Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
By Allison Banta
I remember when people would find out that we were adopting, there were always so many questions. One of the most frequent was this, always posed with hesitation and intended tact, but still. Still it was asked, over and over:
“How do you know you will love her? How do you know it will be ok? How do you know it will be like it would if she were your own?”
Then, six years and a lifetime ago, before these two girls of mine were people, before they were here, little humans on this beautiful planet, I would answer as briefly as possible, uncomfortable. I would say:
“I just know.”
“Well how could we not?”
“What difference does it make, how they came to us?”
And always, always I would clarify: “She will be ours. Our girl, our daughter. Just exactly the same as if she had been born to us.”
And I believed. Every word I said, I spoke as truth.
Words matter though. They carry weight. They can be heavy or light. They can tell truth or spin a lie. And sometimes I would be still and those voices would echo in my head and I would wonder…
And then she was here.
And she slept all the time, and her cheeks were magic. And then she grew, and woke up, and determined never to sleep again. And so neither did we. And then she was one. A whole year. A whole year of being her mama, of waking up in the half-light to hear her “ode to the dawn”; her crazy-silly cackling and laughing as she greeted the morning, every day, for three hours, until she finally, happily, fell back over from exhaustion.
She slept again just as the sun showed its face in the window. And then she was two, and she got a puppy, true love. And then three, and a surprise baby sister joined the madness. Another year of no sleep for parents, of living in a fog, of pizza and leftovers for dinner and joy doubled.
And then she was four and the sister was one. And they ran and laughed and cried and fought and hid and played in tandem. They held hands and terrorized the dog, they snuck snacks together and giggled their way out of many well -deserved consequences.
And soon she’ll be six. And then the little sister will be three.
And I have to confess, I was wrong.
Now that I have them both, I know.
It is not the same.
It is not the same as if she were “our own”.
She is our own.
There is no comparison, I can’t even find words for it, because the love flows the same.
Their two small faces, one brown and one white, mimic the faces of that Dad guy, learned from hours of being held, and tucked into bed, countless dinners and dances and endless games of being tossed high into the air, and always caught – laughing, merry, breathless. They are mine. Ours. Both my girls. Our girls. As much as any two girls can belong to a daddy and a mama.
And yet, she is never only ours.
One of my loves has another mama. She was the first mama, and always will be. That is her space, and I cannot fill it. It is not mine to fill. It is her own place. She belongs for all the days to my sweetheart girl. She was the first. She carried her and gave birth to her. I will not ever fill that space. I couldn’t if I tried, and I would never, ever try. I am here now, I get to be with our girl.
I am the everyday mama. I kiss away the tears and scrub the shoes and help her learn to be kind. I braid the hair and help find the missing special feather when it’s “wost”. Someday I hope I get to drive with her to visit colleges, and decorate a tiny first apartment. I hope I get to meet her dearest love when she finds them, and hear about her first real job over dinner, and rock her babies when they run wild and she needs a break. That is my space. I have the great privilege of those everyday things, and I take it lightly never. Not for either of my loves. Being their everyday mama is my highest honor.
And now. Now there are two sweetheart girls, made part of our family by different means. They are loved equally in strength, but they are not the same. So what is the real answer to, “How do you know you will love them the same?”
Now, after six years and two small people?
Now I would answer simply. I would say, well, I won’t. I couldn’t possibly.
Every single child will be their own self, and you never love two people exactly the same, do you? You just love them wholly, with all of your might. Not identically. Love bends and moves and stretches to accommodate the person that it is reaching toward.
I love my girls so differently, and yet always in equal measure. It has been a delightful discovery – realizing that I was wrong. I will never love them the same. I can’t, because they are two different girls, two separate human beings. But I can love them in equal measure, with all that I have.
Even when they glue sequins to the dog. Even then.
As many wise people have said, love multiplies. It does not divide.
Love can hold these tensions. Love holds it well and open-palmed and unafraid – this space for two girls in one heart, for two mamas in one heart.
Love does not need to be the only because it knows that there is always room.
Allison Banta is a mama of two wild and delightful girls, and wife to her favorite friend. She lives in Alabama with her family and would describe herself as a reluctant southerner, in possession of rather too many
words. She spends most of her time chasing humans and dogs, and trying to make sure people wear pants when they leave the house.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter