He is hers, and he is mine. He is ours. Her incredible loss was my incredible gift. And while I cannot imagine my world without him, poverty robbed her of life with him. There is not a single day that goes by that I do not realize this. It is a gut check every single morning. It makes for very complicated feelings in my heart. What if the roles were reversed? What if it was I who was there, struggling with starvation and preventable diseases, struggling with poverty and injustice squelching out my dreams? What if she was the one gifted with raising my children?
She is my link to his past, and we are eternally entwined. She is the only one who knows the way those first bumps, kicks, and wriggles felt inside of her swollen belly. And I am the one who knows the tears he cries for her, and how her pain is reflected in his heart. She knows the anguish of laboring him to life; while I know the anguish of laboring him here. She has all of his yesterdays, the ones I will never, ever know. I have all of his tomorrows, the ones she will never, ever know. She knows the dreams and prayers she breathed over his newborn face. She knows his first cry and first gasp for breath, and I wonder even in those first moments, if she knew that their time together was fleeting - flowing through her fingertips like fine grains of sand. I wonder if she breathed in his curls a little longer. I wonder if her tears came hot and fast as she wondered where the food would come from, and how she could feed herself in order to feed her son. I wonder if she was scared. I know her heart was breaking. I wonder if she held him tight to her chest and pleaded for his life.
With Jamesy's first steps my heart soared and then peaked at the knowing that she was missing it. I squealed for both of us.
When Habi scored that first soccer goal for his school team, my eyes burned with tears. She wasn't here to shake that cowbell and make a wild scene for our boy. So I did for both of us.
When the doctor told us Jamesy could see, rivers of scorching tears trickled the curves of my cheeks, and I begged God to let her know that our boy with the shaky gorgeous eyes could SEE.
When Habi's blood tests all came out clear and negative, I wanted to dance with joy for her, knowing that she knew more than anyone in the world what a miracle that was.
With every new word that Jamesy gains, and every time his deep brown eyes find mine and he says Mama, my heart skips a beat, and I cherish it for both of us.
With every I love you, Mommy, I reassure Habi of my love and her love. Two women fiercely in love with the same boy.
Every time I tuck them in at night, stroke their curls, kiss their lids, I linger longer for her. Every milestone, accomplishment, late night talk, hug, kiss, kitchen dance, giggle is all soaked up for both of us. She is a part of them and a part of me. Two different Ethiopian women and then American me. Two brave, courageous women that poverty has stolen what was most precious to them. And while adoption is the most beautiful experience I have ever been inside of, it is also the most horrific and ugly as it is mottled with so much pain, so much loss, so much injustice. This is not how it should be. Poverty should not rob a child of its mother and a mother of its child, and while by the time I entered the picture for my boys it was too late, and the only thing left to do was what we did, for many children and mothers living in poverty, it is not too late. It is not too late to give these mommies the chance to experience first steps, first giggles, first day of school, bedtime kisses and prayers. It is not too late to allow a child to grow up in his or her beautiful culture and be adored by birth family and surrounded with love. As a mother to two birth children and two children born only in my heart, this is something I am passionate about. While adoption is viable and necessary in cases like my sons', the best and most ideal situation is to keep children with their birth families when possible- despite poverty. Poverty is not a reason to separate families.
This Mother's Day, rather than giving that special mother in your life flowers or jewelry, why not give her the gift of supporting mothers and children surrounded by poverty, so that they can stay and flourish together? Jesus can offer these moms hope that life can be different. I want to be part of this difference.
This is why we are so passionate about keeping families together in Ethiopia. There are some fantastic organizations that are keeping families together, and we have the hope, dream, and prayer that Mercy Branch Inc., while partnering with God and His Kingdom, will be equally fantastic at putting broken families back together. In the simplest terms, this is why Mercy Branch Inc. exists. We think that family is so important that we are devoting our lives to this.
My heart is for these mothers - these brave, beautiful, courageous mothers, who daily battle things that I could never dream of battling, all while I sit in my safe, comfortable home sipping coffee. Today I want you to think about these mothers - sisters across the world. What if it was you? Let's link arms and fight for these women to have a chance to love their babies to adulthood. Let's not close our eyes, turn our heads, and be silent.
Today I write this for her and for her. To Habi's first mommy and to Jamesy's first mommy - Happy Mother's Day - you are forever in my heart. Every time I look into his eyes, I see you there. I love him for the both of us, and he will know of your love in my touch, in my words, and in my heart for him. This is for you and for you.