The cake was chocolate and vanilla with something fudge-y yummy in the middle. A beautiful, snowy white frosting with hot pink and orange flowers on top. When the lady at The Cake Shop opened the box to show me her masterpiece, I burst into tears.
And I cried all the way home.
Riley's first birthday was emotional for many reasons.
1. Our baby is no longer a baby. She's a toddler now, walking and talking albeit tentatively on both accounts. The past year has flown by.
2. Memories of last year came rushing back, the whirlwind upheaval of life as we knew it as we tried to comprehend the fact that our daughter (finally) found us and we (FINALLY!) found her! That our meeting was written in the stars.
3. We haven't heard from Riley's birthmom in three months. While technically an open adoption, we don't have a formal agreement about contact. I continue to send monthly updates with photos and stories and we have invited her to be part of Riley's life. Because I am an adult adoptee who was a product of the closed system of adoption, I've desperately wanted it to be different for my daughter. I've hoped she'd grow up knowing her birthmom. And that may still happen. But right now, she is feeling the need to step back and we must respect that. I can't begin to imagine what her world is like.
So I was a river of tears when I picked up that cake because it meant that I have not been dreaming. I have not been living in an alternate universe. I have not been making up stories in my head. Riley's birthday cake was my proverbial "pinch" (pinch me so I know this is real).
You'd think that the endless diapers and bottles and lack of sleep would have made it all real sooner than this.
The Skin Horse said to The Velveteen Rabbit in Margery Williams' classic book : "Real isn't how you are made... It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
I'm a Real Mom. Riley's Mom. And her birthday cake proved it. "...Once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always" said the Skin Horse.
Lucky me. I get to be Riley's Mommy forever.
I invite you, dear reader, to think of a time in your life when an experience, something or someone helped you become Real?