Learning each other’s hearts

Every baby knows the sound of their mothers heartbeat and voice. They’ve learned them from the inside out – the only familiar thing to hang onto when they’re launched into the outside world.

All of our kids know their first moms that intimately, but they don’t know Dave and I. So Sylvie does tummy time on our chests, as they all did. At first, our strange sounds and smells must feel like a foreign country to her, as we reel at revisiting tiny baby experiences we haven’t had in years and didn’t know we’d be visiting again without any warning. And then, minute by minute, hour by hour, familiarity comes.

A few weeks in and Sylvie knows our voices and heartbeats and smells. She knows this unique combination means food and comfort, and looks confused to see me without my glasses. (She likes the contrast I suspect. I doubt she can see me.) So when she fusses and I put her on my chest, she calms where a short while ago she wouldn’t have reacted that quickly.

This adoption won’t be like the others, at least not from the outset. We’ve never left the hospital without meeting family. We know about her parents and hope we have that opportunity in the future, but for now we have photos and stories to share with her when she’s older. It’s hard to bring her into our lives without being able to send photos and touch base. What originally scared me about open adoption has become one of the most beautiful aspects of it; all of our kids have two moms, and I always have someone to share my motherhood glee with. When Sylvie smiled for the first time and slept five hours straight, I was genuinely sad at not being able to share it. We hope it will change, but for now Sylvie’s parents need space to heal and grieve.

I belong to a great adoption group where people are beyond honest with their opinions and feelings. Even in our fifth adoption, we’re learning new things and facing new obstacles. So I got to ask how to handle this, and was told it’s not my choice. Tough for a control freak to hear, but the easiest way for us to support them right now is respect their right to privacy.

So we cocoon with Sylvie, remembering how to swaddle and handle tiny bottles; steering the tiny stroller with ease compared to the double tank at home loaded with toddlers. And we let her listen to our hearts, as we grow from strangers into family. And we hope that her familiar family hearts know that she’ll know them forever, and that we love being her family but hope she’ll have her whole family as she grows.

As for learning Austin, we were definitely strangers in a strange land! Our rental was full of taxidermy, though beautiful and well laid out for our needs. In our practical “new baby” washable gear, we stuck out horribly from the trendy plaids and tattoos around the neighborhood.

On our trip down, I got carded and then asked if I was the grandma (empty stroller in airport breeds bizarre conversations every time). Austin made me feel old, where Milwaukee’s hipsters make sense to me. Perhaps our next visit will convert us! The food is great and so is the coffee – critical wins in our books. But I wanted the cacophony of our house when we introduced Sylvie to her tribe, and the small arms that choked me with hugs the minute Leroy barked out our arrival. I missed our morning routine and the silly banter before school.

And we also missed amazing Remy’s fifth birthday. We sang, we talked, we loved from afar as we watched other people who love him celebrate his day. I don’t know if we can even express to him how much that broke our hearts. Future birthdays will be ridiculous, as with three March birthdays in 10 days, we shall eat cake until we hate it. But this year, our charming, silly big kid celebrated in our absence.

And while Dave was home for Tess’ 6th, I had to miss hers too waiting for permission to go home! Dave took all of the kids into Tess’ room to sing happy birthday before she even got out of bed. There were hugs and chaos and chattering and probably a few tears. My guess is Griffin wanted to know where the baby is, as he caught on that she may be around for a while. And I couldn’t be there. Missing birthdays is miserable.

But while it felt like I would be in Texas on my own forever, the days flew by. And suddenly it was our turn in the airport, and me answering a million unending questions when I got back. Beautiful Sylvie is asleep on my chest while I write this. We are so lucky to have the amazing family that we do.

Dave and I were reflecting on how much hope and energy and love and growth we packed into the last 10 years, our first decade together. We can’t wait to see what the next one will bring, and how these kids of ours will grow. But for now, we have one more sprint to get through as a family before we are officially official forever. And while it wasn’t planned for and spun us all like tops, I can’t imagine more love.

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