Adoption is not a secret in our home. Adoption is celebrated as the special way we have been brought together.

But it can be a confusing concept for a small child. My ten year old has referred to her birth mother as her step mother (utterly confusing her poor teacher who was pretty sure that neither my husband nor I were on our second marriage.) My seven year old recently asked if he grew in my belly. I spouted off what I had read once and liked, “You grew in your birth mom’s belly and in my heart.”

He sat contemplative and then asked if it hurt when he crawled out of my heart. I guess I’ve got some work to do when it comes to helping my children make sense of it all.

It is amazing to me that I am the mother of nine. It was only eleven years ago that my husband and I were childless. I remember tearfully expressing to my husband that I was afraid we would never have the privilege of being parents.

It was sort of by accident that we became involved in foster care and then special needs adoption. Through foster care adoption we adopted our first sibling group which was a brother and a sister and then adopted a sibling group of three. We added four babies to that second sibling group in five years. We have been very blessed to be able to have a large family through adoption.

As an adoptive mom I find myself often watching these little children grow and change and show the world who they are. I am often humbled that I have the opportunity to help them on their paths to independence and adulthood.

My oldest daughter is finishing her senior year of high school and has been accepted to college. I need her to slow down. There are things I haven’t had a chance to teach her. She still burns her hands sometimes when she tries to take food out of the oven. When her seasonal allergies are acting out she still comes to me to get the medicines that will best treat the symptoms.

My youngest is three. I watch her discover new insect friends (she calls them her babies) and tackle the battle of toilet training. I know that I will blink and she will trade those bugs and training pants for scholarship applications and prom dresses.

I would freeze time if I could. Since that’s not possible I have resolved to do my best to preserve these precious moments. I take so many pictures that my children roll their eyes when the camera comes out. I do my best to keep their life books up to date. I post on my family blog and write in my journal. I gently fold the kindergarten papers and put them away for a time when (I am told) I will miss the crayon drawings on the wall.

Sometimes I simply snag my little ones as they run by, wrap them in a hug, cherish their tolerant protests of “MO-OM!”, and file the memory deep down in my heart. I know that since it is already hard to remember when my thirteen year old was three it will be so much harder when the last one eagerly walks out the door to seize her future. At least I will have my memories…

And I will make sure that before each child ventures into the world that they know that it has been a real honor to be his or her mother. I want them to know that I don’t take that role lightly. I had the special privilege to choose to be their mother. Each time I have heard “Mom”, “Mother”, or “Mamma” I have been grateful that they have grown in MY heart. I hope to help them understand that, while they grew in someone else’s belly, they grew in and have continued to become a part of my heart and that they will never be able to crawl out.