Six years ago today, my husband and I stood in front of a judge in northern Russia and became a family of three. It's a day we celebrate every year, just as we do his birthday. It might even be a bit more special since we weren't there at the time of his birth. He was born to us six months later.
Recently, I read a blog that questioned the moment a woman knows she's a mother. Is it when a newborn is placed in your arms? Is it earlier? What was the signal that switched off self-centered narcissist and switched on caring, loving, nurturer? That question is clearly meant for myself. For the blogger, it was the first feeling of a flutter deep within her body.
That got me thinking, wondering how I can answer that question. I'm a mother, but my babies were adopted. I didn't have nine months of a life growing inside me. My body didn't change into a physical reminder that, like it or not, I was about to become a mother. It was completely mental for me.
Still no flutter. When did I first feel like a mother? It certainly wasn't when the judge declared me one, the baby wasn't even in the building, least of all, my arms.
About a month before that court day, my husband and I were standing in a sunny nursery filled with changing tables and square, wooden playpens large enough for several babies. This was our first introduction to a Russian orphanage. We were surprised and pleased that it was so cheery. The ladies taking care of the babies, these caregivers, were genuinely invested in their well-being. They were loving. Did they feel like surrogate mothers to these little ones that didn't have mothers or was it just a job? Did they realize their actions would lay the foundation of who these children would be? Not my actions, not yet.
How is one supposed to feel the second they're given a six month old they've never seen before? Immediate love? Is it instantaneous for those that have given birth? Is it easier to love when the baby's only moments have been spent with you? When his first six months are not unknown? Who is this baby and can I love him? A lot of questions.
The caregiver dressed him, picked him up, turned his face to us and handed him over. As I reached for my son for the very first time, that little face, that baldy-bean, gave me the most beautiful, toothless grin ever given to anyone on the planet in the history of mankind. I was sure about that and sure of a flutter deep inside. Here was my baby. It took a journey of more than a year and many thousands of miles to reach him, but he was my baby just the same as any biological mother's. Here he was to love, a life to care for, nurture and share. I was a mother in that moment. Six years ago. The best day ever.
PS. In all honesty, the anniversary of that court date was November 10th, but with my kids off from school and my husband home recuperating from knee surgery, this post is a little late. The sentiment remains the same.