Sometimes moments are so big that you know you have to tuck it away in your heart and tell yourself, “I’ll process that later.”
I am still unpacking the moments I spent with my son’s birth mom. It feels sacred and I hesitate to even share it. But I don’t want her to go unnoticed; I don’t want her to be a mere shadow hiding in the story that has loss holding hands with gain, fingers intertwined.
The day came, and we walked to the orphanage in the morning around nine in the morning. She had just arrived and was waiting for us. I quickly calculated in my head what time she must’ve gotten up to get there so early since it was a five hour trip in a tap tap, and I knew it would have cost her a lot of money to make the journey.
As we entered the gates, my hands were shaking and my stomach was in knots. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea how this was going to go.
Three women sat in front of the blue tarp that hung from the outdoor school. I figured she was one of them, but I didn’t know which one. I looked at each of their faces and knew, since I had been wondering where my son got his eyebrows from. Their eyes were the same, beautiful and kind.
She saw Djou and said, “Hello, Djoulensky!” I gave him to her and she sat him on her lap. She spoke with him in creole. I have no idea what was said, I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around what was happening.
I introduced myself and gave her a super awkward hug. Soon someone came to translate for us so we could talk to one another. I had my list of questions ready, not for my sake, but for my son’s sake. I wanted to gather as much information as I could so that as he grew, and his questions came, I could answer them with certainty.
The conversation was deeply personal and it ripped my heart in ways I didn’t know it could rip.
She loved her son, and she desperately wanted me to know that. But she didn’t have to tell me, I knew it by how she looked at him. I knew it by the pain in her eyes as he sat on her lap. I knew it by the tone of her voice as she chatted with him.
I sat there and took in her face, her voice, her mannerisms, her smile. My heart synced up with hers and I felt a bond forge with this woman I had just met. A bond that would exist until the day I died, because I held her loss in my arms.
I wanted to tell her over and over that I would love this boy who we both call “son” with all my heart. I wanted her to know how I wish she wouldn’t have had to make that choice, that I was sorry and I wish her life could’ve been different. I had so many words I wanted to speak…but all I could do was swallow the giant painful knot in my throat, that threatened to lurch out of my mouth and betray me with tears that wouldn’t stop once they began.
We took a lot of pictures; I wanted to fix her in my memory. I wanted my son to know the sacrifice his mother made for him. As she her other son got into the back of the truck to go back home, I couldn’t help but wonder how she was feeling. She was driving away from her son that now belonged to another mommy, not sure if or when she would see him again.
The magnitude of the time I had just spent with her broke through the levies, and the sobs began. Haitians don’t like to show emotion and I knew it would make those around me uncomfortable, so Lane told me to go find a place to gather myself!
I went into the kids’ bathroom in the orphanage and braced myself on the side of the sink and allowed myself to feel the pain, giving into breath-heaving sobs.
I knew I’d never be the same again. Not after that. How could I be?
My gain is her loss.
My delight is her sorrow.
My joy is her pain.
So my job as his second mommy becomes that much bigger. I have a responsibility to her, I have a promise to keep. I will cherish those precious, tender moments with her and I will tuck that bond we share deep into my heart. She will not be forgotten, she will not remain in the shadows. She will be praised, she will be remembered, she will be loved. She will always be his first mommy.