Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I woke up this morning with eyes bleary from seasonal allergies and a late night spent watching a Cary Grant film. ("Houseboat." It was worth it.) It was early, and Mr. Blandings had to be on the road before his normal departure time. While I lay there, waiting for the sounds that accompany my husband's morning shower (the scrape of the curtain being pulled, the water clanging through the pipes, the click of the cabinet that holds his contacts being opened) I realized that exactly one year ago I was over-the-moon thrilled because ....

I was using cloth diapers for the very first time.

My big, outrageous memory of the day involves diapers. Granted, they're still really cool and I don't for a minute regret the investment I've made in them financially or otherwise, but still. Diapers?

On this day, one year ago, Manonlin entered the world. I have no details of his birth; I don't even know what city he was delivered in. I don't know the hour, his weight or length. These are the details that will be filled in later, when the massive binder that rests on his social worker's desk is finally opened to us.

But somewhere, at some point, he was born. On this day.

I wonder sometimes what I was doing when each of my littlest boys took their first breath. Where was I? What was I doing? How could I not have known? Part of my heart was in a hospital room, being weighed, measured, swaddled. How could my day have been unremarkable?

My thoughts then invariably shift to the places where the bright, burning happiness of that little baby simply being is shadowed by the events that brought another person into our family. For Manolin, the story starts so heartbreakingly early that I know I will never pass through another summer without an ache of regret. The things you have seen and witnessed, the things done to you, dear boy ... I would take it away in an instant if I could.

But the catch-22 of adoption is that you cannot take the hurt back. Even if you could, would you want to? Because the brokenness is what leads the child to your arms. With no brokenness, there is no family. A wicked beauty, that--something like sin and the cross.

My sleepy eyes opened at last this morning when Mr. Blandings brought Manolin to me. Usually, this is the moment on a first birthday morning where I am flooded with memories of anticipation, joy and reward after hard work. Today, I felt none of that. Instead, my eyes rested on a beautiful, brown-eyed child whose DNA is as big of a mystery as the circumstances of his birth. I had nothing to do with Manolin coming into the world. His body and mine were never joined. I did not cradle his newborn head or let him coil his spindly minutes-old fingers around my thumb.

But I am the one who has been blessed to watch him learn to support his head. The one who propped him against pillows before he could sit. The one who cheered for his rolling over. The one who has shot endless hours of video of him rocketing, scooter style, across the floor after an older sibling. I am the one who has soothed his cries, coaxed his laughs and strapped him into his carseat.

There is still much to be celebrated today. Birth is only a part of it. And if anyone asks me where I was on the day that our magnificent little man reached his milestone first birthday, I can answer with confidence: I was right there, beside him. Right there, all along.


Karla @ Ramblin' Roads said...

Happy birthday to Manolin! And may the day come quickly when all the papers are finalized!

Beth said...

Happy Birthday Manolin! So, it turns out that our boys share a birthday. :-) Earlier today, I wrote a letter to my "foster to adopt" son that somewhat echos some of the feelings you expressed. If you care to read it check out

Renee said...


Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

Mrs. C said...

Happy Birthday, Manolin! *sniff*

Benny said...

What a beautiful post, Mary Grace.

And what a beautiful gift Manolin and your family are to each other.

God is so very good.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday little one... and what a great post Mom!

Sarah said...

You should post "tissue warnings." That would really help folks like me!

Julie said...

I KNOW! When I think about September 11, I always think that the next day unbeknownst to me my youngest daughter would be born. It would be another 3 years before I met her, but the idea that she was born in the midst of that tragedy to one day become my daughter is amazing.
My oldest was born as I was preparing to graduate from highschool. My next daughter not long after I was married. My oldest son was born around the time we were moving into our first home. It's amazing to think about what I was doing when these precious babies were born!
Happy birthday (late!) to your baby!