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Adoption Blog: The Yin and the Yang

Tummy Mommy
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I am puttering around the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, clearing off the daily paraphernalia that gathers like falling leaves on the kitchen table. Hanna comes to me, she stands belly high, and tilts her face up to see mine. “Mommy, will you drive me to China?”

Hands full of papers, lunch boxes, inside-out socks, I stop. Realize this is one of those questions. I squat down to her (after seven years of karate I can hold this position nearly indefinitely). “Why do you want to go to China?”

“So I can give my mommy this picture.” (My squat wavers, but I do not fall.) Her mommy? Hanna and I have read books about birthmothers, but this is the first Hanna has seemed to notice she has one.

The pen is mightier than the sword; words can be stronger than knives. All my mothering of the last four years is sliced through, I try not to think about it, about me, but for an instant I do.

Quickly, I drop my things, slide my hands down both her arms, and ask if I may see her picture.

Hanna is at this stage where she draws pictures of everything, makes pictures for everyone in her life: me and daddy, her ballet teacher, Montessori teacher, her best friend and now her “mother.”

The picture shows a mother with a triangle-shaped dress, green crayon heart and brown boobies. An over-sized green bow sits atop the woman’s black hair. Around the woman Hanna has drawn food. She eats brown beans and yellow summer squash. The mommy has a baby in her tummy.

I gush over each detail of the picture, the picture headlined: I LOVE YOU MOMMY.

“Do you love her?” I ask looking Hanna right in her deep chocolate-brown eyes.

“Yes,” Hanna nods, “because she’s my mommy.”

“She is,” I say smiling, brushing the top of her head. Who am I wads up in my throat.

The squat is getting hard to hold. Standing, considering what I could say, I answer just the one question Hanna posed. Sometimes I offer facts without explanation, but try not to lie to Hanna.

“China is a long drive. You have to cross an ocean. We would need to take a plane.” She frowns. “I do not know if we can find your mommy, but when you are ready, I’ll take you to China.”

Hanna, satisfied, smiles and traipses off with her picture.

Later this evening, Hanna and I are lying side by side on the big bed, a snow globe on a pillow between us. She has asked me to get this globe down for her. She winds it, shakes it, watches snowflakes fall on a glass angel inside. This was a gift given to me, before Hanna came home from China, when we thought she was sick. Hanna knows the globe is special in this way.

We lie, watching the snow drift down. The sky grows dark outside the bedroom window.

“Did she leave me by that red wall?” Hanna asks quietly. “Did she call you to come get me?”

“She didn’t, but someone else did.”

Hanna has not asked questions like this before. She is beginning to put the facts she has always known into a semblance of meaning. Why tonight, I have no clue.

I tread softly as snow. Wait for her to speak. The music winds down note by note.

“Did they call you about this?” She points to the bump on her brow. “And say don’t come, don’t come?”

I didn’t realize Hanna knew this part of her story. As we were making our last preparation to go to China, we were informed by Chinese officials that Hanna had a tumor above her right brow. We were given little more information other than it was the size of a bean and she could have surgery when she was older. It was a leap-of-faith moment for us. Clearly, we leapt.

“Yes, they called us, but they did not say it that way. And we were coming no matter what.”

We shake the globe again, watch the falling sparkly flakes.

Hanna sighs. “She’s my tummy mommy,” she says to the air, her voice heavy with longing for a woman she has not seen since the day she was born.

“Yeah,” I answer, wishing I could take Hanna’s longing away, while knowing she needs it.

We lie this way for a bit. She tells me she likes the snow.

“Hanna, who am I?”

“Oh, you’re my mommy mommy,” she giggles, waves her arm as if I should know this, silly.

It breaks my heart and fills it.

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Stacy Clark

Stacy Clark


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