Actually, dear stranger, he IS mine

It was a typical, blistering summer day. We were in the neighborhood pool—splashing, floating, and laughing.

My youngest son wouldn’t leave my arms. He was sleepy and clingy—leading me to resort to exaggerated methods of making him smile. I bounced in the water, blew on his belly, and kissed his soft, wet cheeks. There we were, in our own little world… his arms wrapped around my neck and a smile from ear to ear.

That’s when she swam by—a stranger, previously busy playing with her own child. She smiled at my son before opening her mouth and promptly gutting me with the words that came out:

“Isn’t it so much fun when they’re not yours?”

I froze.

Typically quick to the draw, it’s not often I’m left speechless. But the comment hurt me on such a deep level that I was instantly stunned. Immobilized.

At the time, I just swam away.

But during the days that followed, I perpetually relived the moment—replaying it over and over again. Was it just because my son doesn’t look like me?

Or, had I not kissed him enough? Had I not referred to my husband as “Daddy” loudly enough? 

In hindsight, I am sure the woman didn’t intend to hurt me. But, I was still left with crippling insecurity.

Because, she doesn’t know how often I wonder if I’m a good enough mother.

She doesn’t know I’ve spent a year fearing my adopted son won’t value me as his mom…

That I am constantly aware of the stares of strangers…

That I find myself purposely overcompensating with affection for my youngest son, ensuring I’m consantly kissing him, loving on him, adoring him…

She doesn’t know how persistently I’ve tried to teach him to say “mama”…

Or how much my heart aches that he still doesn’t say it…

She doesn’t know I’m insecure when I go out in public, hyper aware of the difference in our skin tones…

That I fear he’ll leave me one day in search of something I couldn’t provide.

But, she also doesn’t know how hard I fought for my son.

She doesn’t know I spent weeks restraining his newborn body as it seized under the power of withdrawals…

That I cried with him as he screamed in pain…

That I suffered from post-partum depression during my maternity leave, triggering PTSD and making me feel as though I birthed him myself.

She doesn’t know I’ve loved him from the second I met him. The moment those nurses wheeled his bassinet out from behind their desk.

She doesn’t know I’d give anything for his happiness.

Yesterday, we celebrated one year since we brought my son home.

When I look back on that time, I see a scared, weak mother. I see a woman whose courage and strength will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming year. A woman who wouldn’t believe how her life was about to change.

A woman who wouldn’t dare let all of her hard work—her love, devotion, and tears—be forgotten because of one stranger’s innocent comment. Or for that matter, the pointed, not-so-innocent comments of others.

At the end of the day—despite the insecurity and fear—it’s my son who reminds me. With one dimpled smile, he says:

I am yours.

If you’re a foster mom, adoptive mom, step mom… please remember that it doesn’t make you less-than. You’re not a babysitter. You’re a mom.

Genetics don’t mean everything. Those kids ARE yours. And when others don’t see that, please know that I do.

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