Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Adoption: When You Don't FEEL Like His Mother
I mean, just LOOK at that picture. LOOK at him. My boy.
For 10 months I prepared for this day, the day we'd finally see him face to face. Would he look like his picture? Would he cry when we picked him up? Would it be a glorious moment, or a painful one? Would I feel like his mother?
For 18 months I had prayed for him. That he would grow healthy in her womb. That he would be protected and safe. That we would attach and become one.
For 5 months I bonded with a photograph, studying his every feature, trying to envision him in my arms. This is my baby. This is my baby. This is my baby. [repeat, repeat].
Then one July afternoon, we boarded Ethiopian Airlines, anxious, scared, overwhelmed, and beyond nervous.
I couldn't wait to hold him. And strip off his clothes and see his naked body.
That last part must sound crazy. But in every photo I had of him he was clothed. Not just clothed, but covered almost entirely, head to toe. I, mother, wanted to know my son's features.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. The very hairs on your head are numbered. You were knit together in your mother's womb.
You were knit together in our hearts.
I wondered if he had any birthmarks. I wanted to see his toes. I wanted to nuzzle him at the neck. I wanted to see his belly button. I wanted to bathe with him, chest on chest, skin on skin, mother to baby boy, me and him. I wanted to smell him.
But more than his physical form, I wanted to know his heart. I yearned to understand his cries. I wanted to know his feeding schedule and the positions he liked to be held. What makes him laugh? What startles him? How does he fall asleep at night? Swaddled or sang to or patted or rocked? How does he like to be comforted?
These are things a mother should know. And I knew none of them.
It's a horrible feeling.
How can I make up for lost time? I ached for it.
When you carry a child, you feel like you are a mother because you own all the changes in your body. The wiggle inside of you, the stretching of your skin, the widening of your hips, even the birthing waves that carry you into delivery--they are the emotional, physical, and psychological crescendo of preparation.
And they were absent.
In the secret places I felt deeply insecure as the Bean's mother. Particularly in the beginning I felt more like an aunt. I loved him desperately. I would protect him and care for him and provide for him, respond to his needs and cries. But the lens of scrutiny by others, whether it's real or imagined, hovered over me. And until I could answer all these questions, about his uniqueness, immense charm, his beautiful eyes, his toes, his wake patterns, his belly laugh, his bowel movements, his particular cries, his feeding schedule and baby routine, I didn't feel like his mother.
Yet here we are, over four years later, and I don't remember. I don't remember the pains of my c-sections and I don't remember the pains of those early days of insecurity and fear with the Bean. I don't recall the 70 lbs I gained with Pumpkin, and I don't remember the documents in the Bean's dossier. I don't remember Peanut's harness for hip dysplasia, and I forget that the Bean would scan the room in panic when he heard a telephone ring.
If you are an adoptive mother and today, right now, you don't feel like his mother, my sweet friend, one day, believe me, I promise, YOU WILL. You ARE his mother. Parenting is not a feeling. It's a choice.
You have been chosen by a holy, purposed God to be the mother of your child. He doesn't make mistakes, ever. Give yourself the grace to grow into being your child's mother. Give yourself room to become--to put on the cloak of motherhood as you settle into it. You will one day know him better than any other human being on the planet. That day is coming, you can be sure.
If you are friends with a mother who has recently adopted, remind her as often as you can that she is an amazing mother. She just might need your affirmation. Tell her what a tender heart she has. Reminder her that she has good instinct. Assure her that she is the perfect mother for her new child. Give her a hug and lament with her how hard mothering is. Compliment how natural she looks with her new child. These are little things that mean so much.
You, mother, are BECOMING. And you are beautiful.