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Adoption Blog: Be Bold or Go Home

When Mommy Gets the Flu
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All my children joined our family at an “older” age: Lemlem was almost 3, Gobez nearly 4, and Didi almost 6. As a result, I never had to tell the kids their respective adoption stories—they told me.

While they’re still too young to grasp all the nuances involved with adoption, each of them can articulate the sad circumstances that led to his or her placement in a new family. In some ways this has made my job as an adoptive parent easier, for my children already possess answers to certain painful questions. At other times, the children’s conscious memories of loss make us all feel more vulnerable.

One Sunday morning last spring, the kids and I were home alone when a sharp, blinding pain in my abdomen suddenly crumpled me to the floor. I managed to pull myself back up and tried to call John, but he was at church with his cell switched off. As the pain spread to my chest, I called 911. After the firefighters arrived, Lemlem and Gobez nervously watched the crew check me over, while Didi fled the room and hid under the covers of her bed.

The rest of day passed in the ER. A ruptured ovarian cyst had caused the terrible abdominal pain. The chest pain turned out to be just a panic attack. All in all, it was good news, but the tangible fall out with the children lingered. For more than a week, the kids seemed jittery, excitable and unable to listen. Old traumas had been pricked.

Didi seemed especially rattled. “You scared me!” she said more than once. “I thought your tummy would blow up and you would die!”

With plenty of reassurance and the sharing of lots of age-appropriate medical facts, life eventually settled down again.

Then, last week we had another small scare. John had to hop a plane the day after Halloween for a business trip, leaving me with three cranky kids who were high on candy. I sensed a cold coming on, and I confess a few tears welled up as my husband drove away.

The next morning, I felt like dirt stuck to the bottom of an old shoe. I was coughing, sneezing, aching and burning with fever. After dropping the kids at school, I lined up a babysitter for the afternoon so that I could see the doctor. The tears rolled again outside her office as I called my husband with the news: I had swine flu.

Like most parents, John and I have talked to our kids about H1N1 and the need to wash hands frequently, eat good food, and get enough rest to stay healthy. The school has also been harping on flu prevention, since there’s a shortage of vaccine in our area. All that awareness morphed into ghoulish anxiety when the kids learned I’d caught the virus. I saw the familiar agitation and nervousness starting to build immediately. That night, they clung to the babysitter’s legs and begged her not to go. I can’t describe how sick and sad I felt at that moment.

John heroically cut his trip short, and I spent days lying around in a haze of feverish fatigue. Finally, one evening I emerged from my sickbed to find John engrossed in the World Series. The kids were in the kitchen happily devouring a giant bag of chips.

“What are you guys doing eating all that junk?” I bellowed, startling myself as much as them. Then I smiled. “Hey, Mommy must be better if she can yell.”

“Hurray!” Lemlem cheered. “Mommy’s yelling again!!”

The kids all jumped up from the table and rushed to grab me in sweet group hug. We all hugged and kissed and savored the return of our family’s precarious balance.

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Sharon Van Epps

Sharon Van Epps


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
Ethiopia, India

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