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Stretch Marks of the Heart

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I excitedly shared with an acquaintance that my husband and I were expecting a baby via adoption. The woman studied my face and then my body, looked me up and down and said, "Oh, you wanted to do it the easy way."

Stunned and in disbelief, I fumbled for my words and carried on a polite conversation. How little did she know. Easy??? There is nothing easy about being infertile at the young age of 27. Being told that your long undiagnosed severe endometriosis had corrupted all hope of conceiving and that your uterus was so misshapen and filled with adenomyosis, which is "a condition in which endometrial tissue exists within and grows into the uterine wall." And the limited treatment options: "Certain medications can help relieve pain or lessen heavy bleeding. Removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) is the only cure."

No, there is no easy way to bring a child into the world biologically or by being blessed by adoption. It's not easy to have your life scrutinized by an outsider, a social worker there to comb through your past, present and then monitor your future. It's not easy to have no control and be at the mercy of a birth family to choose you, to follow through on that. It's not easy to get a call the day before you are to fly out for the birth of who you thought would be your child, and to have the birth parents say they changed their minds. It's not easy seeing baby bumps everywhere you look, or having people ask where the baby's "real parents" are.

I might not have stretch marks on my belly or a natural water birth story to share with other moms, but I have a story that is just as special and exciting. I have stretch marks on my heart where my love swelled, and grew and burst with joy for my little one not once but twice. I have labored for my sons in tears, paperwork, scrutiny and most of all love. I did not bring them into the world, but I brought them into my world. One filled with wonder, love, faith and family. A world where the miracle of their tiny hand in mine does not cease to amaze me. I am their mom, they are my boys.

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I became a mom to my beautiful big owl-eyed Beckett when he was just 7 weeks old. We fostered him with the intent to adopt him, and we breathed a sigh of relief and inhaled with excitement when we finalized his adoption in May 2015.

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Beckett was and is the child of my dreams. He came to us with a very serious disposition and he scowled constantly even in his sleep. Of course he was too young to comprehend the depth of how his life began, but he could sense it. Still, within days — maybe weeks — his insatiable smile emerged and cheerful disposition took center stage in our lives and hearts. He blew us away with his brilliant mind, quick to learn and imitate. What an honor I have had to eyewitness every first, clap for each milestone, kiss all his owies, wipe his tears. Beckett made me a mama, his birth mom made me a mama, and to be worthy of such a honor I love, soothe, teach, nurture, play, and parent unconditionally.

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It's is still sometimes hard to comprehend that there were days and nights where my tears were falling uncontrollably and it seemed there was no end in sight. Yet now that sorrow and grief have been overturned and replaced with little feet running down the hall, giggles with morning diaper changes, kisses and cuddles before bed. My heart and arms are full. We haven't just been blessed to adopt once, but twice.

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We had hoped and prayed that one day if Beckett's birth mom had another child that we would be able to parent, love and raise that child with his biological sibling. Our prayers were answered ironically on World Adoption Day, Nov. 15, 2016. I received a call from Beckett's state adoption case worker. As soon as I saw the called ID I got shaky and my mother's intuition kicked into high gear. After pleasantries were exchanged, she told me the news: Beckett was a big brother. His birth mom had delivered another beautiful baby boy. Less then 48 hours later we became a family of four! It was a whirlwind of love and excitement. Our sweet snuggle bug Sawyer was just 12 days old when we first held him in our arms. He nestled into our hearts and family and showed us again the beauty of stretch marks of the heart. We finalized Sawyer's adoption in September 2017!

Sawyer and Beckett bonded quickly with an intense connection that I would like to think all siblings share. Sawyer is nearly a year old and the novelty of having a baby brother has not even begun to diminish for Beckett. He wants to hug and kiss him each morning, to help him, to play on the floor with him, to sing to him and to make him laugh. Sawyer is completely enamored and in awe of his brother Beckett. And it again makes my heart swell with joy to see my boys together.

Sawyer is a mama's boy through and through. He lights up a room with his still perfectly gummy smile. He is my tenderhearted daredevil who loves a good twirl in the kitchen or an upside down giggle.

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I told my mom recently that Beckett made me feel complete and Sawyer healed me. My love for them has consumed and swallowed me whole. They have made me whole once again.

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