My mom told me once that each night as my four siblings and I were growing up she would pray at the end of the day that Mother Mary would make up for any lacking she may have experienced that day as a mother. That if there were any failings in her mothering that Mary would make up for them with the perfection of her motherly love.
I find this concept so beautiful and reassuring. Although I have always had a deep love for Mary, since becoming a mother myself, my devotion to her has grown in so many ways.
When we were in Canada this past summer, we met and spoke with a woman from Sri Lanka, the country my oldest son is adopted from. I thought nothing of it until later, when my son and I were snuggling reading a story before bed that night. I shut the book and he asked me in a quiet, tentative voice “Mommy? Today I saw that other mommy didn’t I?” At first I was couldn’t think what he meant. “The mommy from Sri Lanka. I saw her today. She looks just like me.” I said “Oh sweetie, that woman was just a friend. She does come from Sri Lanka but she isn’t your Sri Lankan mommy.” He considered this for a moment and then asked “But where is she then?” And then the words that you always know will come someday but not usually at 6 years old “Why didn’t she want me? Do you think she misses me? Do you think she cries for me? Does she love me?”
I was glad the room was dark because I could feel tears filling my own eyes. I willed my voice to remain calm and steady and tried to answer as best I could “William, she did want you very much and I know that she loves you and misses you everyday. She couldn’t keep you there though so now you are here with us, in our family and we are so glad. We love you so much.”
“But why do you want me?”
Why do you want me? How does anyone answer this question sufficiently? If it were a teenager or an adult asking, there is so much more one can say, so many complex things that can be explained and spoken of and understood but answering a young child is different.
I chose the simplest way and said “We want you because we love you and you are a part of our family. We couldn’t imagine life without you. God brought you into our family and we are so thankful. We will always want you. Forever.”
I wondered later, are these the questions that will follow him through his life as he grows? My heart felt heavy and sad. Not because he had asked about his biological mother but because my own explanations are so inadequate. I’ve thought about these things for years but I have no perfect answers.
After I had tucked him in and walked down the stairs, I sat out on the porch swing and thought about Mother Mary. This was something I could entrust to her. She is my mother and the mother of us all so I asked her to especially be a mother to my little son whose heart is full of questions. That she would make up for in him, everything that I can’t provide, everything that this world can’t provide.
We are so fallible. The world so imperfect. Love, so willing but also so complex, so fraught with pain at times.
When William asks these questions, I know I am not responsible for this lack in his life, I am not lacking, but something is. A loss that is deep and primal is being mixed with something beautiful and spiritual. This to me is the essence of adoption. Loss and gain.
It is a deeply spiritual bond. A forging. I believe we are spiritually and eternally bound, not only to our two children, but to their families and their ancestors as well. This bond is imperfection made beautiful. Made perfect in the desire to love.
In human love, there is always failure and imperfection. In my own love, there will always be imperfections, places my love isn’t able to heal or to reach or places I am not willing or able to go. There will be countless times I fail.
So I entrust my children to God’s perfect love and to the perfect love of Mary, Mother of Jesus and to the love of her husband, Saint Joseph, an adoptive father himself.
I pray that they make up for all the ways this world and the people in it and love itself, are lacking.
Copyright 2016 Colleen Berge
About the author: Colleen Berge is from the prairies of Manitoba, Canada. After short stints living in Germany and Iceland, she now resides in Southern Norway with her Norwegian husband. They have two small sons, one from Sri Lanka and one from Chile. She loves creative writing but also is passionate about writing that promotes empathy and encourages engagement in the issues we all face and can relate to.