Adoption, Parenting

A Real Mom


Grabbing coffee together in Riga on a gorgeous, snowy day.

On Monday, we celebrated Ana’s name day.  In Latvia, name days are really big, like birthdays, and so everyone with her name celebrates on April 21.  We gave her Legos and I took her for a special mommy-daughter breakfast at IHOP, which she pronounced “eee-hop,” thus making the establishment cuter than ever.

As she drank the entire bowl of little half-and-half creamers (I know.  Don’t get me started.), she shared early childhood memories of her life and family in Latvia.  I listened with a little smile on my face and laughed with her as she recounted fun times and sweet relationships.  I paused, leaned my folded arms on the table, and looked her in the eyes.  I said, “Thank you for letting me be your new mom.  Thank you for letting me come into your life.”  She got up immediately and snuggled next to me on my side of the booth and I kissed her forehead.

My friend Dawn captured this precious memory at the airport when we first met last summer.  I don’t know if you can tell, but my insides were melting into goo.

It’s an incredible thing, this opening our arms for each other.  We chose, she chose, and we’re here together now, bringing in all the past, all the memories, and enfolding them into a new embrace.  It’s a rare gift, to get to choose family.  Most people are given one.  She didn’t have a choice in anything leading up to this, but she got to choose us, and I’ll never take that for granted.  Each story and person that she shares, I treasure it all up.  Her life is a quilt, and I’m collecting all the squares and handing them to God as He stitches.  I feel like He’s letting me help do this sweet work.

At the Braves’ game last year.  She and I know the same amount about baseball, which is zero, so we have that in common.

Last week, Ana recited a poem from memory that she wrote at a poetry night for her school.  It was about how her new dad is her hero.  It was incredible and sweet and I am so thankful for the bond that those two are forming.

And as usual, I also had to face my ugly stuff.  I was jealous.  She listed all the things he does for her and why he’s her hero, and as happy as I was for him, I was breaking inside under the weight of my “not fairs.”  How much do I do for her every minute of the day?

I marinated in my feelings for a few minutes, then pinpointed the fear behind them all.  I am one of a series of women who have cared for her, who have loved her.  I’m the latest.  I am a mom, not the mom.  Fear.  Pain.

And on Monday at IHOP, those fears and all that pain ebbed away like mucky sea foam on a beach.  She talked about her first mom as her “real” mom, but it didn’t bother me.  I saw clearly the love she had for her first mom, but also the love that we share.  It’ll never replace that first love, and it shouldn’t replace it, but it’s a beautiful new love, a different love, and I’m grateful for the gift of her trusting me with this next part of her life.

I’m a real mom, too, and her heart is big enough for us both.

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  • Chris

    I just wanted to say thank you for all of your posts–I have been reading your site for quite awhile and have referred it to so many friends, but I’ve never commented. So today if you’re wondering if anyone is reading or paying attention, the answer is YES! :-) I love reading your heart as you share it here and it is a great encouragement. Thank you!

    • Melanie Dale

      Thank you, Chris, so much. Your encouraging words and reading and referrals mean so much to me. Thanks for taking the time to let me know!

  • Off The Cuff Cooking

    It must be so hard for a child that age who has SO many memories of her life already and the people that came in and out of it in earlier years, to suddenly adjust to new culture, new language, new house, new rules, new people… I know, because aside from the adoption portion, I was 10 when we came to the US, and all the memories I carried with me from my first ten years in Scandinavia are so deeply ingrained in me, as I’m sure they are for Ana. I suppose there’s a bittersweetness to it also, because given the situation that led to her adoption, she must also have a lot of very sad and painful memories as well. You are ALL being so brave, and as you delve into this first year together, and you experience her sense of separation from Latvia, and the times she spent there, you’ll just forge a tighter bond, through the ups and downs. God bless you!

    • Melanie Dale

      Wow, what stories you must have from growing up in Scandinavia and moving to America when you did! I’m amazed at how quickly Ana is adjusting. I can’t imagine all the changes, but she’s handling everything in stride. I’m really proud of her, proud to know her.

      • Off The Cuff Cooking

        Definitely have a lot of stories! I’m glad that I can still be part of my heritage and culture through family traditions and I’m sure you’ll do your best to maintain her background, and she’s also old enough to hang on to her native language (given some opportunities to speak it and write it etc.) I’m still totally fluent in Swedish 30 years on in America, and it makes me glad that I can travel back and communicate with my relatives or random strangers — although Swedes get REALLY uncomfortable if you start talking to them and they don’t know you. It’s actually quite hilarious because I’m so “Amerkun” now that I’ll just strike up conversations with some Swede at a store, in Stockholm and they look at you like you’re from Mars. :) Anyway, I’m so happy for Ana to have such a great new family! And I’m so happy for you to have such a great new daughter.

        • Melanie Dale

          Thanks! That’s hilarious. I’m picturing this Swede who speaks fluent Swedish freaking out other Swedes with her American mannerisms and social norms. So fun.

  • SDP

    Love that you share these thoughts and moments with us. You never cease to make me laugh- and like today- cry. Grateful that A is taking to both of you so well- and that she is ready to embrace the crazy extended family she now has in spades.

    • Melanie Dale

      Her exuberance and energy may be matched only by her crazy aunt!

  • Ashlee

    Love this so much, Mel. Thank you for sharing your heart and sharing this story.





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