Eto Maiya Mama

Today we said good-bye to Juri for the next week or two as we prepare to travel back to the capital to get Janna’s referral.  Our train leaves tonight, hopefully I will sleep this time.  Today has just been difficult for me.  Two words: attachment and bonding.  Last week when we got here it was so wonderful just to see this child we have been dreaming of for the last year, to hear his voice, his laugh, to be the reason for his smile.  I have been using pregnancy metaphors so, I suppose, to continue that I will liken it to those initial few contractions that you are so giddy about.

On the very first visit he started calling us “mama” and “papa”.  “Eto maiya Mama” (This is my Mama), is a phrase I have gotten used to hearing these last few days.  Even his group appears to understand, as when I walk up they all run back to him excitedly exclaiming in Russian “Juri, your Mama is here!”  And I’ll be honest, I have enjoyed it, but today it seems at best bittersweet.

You see, no one ever told Juri that we are his Mama and Papa.  His nannies said that he had visitors, but that is all.  We gave him presents and treats and lots of attention.  And for him, that is what a “mama” is, it’s a lady who sits on a bench with you for an hour every day and gives you snacks and toys.  He is always overjoyed to see me, but what child wouldn’t be overjoyed to see the nice lady who always says nice things, gives him extra snacks and plays with only him every day?

Juri has had some serious amounts of fun this week that he usually is never privileged to have.  But he hasn’t had a family experience.  He hasn’t really been a part of our family or been introduced to what it means to live in a family environment.  He’s had extra food and extra toys and extra love, but to him that is all that we are.

I am his Mama, in my heart, and hopefully soon legally, practically, and forever in every way.  But my son has many “mamas” in his life, and he has no real idea what that word is supposed to mean.  His first mama left him, the woman he calls “mama” now is a paid nanny who works at the orphanage and “his mama” is the nice lady who plays with just him and no one else.

It’s so difficult to explain all the emotions, and part of it is that I know we are leaving him for a while.  I wrote a sweet paragraph that I asked the nanny to read to him before I left.  In it I told him we would be gone for one or two weeks.  I am not sure what I was expecting, but there was no reaction at all.  It was as if it didn’t even bother him that we weren’t coming again tomorrow.

I don’t know if he was just not listening or if it honestly didn’t matter to him.  But the truth is, even with all the wonderful days we’ve had, there’s no way to know if he’s bonding yet.  Attachment is much more difficult than that for a child who has seen every adult in his life as totally interchangeable.

IMG_0353Reality is beginning to set in after the very joyous rush of meeting our son for the first time, and it’s a hard reality for me to face.  It was almost easier to love this boy that I had never met than it is to now love a boy who I have met and who does not know to love me back.  I’m sure it will come with time, but there are no expectations of him, and even if he never really loves me I will always be his Mama.

Adoption is a beautifully redemptive work.  But that word “redemptive” is key, it means that something first had to be lost.  Adoption is a joy that always comes from loss.  Today I am feeling a very tiny part of the loss that Juri has carried his whole life, and it is painful, but a burden I pray that I can learn to rejoice in helping him carry in the days and weeks and years to come.

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