My three-year-old daughter stood below me, gazing at her mother’s swollen belly. And, while pointing, questioned, “Did you have me in your tummy, like that?” Her nose scrunched in disgust at the thought.
It was a moment in time that is as clear today as it was forty-nine years ago.
“No, honey, I didn’t carry you in my tummy.” I leaned down, looked into her soulful brown eyes, and explained, “Your daddy and I chose you. We went to a beautiful castle full of infants, and when we saw you, we said, “That’s the prettiest baby in the world! So, we wrapped you in a pink blanket and brought you home. Always remember, Amy, you are special and unlike anyone else.”
“Whew, that’s good, Mommie, ‘cuz I wouldn’t want to be in there!” Still pointing to my abdomen, which was carrying her baby sister.
I watched her as she walked away. She was happy as a lark and relieved she came from a castle instead of a fat belly. Tears mixed with relief, a touch of sorrow, and extreme thankfulness begin to pool down my cheeks.
Amy never forgot the castle
Within the next three years, she shared a room with her toddler sister, and a surprise brother was added to amuse and pester her.
When Amy was eight, I realized she had never asked another question about her birth. She knew she was adopted, but it appeared it wasn’t a big enough deal to discuss.
Actually, I would often forget myself! When you have three kids and are working full time, you can forget where they came from or why they are there! Y’all know what I mean, right?
It was open house night at her elementary school. “Mommie, everyone in 3rd grade had to draw an outline of our bodies on paper and write about ourselves. They are taped on all the hall walls. It’s funny!” Amy explained as we walked through the school doors.
She was correct; life-size paper cut-outs of 3rd graders were lining the walls everywhere. When I glanced far down the longest corridor, I noticed a large group of parents and children were gathered around one paper outline, reading the biography of a child. Amy grabbed our hands as we moved closer to the crowd.
The throngs of people were looking at our daughter’s display. Many with tears in their eyes as they read Amy’s three-page story. Every other 3rd grader had written a one-page note, but not our Amy.
“My name is Amy, and I am special. I am adopted and proud to be.” She wrote. Amy relayed the story about the castle, the pink blanket, and the family she belonged to now. Her pride in who she was, was nothing compared to the thankfulness I had for her being ours.
Through the years that followed, I would occasionally say, “Honey, if you desire to find your birth parents, I will help you. But just so you know, the person who cradled you when you were sick and the one who changed and washed all those yukky diapers is your mom!” She would snicker each time I would say the words, but she knew I was serious.
I watched my gifted honor student daughter complete college, obtain her master’s degree in counseling, volunteer for her communities, move to the west coast, return to the east coast, and help our family through divorces, illnesses, good times, and disasters.
She phoned a couple of years ago and calmly said, “Mom, I know who my birth parents are.” I was beyond elated for her.
A mother’s love measured
She discovered her birth family by happenstance through DNA results on a heritage website. Unfortunately, both of her biological parents had passed away, but she found half-siblings and cousins. She has learned about her ancestors and has met a few who remain today. Her first cousin, who resides outside New York City, has a three-year-old daughter with Amy’s soulful brown eyes and the same golden curls surrounding a recognizable inquisitive face.
Today, we are all still the same. We have an expanded family thanks to Amy, and we possess even more love than we did when we first saw the prettiest baby in the world wrapped in pink.
Isn’t it true that being a mother is not about how you become one but how much love you can give? God hugged me the day Amy was placed in my arms, and I knew it. Adoption is as stunning as childbirth, as beautiful as a castle, and nothing but love for a child is what makes it all magical.
“Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute:
You didn’t grow under my heart,
But in it.”
Fleur Conkling Heyliger, author
*The story was blessed by one incredible daughter.