I met a new mom acquaintance a few weeks ago. My daughter just started kindergarten, and it’s opened up a new world of people and experiences and introductions. We walked around our children’s classroom on open house night, and both of us were more than a little sentimental, more than a little aware of how cruelly time passes and how quickly our babies grow. Another mom had brought her newborn with her, which only contributed to the fight against tears. We reminisced about our now kindergarteners and how we “remember when they were that little” followed quickly by, “I miss that stage when they would just cuddle in your arms.” (Does MomSpeak have like an official handbook? I think it should). When the conversation, which now included other parents in the room, drifted to comments about sleepless nights, dirty diapers, and long days, I thought of my son.
See, he’s about to celebrate his third birthday next month, but he had already passed the stages of midnight feedings and tottering steps when he came to our family. I don’t know what his first food was. I don’t know when he broke his first tooth. I wasn’t there to see his first step. I’m not sure how his nursery looked or what his favorite stuffed animal was or if he liked to sleep with a blankie. Our first day with him involved chasing him on a playground, eating spaghetti and meatballs, followed by a pre-bedtime dance party, and then sleeping soundly through the night for 13 hours straight.
Our daughter was placed with us the day she was born. I was in the delivery room with her beautiful birth mother who requested my presence. She, not the nurses, handed that gorgeous baby to me. She demanded this to happen because she wanted it to be part of the story: that she was the one who chose to create an adoption plan filled with love and expressed in intricate detail. But the changes in her body during pregnancy, the cravings, the hot flashes, and the discomfort were not shared. Her pain during delivery was not mine. Her cries at placement of both joy and grief were hers alone to voice.
Yet, while the birth stories of my children are not standard mom group tales, there is such a special uniqueness and exceptionality that is the hallmark of how they came to be a part of our family. There are few people I know who understand the honor of looking into a birth mother’s tear-strewn yet determinedly fierce face as she tells you that she wants you to be the mother of their child. I have lived that. Twice. It is earth-shattering, both through joy and tragedy. That is part of their birth stories.
When we were able to leave the hospital with our daughter, she and I had to stay in a hotel for over two weeks as the state in which she was born and the state in which we lived failed to communicate properly, and paperwork was held up for far too many days. We had her first shopping adventure when she was 6 days old because I couldn’t stand the walls of the suite that threatened to close in on me. We bonded fiercely during that time, because for most of the hours of the days, it was the two of us. That is part of her birth story.
On the day our son was placed with us, as we buckled him into his car seat to take him home for the first time, he looked at me, pointed, and called me mama. My heart still melts at that thought. Even though he was 19 months old at the time, that detail is part of his birth story.
As I grow as a mother through adoption and realize, make peace with, and then embrace the fact that typical birth stories are not part of my repertoire and never will be, I am also able to weigh the importance of them in my life versus the importance of the actual events of their placements that are poignant and raw and walled in by love and loss. The stories of their “births” into our home and the subsequent days that have built us into family are unparalleled and extraordinary tales of miracles and wonders—which perfectly describe who my children are.
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