I’ll never forget the first time it happened. She threw her arms around me and exclaimed, “I love you, Mama! You’re the best mama I’ve ever had!!!” And every time it’s happened since then is carved on my heart as well. Every. Single. Time.
The day I met my sweet Cora…just over a year-and-a-half ago…was a hard day. She was blessed to live with a very loving foster family, and the idea of this new “foreigner” claiming to be her mama wasn’t going over too well. Because in her four year old little mind, she had a mama. And she had just left that mama behind to join me. It took her awhile before she even acknowledged me as mama…and for the first months, she preferred pretty much everyone to me. Including a construction worker we met at the barber shop while getting her brother a haircut.
I called and emailed our social worker I don’t know how many times during those early days. It was my second adoption, but with my son we had anxious attachment. I didn’t have to work at all to get him to like me…prying him off my neck was more of the problem. This struggle with attachment was an entirely new concept to me. At the guidance of my social worker (and the many, many books she lent me), my husband and I decided to “cocoon” our new daughter. She didn’t leave the house and was with one of us 24/7. We took turns going to church, we didn’t have guests over, we brought in take-out rather than going out to eat, I cut back on the number of school functions I attended for my other children. It was an exhausting few months, but it worked. Slowly but surely, Cora was able to grasp the idea that we were her new family and a deep level of trust began to be established.
We’ve never stopped talking about her foster parents. We look at pictures of them regularly, and Cora’s foster brother was actually adopted by a family here in our local community. We’ve been able to retain a little bit of her “previous” life. As she’s gotten older, though, Cora has come to the realization that she didn’t grow in her foster mama’s tummy…she had another “China mommy” before foster mama. We talk about “China mommy” too, but I don’t have a whole lot of information to share. I mostly just try to communicate positive feelings about the woman who brought her into this world and parented her for the first several months of Cora’s life. There’s so much she has yet to understand about the adoption process, but she does know that I’m mama number three. And in her opinion, the best.
I don’t know that I agree with that statement. I think about her first mama. The mama that grew her in her womb, gave her life, and held onto her for months…until the day came that Cora was just too sick to hold onto anymore. And on that day Cora was left in a warm, safe place where she would easily be found. I don’t know anything more than the stark details in a short paragraph from Cora’s adoption file, but I do know that Cora’s first mama saved her life by giving her up. That scores some pretty high points from me.
And then there was her second mama. The mama that took her in, knowing that one day she would have to say goodbye. The mama who took care of Cora for two years as if she were her own, then one day put her in her nicest clothes, fixed her hair, packed her a snack and sent her to me. The mama whose concern was not the broken heart she would endure when she said goodbye…but rather nurturing the heart of the little girl who was in her care only temporarily. I can’t think of a mother’s love more perfectly displayed.
I can’t even begin to compare myself with the mothers who loved Cora so sacrificially. I often say that adopting Cora was the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. We pursued her adoption for no other reason than simply loving her and wanting her. Our motive was not to “help” her, but to fill a void in our hearts that only she could fill. And we have been so incredibly blessed by the sweet little firecracker who finds new and creative ways to turn our world upside down on a daily basis. Yet…by a sovereign act of God’s grace I’m not only Cora’s third mama, but her forever mama. And in her opinion, the best. I’m glad she feels this way. I’m thankful that she has learned to love me so deeply. But in my opinion, that title belongs to someone else. The mamas who loved her more than they loved themselves. The mamas who put Cora’s heart before theirs…both her physical heart and the multiple complex heart defects she was born with, and her emotional heart…paving the way for her to be here with me. Happy, healthy. And rocking my world. Cora has become such a part of me that to think of losing her is unbearable. I’m not sure I love her enough to ever let her go. It would hurt me too much. But the mamas who did? They’re the best.