Someone asked me the other day how many kids I have, and I almost said three. Which isn't technically true, but sort of is. Because we only have two children who are legally ours. There are two children with our last name who are living in our home right now. Two daughters who have called me mom for the last 20 months. Two children. I have two children.
But what about the third? She's out there, somewhere. I haven't met her yet. I don't know her name. I don't know how old she is, or what she looks like, or what her likes and dislikes are. I don't know anything about her, except that she is mine. She is my child, she just doesn't know it yet. And neither do random grocery store clerks who ask me how many children I have.
Before I had two children, before I knew their names or had seen their faces, I often got asked a similar question. Do you have any children? Sometimes I said yes. But then I couldn't really answer whether they were sons or daughters or twins or 4 years old or 10 years old. Most of the time I just shook my head and didn't say anything.
I would see these pregnant women walking around the stores and I wanted to go up to them and ask them all sorts of questions about what they were feeling. Were they nervous but also excited? Did they feel ready to be a mom? Did carrying around a baby bump feel the same as carrying around this weird secret of having children but not having children?
Now I have two children. I've adopted once before. I should know how this whole thing is going to play out. But I still feel like a mother walking around with an invisible child. It's like I'm pregnant, but without the baby bump to show it. I'm expecting, but it's not a baby. It's a hurting child who is alive right this second and not living with me or inside of me.
So what do I say? That I have three children? But what they ask where the other one is? What do I say then? Do I explain how adoption works? Or do I just stay silent from the beginning?
I never know the answer to this question. The only thing I do know is that I am a mother of three. I have three children. Three. Two daughters who call me mom and one who hasn't met me yet. There are two children living in our home right now, and one who isn't. Two children share our last name, and one doesn't. Not yet. But she will one day. Because I'm coming for her.
Caitlin is the founder and creator of Respite Redefined. She is a wife and mother of two daughters through adoption from foster care. Caitlin loves to read, to write, and to dream of the places she'll go and the sights she'll see and the new kids she'll one day meet