March into My Heart

Today’s drip: Be yourself when searching for a birthmother

Being ChildDrenched (drowning in the passionate need for a child) can be very frustrating and beginning the process of one of the solutions, adoption, may be daunting at first.  Over the last few weeks, in my blog, I have addressed many of the concerns about becoming adoptive parents. Today, I want to give a more personal account of my experience.  I have talked to many women who have expressed deep concern over many issues surrounding the search for a birthmother.  Today, I am hoping to make potential adoptive parents more comfortable about the decision to move forward with the search for a child.

As the search begins for the person who is potentially carrying your child (the most precious gift anyone can give to you and your family), questioning your credentials as an adoptive parent is very typical.  Will I match up to the birthmother’s requirements?  Am I too old?  Will she expect us to raise the child in her religion?  Will she choose parents who already have children or a couple who has yet to enjoy that privilege?

Choosing a birthmother, and hoping she chooses you, is a critical lifelong decision that can be frighteningly stressful.  Before our daughter’s birthmother contacted us, I spent sleepless nights worrying that a prospective birth mother would choose a childless couple, before one that has two naturally-born boys.  To me, it seemed only fair that everyone should get a shot at parenthood, so why would a birthmother choose us?  As it turned out, our birthmother chose us because we had two boys in our family.  She had two sons before giving birth to our daughter and she loved the idea of her daughter growing up in that environment, even if it wasn’t in her own home.  That wouldn’t work for everyone, but for our situation, it was a perfect match.  I believe there’s a perfect match for everyone.

I also worried that I was too old to adopt.  The infertile years after the birth of my two boys took their toll on my biological clock and I was forty before starting the search for my daughter.  As I viewed profiles of other couples waiting to adopt through our facilitator, many clearly younger than us, I hoped there was a birthmother out there who would appreciate the wisdom and experience of an older couple with kids, more than the energy of a younger couple.

I stayed fit and healthy through the process, hoping my age wouldn’t be an issue for someone who might consider us ideal parents for their child.  The birthmother who ultimately chose us asked me many questions but my age was not one of them.  In fact, most of the questions she asked involved parenting her two young sons who were keeping her very busy, and exhausted.  She definitely appreciated the advice and felt comfortable that her baby would be well cared-for by knowledgeable, loving parents who knew what they were confronting with an infant, and beyond.

Religion was another factor of concern for us as we waited for a child.  A woman who chose adoption for her child, rather than abortion, would clearly have a strong sense of life and religion which we supported completely.  However, we were concerned that someone who had strong religious convictions would prefer a couple with similar religious beliefs to raise her child. Since we are Jewish, I was worried that a couple that didn’t celebrate Christmas and Easter would be ruled out by many birthmothers.

Our birthmother, who didn’t mention religion to me until we were together just days before the birth, was due right before Easter.  She mentioned how excited she was for the baby to celebrate Easter with her new family.  I held my breath as I told her how much her baby would learn about all religions, but would not be celebrating Easter or Christmas.  Thankfully, she had a surprisingly positive response.  Our letter had promised to support her child spiritually and that was enough for her.

We were tremendously relieved and thoroughly grateful that we found the perfect birthmother.  We were proud that we remained true to ourselves and our family traditions, even though there was a risk of losing our daughter.

Our honesty through the adoption process was rewarded with a wonderful gift of life.  I was worried we would never find someone who would choose us to raise their child and amazingly, we found someone who thought we were the perfect choice. I respectfully advise anyone who is ChildDrenched and wants to adopt to be honest and patient because that perfect birthmother is out there just waiting to be found. I truly believe that there is a baby for everyone who wants to be an adoptive parent, regardless of the situation, lifestyle, or circumstance.

Today’s Drip: Will loving an adopted child be more difficult?

While I waited in anticipation of my adopted daughter, I worried about what it would feel like to care for, raise, and love a child that I didn’t carry and give birth to.  Having two children the traditional way, I never questioned how I would love my child when I was pregnant.  I watched my mother do so with ease and beyond the normal apprehension about doing a good job, surviving sleepless nights, and dreading dirty diapers, it wasn’t an issue for me.

The decision to adopt our third child brought up many concerns, especially because I thought that child would be different from the two I already had.  Would I treat my adopted child differently without even realizing it? Would I wonder what the birthmother would want at every decision I make about that child’s health and welfare?  Would I feel as much responsibility for my adopted child as the two I gave birth to?  Would I love that child as much as my natural children?

As I waited over a few months, I observed children playing in parks or shopping with their parents and wondered what it would be like to love someone else’s child.  I wasn’t convinced it would be easy and I was worried.  Would I always feel like I was raising someone else’s child?  Would I be capable of caring for a child that a stranger would trust me to care for?

I also remember feeling apprehensive about suddenly becoming someone’s parent without the swelling belly over nine months.  One morning we would wake up as a couple (with two kids) and that night, we would go to sleep as parents of a newborn infant.  Could I turn my feelings on for a child as abruptly as she would come into our lives?

It was always my nature to worry excessively about little things but this was huge.  I spent sleepless nights worrying about how much this baby would affect the lives of my two sons, as well as my husband and me.

Well, I couldn’t have been more confused, wrong and foolish about all of my concerns.  I watched my adopted daughter being born and I immediately felt the same joy and excitement as if I had given birth myself.  I held her in the first moments of her life and without a second thought, she instantly became a part of me and our family.  I made health and safety decisions naturally that very first day and even though her birthmother was in the same hospital, I didn’t hesitate to make the same careful choices I had made for my two sons.  This baby wasn’t one of those children I had seen at the park or shopping mall with their parents; she was unquestionably my child in every way.

I have loved my adopted child for ten glorious years now and she has never been treated differently from my sons.  I give her just as much admiration, approval, and scolding when deserved. She feels every bit our child as much as I could have hoped. She knows she’s adopted yet there isn’t an issue or uncomfortable moment for any of us.  She loves her parents, her brothers and everything about her childhood so far. She isn’t wondering what life might have looked like for her if we hadn’t come along.  My efforts to make sure she has all the support she needs feels intrinsically natural, not forced or complicated.

The most gratifying thing is that she loves me like I loved my mother.  This past Mother’s Day she made me a hand-painted book with a dozen pages of moments we’ve had together and what she loves the most about me.  On the page titled “My mom is special because…” she wrote:  “You love me and I love you back even when I get mad at you or when you get mad at me.  I always still love you.”  I cherish the fact that our love is as natural as any other mother-daughter love.  I have extraordinary love for all my children but the child that came after some hardship, worry, stress and concern is the one that surprised me the most.  The joy she has brought our entire family gives me incredible gratification and I am thankful for her every day.

Today’s Drip: Mother’s Day Dreams

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I might take a moment away from the overall mission of my blog to talk about the person who was my inspiration and made the biggest difference in my life:  my mother.  I am only lucky enough to really see her in my dreams every so often now, but almost every day I vividly remember the effect she had on my life.  Today, I’m writing about the day dreams I have about my mother.

Through my blog, I have often mentioned my incredible luck when I adopted my daughter seven years after cancer took my beloved mother from me.  My mother and I were extremely close in my childhood and even more so as I grew into a woman.  That relationship inspired me to adopt my daughter.

My two sons were only two years and two months old when my mother died.  I was a mess in so many ways before she died, but afterwards was truly painful.  I knew her time was limited but when the end came, I was unprepared. Of course, my boys still expected the same cheerful mother to care for them morning, noon and night, and living through it was a nightmare.  My grief was inconsolable, and hasn’t faded much in 17 years.

Today, my boys are fully grown and I wish they had known their grandmother.  My daughter hears me talk about her frequently, especially because she has a remarkable resemblance to my mother in both appearance and disposition, despite being adopted.  It pains me that my mother never really enjoyed her grandchildren and selfishly, it’s even more heartbreaking that I can’t share with her the joys my children bring me on a daily basis.

I resort to daydreaming about what we might have done together with my daughter.  I know we would have held my daughter’s hands together with the same warm, loving nature I clearly remember my grandmother and mother doing when I was growing up.  I can hear how she would have responded when good things happen to my kids, as well as the struggles.  I frequently day dream about her watching us negotiate chores, laughing with us at dinner, and cheering them on during matches, games and performances.

I watch my friends’ mothers in complete jealousy as they partake in family vacations, birthdays and shopping for a prom dress.  I am constantly reminded that family traditions would look and feel very different than if she had been here all these years.  I frequently feel cheated that she was taken from me at such a critical time in my life, but I have to remind myself that I was also lucky to be given her strength, character and motivation as a mother.  I strive to give that to my children every day, in the same way I remember her giving those jewels to me.  I think of her when they are sad or disappointed and try to react accordingly.  I imagine how she would respond when they truly act like teenagers and will do so again when they are adults making difficult decisions.  She walked the fine line between being my mentor and being my friend.  I keep her in my mind, and in my heart, every day.

To those who are still waiting for their own children, I hope that you have someone in your life, or in your memory, who set an example of how to be an exemplary parent.  Parenting is difficult, even during the good times, and having a foundation for setting limits, reacting to crises, and just being organized will make the job much easier. Now that I have three children, all so different and wonderfully complicated, I realize how much my mother is helping me through it, even though she isn’t here with me.

I regret not being able to provide my sons and daughter with a doting grandmother like I had; I know my mother would have done an incredibly good job of that.  It makes me work that much harder at being the kind of mother I grew up with and giving them the love they need.

I wish I could do one last thing for my mother, especially on Mother’s Day, which never would have occurred to me 17 years ago: thank her for giving me the love, skills and understanding to be the kind of parent I am.   I’ll just have to tell her in my dreams.

Today’s Drip: Understanding those who feel unblessed without a child

Conquering negative feelings during those “ChildDrenched” days—the days that challenge your optimism about having a child— requires exploring the good things around us on a regular basis.

I tend to react very negatively when something important is bothering me and it is difficult to understand or overcome. It feels embarrassing to complain about the one thing I am missing in my life when I have so much to be grateful for. I have tried to understand this tendency and want to help others identify and change it, especially when it involves a chronic situation.

We all watch TV and read about people that are suffering through excruciating situations. Right after we thank our lucky stars that it isn’t happening to us, we go back to complaining about “one thing” that bothers us.  It might be a minor thing, like a hated body part or bad habit, but typically it’s major, like losing a close friend or family member to cancer or coping with infertility.   We understand life isn’t fair and there are challenges we all have to face.  I even hear myself saying to my husband and kids:  “If you don’t have bad days, you won’t know when you’re having a good day!”  Logically, I know everything can’t be perfect, but the issue that confuses me is this: Why do we focus on what’s wrong in our lives?

Are we striving for perfection or just obsessed that the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence? Maybe it’s directly related to our childhood years when our parents made all the decisions for us and could make most things “all better”?  As adults, who now have many choices in our lives, perhaps we set unattainable goals to keep us occupied or to challenge ourselves.  However, wanting a child is an emotionally draining issue when facing infertility and it’s totally understandable when obsession sets in.

Ten years ago, I was married and had two wonderful little boys but all I could think about was having a daughter.  I spent a good part of every day, imagining how much better my life would be if I only had a daughter, in addition to my boys.  I had such a perfect relationship with my mother growing up, that I was convinced that life would only get better if I had a daughter.  Surely, there would be difficult days but I never thought about them.  I only thought about the upside. I focused on what was missing in my life, not what I was blessed with already.  Do I think my life improved after adopting my daughter?  Absolutely.  Do I feel guilty about how much time I wasted with my adorable sons longing for what I didn’t have when that time was so precious? Again, absolutely.

A child-related crisis, like infertility, can be overwhelming and all-consuming.  It becomes difficult to focus on the good things in life.  I came to call this condition “ChildDrenched”—drowning in emotion over having a child. Usually there’s no simple answer or solution without a lot of effort, patience and maybe even some luck.  I often wondered if others who suffered from the same affliction as me really thought about it, or did they just complain for cathartic reasons?  I complained (multiple times on a daily basis), through the ChildDrenched years. It wasn’t very productive for me and in fact, became destructive as I became more and more depressed each month.  Unfortunately, the realization that I was destroying my life by focusing on the “half-empty glass” didn’t change my behavior.

As one who spent years suffering, obsessed over having another child, I discovered that optimism was very important to keep moving forward in reaching my goals.  Appreciating what life currently holds is critically important to maintaining positive mental health and keeping those around you happy.

Today, I am older and perhaps a bit more patient when it comes to issues that confound me.  I hope this perspective will give others who are drowning the strength to stay positive about life and all they have in their lives, regardless of what the future may hold.