Thursday, May 21, 2009

Motherhood often a shared journey

Post-Crescent column: May 9, 2009
My daughter Mihret has two mamas. Every time Mihret looks in the mirror, her Ethiopian birth mother, Mama Delame, looks back at her.

When Mihret studies herself in the glass, something she loves to do at age 2, I often watch her and smile. I can't help but notice how she is Mama Delame in miniature.

Mama Delame will always be with her, in her serious, solemn look that's well beyond her years, and in her smile that flashes her teeth and shows her dimples.

I don't feel threatened that we share the title of mama, or Mihret's heart.

Ever since Mihret came home from East Africa with me and my husband Josh as a 6-month-old, we've shown her our photograph of me and Mama Delame standing together in a dusty care center courtyard in the countryside, our arms tucked behind the small of each other's backs.

We're both wearing long skirts out of respect for the occasion, our first meeting. I'm in awe of this slender yet strong woman, barely out of her teens, who breastfed and sang to Mihret and told us about her dreams.

As we're about to celebrate Mother's Day, it's bittersweet. The sweetness is our daughter, our precious joy, and the trust Mama Delame placed in us to parent her child. The bitterness is the tang of missing my sister in Christian motherhood, and knowing we may never meet again in this lifetime.

For an early Mother's Day gift, Josh and Mihret strung together a special necklace for me at the Building for Kids in downtown Appleton. Miss Patty, who runs the art studio there, chose for Mihret a stone from Zimbabwe as the necklace's centerpiece. Five beads surround the stone on each side to represent our family: Josh, me, Mihret, Mama Delame and Mihret's birth father figure, her Grandpa Demesse.

As Mihret grows into a young woman, she may wrestle with ever-changing emotions, with all that's sweet and bitter about life after adoption.

We — all of her family — are her constants. And her Mama Delame will always be with her, wherever she goes.

-By Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer

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