I love how lately my four year old son keeps asking me to tell him about the day he was born. He cuddles right in, usually with blanket in hand, and smiles as I recount the memory of that day.
I tell him how much we wanted a baby to love. How Mommy couldn’t have a baby in her belly, so instead we wished for him. We wished, and we wished, and we wished. For a long time, we wished. And then one miraculous day we got a call telling us our baby boy was born!
So we ran around the house like crazies, packed our bags, drove to the airport, and flew all the way to Missouri. We ran as fast as we could to straight to the nursery to find him sleeping; my sweet perfect little person, just waiting for his family to arrive. I tell him how Daddy was the first to hold him, how he smiled and whispered, “my son,” and then Mommy scooped him up and said, “my little prince,” and we rubbed noses. And from that day on we were a family, and our special wish had finally come true.
Each time I tell it, I get a little more animated, and it elicits a few giggles, which I adore. Sometimes I get a few questions like, “Is that the day you gave me blanket?” or “Did you sing to me?” and I nod. He doesn’t quite understand all the subtle nuances, or the fact there were two other people who were a major part of his story. He doesn’t know that all that “wishing” really meant seven long years of my husband and I trying for a family, leading up to that moment.
He doesn’t know how he spent his first week in the NICU being treated for seizures and other things the staff couldn’t tell us about until the necessary legal guardianship paperwork was signed. He doesn’t know how we Googled every medical term we overheard doctors saying when they stopped by on morning rounds, or how hard we prayed to just let this story end happily. And that’s fine. It’s too much right now.
He shouldn’t know those things at this point, probably not even for a very long time to come. Right now it’s just about getting the lingo down, and ensuring that it’s a fun and positive story that he loves to hear, like a favorite bedtime book. As time goes by we’ll introduce more concepts, and at some point he’ll ask more follow up questions. But that will all happen when he’s ready and curious for more.
The only thing that matters right now is that he knows he was loved and wanted, and what makes us a family is that we love and care for one another. We want him to know that his adoption was an event that happened in his life, it doesn’t define his life, or who he is as a person.
Practice What You Preach, Mom!
I say all this half chuckling to myself, because I really should take my own advice. Classic ‘do as I say, don’t do as I do,’ parenting moment, frankly. Looking back, there was a period of time where I did let the adoption process, and being an adoptive parent, define me. Those first couple of years I know I was tense. Self-conscious. Unsure of my footing.
My son fully recovered from his difficult birth and hit every single developmental milestone. But for some reason I felt as though I were constantly clenching and waiting for another shoe to drop. I don’t know why I felt different than other moms – it was completely and utterly self-imposed – but I just felt different. As if those who gave birth to their children somehow had better maternal instincts or were more connected to their children than I.
I felt compelled to tell new people I met that my son was adopted; for no good reason other than to prove to myself we had all survived and were perfectly okay. It was almost as if I had ‘Post Adoption Stress Disorder.’ It’s a wonder I didn’t sprout more gray hairs!
Getting Your Groove Back
It probably wasn’t until I found myself sharing the same funny stories about raising kids with family, college friends, and found a few moms in town that I connected with, that I realized it’s all the same hot, happy little mess, and I finally allowed myself to exhale.
Our lives were not all that different; the things that brought us joy were the same, the things we lost sleep over were the same, the challenges we had navigating family or a work-life balance were the same. Even our struggles to get them to eat broccoli and our love of wine at Mom’s Night Out… the same!
That connection to other mom’s slowly began to build me back up again, and I can’t say enough about how important that sense of community is when you’re in the trenches. People you can lean on, solicit advice from, laugh with, gossip with, commiserate over the latest mystery virus to infect the daycare with. People whose kids you adore as if they were your own, and who you trust with your own in return. People who build you up. Whose opinions you respect. Who will offer to bring a shot of Bailey’s for your coffee so you can both survive the dreaded 8 a.m. soccer game.
That Mom Tribe is essential to one’s mental health; and I’m reasonably certain it helped to restore mine. I also have an amazing husband who is not only a terrific partner, he’s an even better father. No couple can be an island alone.
Life On The Other Side
I used to think my path to parenthood was unique; something that set me apart from the pack. And while today I honor the way I became a mom, I’m better able to recognize that part of the story was just the prelude to the bigger story of “Us.” So much of which is yet to be written. I am grateful every day for this life, and for the gift of adoption that brought my son to our family, and made our life complete.
I’m grateful for the unselfish women everywhere who give their all – their time, their energy, their laughter, their hearts. And this month especially, as we recognize and celebrate Adoption in a special way, I’m grateful to one special woman who gave the gift of life and entrusted it, on faith alone, to a complete stranger.
We’re all part of a bigger construct – that ‘invisible thread’ as they call it – that connects us as a community on this amazing journey of parenthood. And oh what a journey it is!
Susanne grew up in Westerly, RI and for the past 10 years has called Trumbull, CT her home. She works full time as a Learning & Development professional at a medical device company, and is mom to an energetic and very funny 4 year old son, Dylan. Susanne met her husband, Sean, in 2003 and they married in June, 2006. He has been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to get her to stop initiating home improvement projects ever since.