Remove an Appendix, Grow a Bond.

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Every now and then I have one of those 24 hour periods that make me feel like I have lived a week’s worth of life in one day. This was one of those 24 hour periods. The craziness began yesterday when I drove Ozzie to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to have his chipped front tooth fixed. I was dreading the appointment simply because I was dreading the scary drive through Pittsburgh morning traffic to a hospital that I hadn’t visited before. Knowing my propensity for getting lost, I allowed myself 45 minutes more driving time than the GPS suggested. It was a good thing. As I headed on the directed route I found myself facing closed roads due to construction. My GPS, being ever so helpful, suggested that I make a U-turn (in the middle of Pittsburgh morning commute traffic). I, not knowing where to go and feeling the pressure to make a decision quickly due to the large volume of honking horns behind me, chose to simply follow the traffic in front of me and hope that they were all going to Children’s Hospital too. At the very least, I figured, my GPS would eventually give up on the notion of me pulling a Fast and Furious move in the middle of downtown and start directing me on a more sensible route. I did find the hospital and pulled in just as the clock turned 9:00am (my appointment time.)

We walked into the hospital and right away I was blown away by how impressive and kid friendly it was. The waiting room was like a visit to a children’s museum with miniature train sets, multi-tank aquariums and I-pads for the kids to play on. Our first stop was the registration desk where we sat for 15 minutes updating all of Ozzie’s information from what it was at his last visit. It was at that registration desk I learned that Ozzie was multilingual. I only recently found out that he was bilingual. In fact it was at our St. Patrick’s day dinner that he informed us that he speaks Gaelic. When we asked him what he could say in Gaelic he paused for dramatic effect and in his thickest faux Irish accent he said, “Shamrock Shake.” 🙂

While we were sitting at the registration desk a Hispanic family sat down next to us in front of another computer. I was only half listening as I answered the questions of the woman helping us but I could tell the neighboring employee was struggling to communicate with this couple and their two small children. We were wrapping up our registration when the lady helping them called her supervisor over and requested a translator. Ozzie evidently was listening and observing the entire interaction because before I could stop him he just up and said, “Wait. I can handle this! I speak Spanish.” He then strode over to the little girl, crouched down to her eye level and said…”Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco.” The parents looked confused and the little girl looked  puzzled as to why this boy was counting in her face.  Ozzie looked proud, having solved the translation problem. I quickly ushered Ozzie away while nodding my apologies to the parents. “See, Mommy,” Ozzie said as we hurried away, “I told you I could speak lots of languages.”

Ozzie was finally called back to the office to be seen by the dentist. The were able to bond a new piece to his broken tooth. It was wonderful to have it over and done with in one appointment. As we left the hospital Ozzie kept stopping strangers along the way to show them his tooth and inform them that he had tooth surgery. He would then say, “But at least it wasn’t real surgery!” Little did we know 24 hours later we would be at another hospital for “real” surgery.

On the way home from Children’s Hospital Ozzie started complaining of stomach cramps. By the time we got home all he wanted to do was go to bed and sleep. The pain continued through the night. I thought he was getting the stomach bug that had been going around and I kept waiting for the vomiting to start. It never did. By the next day the pain was lower. He was lethargic, had no appetite and complained of pain when he urinated so I thought that perhaps he had a UTI. I had to drive Molly to PSSA (state testing) and took Ozzie with me so we could visit a convenient care office afterwards to have his urine tested. When we arrived and explained his symptoms the nurse strongly encouraged us to head to the ER just in case it was something more serious. It was a good thing she did because it turned out that Ozzie had a perforated appendix that needed to be removed. In a matter of a few hours I went from wondering what I was going to fix for dinner to realizing I would be spending a couple of days in the hospital. I knew Ozzie didn’t feel good because he just lay there quietly. Normally he would have been asking questions and enjoying the excitement of it all. It was soon time for him to go back for surgery. He looked so small in his gown and so vulnerable as he sobbed, “I don’t want to leave you, Mommy.” My heart hurt as I kissed him and told him that I loved him before they wheeled him away.

I sat in the family waiting room praying, crying and waiting. I hated to see Ozzie hurting and hated to see him have to go through the pain of surgery but even in the midst of all that I could see God at work. I could feel Him at work. I knew this was going to be one of those life changing moments that I would look back on years from now. As they wheeled Ozzie away I knew he was mine. Deep down in my heart I felt the bond of mother to child. I felt the same heartbreak and fear any mother faces when their child goes under the knife. I felt the same way I would have felt had it been Grace or Rusty being wheeled away. It was there and I finally knew he was mine.

The bonding that takes place between mother and adoptive child is one of those challenges of adoption that people don’t talk about. You expect it to be instant and powerful and certain. It isn’t always that way in the beginning but nobody warns about that so you live in fear that there is something wrong with you, or your new addition. “It should feel effortless and easy,” you tell yourself. I shouldn’t have to work so hard at these emotions. I knew Ozzie was mine from the start. On a deep, spiritual level I knew he was ours…destined to be part of our forever family from the beginning of time, but my heart struggled to feel the feelings that should come naturally with that knowledge and testimony. I loved Ozzie but was I “in love’ with him in the same way I was “in love” with the others? “Did I love him as a mother loves?” I kept asking myself and then felt guilty that I couldn’t answer with a resounding yes. I felt unworthy and like a failure that it wasn’t easier. I have been pouring my soul out to God for weeks about these very feelings and today he answered my questioning heart when the ache I felt at the thought of losing Ozzie on the surgical table brought me to my knees. When I kissed his tousled hair and breathed in his little boy scent I had my breakthrough moment. He was mine, as much mine as if we were in the maternity ward having just given birth to him instead of the pre-op room preparing to say good-bye. I emotionally gave birth to my son today. As hard as today was, as much as I would have taken his pain away in an instant if I could have, today was a day that will forever be a gift. It was the day God revealed to me the love that had already grown in my heart. I just needed to recognize it for what it was… It was a mother’s love.

It was there all along. I just didn’t know it. I didn’t let my heart feel it.

Today Ozzie became my son…not in the eyes of the court, but in the depths of my heart.

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