Once a year you can find me crying at Disney On Ice. Some years I wonder if there’s a support group for Moms like me. “Hi, My name is Paula and I cry at Disney on Ice.” First step is admitting it to yourself, I guess. I am not a closet weeper. I do not wear my proverbial emotions on my sleeve. And yet, this happens at least once a year and I expect nothing less once that music swells and those supremely agile figure skaters hit the ice, spinning and twirling. Blame Disney? I could, I suppose, but it’s not quite that simple either. The first time I wept at Disney On Ice nobody was more shocked than I was.
The first time it happened I was sitting beside my two-year-old daughter Payton and, in the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that it wasn’t really Minnie or Mickey, or Simba or, even Ariel that moved me to tears, it was watching them reflected in my daughter’s face. It was her, all her, perfect sweet wonderful girl, hazel eyes open wide, mouth half open soaking it all in. One sidelong furtive glance stolen as I sat beside her and I was done. Caught unaware. Completely lacking anything resembling Kleenex. How utterly embarrassing!
I am not one of those Mommies who walks around blubbering every time her child accomplishes some great, majestic, and yet oh-so-routine developmental milestone. I never used to be like this. In fact, old Paula, childless jaded journalist Paula would have laughed at this person, this stranger seated in the dark jam-packed sports arena furtively trying to blink tears away before they began that public trail down through carefully applied rouge. Jaded old me argued loudly about how people with children were a pain. These days I think that if the new me, the Mommy me, were seated beside the old me I would most definitely want to give her a shake.
My path towards parental enlightenment came slowly and the hard way. For the first few years of marriage my husband and I had no interest in having children. We married while still finishing university and college. Then we worked, at first freelancing in our respective fields and then eventually breaking through the contract barrier into full-time regular paycheques with benefits. Finally we bought a house and we began considering parenthood. Months became years and our house remained just that, a house, not a home. We had cats, but they were not kids. We had each other but still we had to admit to ourselves that a certain sadness had invaded our hearts. Each month of trying to conceive became an endless heartbreaking cycle of hope, hopes dashed and sad depressing reality that our arms were still empty and then we’d do it all again. Finally we conceded that we may need help. This new path led us on agonizing visits to specialists, fertility experts, and the surreal world of pills, surgeries, needles, charts and ovulation predictors. Fingers and toes crossed, we endured a trip through the rocky terrain where childless couples who do not want to be childless wait in purgatory. Forced to endure empty Christmases. And an endless array of best friend’s baby showers.
And then finally the choice to adopt. We quit fertility treatments and began a different sort of hell, the paperwork, the training and home study process, questionnaires, police checks on our quest to adopt through foster care. So many forms to fill out we agonized over each and every answer. And the checklist for potential children: Would we take a child with terminal illness? How about one who had been sexually abused? An infant or a three-year-old? A group of siblings? Twins?
Nine years of marriage. One year after we finished the adoption paperwork, came the call that changed our lives. A beautiful healthy baby girl had been born, and even better yet, her biological parents had chosen us to be her parents. Imagine that! Still we couldn’t dare to believe it true, until the moment she was placed in our arms. Our hearts, through the process, grew shells.
Fast forward to the first time we meet our baby girl. The first bottle we give her. First smiles. First solid food. Snapshots revealing the tiny funny steps that mark our growth together as a family. Her first ear infection and her first cold.
Unbridled gummy baby giggles. Crawling, walking, tumbling head over heels in love with a child we never thought we’d have. We get all this and more. Christmases now so bright we think our hearts might just split wide open, so full they are, and that’s when it begins for me. This feeling. Awe. Joy. Gratitude. It hits me in waves while watching Dora for the first time with my daughter. Child of my heart. I’m reading Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born for the fiftieth time and she stands up, climbs out of my lap and plants her first ever kiss right smack on my forehead. And I start to cry big, fat, embarrassing tears of joy. My first child, the one who made me a mother. This is how I come to be crying every year in February, watching Disney On Ice unfold, now through both of my daughters’ eyes. Now two beautiful gifts. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.