The story of how I knew I was meant to be my son’s mother.
It's the first day of my senior year in college, 1984, and I meet a cute guy. Six weeks later, we're engaged. A year later we're married. In no way had I been a) looking for a husband, or b) ready for marriage, but I know what I know when I know it, so I grabbed him. Twenty-five years later, this intrinsic "knowing" would make me a mom in the most unexpected way.
Before I continue, let me make one thing clear: All signs had always shown that my husband, John, and I most likely could have had biological children, but that had never been our plan. We knew there were kids in the world who needed homes and had always believed that when (and if) the time was right, a child would somehow present herself. I had wanted a girl because of my history—I’m a sexual abuse and two-time rape survivor. I think subconsciously I had always wanted a daughter so I could protect her the way I had not been. John was open, but he had mostly boys in his family and was all in for raising a girl whom he could also theoretically protect the way he wished he could have protected me.
Now, we jump to 2008. That older, but still cute husband and I are about to play a rousing game of "Lotería" with a group of pre-teens in the Los Angeles County foster care system. I sit down at a picnic table. There are two kids across from me with their lotería cards. One shyly looks up and we make eye contact. His name tag reads "Jonathan," and I know. I mean....I know. Until this moment, I had never felt the depth to which a mother would die for her child, but—holy shit—I was a lioness unchained. I was ready to kill to protect this boy.
Four years before this 7th-grader knocked my world off its axis, John and I had decided to find and adopt a toddler from Eastern Europe. Most adoptive parents want a newborn, so we were searching for a little girl who was less likely to find a family because of her age. So, we prepared her room with a gifted white Pottery Barn crib, a petite chandelier, a lavender rug and a library of children’s books we had received at our book-themed adoption shower.
For more than nearly five years, John and I had waited for our "call" to travel to Ukraine. And ultimately when two lengthy, expensive and heartbreaking trips proved fruitless, we were emotionally, physically, and financially depleted, not-to-mention childless. Our social worker, who had seen us through the whole overseas drama, suggested we adopt through foster care. Oh, hell no, I said out loud. I was a TV producer who had spent a decade in daytime talk. I knew every horror story in existence, and there was no way I was going to fall in love with a child only to have her stripped from my arms like we had sensationalized on our shows many times.
As you might guess, we ditched those fears and, within the next year, became certified as foster parents who were cleared to adopt. Within a day of our paperwork clearing, we were invited to attend an outdoor, fun and surprisingly tactful event for Latino children up to age 13 whose parental rights would be terminated once they found their forever home. And it was that fateful day that I made eye contact with this 12 ½- year-old boy. At that moment, I knew.
Jonathan had a cautious yet wide smile that I had to earn. His thick, straight black hair brushed his shoulders and swayed when he moved to shyly chat with the young girl seated next to him. But his eyes—large, rich, deep brown and laced with enviable eyelashes—spoke volumes when no words were present. And during the few moments he allowed me to glance into them, he shared a tiny bit of his soul. It was clear, though, that he was—and always would be—in charge of that. But I was looking at the most magnificent child in the whole wide world, and I knew I had been put on this planet to raise him. I knew.
Once John's head stopped spinning about this sudden turn of events—the toddler girl becoming the pre-teen boy—the crystal chandelier came down, the whitewashed crib went into the garage, the lavender rug was banished, the Murphy bed was pulled down, colorful lights were strung, and our soon-to-be-son's favorite thing in the whole wide world, Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was brought to life in his new bedroom waiting for his arrival home.
FAMILY OF THREE
Two weeks after his 13th birthday and one week before Christmas 2008, Jonathan, John and I became a family of three. Not one of us will lie, we’ve been through it. Raising kids is hard, but more so is being a kid trying to trust and accept these “supposed” parents. We've had to prove ourselves to him time and time again, show our strength as husband and wife, mom and dad. We've had to be unpopular and not well-liked. We've had to bend but not break through unimaginable storms.
My boy is now 25. His hair is a bit shorter, his smile is still cautious and beautiful when earned. But now, his eyes bare more of his heart and soul to me than I ever imagined possible. This boy allowed me to become and remain his mom. I am forever grateful that when I knew he was my raison d’être, he knew he needed me, too.
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