When my husband and I decided to adopt, I went straight to Books-a-million, found the tiny adoption section, plopped myself down, & began devouring all the information I possibly could. I cried as I read story after story of loss, love, & sacrifice. There were books explaining international adoption, open adoption, foster care, what to expect, what not to expect, and so on. Then, I saw a little book, I can’t remember the title, that was written by an adopted child. It explained all the things she wished her adoptive parents had known. As I began to read through this small book, I felt the walls closing in around me. The author said things like, I wish you hadn’t treated my birthday like a celebration, because all I could think about was how my birth mother lost something on that day. I wish you hadn’t talked about my adoption with other people while I was standing right there. It is my story. I wish you would have openly talked to me about my adoption. You shouldn’t have used cliches like “You grew in my heart…” I hated it when people said, “You can’t even tell she’s adopted. She looks just like you.” I hate when people ‘forget’ I am adopted.
My heart pounded in my chest. What was I doing? All those fears I had were true. My child would hate me. What was I supposed to do? Adopt a baby, never celebrate the baby’s birthday, never talk about our adoption with other people, talk about it all the time with our baby, punch people if they said the baby looks like us?!? Ahhhhhh, I couldn’t breath. I peeled myself off the floor, left my pile of books (sorry books-a-million), and fled that store. I rushed home and immediately began ugly crying. (You know what I mean.) I cried for the parents of that adopted girl. I cried for that girl. I cried for all adopted children, all birth mothers, all adoptive parents. I cried for myself.
The next few months slowly passed by with profile books, home study visits, and massive amounts of paperwork. We had a couple of possible adoption situations that didn’t work out. My emotions were crazy. I wanted to be positive and excited, but the author of that book would not leave me alone. For every success her petulant little voice had a negative comeback. When we finished our home study, she said, “Wonderful, you are one step closer to taking someone else’s baby.” When our lawyer called to let us know she would be sending our profile book to another state, that poor girl was relentless, “Great,” she whined, “you are spreading your prospects. Making it more unlikely that ‘your’ (she said that word with spiteful sarcasm) baby will ever get to meet his or her birth family. How wonderful for you…. Baby thief.” (I know, she was getting really mean.)
I started doing yoga. I became vegan (maybe it was the evil meat infiltrating my mind). I tried to push those horrible thoughts away. As the school year ended, the weather warmed and we planned for our beach vacation. I decided I would forget about adopting. My work was done anyway. I could only wait, and there was no point in staying in this constant state of fear over something that might never even happen. Pity party over, vacation on. Well, you know how life is. When you least expect it…
We were driving to Florida when we got a call from our lawyer’s office, “She picked y’all!” I just couldn’t believe it. I was so excited, but also terrified. I thought about that little baby girl. Should I buy her clothes? What about a carseat? Of course, that stinkin’ teenage author snuck into my thoughts, “You know, while you are thinking about a car seat and silly clothes, ‘your’ baby’s mother is thinking about pain & loss.” I tried to explain myself to this girl! I told her I knew about loss. I understood this mother would feel pain. I told her I was sad about that. But, I begged her to let me be happy.
We were at the beach for a few days, when we received more shocking news. The baby had come 8 weeks early. We needed to get there, now! My husband and I threw our things in suitcases and jumped in the car. All I could think about was getting to my baby. I knew she needed me. It was so strange; even though that girl was still in my mind…. She doesn’t need you. She needs her ‘real’ mother. You can’t give this tiny baby what she needs. I felt powerful enough to take her on. I told her, my baby did need me. I told her the facts. This mother, who had given birth to our baby, had also made me a mama. She went through all the profiles in her state and surrounding states but didn’t find any couple she wanted to be the parents of her baby. She searched and prayed. Her lawyer sent requests everywhere looking for a couple that this mother might choose. Our little profile somehow ended up in front of her. Who knew a teacher and coach from nowhere, Louisiana would be exactly the parents she was looking for? I took a deep breath. (Learned that in yoga.) I allowed myself to imagine the baby, but only for a minute.
We got home, unpacked, re-packed, and hopped on an airplane. Our lawyer called the children’s hospital that our daughter had been transferred to. We had permission to go to the hospital. We walked to the desk and explained our situation. The nurse gave us two badges that said, PARENT. My heart fluttered. Was this real? I was a parent. A small voice said, You aren’t a parent. Did you feel her kick? Did you grow huge? Did you scream and push? Were you there for that first breath?
I bent my head low. We were in the elevator. Rising up, up, almost there. We were totally silent. Some upbeat music bounced around. My husband and I held hands and watched the numbers climb. The doors opened and we walked out and looked for her room. There. The door was open. We peeked in. Oh my. My heart was suddenly filled with a need to hold her. A nurse came in and showed me how to open the incubator and take her out. She placed her in my arms. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, that girl was rolling her eyes at the mushy cliche of an adoptive mother I had become. I couldn’t help it. It was all true! My heart was full! I felt complete! I was this baby’s mama. I wanted to scream, “I love you!” I didn’t dare though. That voice whispered, “This isn’t real. It isn’t going to happen.”
The next few weeks were crazy! We stayed at the Ronald McDonald house, then moved to a hotel when our baby was released from the hospital. She quit breathing a couple of times, so we had to take CPR classes and she had to wear an apnea monitor. The state’s laws required us to stay there for several weeks. Over a month after we had arrived, we were finally allowed to take our baby home. Six months later we returned to finalize sister’s adoption. Both my husband and I had to stand in front of the judge and tell her why we were there. Of course, I was all trembly. There was that voice, “You are going to say something weird. The judge will slam her gavel and call you a ‘fake’ mama. They will take your baby.” My sane self knew these thoughts were crazy, but it was so hard for me to believe everything would be ok.
The judge gave Sissy a little gavel which she happily gnawed on. We took pictures and floated around on a cloud of happiness.
That voice hasn’t left me. I still have fears. I have learned that this is a part of motherhood. No matter how your family is formed, you worry about them. The book I stumbled upon that day in Books-a-Million wasn’t painfully skimmed over in vain. I kept some of those words and I think about them. I have always told Sissy about her adoption. I made a scrapbook for her and we read it together. We never discuss any details of her birth family with other people. We will honor her birth mother and explain to Sissy what a brave and difficult choice her birth mother made. I could never forget she is adopted. The journey was too beautifully painful. However, we celebrate that little girl’s birthday with a big party, cake, hugs, & love. How could we not? What a special day when she took her first breath. The best parts of life are usually arrived at by way of heartache and pain.