I distinctly remember one of the questions that someone I once considered a close friend asked me when I told her that my husband and I decided to grow our family by adopting.
“Once you get home, will you try to have ‘your own’ children so that you will really know what loving a child is like?”
(If you are curious, that person and I are casual acquaintances now…)
While immediately infuriating me, I’ll admit that in the months to follow, that question rolled around in the deep recesses of my mind. And it brought along its nasty friends…
*What if we get our long-awaited child home and I don’t really love her? Will I even know if what I feel isn’t “real?” Is it possible that I’ll merely feel like I’m babysitting for the rest of my life? Am I in denial in thinking that the love I have for my children will be “as strong” as that of my friends’ for their birth children?*
Then February 5, 2007 came. Our last name was called by our guide. I somehow managed to rise to my feet and make my way across the crowded room in the civil affairs office. And the intensity of emotion in the moment that I reached out for my baby girl, my first child, caught me by surprise.
What developed over the next days, weeks and months seemed to be real love to me. And I was relieved.
But still, every now and then, a thoughtless comment or prying question would bring that nagging doubt back to mind. And the questions festered.
*Why do some women look at me with “that pitiful look” in their eye? Do I really love her? Do I know the difference? Are those who say that what I feel isn’t really the love that a mother feels right?*
Most of the time I listened to my heart that said, “Yes indeed, this is love.” So much so that we decided to grow our family again in 2008, again in 2010, and then again in 2011.
But those nagging questions still wanted to have some measure for evaluation. Some test to pass to assure myself that the love I felt for my children went beyond conscious action. That it was at a deeper, more instinctual level.
I got my chance last May.
It was a pool party playgroup day. The TA for our fourth child had just arrived. As we knew life was getting ready to change once again, my husband and I had a date night planned for that night. It was a bit too cool for my taste to be in the pool that day and besides, I had already washed and carefully styled my hair for the evening. I chose a spot on the edge of the pool deck in the shade where I could closely watch my three splashing in the shallow end.
After giving several warnings of where the pool bottom began to slope toward the deep end, I began answering a few questions about our travel plans with several of the other moms. (You know, that kind of conversation where you don’t make eye contact because you are watching your children like a hawk).
I was just confirming to one of the astonished other moms that yes indeed, we had actually bought plane tickets for the three already at home to accompany us on our trip when I had to interrupt myself to caution my youngest daughter that she was dangerously close to bouncing herself down the slope into the deep end.
While I was explaining that we were spending some time at our son’s foster home before we flew to province, I realized that she had crossed the line. She went under for a split second and managed to pop herself back to the surface, but her face clearly showed the pure terror she felt.
So I reacted. My friends said it was one completely fluid motion, how I stood and within one stride covered the distance from the edge of the wooden deck to the edge of the pool. How I didn’t hesitate for one millisecond and continued that momentum into a dive to the center to get to my girl.
When she and I were safely out of the pool and on the side, when she was nestling her head into my chest and crying quietly and I knew she was completely safe, only then did I stop to consider that my van keys (remote and all) AND my cell phone were in my shorts pocket when I went into action.
And in that moment I realized…I had my test. My baby girl needed me. And in that split second, I responded. With no hesitation. I’m her mommy. She’s my child. It came at in instinctual level.
No DNA test required.