Born of My Heart

by hannah

Oliver-Hannah s Journey-0015.jpg

"...your place in the family of things." 

from "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver

I remember playing a "get to know you" activity for work where you had to bring in a baby photo and people would guess which baby photo was yours. Aside from being one of the only babies who wouldn't have blonde hair and pale skin, the earliest childhood photo in my possession was when I was adopted at two-years-old. 

I conveniently "forgot" mine at home. 

It wasn't until I found out I was pregnant with Oliver that I remembered the silly game that had made me feel embarrassed for being different-not having the precious newborn photos or blending into a sea of coworkers who all looked similar as babies, serving the purpose of a funny game to play. 

When Oliver was born, the comments came flooding in how much he looked like a perfect blend of Greg and me.

"He has your smile."
"He has Greg's hair."
"He has your eyes."

No one has ever told me that I have my mom's smile or my dad's eyes.

Photo by  Eric Yerke

Photo by Eric Yerke

Oliver loves looking at himself. When he's upset or tired, I will take him into our bathroom and cheek-to-cheek, we will look at each other in the mirror. He squeezes my neck and giggles endlessly.  

We stay transfixed for just a moment, looking at each others' almond-shaped, brown eyes. I see the loss of knowing a mom who held my newborn body next to hers and saw her smile in my own. I see my own mom scooping up a two-year-old giggling girl and finally having her daughter, born of her heart.

I see my own son, who might inherit both the good and bad parts of who I am biologically and will have his own story of belonging and loss. While Oliver is my own flesh and blood, the depth of my love surpasses his first nine months.

Photo by  Shannon Elvira

One year ago, Oliver came bursting into the world with the sweetest cry and most curious spirit. This uncertain new mom had her heart burst open in a matter of seconds. The past year has been a journey of learning how to be a parent and take care of a baby. I have also climbed my way through the ups and downs of learning how to love and understand myself in an entirely new way.

When you lose something, people recommend retracing your steps. In the hundreds of moments of uncertainty and doubt this past year, I walked backwards. I imagined my birth mom, cradling me and whispering prayers of hope and happiness. I imagined my mom gently hugging my wiggly body and smiling at my delight. I told myself that I was so capable of loving and being just the mom Oliver needed. I had been loved by two moms, one who brought me into the world and another who carried me through.

But it is not just the beginning that matters, for that is just the start of a story. What matters is creating a place in my heart for my son to belong, to be safe, and to be loved. My deepest desire as a mom was not to carry my own son in my body, but to carry his heart in my own, as my mom has carried mine.

Oliver shares a name with my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, who seems to have words to match my every heartbeat.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves...

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Oliver James. 

HeartCheers, Mama! -