The Gifts of a Child
Motherhood was not what I expected
“Tell me about when I was born.”
I start with once upon a time, the phone rang super loud in the middle of the night and woke us from a deep sleep, and we got the news that you were born. We were so excited.
Then, I tell my son what it was like meeting him for the first time and describe his strawberry blonde thatch of hair. I tell him it was love at first sight — even though it took 24 hours to fall totally in love — and how I couldn’t have babies, so we adopted him. And I tell him how much we love him and how happy his sister is to have a baby brother.
“Why couldn’t you have babies?” I wasn’t prepared for this question from my three-year-old.
“My tummy was broken,” was all I could think of.
“Oh,” he says after a few seconds, “I must have been a gift.”
“Yes, you were a gift.”
I kiss him good night and turn off his light. I close the door softly behind me. Flopping down on the couch, exhausted from the day’s activities, I pour myself a glass of wine to smooth the edges of my day. I am forty, exhausted with two small children 18 months apart in age.
I am thinking about the adoption as I pour myself yet another glass of wine and wonder what I will tell him when he is older, and a broken tummy no longer explains it.
My son’s birth mother lived in a shelter on the city's outskirts in this far away country. I arrived with the lawyer, who was facilitating the process, in her squalid space.
Laundry hanging over the sink, a kerosene heater in the corner struggling to take the cold and dampness out of the air. A tiny bed in the corner, low to the floor. She handed me her infant, who she could not take care of, so perfect compared to the bleak surroundings. We began the legal process that took four months to wind its way through the court system. My husband held down the fort back home with our one-year-old.
Fast forward more than two decades, and my son’s words still resonate. Motherhood has taught me many lessons, but nothing prepared me for the heartbreak it would teach me. It is heartbreaking to see my son struggle through his life with autism and be saddled with anxiety and depression, first as a child, then as a teenager, and now as an adult — a crushing and unrelenting illness.
Parents with children (and anyone with a loved one) who struggles with challenges know the concern, worry, and stress, not to mention the guilt and self-blame we feel. Was there something we should have done differently? No amount of love or healthy meal could help or solve his situation, despite all the resources available.
My son taught me to see differently, listen differently, hear more, and be more empathetic about the struggle of others. I learned how fierce a mother’s love was and that mothers walk over hot coals sometimes daily. Motherhood taught me how resourceful I could be advocating for and supporting my son.
I learned I couldn’t control everything in my life and that you have to let go and let your children find a path. My husband, Jonathan, showed me how to go with the flow.
Along the way, I learned more about myself than I ever dreamed possible. And on this journey, I met many remarkable people who are now friends. And these are the many profound gifts of this child.
The next instalment of LETTERS FROM SECOND PENINSULA is up. If you are not yet following the weekly posts of this writer, perhaps you should. ❤️ Here is a link to it.
I would love to hear your stories. Thanks for being here.