Today is Matthew's first birthday!
I haven't blogged in forever...I have been a little buried in the land of mom.
It has been an introspective day for me, despite the fact that we've been busy. I guess that's what birthdays are for, especially when the celebrated day is your child's. I am almost feeling knocked over by the emotions that are overtaking me today, and truthfully, I wasn't even sure I had the energy to blog about this. After all, there's a lot of immediate "issues" going on that demand my attention (let me digress/vent for a moment here): my wrist, although improving, is still hurting me from my less-than-graceful fall (that landed me in the E.R. last week), my shoulders hurt from carting him around, Matthew starts day care tomorrow, and I head back to work on Monday. Whoo. A lot to take in.
Dare I mention the pediatric ophthalmologist appointment we need to make for Matthew (who may have not one but two lazy/crossed eyes)? Or the fact that there are now concerns about "low tone" in his jaw muscles? (He is still not forming consonant sounds like "mmm" or "bbb" like he should be by now, and our caseworker is concerned enough that she recommended we take him to Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers, which is a free service by our county in which a PT or OT observes and evaluates him and determines if he needs some speech therapy.)
Anyway, enough about the worries that are dancing in my brain these days.
Today, Matthew and I headed to my friend Jenna's house in Arlington for a playdate with her and her new son, Peter. She, too, is a new mom, on maternity leave, going slightly stir crazy being all cooped up in the house. Just this week, really, the snow on the sidewalks has melted enough that the sidewalks are passable with a stroller (even with our mac-daddy of strollers, it is still tough). Out of my three months of leave, I think I've had three full weeks of "walking" weather that enabled Matthew and his cabin-fever-struck mom to get outside and enjoy some fresh air.
Peter is just a month old--and tiny, tiny, TINY compared to Matthew! He tried to poke Peter in the eyes, so we had to keep our distance from the little guy. He does the same thing with the dog, and yes, we are working on that!
We decided to head to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch. Peter slept most of the time, and Matthew was very active but VERY good! He loves people watching, so restaurants are perfect for him. He doesn't even require toys or distractions. He just looks around at all the people and activity. He had a birthday fiesta! Chicken, some plantanos frijos (fried plantains), and rice, along with the more typical baby/toddler food that I brought along with him (ahem...those ever-present, always-necessary Cheerios)!
So, back to my thoughts on feeling introspective for his birthday.
I was looking at him in the baby mirror as he slept peacefully in the backseat of the car (coming back from the playdate), and I started thinking about what his birth mom must have been going through right about now (we don't have the exact time of his birth, just the date, but you know what I mean when I say "now"). The emotions she must have been feeling, knowing that she loved him so very much that she made an adoption plan for him and blessed us with the chance to raise him as our very own son. It moves me to tears, I tell you. It moves me to tears.
And then I was wondering what those first days must have been like for Matthew. Definitely overwhelming. Probably confusing. But filled with love all the same. Even though we weren't there to parent him yet, and it breaks my heart over and over again to think of those months and those milestones that we missed, I absolutely know that he was loved from the moment he left the womb of that wonderful woman. He was never an unwanted, abandoned child (a stigma frequently attached to our adopted children)...if anything, he was wanted too much but his birth mom probably didn't have the means to support him and so made the most loving (and incredibly heartbreaking) choice imaginable for a mother. I also absolutely know that he was loved fiercely by his first foster family (newborn to age 4 months). And I absolutely know that he was loved and doted on by his second foster family as well (and I have the pictures to prove it, given to us by his second foster mom). The pictures show a happy, well-adjusted-looking kid who seemed to be having a ton of fun, at times fussy and tearful and clinging to Umma, at times giggling and on the move across one room or the other. At all times adorable.
In adoption, we talk frequently of helping our children "close the gap"--to provide them with as much information as we can about their early years, those times before they came to us as our children. Helping them close that gap allows them to live happy, successful, productive, and well-balanced lives--secure in themselves, confident in their abilities, strong in character. The more information we can give them, the more question marks we can remove for them.
But there is also what we, as parents, go through in trying to deal with and accept that gap. It can be SO frustrating at times, not knowing what his life was like from (in our case) newborn to age 9.5 months. That's a long span of time, filled with moments and milestones that birth parents get to record and photograph and carve deep into their memories. We on the other hand are often left to speculate, surmise, or (for the energetic among us) do endless hours of research to track down what happened during that gap.
So, these things that I absolutely know...cited above...well, they bring me comfort, and they help me as a mom close the gap from birth day to this day. This amazing, incredible day in which Jeff and I celebrate all things Matthew.
Tonight will be an abbreviated Tol ceremony (the Korean custom for the first birthday, which is a VERY significant birthday in Korean culture) with just the three of us. This Saturday, both our families will be there for his actual birthday party. They are coming from PA, NJ, and VA. I can't wait to dress him up in his hanbok (traditional Korean clothing worn on the first birthday--his foster mom sent one with him to America) and take pictures and sing to him and merge his Korean customs (Korean rice cakes of many flavors, bowl of white rice for good luck, and the list goes on) with his American ones (good old cake and ice cream and silly party hats!).
There simply aren't enough silly party hats in the world to represent just how much love we feel for this little guy.
Today, I watched him sleep, his head flopped to one side, his pudgy cheeks looking even pudgier because his chin was kind of shoved down onto his chest, his lips looking like the lips of angels kissed by God himself.
And I whispered the sweetest "thank you" for bringing him to us.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MATTHEW!