For the past few months, it has been abundantly clear even to strangers that a little one grows inside of me, and I’ve found that the miracle of new life fascinates people and draws them out of themselves. Even if they wouldn’t explain it as such, there’s something about a pregnant mama that elicits smiles and nods and friendly conversation.
So I’ve had more personal chats with strangers than usual, lately – with the lady behind me in the grocery store line, with the mom of a new addition in my group of Awana girls, with the sales rep at work who has just taken over our territory – and, inevitably, the question is asked.
“Is this your first?”
It’s a harmless question, a friendly one, a natural one, one I’ve probably asked dozens of times myself, but the first time it was directed toward me, I froze. I stood there, mouth agape for a moment, unsure of how to answer, and the poor person who asked it probably wondered what, exactly, was wrong with me. Finally, I managed to stutter an answer.
“Ye … Yes. Yes, it is.”
It’s the answer I’ve settled on for chatting with strangers and acquaintances, people who are warmed by the sight of a happy new mom-to-be, who likely don’t want to hear the whole messy story. In my mind, I append a single, silent word to the end of their query – pregnancy – tell myself that’s really what they’re asking, anyway. Still, there’s a slight twinge of betrayal every time I give this answer, every time I don’t give a fuller explanation, as though I no longer count my first daughter as my daughter, as though, by my silence, I’m reinforcing and feeding the horrible societal misconception that adopted kids aren’t as loved and as wanted by their parents as biological kids are, that they don’t belong in the same way. (I did not realize how widespread such an idea was until this past year. I have had more than one well-meaning and loving friend who has said, upon hearing of my pregnancy, that it is so wonderful that God is blessing us with “one of our own”. But I digress.)
This response leads then, of course, to heartfelt congratulations, to smiles and chuckles and knowing nods, to comments about how everything in my life is about to change. It’s incredible, or amazing, or wonderful, they tell me. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. I’ll never want to go back.
And I nod in return, say we’re so excited, tell them I know. Though they don’t hear it, there’s an emphasis there, a weight to those two little words.
I know what it is to love a child, to want the absolute best for her, to be willing to do anything, to go through anything for her sake.
I know what it is like to hold that tiny bundle in your arms for the first time, to have her eyes meet yours and to feel that bond, that connection, that love.
I know how it feels to strap a little person into a car seat as the nurse gives tips and pointers, to watch as my husband settles her safely and securely into the back seat, to experience the simultaneous awe and terror as your realize they’re really going to let you drive away with her.
I know those first few months. The bleary-eyed lack of sleep. The groggy disbelief that it is already time for her to eat again. The constant warmth of her on my chest or in my arms because she cries if I put her down, even for a moment. The wonder as I watch her sleep, watch her yawn, watch her eat, just watch her.
I know the joy and exhilaration and yes, the fear and pain, of allowing that tiny, tiny person to have a permanent place in my heart.
I know. I know. I know.
This is what I tell them, even as they give me an indulgent half-smile, even as I realize they think that I don’t, not really: