He lashed out at me over something silly, a granola bar. He screamed and kicked and said really horrible things to me. His words took my breath away and I walked away for a minute to inhale. Moments later, I walked back in and sat down low, near but not too close. And I waited. We talked him through the surface things and waited for what was under to come to the surface. And it did.

He started crying, a big step in healing…. allowing anger to shift to sadness. Letting the pain out and comfort in.

I asked him if he would like to come close.

He did. With head bowed and tears pouring, he slid over and softened into my arms.

I expected him to mention Mattie. “Missing Buddy” has been his primary grief for almost 2 years now. But the words that came out, jolted me.

“I miss my mom. My mom when I was a tiny baby.”

And there it was.

His daddy and I wrapped him up in our love. We sat there on that kitchen floor with the boy that was born in our hearts. We held him and cried.

“Oh son, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that your heart is hurting.”

We told the story again. About his birth, the orphanage, and that we came as soon as we knew that there was a beautiful boy who needed a Momma and a Daddy.

We talked about his first mom, how he was born in her tummy. We reminded him that even though he was not born in my tummy, he was born in my heart. He placed his hand on my heart and cried.

We always have told the truth, in little bits as much as our children could comprehend.

So I reminded him, “You grew in her tummy but she didn’t know how to be a momma so you were taken to a hospital (orphanage) where the nurses took care of you and waited for someone to find a momma and daddy for you. And we came. We came son, as soon as we knew you needed us.”

And he asked for the first time, “Why? Why didn’t she know how to take care of me?”

And I told the only truth I know, “Because know one showed her how. And I’m so sorry.”

And he asked a question that broke my heart, “Does she miss me? Does she cry?”

I reminded myself that I was not entitled to create a fairy tale to protect my sweet son, so I answered, “I don’t know son, I don’t know; but I think maybe she does.”

And my sweet boy said, “I want to see her. I want to hug her.”

And the sad answer, “I don’t know her, son. I don’t have her phone number. She lives very far away.” 

We took a trip to the zoo yesterday and on the way, he sobbed out the window to a Katy Perry song that he loves (but also makes him cry), and with tears rolling down the window he said, “Mom, where are you?”

And so here we are in yet another swirling ocean of grief. The grief of a boy who is fully loved, fully accepted, yet whose heart knows that love can be broken sometimes. I never really knew  if he would have these big questions. We have always told his story in simple words, but bigger questions require more complicated words which lead to even bigger questions with answers that are painful.

He touched my necklace last night, the one that has Mattie’s thumbprint engraved on it. He asked, “Does my mom have one of these?” To which I replied, “No son, she doesn’t.”

I suspect my own grief as a mother, and his grief as a brother have opened up a big space in his heart for him to process this. What breaks my heart is that with all of his heart, my sweet boy wants his first mother to mourn him the way that I am mourning Mattie. He wants to know that she is sad, that she misses him, that she longs for him the way that I long for Mattie. And I cannot give him that promise. I cannot paint a fairy tale for my boy, as much as I would like.

I cannot write an ending to this story that will protect my son’s heart from pain. But with all that is in me from the deepest place in my heart, the place where my love for him was born, I can mourn with him.


And in case you wondered about my heart, my heart is big enough for this.

But I am human so I remind myself moment by moment, “Tracie, you are enough. You are a good momma. This is not about you.” 

And I step into grief with my son because I have already grieved for him. For the 7 years I have been his Momma, I have grieved for him- for the loss of living 3 years without a Momma and for a woman who didn’t know how to be a Momma because no one told her how.

So I step into this space of “mourning with those who mourn” and allow my heart to carry the weight of it all for me, for my boy and for a woman who may never know him.

And I wonder, if I could find her, would she even want to know about him, and would she want this letter that now lays on my desk with a hand drawn picture of her son that says, “Aiden. Hug Love. Fun. Happy.”