Today is my birthday. I am 41 years old. I woke up this morning feeling a little under the weather–my allergies have gotten worse since moving to Delaware, and they sometimes leave me feeling foggy-headed and fatigued when I wake up. My eczema has also been flaring for the past week, so my skin also hurt upon waking. Not a great way to start my birthday morning.
As I dragged myself out of bed on the later side (7:30 is late in our house as we have a 4 y.o. son, ZZ, and 1 y.o. daughter, JJ), Paul was making breakfast for the kids and I put our son, ZZ, in his booster seat. Before they started to eat, Paul brought me the card and presents that he and our son picked out (I think Paul gave ZZ some choices and ZZ had the final say). I opened the card and it had pictures of cupcakes all over it–ZZ knows how much I love cupcakes. Inside, he wrote his name (which he has been practicing), and he had also written I heart U. This is the first time he had written something other than his name. I cried, of course. Inside the box were a blue paper-bead bracelet and a beautiful necklace with turquoise, yellow, green, and dark purple stones. My eyes teared up again, as my son was proud of his choice, and he decided on that necklace because he knew I liked yellow. He also knew that I loved bracelets and necklaces, so that is why he wanted to get me some in the first place. I walked over to him and gave him a big hug and kiss, Then I kissed Paul. JJ, who joined our family last month, had no idea what was going on, but after seeing me kiss her big brother and Baba, she wanted a kiss, too. So I gave her one, of course.
This has been a strange birthday. It’s 2:00, and I still feel under the weather. Over the past few days, I’ve also been realizing that even though JJ’s post-adoption transition is going as smoothly as post-adoption transitions go (in other words, it’s been hard, but not as hard as it could be), I have been carrying around a lot of stress since we brought her home–more stress than I would like to admit, actually. Much of the stress relates bringing a second adopted child into our family and getting used to everything that process entails. Plus, given that I am an introvert, getting used to having another chunk of “me-time” taken away and being on-call for two young kids with assorted needs is a challenge. I often feel tired even when my allergies aren’t acting up.
But despite this morning’s fatigue, foggy-headedness and need for some “me-time,” when I hugged and kissed my kids I could feel the love that I have for them surge through my body. My heart felt so much love even though the rest of my body (and to some extent my mind) just wanted to go back to bed and not have parenting responsibilities for the rest of the day. And when I felt my heart light up despite how the rest of my mind/body felt, I realized how happy I am to get to parent two great kids, to get to be a parent in the first place, and to know that–after our long struggle to become parents the first time around–our family is finally complete.
For the first time since we started trying to start a family back in January 2005, the stress and anxiety associated with the process is gone. No more stressing about adoption slow downs, overstimming from fertility drugs, health problems that could arise and make us ineligible for adoption, all the miscarriages, all the required adoption paperwork and home studies, the huge sums money it costs to pursue alternative approaches to parenthood, and so on. No more irrational fears about the universe not wanting us to have any (or more) children, and no more feeling that anxious sense of relief when we crossed another hurdle that would bring us closer to becoming parents, yet still worrying whether we’d trip over the next one.
When it comes to our family-building efforts, I certainly still feel some residual grief about how much pain and loss we experienced through during those years, and some of that will likely never go away. But now, I also feel a sense of peace and calm. We are done. Our family is complete. Somehow, it actually all worked out, despite years of worrying that it would not. It may have taken awhile, but we finally have ALL of our children.
So as I sat at the breakfast table feeling foggy-headed, fatigued, and still a bit stressed and overwhelmed from our post-adoption transition, I felt blessed. Completing our family last month is perhaps one of the best birthday gifts that I have ever received. I will certainly find other life and parenting issues to worry about, but family-building (finally) will not one of them.