One of the little known facets of adoption is the whole counting thing.
It is found with all types of adoption, domestic or international.
But the international counting gets a little more obsessive, I'd say.
There is counting everywhere you turn (and NO not only for those of us compulsive controlling types, we all do it, I took a poll).
You count the paperchase, each step in it gets its own countdown.
You count the months from dossier landing, anticipating a referral.
Once you get a referral you count the weeks until court, then the weeks to travel.
Then the days to travel count down.
Then you count the days you are in country.
Of course, if you are just a really laid back kind of person, or really detached in the spiritual holiness sense, then you don't count. You just live in the present moment.
Good for you.
I'm not that holy.
I even count the hours ahead, eight, of the time each day....kind of checking in, figuring out what she'd be doing now.
Don't judge me, I can't help it.
But today, as I was out trying to make a dent in the elfin duties of the season, another sort of counting was rattling in my brain.
I was counting kids.
I am often asked how many kids I have.
This often happens when I show up with a towering cart at the market or when I am shopping for stocking stuffers and buy in gross.
And so today I was thinking, what do I say?
How do you respond to that when you are in the process limbo?
To the observer, when I am buying in bulk or when I have all the kidletts -big and small - in tow, I am sure they must think the number looks something like this pic, below.
Yeah, two of those are officially mine. Front and center, the cute ones.
And I can go all philosophical on you and say, that pic is from World Youth Day in Cologne, they are all my children, as a mother in this world I care about them all.
But that would be too flip.
But really, how do I answer that?
I could say I have seven children. Count the bouncy balls in my cart: seven.
But then am I short-shrifting "M", so far away?
Will that somehow resonate across the globe?
Somehow, oddly it feels like it does.
But then again, the process can make you a tad hyper-sensitive too and I don't want to overstate (for a change, but I will, I can't help it).
And so, if I follow that, I say "I have eight children."
Then it too, feels not quite there.
Because while on this side of the world we've been given the ok and it's almost a formality that she is our daughter....on the other side, in Ethiopia, it is very much not a done deal.
And it could go wrong.
Until the court says she is our daughter, can I claim her?
I have in my heart and head and energy and effort. I've taken the hits of scorn and derision.
I have fought for her.
And I have prayed for her, and do, every day.
But until it's official in her country and culture and legal process, can I boldly, baldly say, "I have eight children?"
I think so...
But then again, I almost always feel like I need to clarify - we are waiting for court, so we can go get her...bring her home.
So, I think the only way for me to do this is to count.
And I count eight.
I have eight children.
Because she is mine already, part of the fabric of me and us.
And if, God forbid, something unthinkable happens I will still have eight children, I will simply be torn from one.
And the controlling freak part of me wants to push through the counting, shorten it all, because I have claimed her and so it only makes sense that we go bring her to us.
Then she can claim us too.
And we can count, together. A new kind of counting, forward and infinite.
And I bought her a stocking today anyhow, just because. I counted.