Recently, our son’s foster mum was visiting with her son. A much-loved, plum and delicious boy of six months. We all hunched over the little miracle, admiring his being. I thought it a lovely moment and added: ‘When you were this little you lived with Rosa, my friend.’ My 3 year-old looked me in the eye and corrected me:
‘I am your baby, mummy. I was with you.’
‘Yes, my darling, you are my baby. And when you were very little you lived with Rosa.’
But he would not hear it. ‘No, mummy. No, mummy, I am your baby.’
He maintained shaking his head. He stood up and repeated the words. ‘I am your baby!!’
Rosa turned to me, speaking softly she said: ‘This is all so complicated. Perhaps we better leave it for now.’
We did. But his stance stayed with me.
A few days later, I brought the subject up again. I took out a book of photos from his life with Rosa and her family, and we sat down on the floor of his room. We flicked through the pictures, something he normally loves. But this time he got angry with me.
‘No!, Mummy. I am your baby!’
‘Yes, my darling, you are my baby. And I love you very much. This is just pictures of the time when you lived with Rosa.’
He stood up and put both his hands over my mouth shouting: ‘I AM YOUR BABY!’
I closed the book, and hugged him close.
‘Of course you are.’ I whispered into his neck and kissed him. ‘You will always be my baby.’
I left it at that. I felt him relaxed in my arms.
My husband and I discussed these incidents at length and agreed we both needed to throw a few more pebbles in this little pond of his. So far he has shown no interest what so ever in his life story book. So we haven’t forced it. That said we have never shied away from his background either. We are quite open about the fact he is adopted. To him and to the world at large. But perhaps we hadn’t spoken with him about his early life lately, we wondered, in a way that made it accessible to him.
There have been other times when I’ve been surprised at his urge to be born by me. From very early on in his life with us. At no more than 18 months, he wanted to come out of my tummy. We played it over and over. Him hiding under my nightie and popping out into his bed. But the time with Rosa and her little boy was the first time he had voiced the need to be my baby so strongly. Of course it is a great sign of his attachment to me, and I guess to my husband and our little family unit of three. ‘Mummy, Daddy, Digger. Mummy, Daddy, Digger.’ as he likes to chant endlessly. But I was taken aback by the strength of his feeling. And perhaps a little fear of denial.
We left the subject for a while. Placed the book of baby photos within reach so he could look at them if he felt like it. He didn’t.
A couple of weeks later we happened to be in an area I know his birth mother used to live and work. We were walking down the street hand in hand.
‘When I come to this area I often think of your birth mother. She used to live here, you know.’
Long silence. He didn’t look up, but his attention to my words was clear.
‘Would you like me to say you her name out loud?’
He nodded without looking at me. I said her name aloud. Our eyes met and we smiled.
‘This can be our little secret: we both think of her when we come here.’ I suggested.
He nodded again and smiled.
Not long after his foster mum came round again, and somehow we’ve managed to wiggle his early life with her into the fabric of the day. Just little things like: ‘When you used to live with me, you looooved ice cream too. You’ve always loved ice cream. Especially chocolate! You got so messy! You got it all over your face! And your clothes!’
I feel we are back on track. Integrating the stories and details of his first year into the every growing tapestry that is his life.
Until the next time we need to do some adjusting.