The official Phoebe at Two portrait on the red chair.
Yum, birthday ice cream!
Phoebe is now two years old, which she will tell you with a very curt and definitive "tu" with her fingers held up. Miranda is quite pleased with the idea that they are both two now, and told me "I don't want to be three."
I think every parent of an adopted child knows about the extra layer of emotions that underlies their child's birthday. We sing and blow candles and Skype with grandparents and open gifts and celebrate. But at night, after our child is down, now one year older, we think about the day she was born. Oh, Phoebe. I so wish I had information to give her. We have books called "The Night You Were Born" and "The Day You Were Born"-- written independently, by completely different authors-- both which depict nature singing in celebration for the birth of a child. We read these, and I do think the great world sang when Phoebe was born. But clearly there was pain and sadness there, whatever her story was. I thank her birth parents for giving her life, and her birth mother for carrying her and birthing her. While I am so thankful to have Phoebe as my daughter, I can't help but to sting a bit at the injustice of the world that her birth mother can't experience the joy of this child. I don't know what happened-- maybe she didn't want to parent, who knows. But if it was poverty and politics that forced her to leave her child to be found-- in a country where putting a child up for adoption is illegal, so leaving identifying information for "open adoption" is never an option-- my heart breaks for her.
But on the celebrating front-- Phoebe's doing beautifully well. I was away all last weekend in Pennsylania celebrating my niece Claire's last dose of chemotherapy, and Phoebe did fine with my absence and return. She needed some extra snuggling the next day, but nothing more, and Miranda needed it, too. We did a third try at babysitting at the gym this week. The first time, Phoebe willingly stayed with no tears after I spent 30 minutes or so with her in transition. The second time, she cried when I left with a beeper and strict instructions to call me for more than 2 minutes of tears-- I never got paged, she did fine. This time, after much verbal preparation, Phoebe joined her sister in an excited dance at the gate to Kid's Club, saying "Bye-bye Mama" before I could kiss her goodbye. I spied a bit when I returned, and found Miranda and Phoebe in the company of a six year old who was leading them in Ring-a-Round-the-Rosy and Follow the Leader, crawling in a line on the floor. I watched Phoebe join both hands with her new friend and jump up and down laughing. When I called their names, my Two Girls came tumbling into my arms, happy to see me and ready to go. I nearly cried.
There are moments like that when I think, we've done it! Attached! Secure! And then. . .just two nights later, while Mark was working late, my cell phone rang during bathtime. There was massive obstetric disaster at the hospital, with one doc operating alone and the on-call back-up 35 minutes away. I live 6 minutes away. I whipped the kids out of the bathtub, threw on diapers and pajamas, tossed them in the car, and sped away. Miranda got it, saying from her carseat as we pull into the ambulance bay, "Mama, a baby needs your help right now? You have to help someone?" But poor Phoebe. I tried telling her all the things that worked at Kid's Club, "Mama is going to kiss you goodbye and then I'll come back in a little while. Your mama always comes back." But when we ran in to the hospital and I plunked her in the lap of the secretary at the nurse's station and kissed her goodbye, her scared little face melted in panic. Now, I knew there was someone potentially dying in the OR, and the nurses were pleading with me, "Don't worry, we'll take care of her, GO!" I paused, kissed her, looked her in the face, and told her I loved her. We've been so careful never to do this to her, never to leave when she isn't ready for it. I think it was the most painful moment I've had with Phoebe since I became her mother. Leaving Phoebe is not like leaving Miranda.
I left her. She cried, and then hunkered down in a stranger's lap with her fingers in her mouth while Miranda had great adventures with stickers, temporary tatoos, and snacks. The patient survived-- a miracle, given the situation. I came to find Phoebe an hour later, just before Mark showed up. She came into my arms, but in that quiet, finger-sucking, tear-streaked, withdrawn way. As we buckled the kids into their carseats, Miranda boasted "Mama, I did not cry!" and Phoebe perked up to her usual self. But the whole thing was a reminder, again, that Phoebe-- who has fewer issues than I ever dreamed a kid adopted as a 15 month old toddler could-- is broken. Our work is not done.
But on her birthday, I celebrate her! Her progress is amazing. I love to hear the conversations. After a sneeze: "Bless you, Miranda." "Thank you, Phoebe." "Welcome, Miranda." Phoebe is in big girl panties all day now, and falls to sleep happily in her own bed after I tuck her in. She sings the ABCs (with some mumbling around LMNOP), and counts to 9. She moved up to the big girl classroom (parents leave rather than stay) at Early Intervention school this week, where she is officially "a community kid" since she placed out of services. She can do one good Hokey Pokey dance. She's strong and healthy and bright. How on earth did we get so lucky?
Happy 2nd Birthday, Phoebe!