. They were and are amazing kids. Most of Gary and mine's courtship centered on creating a home for the boys and focusing on getting custody of them. They came for visits - Spring Breaks, Summers, Christmas's. And then they would have to leave. As Gary and I prayed and waited on a judge.

June 2002 (4 long years later) - they finally stepped off a plane (for their summer visit) and never got back on. As happy as we were, we wanted to recognize that the boys might not share in our enthusiasm. As much as we wanted to throw a party and rejoice, we opted instead for a slower, calmer approach to getting them settled in.

I consider Mason and Evan MY children. For me, there's just no other way to raise children. However, I do recognize that they have their own mother. I fill whatever role they allow me to fill with pride and honor. I have been blessed beyond measure with the love and respect they have freely given me. Mason and Evan had a pretty large role - they graciously allowed me to stumble around and figure out how to raise 10 and 13 year old boys! Their entrance into my life made me a mother.

The entrance of Austin and Logan into my life made me "Mom." And just like with Mason and Evan, I had to wait to "meet" them. Everyday my heart beat for them. Everyday my heart swelled with love for them. And ached with such pain at not being able to BE with them.

Each time I visited my children in those 12 months, I wanted to rush forward, crush them, envelope them in my love. But I held myself at bay. After all, they didn't quite know me. As hard as it was, I always let them come to me. They were safe and comfortable in their foster family's arms. I wanted them to feel safe and comfortable with me.

Luckily, with their big ole hearts, I never had to wait long for them to warm up to me.  On our 2nd visit trip, just 8 weeks after our first, the twins recognized us and their faces LIT UP when they saw Gary and I come into the hotel lobby. Legs kickin' to get to us. It was simply amazing and one of the best feelings of pure joy-in-my-heart moments I have ever experienced.

Two visit trips and 12 months after first "meeting" my children, I finally stepped off a plane in Guatemala as Austin and Logan's legal parent. I was beyond exhausted. Not just from travelling 14 hours on 1 1/2 hours of sleep. Not just from a grueling and frantic month of pushing/pulling/dragging Mason out the doors of his High School WITH a diploma. And not just from hosting in-laws and an ex-wife, all gathered for the miraculous, I mean, all important High School graduation. Not just from the ill-timed, all crushing cramps sent compliments of Mother Nature. Not just from the 12 months of waiting, waiting, and waiting to BE Austin and Logan's Mommy.

But exhausted from a lifetime journey. Seeking. Yearning. Desperation to simply BE a "Mom."

And I sat. In a hotel room. Worlds away from anyone I knew. In a country that have given me my beautiful sons. A country that wasn't the safest at times. A country I had already experienced earthquakes in and could see smoking volcanoes with any given glance out a window. And I was about to accept full responsibility for me and my children and navigate us through this new world. I would have to find a place to live. Provide for them - all the basics, food, clothing and safety. My stomach churned.

I was excited. Ecstatic. And scared sh*tless! Really? This had all seemed like a great plan when I was stuck at home and AWAY from my children. Fly into Guatemala. Book adjoininng rooms for me and the foster family so that we could ease the transition. Move the twins and I to Antigua. Set up shop. Wait for Gary. Or Mom. Wait for the US gov't to say we could all could home. Maybe wait for a few weeks. Maybe a few months. The plan was, "Who cares!! I will have my children!"

The plan, on the onset of implementation, looked a heckuva lot more frightening and overwhelming!

The phone in my hotel room rang.

They were here. Downstairs in the lobby. I haven't stopped crying. My eyes are bloodshot. My stomach is going crazy.

I see them. I again, want to RUSH forward and cradle them and smother them in kisses. Instead, I sit in a chair next to the foster father. Austin (on his lap) immediately reaches out and starts to play with my id badge. Logan, across from me, has just woken from a nap and is watching me like a hawk. He doesn't take his eyes off of me.

Over the next 30 minutes, we all visit. I eventually get to hold and snuggle each boy. Each of my children. My sons.

Again, having booked adjoining rooms at the hotel - I thought it would be best for Austin and Logan. One, I could watch how their foster family cared for them - feeding, schedules, bath time and bed time routines. And two, I still wanted the boys to feel safe and secure by the time they left with me.

I had very limited contact with home. Bad reception. Internet problems. I was cut off from my "support." I could understand most of the Spanish. But they couldn't quite understand me. ;-) My dialect and southern twang threw them off a lot! I resorted to writing most of my questions and communication to them.

Then, before I knew it, I was in a mini-van, leaving the hotel, leaving the foster family. And on my way to Antigua with two 13 month old boys. I was once again bawling. This time for my babies' broken hearts. For them to become my sons, meant they had to say goodbye to everything they knew.

And once again, I found myself a little overwhelmed and scared at driving off into the unknown. I referred back to the plan. I had a beautiful place picked out for us to stay in. One that I could have everything delivered to me if I couldn't make it out. (Pharmacy, groceries, everything!). I could do this. I could make it. I kept repeating those thoughts at I looked down at my babies in my arms (car seats in Guatemala? pa-shaw! No such thing!).

And I had made one important adjustment to the plan.  I was now travelling with a Nanny! She was the wife of one of the hotels' doormen. Thank goodness God provided her for me. She spoke broken English and together we somehow made it to the grocery store, the phone store, everything, everywhere. We set up shop together and then, after two days, it was time for her to return to the city.

On my new phone, I had called mom. Who was having heart failure that I was miles away, in a foreign country, becoming a mother. I called Gary. My rock. "If I didn't think you could do this, I wouldn't have let you go. You CAN do this. You will make it.  They'll be fine.  You'll protect them. And I will be there soon."

And I would do it again. In a heartbeat, NOTHING could keep me from my children one second more. I HAD to be with them. That being said, I had not taken on a small task! I worried about everything. Everything. I was alone. There was a community of other American mothers there with there children, but I couldn't get to them. I had slightly under estimated just how much would be involved in taking care of my two over active 13 month olds. I couldn't get to a computer (to get to the other moms), I couldn't leave our rented room "safely" keeping both boys secured. On our first visit to the outdoor market - the Nanny and I watch a woman frantic with panic because her baby had been stolen.

I have never relied on God so much as in those days. He was with me. every. step. And I am not speaking figuratively. He literally was THERE with me. Constantly providing me answers. Providing me with a calming spirit. When one of the boys would cry out at night, I would immediately know what do - be it change, feed, burp, walk them. Etc. And believe me, I did not give God much rest. I pretty much prayed 24/7.

Dear God, please don't let my babies fall out of the bed and onto this hard tiled floor. Dear God, please let there be enough food left to get us through the week. Dear God, please watch over my babies - I've got to take shower.

Did I mention I got sick? Whether it be the lack of rest, the foreign land, the beautiful flowers. I got sick. Thousands of needles were jabbing themselves into my throat every second. What little sleep I could manage in between all night feedings and cries, I was coughing my head off in intense pain. And dang if I could get "Mucinex" to translate into anything that would have helped me!  Now that I had a working phone, I still couldn't call home because I couldn't speak. 

Those days alone with my babies, as scarey and as exhausting as they were, were wonderful. We just had each other. We laughed, We played. We sang. We danced. We cried. All of us. We got to know each other.

Sort of sealed the deal. I am Mommy. You are my babies.

My road to motherhood was not "traditional." It was not easy. I truly believe everything happens in good time. And everything happens for a reason. I think I am exactly the right Mommy with exactly the right four boys that I am supposed to be mothering.

I get told a lot that I am such a "calm" mom. As my children swing from the chandeliers, knock over store mannequins, perform hair raising, death defying stunts every hour....I typically take it all in stride. And I think it's because, in my mind, this, this is the easy stuff. Waiting on judges, waiting on paper work, being at the mercy of others, waiting, waiting and waiting and not knowing if you'll ever get to see, hold, and raise YOUR children - THAT's the hard stuff. That's the stuff that leaves you hollowed out, wiped out, and clinging to your spouse and to God.

This weekend, I am grateful. So grateful for the role of being a Mommy. For so long, that role was incredibly elusive. So completely unattainable most of my life. That it is not something I can ever take for granted. I know just what a gift it is.

So, indeed - Happy Mothers Day to ME!

Thank you, to my Mom, for giving me the gift of life, for loving me and molding me into who I am today. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the gift of Mason and Evan with me. Thank you Austin and Logan's birthmother for giving them the precious gift of life. Thank You, Gary for standing by my side every. step. of the way on my road to Mommyhood!

Thank you God, for choosing me. For blessing me four times over with such great, abundant gifts.

To all my mommy friends out there - HAPPY MOTHER's DAY to YOU, too!


Christina said...

Ok i'm in complete tears over here. Wow is all i can say right now besides Happy Mothers day! Your 4 boys are very blessed to have such a wonderful mom, mommy, mother!

Kim & Dave said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes.

I can totally relate to the "being in GT completely by myself" & being so grateful for that time! It gave our daughter & I a chance to bond, with no real distractions.

Lovely memories your post gave me-thank-you.

Melinda said...

Wow! What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. Our adoption stories couldn't be more different but the end result is the same...we became MOTHERS!!! Happy Mother's Day!

Tracey said...

I can hardly see through my tears to write but I must to say that your story and your life is beyond admiration. I feel so amazingly blessed to be part of this adoptive infertility survival mommyhood that we are in each and every day. It is truly a privilege to know your family and feel such a part of it. Your big boys are so amazing and Austin and Logan are truly our brothers in every way. What a perfect Mother's Day post. I could never truly understand the magnitude of what mother's day really meant until doesn't get any better than this...even on the worst of days!! Love you so much!!

Steph said...

Sheez! I wasn't prepared for this!! BAWLING my eyes out!! What a wonderful post. Happy Mother's Day, Donna! And, you are so right about the hard stuff...I think it has made me a much more laid back mom, too. Really puts things in perspective.

Deb said...

You know just how to say stuff, Donna! This is such a beautiful tribute to your 4 handsome's also a beautiful tribute to YOU! You are an amazing mom and God certainly blessed each of your boys when he chose you for them! You inspire me, you make me smile and I am so thankful I can call you friend! Love you!

Taylor family: Tim, Becky, Tabitha said...

Sweet, sweet post, but you are by no means an "older" mom! Heck I've got 10 years on ya with a 3 year old at home! LOL I can totally relate to being a card carrying member of infertility treatments from hell!
Those are 4 good looking boys you have there. Happy Mother's Day!

Bobbi said...

I had to stop and come back to this a few times. It was so emotional and real. I cried, I laughed, and I felt what you wrote!! You are a wonderful mother to all of your boys. While they are a gift to you, you are certainly a God sent gift to them!!

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Suzanne said...

You should have started with...GO GET A BIG BOX OF TISSUES.

Congratulations MOM!! I am so glad you become Mom and we became friends.

Greta Jo said...

Pass the freakin tissues. I love the way you share your memories. You are so transpartent!
I too go sick in Guatemala. I am going to share the story one day on my blog. Happy Mother's Day!

Steph said...

If anyone deserves "Happy Mother's Day", it's you! Happy Mother's Day to one awesome Mama!

Lilysmom said...

Bueautiful story beautifully written. Happy happy mothers day!!