Yep that’s me holding the crying baby in the photo above and that’s jolly old Santa…
I officially became a mom the day before Mother’s Day in May of 2001 – except I did not know it yet. I didn’t find out until Mother’s Day – that is when my husband was able to call me all the way from Kazakhstan (it s country far away – look it up here ) where he was in the process of adopting and then bringing our son home. That is were my first child(he is our youngest – it is complicated) was born. I wasn’t in the court room that day in Kazakhstan as I opted not to travel on the trip to get him. My incredible husband travelled alone on an over 2 week journey to get our son. When I answered the phone that Mother’s Day morning and heard ‘Happy Mother’s Day- you’re a mom” my heart melted and warmed and I cried tears of joy. My dream of becoming a mom had come true. I had never met this little 8 month old boy but he already had my heart.
I was 37 years old when I became a mother. I had waited a long time. I remember the first days after Luke and Kevin arrived back home – Kevin was in a stupor after traveling with an infant with double ear infections across the world. Luke cried much of the trip and if it were not for the kindness of some sweet Russian woman who took Luke for a while so Kevin could rest I am not sure my husband and his precious charge would have made it home. Upon arrival on U. S. soil aside from kissing the ground Kevin became sick with some Kazak bug and slept for 14 hours straight. I had never cared for a baby really and I was thankful Luke slept much of the first day he arrived home- but after that I remember being in shell shock. You learn fast! How thankful I was to have had many experienced moms to seek out answers from.
I had spent 35 years only caring about myself -and then Kevin- but he didn’t need constant care and attention. At 37 I was so self absorbed but I didn’t realize how much until I had another human to care for 24/7. I was in awe that one little person needed so much. It was in those first months after Kevin went back to work and I worked part-time but spent the rest with Luke that we bonded. I remember the day I realized that I would die for my child- a feeling you can’t explain but parents know it. You don’t have to have a child from your own body in order to love them. It is something we might think in our heads but a human heart is ever expanding when we open ourselves up. Luke changed me – I was his mom.
Having waited for so long to become a mom I wanted to do all the mom things that I had missed out on. I wanted to take Luke to the park – we did that a lot. We joined a mom’ s club and went to their activities. We began parent and child swim class. The list goes on and on an on. I had spent years longing for kids to dress up and take out for Halloween. We were so jacked up about it that on Halloween in 2001 we had a date in court to readopt our son in Maryland court- something we had to do because I hadn’t traveled to Kazakhstan. We took Luke dressed up in his halloween costume to our early morning court time and I think the entire room swelled at the cuteness of the little boy dressed like Tigger with his new parents. I know it was probably the best part of the day for the judge. It was one of the best days of my life.
For so many years before motherhood as I was shopping in the mall at Christmas time I would watch the kids line up to sit in Santa’s lap. Each one cuter than the next. Lines so long they wrapped almost to the escalator. I was not much for waiting in line- I am still not- but I always pictured myself waiting in that line with my future child. At one point the hope of being a mother almost felt like it was being squashed as my husband and I dealt with fertility issues with no cure in site. During that time a long line to see Santa seemed like a reward to be cherished. I wanted that prize.
So you can imagine when Christmastime came around in 2001 I wanted to take my now 15 month old son to see Santa for the first time. My husband and I planned our visit for after dinner so Luke wouldn’t be hungry. We dressed him in little overalls and packed his stuffy and blanket and headed to the mall. We rolled up like excited kids to the long line that wound it’s way down to Santa. I was beaming – probably chatting in line with any parent who would listen. The weariness of parenthood and the apathy that can come with it hadn’t fully set in yet and it was Christmas after all.
I was bone tired though. I didn’t know what tired was until my poor underfed Luke came home. He was waking us at least once a night from the time he came home at 8 months He was making up for lost time, I suppose, and we gladly – and sleepily- fed and changed him. After he reached normal weight (that means on the charts for his age) he began sleeping through the night. It was glorious and sad but not long lived as he made his way into our room for the next 12 years- a common fixture on our bed and when he got too big -on our floor. It never bothered me because I knew very well that he may not have been in my life at all- something that is hard to fathom but is true. So there I stood that evening in that long line with all the other parents waiting to see their kids with Santa. I was in my future- the one I had pictured as I trotted through the malls years before…
Then Santa got mad. At me. Pisser. After waiting in the line for over an hour – and yes even my elation was beginning to fade- we got close to the moment of truth and Santa’s lap – well a bench as it turns out. He had littles on his lap and bigs sat next to him. It was just about our turn. We began to give info to the elves that were helping santa. We paid and began the short walk to Santa’s lap/bench – and then..Luke saw Santa! Oh how his eyes lit up- and his mouth opened – and out came a huge wail! This was not the way I pictured this moment. In my dream, my kid was angelic – a cherub- longing to go into Santa’s arms and sit on his lap. Luke was beside himself -this was not happening- but it was- huge wails of fear. The elves told me to go up to Santa and lets see if we could get him calmed down. (really ? closer?). The closer I got the worse it seemed to get. The elves and Santa seemed determined to get this kid in a photo. So they told me to sit next to Santa with Luke in my lap. I wan NOT dressed to be in any picture. I was still in the “lets make the kid look -good screw how I look” mode of new parenthood. I had to get in the photo? I don’t recall now why Kevin didn’t get in it. Kevin was much better at calming Luke down- he is calmer by nature than I am. Santa was not happy because we were taking up time and also when one baby cries- well- it seems to set off other baby alarms and other babies begin to cry and then its a freakin’ cry fest.
Somehow I sat down with Luke in my lap- he was sweating and I was freaking out inside. The look on my face in the photo is me trying to not cry. We got the shot -up we jumped- see ya Santa. But NO Santa had to make me feel worse… Santa began to scold me -Santa was mad- at me!- he said it was all my fault and that I should have backed up to the bench with Luke looking out at the crowd and then sat down. I made him cry because I came in straight so that he saw Santa. No freaking Elf told me to try that Santa….and eff you Santa! But I said nothing- Kevin and I grabbed our baby stuff and our stroller and went to find a place to calm Luke down while we waited for the god forsaken photo to be ready. Santa had nerve.
They called our name and Kevin went to get the picture. We took a look at it and we broke out in such laughter people were staring. A photo that would live in Sweeney infamy. One that to this day we show Luke – who is now 15- and we all laugh- even him. Sadly we have other pictures with the same Luke scream face…the first haircut- maybe I can dig that photo up…yes Luke was notorious for open mouthed wailing.
Too bad -mad Santa- you didn’t wreck my day. You gave me a great story and I am very thankful for that day no matter how it went-because it was the beginning of many years of parenting- the good and the not so good- but it is a journey I never thought I would be on and every milestone – including the first crazed trip to Santa (we never went back to that mall for a Christmas picture) was a blessing to me. I know how lucky I am that God found this little sweet soul (and he is still sweet in his stinky teen body)to be my son. I will never forget the firsts – we are still living them with all three of our kids. Sometimes we don’t know how lucky we are until we are given something we thought we would never have. I finally got my reward- a photo with Santa and my son.
Thanks for reading…..
PS- Hey Santa I am looking at the picture and wondering where your right arm is????? I think his hand is near my chest—I never noticed this before – holy cow -and he was mad at me!?- LOL
Another first- Luke at JC Penney. This was his “I am about to cry and then wail” look. I think we got him to stay calm for a few more poses but it wasn’t easy…this is before his first haircut..another first and fiasco!