“Are you my mother?” Dr. Seuss asked it first. And then Jane asked it.
I have hemmed and hawed over sharing this story since early June out of respect for all members of adoption triads, out of respect for my kids’ birth mother, out of respect for their father, and most importantly, out of respect for Jane and Jude.
But ultimately, it’s a fair question. And if Dr. Seuss can allow a darling cartoon bird in a book to ask it, then so can Jane ask it. Let me share the story.
We were at the Akron Zoo for Akron Children’s Hospital Dream Night (such a spectacular event- thank you, Akron Children’s). We were enjoying all of the animals, the Home Depot build-your-own-activity center and the free train rides. However, the carousel was a bad move on my part. Hello, Jude has sensory processing disorder, duh? Eh, I live and I learn! It was great seeing all of the Akron Children’s folks we have come to know and love.
Vance even came and, though out of his element with lots of medical-ish folks around, he enjoyed himself, too. I think he was surprised by how many Akron Children’s families I know and how many Akron Children’s folks know Baby Jude on sight.
It happened as we were winding our way through the tail end of the zoo, preparing a strategic exit. Flamingos are perfect bait toward the exit but darned it if we don’t have to cut through the gift shop with two grabby, wanting children. Brilliant marketing, Akron Zoo, brilliant marketing!
That’s when we bumped into another family. One of the women in the group looked very familiar, but I could not place her. She said, “Excuse me, is that Jane?”
Now, I get a lot of strangers approaching me about Jude as they have seen him in commercials and on billboards for Summit DD as well as on Akron Children’s blog and website. But never has a “stranger” approached recognizing Jane.
I said that it was Jane and she introduced herself. It was Miss Joan. She was the first caregiver Jane had as an infant at daycare and I knew just who she was the minute she spoke her name. Jane must have recognized her on some level, too, because she just walked right into Miss Joan’s legs and hugged her. Jane hugs no one unsolicited. And even then it is not always enthusiastic. But Jane hugged onto Miss Joan tight.
As Joan and I caught up, I saw Jane tug on Vance’s shirt. He bent down and she whispered to him. Vance got a sweet but awkward smile, saying, “No honey, let mom finish and we will talk.” We said our goodbyes to Miss Joan and continued our walk toward the exit.
I asked what was up. Jane said she didn’t want to tell me because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Huh? Then it dawned on me. I knew in my gut exactly what went down, why she hugged Miss Joan so instinctually, what she whispered to Vance and why she thought she might hurt me. She thought Miss Joan was her birth mother.
I was right. Jane said “Is she my birth mother?” I quickly answered that Miss Joan was her caregiver when she was a baby at daycare but that she was not her birth mother. I tried my best to reassure her that asking questions about her first family, their adoption stories or anything under the sun will never hurt my feelings. And that even if she sees my eyes tear up while we talk sometimes, they aren’t sad tears. They will be tears of joy and happiness.
Even though I am not their birth mother, if she or Dr. Seuss or anyone ever asks the question “Are you my mother?” again, I am the lucky one who gets to answer “Yes.”