We finished up at the mall play area and agreed to meet in the parking lot so I could lead the caravan to the park.
My sister-in-law and her family had driven 10 hours to visit us and they chose the highlight of their trip to be Build A Bear. I didn’t ask questions.
I don’t frequent the mall much, if ever, but I did for my cute nieces. With both of my brand new baby boys strapped to my front and back, I picked up the diaper bag and was determined to make sure they didn’t wait long for me. Unloading two babies from my body and into car seats is no simple or smooth task. Briskly and quickly I walked through the long mall corridor trying not to make a scene.
Four stores away from the door I am stopped abruptly by a woman and what appears to be her teenage daughter.
“Those aren’t twins are they?” Her eyebrows were raised and her face read cynical.
“No,” I respond with a smile, “Just close in age.”
“They can’t both be yours then right?” Hands on her hips she spits the question as though she is trying to make a point.
She stares at me with eyebrows raised and her finger pointing, her eyes trying to peer around me to see my firstborn son who is strapped to my back. He is brown-skinned with wiry dark hair while my son being carried in the front is white skinned, blonde hair, blue eyes. They are not quite 5 months apart; we adopted our first son while I was 20 weeks round with our second born.
Not an unusual question for me, I attempt to maneuver around her as I say, “Oh yes, actually they are both mine.”
“Well they don’t look related at all.”
At this point, I’m forcing my smile as I kindly say, “Nope, just close in age,” and once again attempt to move on with my day; I don’t have time to have this conversation for the tenth time this day.
Unwilling to let me have space and peace, she says boldly and loudly, “Well did you BIRTH them both? Because if not, they can’t BOTH be yours.”
Annoyed and angry, my courteous smile no longer has a place here.
I stop trying to move toward the doors out, certain my sister-in-law and her family are already waiting on me, and I say with such confidence: “These boys are both my sons. Equally, they are mine.” And I step aside and keep walking.
As I reach for the door out, I turn to look and she is still watching me as though I have robbed the Victoria’s Secret she was about to shop at.
What I need you to know about my boys is that they are mine.
Still under one year old, they have no idea what you and too many others are asking or saying to us. But soon enough, they will have ears to hear and a head to process all of the harmful and intrusive questions, comments, and assumptions.
My boys may not share blood or DNA, but they share parents and a family. Their parents (me and their dad) love them both fiercely and unconditionally.
What I need you to know about my boys, my almost twins, is that I love them the same and I parent them the same. I need you to know that we are a real family; we are not playing pretend or house. I love them both as though I birthed them both, but also as though I adopted them both.
It is the same fierce and unending mama love.
And to the woman who bluntly said to me that because I “did not birth one or both of my boys, they cannot possibly be mine”: you couldn’t be more wrong. Birth is not what makes a family, love is.
For more from Natalie, check out her book, This Undeserved Life: Uncovering the gifts of grief and the fullness of life.