Thursday, March 28, 2013

Confessions from an Adoptive Mother

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the outpouring of support I received for my last post, Time to Confess. Your blog comments, Facebook comments, and emails reminded me that I have a "virtual village." I am honored you shared my words with your friends. I am grateful you took a moment out of your busy day to write a comment.

So, while I'm at it, I have some more confessions to share.

Once a month, I get angry at The Powers that Be. I'm working on letting go of my anger, because I know it only hurts myself. Anger is a stage in the grief process, and it's the emotion I feel every month when I am suffering from severe menstrual cramps.

Many years ago, when I was complaining to my sister, she comforted me by saying how cramps are the body's way of preparing the uterus for childbirth. So, for a few years there, her words provided a teeny bit of comfort. I felt like my pain had a purpose and one day, when I experienced the miracle of childbirth, it would all be worthwhile.

But I am not destined to be a biological mama. And each month for the past 25 years, I've been experiencing one to three days of severe cramps and/or associated PMS. It just makes me, well, a bit pissed off. Because, what is the point?!?!? Each month now, the physical pain triggers a deep, deep psychological pain. It is a reminder of what I will never experience. I will never carry a life in my womb. I will never feel a baby kick from the inside. I will never have a child with my legs or my husbands eyes. My genetic line (and I can trace my ancestry back at least four generations with photos) dies with me.

I'm still mourning the death of my dream. I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop mourning. The wound will heal, but will the scar remain or fade away?

Ironically, adoption was always a part of my parenting plan. I used to tell people that I just wanted to have one of my own first because I wanted to experience the miracle of pregnancy. I wanted to create life. I dreamed of witnessing my baby's first breath; of feeling overwhelmed with love when I held my seconds-old baby.

Adoption is a miracle. No less of a miracle than biological childbirth. I tell my daughter she is my miracle. Because of all the mamas and all the babies in the whole wide world, we found each other. I tell her mommy waited and waited and waited for her spirit to come to us and she was worth the wait. I tell her she is my wish come true and she made me a mama, something I always dreamed of. I'll tell her that for some reason, she didn't come through me, but she was always meant to be mine. A fellow adoptive mother once told me we adoptive mamas are the space holders. We are an open space for babies who need a home. Maybe this is the reason.

But I am dreading the day she realizes she did not come from us but instead grew in another woman's belly. We've never made her adoption a secret, it's just that now she's too young to understand what it all means. It pains me that she could feel a lifelong sense of loss because her birthmother chose to give her away. One adopted woman told me no matter how good she had it in her adopted family, she always felt a sense of loss because she was given away. I plan to tell my child she was always destined to be my daughter. We don't have a genetic connection, but we have a spiritual one. And that is the one that counts. That one is even thicker than blood.

Hours after she was born, her birthmother asked us to love her baby like she was our own. This now seems odd to me, because SHE IS OUR OWN. I can't imagine loving her anymore. I'm almost positive that could not even be possible. (Although, how would I know for sure? Sometimes I wonder, which is ridiculous, because why does it even matter?)

But here's another confession: it saddens me that I am not my child's ONLY mama. I know this is selfish. If a mother can love more than one child, I'm sure a child can love more than one mother. So I tell myself that she will experience more love. I should be happy about that. It's just that I have this fear that when she chooses to track down her biological family (if she does), that I'll be replaced. That she will want to spend holidays with them. It's not a huge fear, but it's still there.

Sometimes I forget she is adopted. But sometimes I'm painfully reminded. Once at Gymboree, a nanny asked me if she was my child. "Yes," I replied. "Are you sure?" she said, "She doesn't look anything like you." WTF!?! Of course, I started crying. People say the rudest things. Several people have asked me about her "real" mother. I now reply that I am her real mother. I'm the one who checks her in the middle of the night to make sure she is still breathing; the one that wipes her tears and kisses her boo-boos. I have been there for her since she was ten minutes old. (I wanted to be there sooner, but legally she wasn't ours then and it wasn't my decision. So I missed her entry into the world. When she took her first breath, I was feeling helpless from the waiting room. I heard a cry (hers?) and my arms longed to comfort her. "She needs me," I sobbed into my husband's arms. Although, to be honest with myself, it was me who needed her.)

So, maybe you can understand my feelings a little better now. My journey to motherhood was complicated. Just like all the other really great things in life, it was joy and sorrow, love and loss, pain and sheer bliss all rolled up in one. Because I am immensely grateful that my daughter is healthy, and beautiful, and exactly as she is. I honestly wouldn't change how she came to us. Because then she wouldn't be her. I am a better person because of my journey. I am for sure a better mother too. Infertilty and adoption were a challenge for our marriage, but my husband and I have grown closer as well.

I will never take being a mama for granted. I want to always remember how much I loved and longed for my baby before she even was conceived (in a state far away, in a different woman's body, just waiting to reunite with me, her own, real mama.)

It's just that, even while somewhere in me I knew otherwise, I was still kinda hoping maybe I would get pregnant too. Deep down I was hoping that my parenting plan was just reversed. I was hoping maybe the pregnancy would come after the adoption.

But that won't happen. Last month I decided to go back on The Pill. After almost five years off of it, I can't take the pain anymore. By choosing to take it, I am completely closing the door on my dream of a biological baby. While I'm pretty sure the door was closed already, my hope had kept it just a teeny bit ajar. I visualize that hope as a light seeping out from the edge of the door. But now, that light has gone out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time to Confess

Dear Readers, 
I have a confession to make. 

I have not been nourishing myself properly. 
I have not been creating to the extent I need to, in order to feel like myself. 
As a result, I have not been blooming. 
I feel like I've lost my sparkle.

This parenting gig is hard. Harder than I anticipated and I feel like it's kicking my ass. The first year of my daughter's life I was high from the euphoria of finally becoming a mama. Toddlerhood is a different story. My little one is spirited. A climber. Fearless. Fast. And Loud. 

She might end up being an only child.

I now know why "it takes a village." The problem is we don't have a village here in Dallas and minimal traveling familial help. My hubby works at least 60 hours a week and often travels. Almost all the other mamas in my moms group are preggers or just had a baby and I am thinking: how the hell does anyone have more than one child? 

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE my daughter. She is my glitter. My heart and soul. My joy. My snuggle. 

She is also the cause of my sleep deprivation (anyone who knows me knows I need a lot of sleep to function) and the cause of my new white hairs (still so few I can pluck them, thank goodness.) 

I've lost balance. When she first clung to my leg, my heart melted. Now, I would just like to walk unencumbered. 

Yes, I can hire help. But now that I'm a parent, I finally understand what mommy guilt is. I don't want to stick her with an anonymous sitter.

There is more of me (I gained a few pounds) and less of me (mojo, where did you go?). Is the creative, hip woman I used to be inside this mama who wears yoga pants everyday? On the positive side, I've also gained insight and empathy for all who are in a similar situation. Caregiving is tough. Caregiving with limited support is extremely tough. 

Sometimes I cry to my husband, "I feel like a failure! How is everyone else doing this?" He says, "Look at her! She is thriving!" And it's true, she is. But look at me. I need to find some middle ground before she sucks me dry.

I don't want to model self-neglect to my daughter. 

I want to be a mama who sparkles.

So, in December, I made a choice to focus on my own care. I'm fighting the mommy guilt head on. And it is not easy, folks. I joined a new gym (the last one kept kicking her out of the day care for crying too long) and I've set monthly goals for myself that I'm tracking in a fabulous Wizard of Oz datebook that my mother-in-law gave me. At first, I was also recording everything I did that nourished my body and soul (crafty time, writing time, baths, etc.) I've had 2 set backs, but each time I got back up, and that's all that counts. And I'm now taking my own professional advice on balance (which I took pre-baby, back when it was easier.) Preschool a few days a week has also turned out to be life-changing.

So, I'm not going to pretend that I am a mama who has it all together. My hope is that my confession helps me stay on the path back to myself. I also hope it helps you as much as it helps me. Maybe you need a bit of a kick in the butt too to start making your health and happiness a priority.

So, tell me, dear readers: What are your struggles and what are your goals? How are you making your wellness a priority, or how are you going to do so moving forward? Please share your insights here to help others. Or share your struggles and seek support. Or share your plans: how are you going to nourish your sparkle?