One of my favorite quotes is, “However motherhood comes to you, it is a miracle”. I have never found truer words floating around the internet. It is hard for me to explain how motherhood can instantly change your life. I am a mother by way of adoption. So, while I do not understand the pregnancy or physical experience, I completely understand how life-changing motherhood is. I was never a kid person; I never saw myself as a motherly intuitive person. I certainly did not have motherhood in my plan for life. I never daydreamed about being a mom and raising a family. So, to say the adoption of my son was a surprise would be an understatement. When first approached about considering adoption I said yes without any hesitation. I did not even consult my husband, but for some inexplicable reason, I felt compelled to say yes. It was the best impulsive decision I ever made. Adoption is not an impulsive decision that I would suggest to others, but that is how motherhood came to me. Everyone’s journey to motherhood is different but no less a miracle.
Adjusting to Motherhood
I remember asking my aunt on the way to the hospital to meet my new baby boy if I was crazy because I had no idea what to do. I can still vividly hear her response, “No one really knows what to do. You will figure it out. I can’t explain it, but somehow mothers just know.” She was right; from the moment he was placed in my arms something inside of me changed. I knew I was a mom just like that, and I either knew what to do or I figured it out. In fact, I am still figuring it out.
One of the hardest adjustments I had to make was learning how to accept my motherhood as it is. There wasn’t anything I could do about not giving birth to him. I overcompensated to make up for the fact that we do not share genetics. Initially, I felt pressure from others and myself, that I had to prove my motherhood. I had to show that I was a real mom. I also felt I had some catching up to do. I obviously did not carry my son in my womb, and I thought that I had missed all the huge milestones like his first kick or when he started to move. I had not yet realized that he would be hitting milestones for the rest of his life.
His first laugh was my favorite. I know that most people attribute baby laughs to gas, but I know my little guy was laughing at me. I would pretend to smell his feet and say they were stinky, and he would crack up. Funny enough, seven years later he still laughs, and I secretly hope he never stops. His first steps, words, and lost tooth are the milestones that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. I cannot even wrap my head around the ones that are to come, like when he goes off to college or gets married.
My initial insecurities started the day he was born. I remember getting to the hospital just a few hours after he was born, and I encountered two nurses. These two nurses could not be more opposite from each other. One nurse was so cruel and opinionated; I remember she kept projecting her opinion that she did not think I should be his mother, and he had a mother already. Thankfully, the other nurse projected his equally strong opinions as well. He stuck up for me and said the words I did not know how to say yet. He understood the fact that even though I did not give birth to my son, I was taking on every motherly role there was to come. I was going to be the one to learn all his newborn patterns, likes and dislikes, allergies, boo-boos, and everything in between. Now, my entire life revolves around him, and the support that I have gotten throughout the years has provided me with the confidence that, yes, I am his real mother.
How Do Mothers Find Their Identity?
As a teenager and young adult, I swore to myself that I would never lose my identity to anything or anyone. Again, motherhood was never on my radar, so the last reason I thought I would have to reevaluate my identity was motherhood. I have discussed this with a lot of women, especially stay-at-home moms. The transition from a carefree woman to a mama bear is not always an easy transition. Although the motherly instinct came to me pretty quickly, reinventing myself was more of a struggle. I had to truly believe that I could do it all–not necessarily everything like a to-do list, but be a mother and still be true to myself. My natural personality has always been a little rough around the edges, and I thought that was going to have to change. I did not know that moms had to be tough too–I thought it was all goo-goo ga-ga behavior.
Teething, sleep training, late-night feedings, constant diaper changes, kindergarten, homework, sports practices, PTA volunteer hours, or juggling schedules all require a significant amount of raw perseverance and determination. It is a redirected toughness that gets the hard stuff done. Being a mom is the hardest job I have ever done. We are tough because we are mothers! We do not lose our identity when we become mothers, we add to it. We can still be ourselves. In fact, we owe that to our children. They need to know the real us so they can learn to be the real them.
Assembling Your Mom Tribes
I am thankful that I am raising my son in an era where we have normalized that moms do not have to do it all by themselves. We have circled back to the tradition of depending on a village to help raise our children. A trendy term used for this traditional concept is “mom tribe”. Choosing who gets to be in your village is the advantage that we have now. Through a series of trial and error experiences, you can find your village. For some reason, I gravitate toward other moms that look a little disheveled and understand how vital coffee is in life. I am not always put together, but, somehow, my son is.
One of the things you have to learn about being a mom is that it is okay to ask other moms questions. That is the way we figure stuff out. Yes, we are mothers; however, we are not gurus. I find it funny that we understand and accept the fact that children learn from each other (that is why we focus on the development of socialization at a young age), but we are hesitant as mothers to learn from each other. Motherhood involves intuition, and it is something that is taught. Sometimes it’s taught from generation to generation, sometimes from our peers, and sometimes we have to reach out to healthcare professionals. Needing insight and help is not an admission of failure! Sometimes we just need it, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I share a group text with friends I have known for over twenty years. We share vulnerable moments, concerns, questions, and arguments, but mostly we laugh at each other. We all became mothers differently. All of our families function differently and we all have different family dynamics. Some of us are married, single parents, or in non-traditional relationships. The two most important things we have in common are our history with others and that we are all mothers. Our children’s ages range from five to 25, and we get to hear each other’s experiences and bounce stuff off of each other. We definitely get to laugh at each other when we are experiencing unexpected changes in our children’s development or behavior. It is the funniest thing to me when someone discovers a new gross stage their boys are going through. We are mothers. We are not only mothers but we are mothers that support each other and lift each other up. We have watched each other mother our children during the hardest and scariest times in our lives, and we continue to learn from each other and we continue to genuinely root for each other.
Everyone has different parenting styles. I myself am a proud helicopter mom. I make no apologies and feel like I owe no explanations to anyone. This style of parenting probably developed during the adoption process while waiting for our home study to be completed. I was so scared that any bump, scratch, or scar would deem me as an unfit parent. However, surrounding myself with other types of moms has helped me maintain a healthy balance of the helicopter and free-range parenting. It has allowed me to shift my perspective and ease my anxiety. While the helicopter still plays a prominent role in my parenting style, I have embraced that kids will be kids and the resiliency of their little bodies should never be underestimated.
We Are Examples
I come from a family rooted firmly in Christian values. The women in our family have all been examples of what we believe biblically. They not only provide care and nourishment to our physical lives but to our spiritual lives as well. We have been taught to pray, to lead by example, and to be mindful of other people’s needs. In the Christian community, a common motherly goal is often referred to as being a Proverbs 31 woman. Thankfully, in our family that is what we have been taught by our matriarchs. I am very grateful for the women in my family that have laid the foundation for our family to grow and be useful. I believe we are examples for our children and they learn directly from our lives how to maintain the faith in God as we believe. Whether we realize it or not, they see us in the most vulnerable situations and are watching to see how we are going to handle it.
Whatever your belief system is, know that your children are watching. Most importantly, they learn from us how to navigate through life, how to treat people even if they are unkind to us, and how to become parents. The example we set now will become a generational legacy of love and strength.
No matter what your parenting style may be or whether or not you choose to have a mom tribe, at the end of the day, what matters most is the love and work that you put into your child. It is showing up and celebrating every minor or major milestone. It is the small victories like having a correctly matched pair of socks and clean teeth on the same day. It does not matter if you feed your baby formula or breast milk, or organic or McDonald’s, it just matters that they are fed. Mothers are a special kind of life warriors. We have this unexplainable way of loving so much that we are willing to bear the burdens of our families to lighten their loads and do it with no regrets. I personally do not know a mother that would not walk through fire for their kids. It is the love and bond between mother and child that develops into respect and appreciation. These are the things that our kids will look back on and remember.Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.