I had the privilege of reading in Spokane’s sixth Listen To Your Mother show on Mother’s Day. It’s been a highlight of the last ten years of my life to produce the show with Elise Raimi, to meet and fall in love with our unbelievable cast each year, to know and be a part of this national movement started by Ann Imig seven years ago. My piece is below, but it was a small, small part of the whole.
By the numbers
How many children do you have?
It’s such a simple question. I ask it often. Odd, since I know quite well how complicated the answer can be.
Or I can make it simple. Five. We adopted our fifth child in November – Four boys and a girl.
Saige, who taught me to mother a daughter and to mother a child with another mother, a first mother.
Garrett, who taught me what my mother meant when she said, “I hope you have a child just like you.” There is a fine line, my friends, between a blessing and a curse.
Quinn, who taught me what it means to love a boy – an all-American, knight in shining armor. And who taught me to eat my words because, god help me, I am a hockey mom.
Nate, who taught me what four under four really means and also that if you invite a treasured friend into the delivery room you will poop on the delivery table, even if that has never, ever happened to you before.
I learned how much I need connection. My friends. How lucky I am. The lessons history knows … no one can do this alone. A quilting group, a canning party, a PTG, a cooperative preschool, a coffee morning, a wine night, a book club. These are just different ways of saying, I need you. Of showing up and falling in love so we can show up when the shit hits the fan – and it will.
That’s the simple answer.
But do I count the child who made me a mother? Who lay quietly inside me without a heartbeat for six weeks? Who taught me after years of claiming I wanted nothing to do with children what it means to WANT a child.
Do I count Nate’s lost twin? Who taught me how terribly joy and pain can be wrought together?
Or the little love, longed for, sobbed for, who I endured surgeries for, who taught me how random the universe really is. How beautifully, perfectly cruel in its relentless disdain for our paltry attempts at control. Who taught me fatal chromosomal abnormality and incompatible with life outside the womb. What it feels like to wonder if I would ever take another breath that didn’t hurt and what if means to have friends who are still there when your heart starts to beat again.
Do I count our transient children? Our foster babies?
The child who taught me my limits, who raged and lashed out and nearly broke my family and my marriage.
Baby J, who taught me how much love exists in families labeled “broken” and discarded by the system.
Brothers Lala and Baby M.
Baby Mateo. Baby Elvina.
Baby Azariah, who confirmed my pathological fear of choking.
And then Braiden. The paragraph that closed our child bearing chapter. Who taught me what resilience looks like in his ability to open his heart to a fourth mother. And who reminds me daily that I am forever and finally cured of toddlers.
We adopted him on National Adoption Day surrounded by the friends who have become family.
He’s our fifth child. Or our ninth. Or our sixteenth.
Sixteen children have taught me the ultimate lesson – there is always something – some high, some low, some friend to meet, some task to do, some person to help, some sorrow to know, some joy to share, some surprise, some hand to hold – always something left to learn.