Tomorrow is my 42nd birthday. Wow. And, might I add, OH MY GOD. How the heck did I get here? Certainly not a straight and unbroken road. No, I took a cracked path, filled with treacherous loose stones and occasional tall grass hiding land mines. But my path was also covered with beautiful flowers and lots of sunshine. And when the rains did pour down I always had an umbrella handy in the form of dear friends and, eventually, my amazing husband. And I know that my journey is not over yet. I have to admit it, I have, possibly, reached middle age. Hold on while I wipe away a tear...
I can only remember a few birthdays in the past that have bothered me. My 30th was not nearly as traumatic as society led me to believe it would be, most likely because I had just started dating my future husband and was totally enveloped in that hazy first few months of love phase. 35 arrived as we were trying to conceive a child, and so it sort of came and went. And to be honest, I can't really remember my 40th birthday. Not in a drank and danced all night kind of way, sadly. But here I am, turning 42.
A year ago at this time we had just returned from Russia, where we had met, fallen in love with, and then had to leave behind our new son. All I remember about last year's birthday is, well, nothing. My mind and heart were too full of that tiny 22 month old with the brown eyes and monkey walk.
This has been one of the best years of my life, and one of the most challenging. My mother passed away 2 days before our adoption agency called us with the possible referral of our little man. The next month we traveled to meet him, and then we came home and raced through the paperwork and before I knew it I was back on a plane, leaving my older son again, this time for a month. The memories and feelings of that month away from him will always be with me. Every moment away from my boy has been burned into my brain; it was truly the longest month of my life. While I celebrated the addition to our family and began the process of bonding with another son I mourned the moments lost with the boy I left at home.
And then my tiny toddler and I arrived back in the states. Both of us tired, wrinkled and basically a mess, me walking slowly from wearing the baby for three straight days. But we were home, and I was sitting on a bench, still wearing the baby but now also wearing the 4 year old who had climbed into my lap and thrown his arms around my neck so tight I could barely breath. And it was heaven.
Yes, this past year has been a challenging one. Folding the tiny toddler into our family has not been easy, and came with it's share of both laughter and tears. I may just have cried more this past year than the rest of my life combined.
Now we are settling in, and I am catching my breath. We still have our tiny toddler moments but the good outshines the bad. And, true to life, now that we have righted the ship, so to speak, my husband has lost his job. We thought it was coming, we planned for it, as best we could. And now all of our plans for summer fun and home redecoration and backyard play sets are on hold. But it's all good. I am used to life being on hold. Anyone who has lived through fertility treatments and international adoption knows how to wait.
I have really been focused on the waiting these past few days. I have been angry at the situation. I have been feeling like maybe it was time for someone to take care of me, for a change. I have been working since I was 15 years old. I put myself through college. When I received my lay off notice a few jobs back I went out and found a new job before the current one even ended. The only time I have not worked is when I quit my job for my youngest son, because he needed me more than all those assisted living communities did. But we all know that staying home with him was the hardest job I have ever had! Now I am back at work at a job that allows me the flexibility to care for my family the way I know they need. I do what every mother does. I work outside the home, and I work inside the home. Our work is never done, is it? So I was angry. But not anymore.
I have no reason to be angry. We may be waiting for monetary gain but we have so much right now. Our little United Nations wing upstairs, with a tiny brown haired toddler sleeping in his crib, his bum up in the air and a preschooler with jet black hair sleeping backwards in his big boy bed, surrounded by no less than 10 stuffed baby animals and one large Cleveland Browns pillow pet. Our front porch where my husband and I often sit at night, a baby monitor and two beer bottles on the table between our chairs. Our back yard where we play endless games of football with the big five year old while the tiny toddler wanders around trying to tackle us and where we sit by the fire late into the night. The kitchen with the wall paper I picked out where I love to cook for my family. The bedroom furniture my husband picked out all by himself and was so excited when he came home to tell me he had found exactly what we were looking for. I didn't believe him, of course, but he was right. Nine years later and I still smile when I walk into the bedroom. I have everything I need.
This is my 42nd year. This is the year my family will learn to live without me a little, so I can find more ways to be true to myself. Maybe this is the year I finally take those golf lessons, or move my yoga from the living room to an actual public studio. Maybe this is the year I dust off my french horn and go back to the community band or maybe this is the year I walk a thousand miles. This is the year I will sit on the sidelines and watch my big five year old play flag football. This is the year I will carry my tiny toddler into the shallow end of the pool for mommy and baby swim class. This is the year I will begin to date my husband again. This is the year I will no longer be angry at all the waiting. After all, I am nearly 42. It's time I grew up. This is going to be a great year!