Two years ago, I became a mom for the first time. Becoming a mom through adoption was a terrible miracle. I felt as though I had to take motherhood from another woman in order for me to become a mother. It was both tragic and joyous. It was both the best day ever and the worst.
I sometimes felt, even though I had a baby and was now a mother, that other women who carried and birthed their babies looked at me like I was a different kind of a mother. Not as “real” as them. That somehow I took the “easy” road.
I felt, at times, like I was totally prepared for motherhood and parenting. I read all the books, decided on my “parenting style” and prepared a nursery. Boy, was I wrong. The moments after placement when it was just my husband and our new baby in my arms, I was instantly terrified. When should I feed her? What should I tell her about her birth family? How do I make sure she grows to be a strong, confident woman who is proud of her adoption story? I felt unprepared to have such a responsibility on my hands.
Two years after becoming a mother, I still feel inadequate at times. However, there are a few things that I have come to realize.
1. There is not one single adoptive family that knows what they are doing 100% of the time.
These little ones are placed with us, and we try our best to raise them into responsible human being who treat people with love and respect. If someone claims to have the perfect child and the perfect adoption, they are liars. Adoption relationships are real, and with those come real emotions and attitudes, styles and feelings. Learn all you can, find parenting styles that work for you and your kids, and do the best you can.
2. Every adoption relationship is different. At times, you may feel like you are doing everything wrong in the relationship with your birth family.
Relationships, by nature, can be complex and have their challenges. When you throw in an adoption placement and any level of openness, things can get tricky at times. Our relationships with birth families and expectant parents are like relationships with any other members of our families. We try to go to everything we are invited to, but if there is one thing I have learned with being a mother, I cannot do it all, and that is okay. So we pick and choose which events we can make, and sometimes our families miss us, and sometimes our kids’ birth families miss us. Just like with our families, when challenges and issues arrive, we talk to directly to the person with love and care. We do not put up boundaries and walk away. We tell our birth families, we don’t just adopt a baby: We adopt your whole family, and you adopt us. We’re a package deal.
3. Make friends with other adoptive families, birth parents, and adoptees.
At some point in time, challenges will arise in your adoption. Feelings will be hurt, you will have questions, and you will need someone to talk to. Sure, you can talk to your friends who grew their family the traditional way. They will nod and say they understand, but they won’t. They can’t. It is so nice to talk to someone who actually gets it. They have been in the trenches of adoption with you, and they can truly understand how you are feeling and the emotions that come with adoption relationships.
4. Everything you say or do might be wrong.
Hide their adoption story, share their adoption story, have openness, keep it closed, talk about adoption openly and often, only talk about it when your child brings it up. You can do any and all of these wrong. Just do the best that you can. Listen to your child. Try to understand their emotions and feelings. Only you know what is right for your family and for your child. If people occasionally judge you, so be it.
5. Everything will be fine, in the end.
We all try our best with what we have been given. We all have different talents, interests, thoughts, and emotions. That is what makes living this life so exciting. That is also what makes having relationships both fun and stressful. Do what you can. Making memories and enjoying life should be your priorities. A sink full of dishes at bedtime is not the worst thing in the world, although my pre-mom self would have told you otherwise. Spend time with the people love, work to develop healthy relationships, and snuggle your kiddos as often as humanly possible.