“Mommy, can Munchkin live with us now?”
He stood just outside the master bedroom in our suite at the hotel just miles from his sister’s house. His big brown eyes looked at me with no hint of mischief. Instead they oozed absolute sincerity. He didn’t ask as a joke or with malice; he asked because he honestly wanted his sister to live in our home.
In the few seconds that passed between his words and mine, my soul died a little more. Every time this happens in some form or fashion, I feel a heavy burden of guilt for the loss I placed upon my sons. No, I didn’t know them yet or know of them or understand reality beyond the crisis happening at the time. But the very real loss they feel rests at my feet.
I did this.
I can’t take it back. I can’t fix it. This is our reality. We will forever miss her in our daily lives. She lives there; we live here. We are family; we are separate. We love; love doesn’t fix the hurt, the hole.
I answered his question with the reality of the situation.
“No, Buddy. We’ve discussed how adoption is forever. You know that I was very sick when I was pregnant with your sister, and that I chose a mommy for her because I didn’t think I could be a good mommy at that time.”
Normally this answer suffices. Both boys know the story, can recite it by heart. But knowing the facts and understanding the weight of the truth are entirely separate entities. Just a whiff of their sister the night before was all it took to send them over the moon. All reason and logic ran out the door with my heart as they sat on the couch in our hotel suite, taking selfies and making silly faces.
Reason and logic don’t mean much when it comes to matters of the heart.
“I know all that, Mommy. But can’t she? Live with us now?”
I tell my sons “no” all the time. No, you can’t have technology on a no-technology day. No, you can’t eat the giant Pixie Stick that your teacher gave you for breakfast. No, you can’t ride the dog. No, you can’t ride your brother. No, you can’t do that on television (or a Flip camera or an iPhone). I tell them “no” when they need to hear it.
But it’s really, really hard to tell your son, the one looking at your with the most sincere look on his face you’ve ever seen this side of Hollywood, that, no, his sister can’t live with you. That no, it doesn’t matter how much we love her, she still can’t. That no, that’s just not how it works.
I break their hearts over and over again with a choice I made before I knew they would ever exist. I would take the weight of that hurt and pain and loss and feel it for a thousand lifetimes if I could remove it from them, carry it for them. But that’s not how this works either.
That’s not how any of this works.
And so I continue to answer the question with as much love and bravery as I can muster. I put aside my own feelings during our visits so I can focus on all of the children, so I can help them if they need it in the moment. It’s not until later, in the quiet of my living room on a cold, snowy Tuesday night that I can begin to sort through my own emotions, my own loss, my own grief, my own overpowering love for each of my precious children.
It’s that last one that keeps me going.
And so I do what I can. I repeat things and stories and truths and facts and hopes and dreams over and over again. I answer all the questions, every question, more questions than that, and still more questions. I attempt to create a safe space in which they can stand in the doorway of the master bedroom in our hotel suite just miles from their sister’s house and ask me, with true hope in their hearts, if their sister can live with us now.
And then I pray the attempt remains our reality as we maneuver this road together.