Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day (I need to repent a little)

I've written in the past about my dislike of Birthmother's Day (celebrated the day before Mother's Day). My reasoning was always that celebrating on a separate day felt like it lessened my motherhood, and that even though I wasn't Ian's parent, I was still a mother.

I'm feeling a little different this year. I still haven't sorted out if I feel differently toward Birthmother's Day or not, but I definitely feel differently about myself. And thus the title of this post--I feel I've been terribly prideful.

What I am experiencing now with my own son is so incredibly different than what I experienced with Ian. Yes, I gave birth to Ian, and that is a powerful connection. I love him, and I care about him. But I am realizing all over again, with an entirely new depth, just how different being a birthmother is from being a mother. Not that I thought they were equivalent before, I'm not saying that. I guess I just have a new appreciation for motherhood.

Mother's Day is very special to me this year. I finally get to celebrate it wholly, instead of in a wistful, almost painful manner. It is real to me at last. In a profound way, I feel complete. I am a mother. And it feels like this is what I was always meant to be.

It also makes me incredibly grateful for Ian's [adoptive] mother. I put the [adoptive] in there for clarification, but I'll restate now: I am incredibly grateful for Ian's mother. She is his mother, in this complete way that I am now Joel's mother. I am grateful for the bond that I have with Ian and his family, even more so today than ever before.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, no matter if you are a birthmother, adoptive mother, a hopeful mother, or any other way you classify yourself. We are all connected by our love of children, and our desperate hopes for their welfare. Today is a day to celebrate that love.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Becoming a Mother

My son Joel was born on the 15th in the most wonderful birth experience ever. I've been thinking for a couple of days of writing this post, to comment on some adoption-related things that came up during his birth, thoughts which I didn't feel like I wanted to share on my family blog.

1. Another reason for home birth

When I get asked why I chose to give birth at home, my response varies, depending on whether or not the person asking knows that I placed a child for adoption. If not, I usually talk about the comforts I was seeking, the [significantly] lower cost, and my general dissatisfaction with intervention in hospitals. If they do know, I might talk about the aforementioned items, but also reference Ian's birth--with Ian, I labored in a jacuzzi tub from 5cm to 9cm, and the hardest part was getting out of the tub. I didn't like so many people coming in and out. I didn't like one of the nurses. It was cold.

Yet there's an even deeper, more elemental reason that giving birth at home appealed to me, which took me some time to identify. You see, at some point, I realized that there was a part of me that feared that if I gave birth at a hospital, my baby would be taken away from me.

It was an irrational fear, I know. Nevertheless, having my baby at home gave me a sense of control that I would not have felt anywhere else. I felt safe, and felt that my baby was safe.

 2. Stitches

This was not so much adoption-related as simply related to my first birthing experience, but seeing as how that experience isn't really public knowledge, I might as well address it here.

When I gave birth to Ian, I tore and had to have stitches. It was honest-to-goodness the worst part of that whole delivery. My guess is that they didn't let the numbing agent sit long enough, or something, because I felt everything. My memories of contractions and pushing and tearing have faded, but the memory of getting stitched up afterward has stuck with me for eight years, that's how bad it was.

Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about the possibility of a repeat experience, and I told my midwife so at one of my prenatal appointments. I did tear again with Joel. As my midwife prepared to suture, I found myself in a state of unreasoning panic. I had faced an unmedicated delivery with aplomb, but the thought of these stitches sent my emotions spiraling out of control. It was wretched.

Fortunately, my midwife was amazing. She made sure that I was completely numb before beginning to suture, I didn't feel a thing. She was calm, and between her and my husband, I made it through. (Barely.) Still, I vote next time, no tearing!

3. Breastfeeding

I couldn't help but feel like a BTDT (been there done that) mom through a lot of my pregnancy and labor. (I say a lot, though of course not everything, because every pregnancy is different!) Much of it was fresh and new, but more on the emotional side than the physical side. Physically, much was familiar. Emotionally, this pregnancy was entirely different, thanks mostly to my wonderful husband.

Postpartum, the thing that has been entirely new has been breastfeeding. I don't know why it's so remarkable to me, but it is. I nursed Ian once; it was a decision that I made because I'd been convinced that even one feeding from me would benefit his health. It was a hard decision for me. I feared making that intimate connection with him would make it that much harder to let go and move forward after placing him for adoption. I think it was this fear that made me disconnect--during that one feeding, I didn't really let myself feel or experience what was happening.

Breastfeeding with Joel has been all-new. In many ways, it has been the most challenging part of new motherhood, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons, I have come to believe, is that everything else, I was prepared for by my previous experience, yet breastfeeding was completely foreign. Still, breastfeeding has become, despite the challenges, one of the most rewarding parts of mothering Joel.


Of course this birth experience has been completely different from my first, and the largest portion of that is simply because this baby is mine. Though I love Ian very much, I knew from very early in my pregnancy that he was not my baby. On both a spiritual and an intellectual level, I prepared myself to let go of Ian, and place him with his parents. As a result, he never felt like my baby. He was always theirs.

Not so this time.

I treasure my Joel. Mothering is hard sometimes--figuring out breastfeeding, surrendering my schedule, dealing with baby blues, getting covered in spit-up, and so on and so on. But holding my baby--MY baby!--in those tender moments, holding his little hand, looking into those beautiful eyes and seeing the implicit trust there...well, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Truthfully, I think that placing a baby for adoption, as well as all the years waiting since, have made me more grateful for my opportunity now to be a mother.

I am truly blessed. I love both of my sons very much, and I am blessed to have them in my life. I hope to be the very best mother and birthmother that I can to each of them.

Friday, February 21, 2014


My son turned eight yesterday.

It was a hard day for reasons that had nothing to do with his birthday--for a few hours, I had to face the scary possibility that I could end up having another baby on the twentieth of February. Fortunately, everything turned out fine, just another pregnancy "adventure."

Needless to say, I didn't spend a whole lot of time yesterday in retrospective contemplation, given the other stuff going on. Still, I find myself thinking more about it today.

Eight years just seems like such a long time. That tiny baby who came into the world is now a young man, getting baptized tomorrow, which I find incredible.

So much has happened in my life. I have changed in so many ways. My world is such a different place. Recently I picked up the journal that I kept during my pregnancy with Ian. I haven't read the whole thing through, but I've read a few entries here and there.  It's been fascinating to recognize again and again just how different my situation is now from how it was then. Not only does it make me incredibly grateful for the wonderful life I have now, but it also reaffirms my certainty that Ian is exactly where he is supposed to be.

I know that adoption is not perfect. It's nobody's first choice. But it was the best choice for me and my son, eight years ago. I am grateful for the experiences that I went through, which have profoundly and eternally changed me. And I am so grateful for Ian--even though we are not very close, I love him dearly and seeing his happiness brings me great joy.  He will always be an important part of my life, no matter the distance.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Sunday night my husband and I went to his parents house for dinner. Things had wound down a bit after dinner, and James and I found ourselves in the dining room visiting with his mother. Funny enough we were talking about adoption--we had been talking about genetics, and what the likelihood is of any of our children having blue eyes or red hair, which is harder for me to know, given my incomplete genetic history.

At some point during the conversation, James gave me a LOOK. I knew what he was thinking--I've been waiting for a "good moment" for over a year, and that look said, "this is it!"

Using the excuse of the rowdy dogs in the other room, James got up and closed the dining room door, giving us a little more privacy. Awkwardly, I began. "Since we're talking adoption..." My mother-in-law gets a suspicious look on her face. "There's been something I've wanted to tell you for awhile--"

And without any further prompting, she bursts out, "You had a baby you gave up for adoption, didn't you?"


MIL says that she knew, somehow (something that my James claims that she says about all sorts of things, so who knows). But we were able to talk about it for a while. She asked questions. I was able to have a dialogue about it. James talked about meeting Ian this summer. And as we talked, my sense of relief grew and grew.

It's not that I wanted to keep Ian a secret. It's not that I haven't wanted to tell my mother-in-law. But the fear of it has held me back all this time. The longer I waited, the harder it became, actually. I knew that I would need to have this conversation eventually. After all, our children are going to know about Ian. At some point, one of our children would start talking about Ian, and somebody would start asking questions. So much better to already have it out there!

Incidentally, MIL's response was perfect. Asking questions, being interested, and the sincere acceptance. All of it was better than I could have hoped for. What an incredible relief.