The nurse asked me to sit in the wheelchair and she would wheel me to the front door while I held our daughter in the car seat. TPR had not been signed, yet we were leaving the hospital with this baby who grew in our hearts. I reminded myself to enjoy the journey. To file this experience away like I had with my biological children. Our first steps out the door into forever.
And then suddenly a cold fear washed over me. We were leaving the hospital with this baby! We were leaving! With her! I anxiously looked around waiting for someone to rush up and take her from me. Telling me it was all a mistake. She was not ours. I could not leave. And for goodness sake, to get out of that wheelchair! I did not just give birth!
Thankfully, that did not happen, but all adoptive parents know this fear and can easily recall it, as well as the fear of waiting through ICPC. Feeling safe behind a closed hotel room door, afraid to venture out. Afraid of everything. Mostly in awe that someone trusted us to raise their baby. Now what? She’s crying . . . what does that mean? How long until I can submerge her in water? Examining every nook and cranny. Staring in disbelief as the baby sleeps (and we should be sleeping) at this miracle that lays beside us.
I anxiously looked around waiting for someone to rush up and take her from me. Telling me it was all a mistake. She was not ours. I could not leave. And for goodness sake, to get out of that wheelchair! I did not just give birth!
ICPC is kind of like a honeymoon phase. Waiting for TPR to be signed, for the okay to head back to your home state. Where you dash like a fool trying to get home as quickly as you can so you can be in your own space with this new joy. I called our sitter when our ICPC was complete and I would be heading home. We planned this extravagant arrival of baby and me. I would go to the front door and knock. The boys would answer. I would introduce them to their sister. But as all good plans go, it didn’t turn out that way. They totally knew it was me at the door and shoved me aside as they grabbed the baby carrier and gazed at their new sister. I had been demoted. There was a new girl in three little boy’s eyes. And I couldn’t have been happier.
There are a few sides to the rest of the story after you come home.
Some want the baby celebrated. Balloons, gifts, visits, meals. We’re new moms, after all! We aren’t sleeping! We are still caring for our families. Our lives are changing and we want our nearest and dearest to be involved in it. But a lot of times, people aren’t. They think because this child did not come from your body that you should be able to just go with the flow. They do not realize the labor of love that adoption entails. The paperwork, the networking, the waiting, the match, the birth, the termination of rights, the emotional ups and downs that cannot be blamed on hormones. The fear of leaving empty-armed. The fear of coming home with a baby. A lot of times we are overlooked. And this can cause some post-adoption depression. Finding others to talk to, having a support network of other adoptive moms is imperative. To know that these feelings are normal is a huge relief as you are cleaning up dirty diapers and spit up. As you are looking at this infant trying to figure out if you are doing things right. Rest assured, you are doing things right.
There are also the continued home study visits to think about. And boy do we think about them! Is the house clean (who cares)? Is the baby dressed in clean clothes (but you aren’t)?
Others want to be left alone. They want to close ranks and get to know their new baby and come up with a routine that works for them. A lot of parents who adopt internationally or through foster care like to go into hibernation mode for bonding. If this is what you want to do, let people know your desires so they can respect your wishes. This quiet time is a wonderful time to get to know this little one who now has your heart. One thing friends can do to help is you can put a cooler on your front porch and friends can bring meals over and place them in the cooler. That way they feel like they are helping but not intruding. And you get yummy meals delivered to your doorstep! It’s a win/win situation.
There are also the continued home study visits to think about. And boy do we think about them! Is the house clean (who cares)? Is the baby dressed in clean clothes (but you aren’t)? Will it look like you are doing everything right (impossible) and love this baby dearly (of course!)? Do not fear these visits. Your social worker just wants to check on YOU! Are you doing okay? Getting help? Adjusting to having a baby? What are your fears and concerns? She is certain you adore your child and are putting his or her needs ahead of your own. So just breathe and hand over the baby for her to love on. The hard part is over.
You will want to cry right along with him after a week of endless nights. And that is okay. It doesn’t mean you are ungrateful, aren’t bonding, or something is wrong with your baby: you are simply being his parent
Well, mostly. Now you have to raise this little person to be a self-sufficient human being. And there is where the journey really begins. So take a deep breath. Look down at that little face that you love with your entire being and know you are right where you are supposed to be, doing what all of us do: the best you can. Try not to fall prey to the thoughts of how you should be more perfect at parenting, not ever get frustrated, or even angry, at this child. You are a parent. You will feel these things. You will want to pull your hair out when the baby doesn’t sleep. You will want to cry right along with him after a week of endless nights. And that is okay. It doesn’t mean you are ungrateful, aren’t bonding, or something is wrong with your baby: you are simply being his parent. It happens. To all of us. No matter what. I know you are grateful. I know you are humbled. I know you want to give this child the world. Because I do, too. But I’m also human. And so are you. Ask for help. Accept help. Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, they are all different. They are all huge blessings. And remember: No matter what, you got this!