Two Mommies

With my husband and oldest son in Ethiopia at the moment, it has brought a lot of emotions to the forefront for our two kids who were adopted from Ethiopia last year.  Elijah, who is 8, has been able to articulate his feelings quite well, thanks in large part to the play therapy he has been attending for the past ten months and all the preparation we did in anticipation of how this trip might dredge up things for him.  He has acted out here and there while Mark and Mackenzie have been away, but as soon as I pull him aside and ask him what is really going on, he is quick to share his true feelings and move on with the day.

Sedaya, however, is only five and has not had the benefit of play therapy or a lot of experience in sharing her feelings.  Last week, there was one day in particular when she was out of sorts.  For a few days, her behaviour had been escalating (which for this normally sweet, compliant, agreeable child is unusual) and on this day, she repeatedly out of the blue would scream at me, things like “I no like you” or “I hate you”.  These comments would be thrown in passing by me, without having had any interaction with me, so they were not in response to me saying she couldn’t do something or giving her a job to do or anything.  They were seemingly random outbursts, after which she would run up to her room and slam the door.  I knew immediately that it was not actually about me and didn’t take it personally.  Thankfully, my wonderful babysitter Mandi was over that day, so I was able to ask her to watch the other kids while I took Sedaya into a room privately to have a talk.

I waited for a time when Sedaya was calm and then sat her on my lap facing me and asked her why she was so upset.  She said it was because Gracey had taken her toy earlier.  I gently told her that I didn’t think that this was all about Gracey.  She was insistent that it was.  I suggested that perhaps she was thinking about Ethiopia or missing Daddy.  She got agitated and said that it was Gracey who made her mad.  I was about to back off, but gave it one last try.  I asked if Daddy being in Ethiopia was making her think about her other mommy.  The floodgates opened.  She buried her head into my chest and sobbed, telling me that she missed her mommy and loved her, that she had been such a nice mommy.  I held her and rocked her and said things that I hoped would be comforting and then the words “I want you to love your mommy” came out of my mouth.  At that, Sedaya stopped crying, pulled back and looked at me like I had lost my mind.  “You want me to love my mommy?”, she asked with complete disbelief in her voice.  “Of course I do.  She is your mommy too and I want you to always love her.”  At this point, she still looked very skeptical and looked like she was trying to process what I had just said.  After a few moments of silence, she finally asked, “I no love you?”

All at once, I realized what the outbursts the past few days had been about.  Sedaya didn’t understand that she was allowed to love BOTH of us, that she could love two mommies.  By loving me, she had been feeling disloyal to the memory of her Ethiopian mother and was conflicted.  In wanting to love her, she thought she would have to denounce her love for me.  Poor, sweet girl!

I was able to reassure her that God had given her two mommies who both had loved her and that she could love both of them and that it was good to love her two mommies.  She was really shocked by this revelation, but embraced it and believed it after questioning it a few times.  Then, the most miraculous thing happened.  She started to open up to me about what she remembered about her Ethiopian mommy.  She has never talked about her before and here she was, sharing with me what she remembered about what she looked like and how nice she was without any prompting on my part.  And when she said the words “she was the best mommy”, I did not feel hurt.  I knew that the word “best” was not a comparative word, but a descriptive one and I knew that it was an incredible blessing for Sedaya and for me that her first mommy had been the “best mommy”, had taken good care of her, had loved her, and had given her the ability to attach to us because she had first attached to her.  What a gift!

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7 responses to this post.

  1. That is so beautiful, Sharla. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for Elijah and Sedaya. They can’t forget (and you wouldn’t want them to) their mom they had to leave behind. Like I said, I can’t imagine what they are going through. You have such a way with them. They are blessed.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Laura on November 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes! Poor, sweet girl. Thank you for this post. My child will probably be 4 or close it when we bring him home, and I want him to remember and feel free to love his first parents.

    Reply

  3. Posted by mamalovemultipliedby4 on November 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  4. HI… just loved reading a few of your posts! Where in Canada are you? My husband and I are adoptive parents to Tendai, who is nearly two years old, from Mozambique (which is actually where we live- we are only here on furlough). Although both of Tendai’s parents and nearly her entire family has all passed away except for her great grandmother, I can appreciate this story so much! Just a few months ago, but complete “coincidence”(i dont think it was coincidence!) we were presented with photos of Tendai’s mother and father, and in the photo her mom is Pregnant with her! What a blessing it is for us.. but more so for her to have that picture of her bio parents.. to know if she looked like her mom or dad, to see the glow on her moms face while she was pregnant.. I hope Tendai allways will feel a connection to that young woman who prayed as she was dieing that a family would be found for her baby Girl! Blessings on you guys!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Sarah on November 9, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Made me cry….what a dear heart she is…just curious though as to why you call Sedayas mom her Ethiopian mother as opposed to her birth mother…or was there nothing really meant by that?

    Reply

  6. Heather – we are in Western Canada. What a precious gift to have pictures of your daughter’s birth mom!

    Sarah – To the kids, when I talk about her, I either say “your mom” because they know I’m obviously not talking about myself, or I use her first name. All of our kids know the first names of their birth moms and I usually refer to them by their first name or say “your first mom” or sometimes birth mom or for my Ethiopian kids, sometimes I say “mom in Ethiopia”. I feel more comfortable referring to the birth moms of our Canadian born kids as “birth moms”, but for our Ethiopian born kids, she raised them for seven and four years, so to me, she did more than just choose life for them and birth them, so I don’t usually say “birth mom” in reference to her. Clear as mud?!?!

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  7. I love the way you write Sharla. You’re so good with words! But you are amazing with your children too! Made me cry too… and reminded me of a time when our girls went through a similar thing (although it wasn’t quite such a defining moment, but we did talk about how it is ok to love both moms). I’m so glad for her and you to have had this incredible (probably life-changing) “wow” moment.

    Reply

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