From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul 2

The Question

Joyfully, our adoption process was nearing the finale! In the beginning, I had supplied, verified and simplified every question and every fill-in-the-blank. But even then, amidst the facts and figures, one lone and very specific uncertainty tugged at my heart. I thought about it when we attended our first welcoming seminar. I tried not to be obvious as I searched the faces of the other prospective parents—were they feeling the same uncertainty?

Finally, we received the long-awaited “call,” and the next day a tiny baby was placed into my arms. That one nagging little fear was overshadowed by the sheer joy of holding my newborn son and naming him Eric. I considered it once again in the courtroom the day the paperwork became final. He was six months old, able to coo and giggle, oblivious to legalities or titles. Yet all the while I wondered. Where and when and how would he ask me the inevitable question: Are you my real mother?

I knew there were books and pamphlets explaining all the “right” answers to be given at all the “appropriate” age levels. I told myself I would read the scholarly information and wait my turn to recite the correct reply.

So I read and reread, but the security never came with the knowledge. Now I knew what to say, but would I say it right, say it so he could understand? What if the question came on the freeway while the two of us maneuvered in and out of traffic? Would I pull the car to the side? Would I ask that he wait till we got home and we’d talk? After all, a question so important could hardly be addressed between Thirty-second and Thirty-fourth Street.

Maybe he would ask me in the playroom of a golden-arched restaurant or as we exited his favorite movie. I would be prepared, I told myself. I would briefly, very briefly touch on conception and then even more briefly on pregnancy and then deal with the who and why of what came after that.

Would there ever be words that could explain it all? How could I make him understand that he grew in one woman’s womb and another woman’s heart? How could he know the anguish his birth mother felt on placement day as she held him one last time or the breathless joy I felt the second he was placed in the warmth of my arms?

One night, as I was preparing dinner, tired from the day’s lack of accomplishment and frustrated by the lateness of the hour, a small-framed three-year-old boy came and stood beside me as I stirred the mashed potatoes.

“Mommy,” he said. “I have a question for you.”

“Uh-hum,” I mumbled out of habit.

“Mommy,” he tugged at my shirt. “Mommy, I said I have a question.”

“Okay, okay.” I stopped and turned to see two bright eyes staring up at me. I knew something was wrong. He blinked, trying to hold back the tears, but they fell nevertheless. I bent down to him, forgetting the potatoes and the day. What mattered more than anything was the little boy before me. I held his chin in the cup of my hand and asked him softly. “What’s wrong? What is so important to ask me that it would make you cry?”

No sooner had the last word left my lips than I knew. We were here. The moment had arrived, and I was as unprepared as the minute it had first crossed my thoughts.

“Mommy, Sarah says you aren’t my real mommy. I told her she was wrong. She was wrong, right, Mommy?”

All the days of guessing and planning and memorizing, and I was speechless. I pulled him closer to me and wrapped my arms tightly around his little body. My son. My precious son. I wiped away the tears continuing to fall against his cheek. Then with a calmness I’d never before possessed, I held out my hand.

“Sweetheart, do you see Mommy’s hand?”

“Uh huh,” he replied as he bobbed his head up and down.

“Well,” I slowly said, “go ahead and touch it. Touch my hand.” His tiny fingers stroked across my palm.

“Do I feel real to you?” I asked.

“You do!” he said as a smile broke across his face. He ran his fingers along my arms and then against my face and through my hair.

“Then I am your real mother, and my love for you is real. But there is another lady who loves you and is very real, too. She loved you so much she gave you life and let you grow inside her until it was time for you to be born and join Mommy and Daddy. She’s called your birth mother, and one day we’ll get to meet her.

“How does that sound?” I asked. I wasn’t sure who the question was for, him or me.

He grabbed my neck and began to cover my cheek with kisses. I pulled him closer, the tears rolling down my cheeks. And then before I was ready to let go, he pulled away and off he ran to the living room, ready to play once more.

It had happened. I had seen tears that needed to be wiped away, and they had left with the stroke of my hand. I had seen a little boy who needed to be hugged, and I had given him the warmest, softest hug I could give. The question had been asked. And I had answered.

I knew, in another time and another place, there would be other, harder questions but for now, I knew . . . I had done well.

Mary Chavoustie

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