Today marks 5 months that Dumpling has been in our arms. It also marks about 2 months of him seeking me out as “mama” and “mom” and “mommy.” I had to work hard for those titles though, they didn’t come easily. For the first couple months, he didn’t refer to me or DH as anything. He simply walked over to us and tapped our leg or arm to get our attention. Even despite our silly name games when we pointed to and named each family member. We did that a lot. For awhile, Dumpling even called himself “mama.” Oy. There was a lot of confusion associated with names of people because, frankly, my guess is he may have never understood that people have names. Oh sweet boy.
After awhile, he began to get my attention with a word/sound he developed after coming home. It reminded us of the sound one might make while doing a karate chop. It’s humorous now, but at the time, I’ll admit it was a bit frustrating. He still defaults to that sound sometimes now, but a quick reminder sets him back on track. A few months ago though, no amount of repeating “mama” seemed to do the trick. He just wouldn’t call me mama. Or couldn’t. I can’t be sure. He was able to easily repeat it but just didn’t make the association. I wondered if maybe it was because of his hearing loss, but he only has minor loss on the one side and has been able to hear and follow multi-step directions from early on. I’ll never know what was going on back then. But it was hard to not feel a little hurt in my heart because it felt personal, even though I knew in my brain that it wasn’t.
Slowly though, with time and lots and lots and lots of repeating and reminding, it happened. His karate chop sound was replaced with “mama.” And then “mom.” And even “mommy” like the other children call me. And then “MOM!!!!” And like other parents who want so badly to hear their children use words but then sort-of-but-not-really regret they wanted it, he was calling for me all day long. Sigh. And now at 5 months home, he even calmly calls for me by name when he wakes up in the morning. It’s beautiful.
I think this transition closely mirrors his attachment transition too. It’s as if his willingness or ability to call me by name is representative of his attachment growth. Although I still think we need more time, I feel more and more comfortable every day with his connection to us. And our choice to keep him close for these first months is just confirmed over and over for me. I know it’s been difficult for our extended family to be kept at such a distance, but I’m confident it was the best decision for everyone. Attachment requires work and intentionality, just as it has to teach him who his mama is. And that work is worth every bit of time and effort. I still find myself quietly observing him, simply amazed by him. By all he’s accomplished in the short 5 months he’s been our son. By how much I deeply love him. And I’m overcome with joy and thanksgiving because it is such an honor to be his mama. The days are long and I don’t always make the best choices or have the most patience, but good gracious I love this child with all of my being.
Last month when DH and I were at Together Called, DH was waiting with Dumpling in the hallway while I finished leading my breakout session. When I opened the door of the conference room to the hallway, I spotted them at the other end of the hallway. DH was chatting with a friend while his wife played with Dumpling at a distance (I love being with other parents who understand adoption attachment!). Dumpling was having fun and was clearly engaged, but do you know what he did when he caught my eyes? He pointed at me and yelled, “MAMAAAAAA!!!!!” and came running to me with all his might. And you better believe that his mama got down on her knees and scooped him up in her arms when he crashed into her.
In that moment, all of my attachment and connection worries melted away to a puddle of mush on the floor. It’s one of those memories that will always be with me. Yes, I knew right then that we were going to be just fine. He knows I am his mama and he is so very certainly my son.