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.