Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rambling Post Containing an Old Poem and a Lot of Love

While I was digging through my old writing looking for the sea glass piece, I found a poem that I wrote a few years back about Mackenzie, the older of my two daughters:

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." -- Elizabeth Stone

Last night we cuddled, watching TV,
through the mouth of a tent pitched in our living room,
her adoration wrapped around me like a down sleeping bag.
She drank in my love, filling up.
Tonight she said, “oh hi,” and turned back
to her art project.
I celebrate both.
Lately, she’s taken to carrying around my heart
in the pocket of her winter coat,
with the collection of bouncy balls
that she buys for a quarter
from the machine at the Chinese restaurant.
And that’s okay.
In fact, it is precisely where my heart wants to be.

Mackenzie still has that collection of bouncy balls. (When Tornado Tyler was at our house recently he dumped them all out on the living room floor and then jumped onto them. Feet up; Tyler down. No injuries, thankfully.) She doesn't carry them around in her pocket anymore, but you know my heart is still there.

People often ask me how Mackenzie adjusted to having Ashley come into her life. The answer is "not well at, at least initially." Mackenzie wanted a sister. She really, really wanted a sister. Until that sister moved into our house. And then she really, really did not want a sister. The addition of a sibling to a family can be challenging even when the child joins in the more usual way as a infant, but when that sibling is an older child with a trauma history, the situation is likely to be even more problematic. Mackenzie had been the only child, wrapped in that cocoon of my love, and suddenly there was someone else around whom she perceived as competition.

I am happy to report that these days Mackenzie and Ashley get along better than the average siblings. The bond between them is actually very heartwarming to observe. And my heart ... well, they both walk around with it now. I know that metaphor doesn't quite make sense, but try not to get too caught up in the physics of it. Love is not a pie. When you have two children, they both get your whole heart. You don't take half of your heart from the one child and give it to the other.

It doesn't matter if a child comes to you by birth or adoption; the effect is the same. It's a love that cracks you wide open, leaving you forever raw and vulnerable.

But in adoption, there's another layer to things. The birth parent's heart not only goes walking around outside of her body, it goes walking around outside of her life. I urge adoptive parents to keep this in mind. As much as you love your child (and believe me, I know how much you love your child), always remember there is someone else who loves them too, with an equal amount of rawness and intensity, plus an additional element of grief. Please hold them always with care in your heart.


  1. Great post and great way to look at it.

  2. Finding ChristopherOctober 31, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    Thank you for acknowledging the grief that we mothers of the adopted live with. I wish that all adoptive parents could have your compassion and understanding towards us!

  3. I <3 this post. The last paragraph brought tears to my eyes (as a birthmother I feel that grief every day). I had to steal it and post it on my Facebook wall (with credit to you and a link back to this post, of course). I hope that's okay.

  4. Thanks, everyone! Monika, no problem at all -- I'm delighted you quoted me on facebook.

  5. Happy Adoption Awareness Month! As a fellow adoption advocate we thought you would enjoy taking part in Open Portrait, a blog that is painting a portrait of open adoption through photos, videos, and quotes. We would love you to participate and help spread the word!

  6. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing, as always :)


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