I could oversimplify and say being an adoptive mom is like being a “regular” (non-adoptive) mom. Most of it is. Once the paperwork and jumping through hoops is done and the baby is legally yours, it’s just being a caregiver. You care for your baby’s every need, you get stressed, you experience mom guilt, and you feel joy when they say a new word or laugh at you. But there are a few things that set adoptive moms apart. They include:
Extra People To Love
There is one huge difference, in my mind, that makes adoptive moms different: we now care for an extra person, the birth mother, as well. Our adoption is open. I know that is not the case for all. A new statistic from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, however, is that 95% of domestic infant adoptions today are semi or fully open. This makes me really happy. When we first started the adoption process, I assumed we’d have a closed adoption. But the more I learned about open adoption and realized how much sense it made, the more interested I got in who the birth mother would be. This person was going to change our lives and then remain in our lives as a new extended family member.
Adoption is exciting and inspiring when you think of all the people involved. The actual work to get there, though, can be quite tedious and mundane. Loads of paperwork, meetings, trainings, etc. all will be worth the effort in the end . . . but you won’t remember much of it. Even our adoption finalization was quite anti-climactic. I was expecting to go to court and do a celebratory lunch with family. I’ve seen court day videos online and it seems like a joyous occasion. Instead, in our state, we just got a letter in the mail. Womp-womp. I don’t know . . . it just seemed like, “Oh . . . okay, so it’s done . . . um, so what do you want for dinner?” Anyway, I think I made it into a celebration regardless by having a family dinner at the house, but there was so much anticipation for the finalization and then it just . . . kind of happened. Just like being a non-adoptive mom, you have expectations of what your life will be like with a baby: joyous, silly giggles and family photoshoots and pure bliss. There is that. But there’s also a lot of mundane life events that just kind of happen, like, “Oh, so, we are going to be those people that have our baby poop all over us at the beach, okay.”
Lots of explaining
What is exciting still to this day is talking to and seeing my son’s birth mother. I had no idea how much I’d care about her. We also have had the opportunity to meet her family and meet the birth father and his mother. I suppose most won’t understand why we care so much, but we’ve come to realize the only people that matter in the adoption are those directly involved. I have tried explaining the whole thing to many people and even have a blog about it, but some still just don’t get it. That part is frustrating. I guess I get a little jealous that other moms don’t have to explain their situation all the time or defend why they care about birth mothers. But I also know we have an awesome connection with our son’s birth mother and a shared interest in our little guy that regular moms don’t have. I feel honored to have that extra person in our lives. We never felt entitled to this baby, just honored to be his parents. She is the bridge between us and our son.
Seriously, so much explaining.
When it comes to interactions with neighbors or strangers, I try to just be honest based on the situation. Our toddler is over three feet tall and has a great vocabulary. He looks like he’s four already. People see me with him and comment that his father must be tall (since I’m short). If I don’t know the person I just affirm that yes, he’s tall (even though I’m not married to his biological father). If a neighbor sees me, my husband, and our toddler and makes the same comment about height, I just tell them he’s adopted. Why not? No shame here. Once a lady commented on how big of a baby he was and how tiny I was. “You look amazing for having had him not too long ago!” My husband would want me to just say “Thank you!” and move on. I, however, decided I feel differently about my response when it comes to women and pregnancy. I know how hard it is to lose baby weight. I know how hard some women have to work to get back in shape. Because of that, I don’t want to lie and accept a compliment I don’t deserve. I just said, “Oh, he’s actually adopted! So I can’t take the credit, but thank you!” Do strangers need to know he’s adopted? Probably not. But people like neighbors who you have frequent interactions with? I just think why not tell them? There’s no shame in it. Plus, maybe they themselves are interested in adoption and I can help them.
I could write a whole book on adoption and the intricacies of relationships, but for now I’ll just say that the good has always outweighed the bad. I can’t speak for everyone, but being an adoptive mom for me has been like being a natural mom, just with added bonus of extra people and love in our lives.