Children of our own

Children of our own

“Many Americans would die naked in the middle of the road before they’d tell you what’s hurt them most. But a born Southerner will show you the cell in their heart that burns the hardest. They’ll hold it out to you in their bare right hand.”
~Reynolds Price

That’s what I love about the adoption blogs and forums I’ve been reading.  Adoptive parents and birthparents both, holding out their hearts, wounded side up, with incredible courage, honesty, and grace.

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 I love this post by the R House.   She’s so right.  I shudder when I imagine holding my child in my arms, or by the hand, and someone asking me if I couldn’t have, didn’t have, didn’t I want to have, a child of my own.

My imaginary self wants to shriek:  This is my own child!  And before you ask who is the real mother – I am this child’s mother, a real mother, not a fake mother, some kind of second-best temporary substitute mother.

On the other side of the coin, birthmothers are treated to regular doses of “Oh, I could never give my baby up” or “…give my baby away.”  Like the child is some bad habit you quit, or a handbag you bought on sale and decided you didn’t really like.  “Giving a child up” fails to express even a smidgen of the longing, the fear, the sorrow a birthmother feels when she places her baby in an adoption.  It also sails wide of her deep love, her selfless sense of responsibility to the child, the miraculously openhearted gift of parenthood she gives to another heart.  It kicks sand in the eyes of the completely worthy and valid choice that a woman makes, to not have children, or not have children right now.

A recent Cosmo article that gives voice to a fresher, healthier way of talking about adoption

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Do I want to have a child of my own?  Yes!  That’s the whole point of adopting one: so I’ll have a child of my own.

Do I want to have a child on my own?  There’s a question to be handed back.

Sure.  I wanted that.  Most families expect that they’ll have a baby “on their own” – without any help from a fertility clinic, or an adoption agency, just with each other’s (ahem) “help.”  Of course I wanted that.  I wanted to say, “Now I am ready to be a mother!” and have the baby nine months later on the dot.  Preferably with a devoted partner involved somewhere along the way.  And shortly afterwards I would like to give my beloved child that pony he or she has been asking for.  (Sometimes I’m still just irrationally angry at people who seem to get married and have kids like it’s no big deal.)

So, yes, I am going to have a child of my own when I adopt.  And yes, I did want to have a child, on my own, the usual way.  Of course I did.

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Sometimes we don’t get what we think we want.  Sometimes we get something different that turns out to be exactly right.

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It’s still a really painful thought, though.  She couldn’t have a child of her own.   Let’s break it down.

1.  She didn’t have total control over one the most important decisions in her life.

2.  She didn’t feel that weird animal connection to the beginning of her child’s life, to have another individual kicking around inside her own body.

3.  The kid isn’t going to look like her, or like her own mother, or her grandmother.

4.  She didn’t get to do all the lovely responsible pre-natal parenting, like reading to the baby in utero, or playing Mozart to her tummy.

5.  She’s not sure if she’ll be able to breast feed her child.  Seriously, people, mothers who aren’t breastfeeding get an awful lot of shit these days.

6.  She didn’t get the overwhelming swell of social adoration that pregnant women are – sometimes – treated to.

7.  She didn’t get to go through the test of labor, the test that Proves Womanhood.  She’s probably never had a chance to be really, physically, inescapably tested in that way, and to know the deep satisfaction of passing through that test.

8.  She sometimes wonders if there is really any point in having a body at all.  It cannot do this one, important thing… so what is it good for?  Nothing else seems as important as this.

9.  A mother’s first gift to her child is to give that little soul a body to dwell in.  And she will always know that she wasn’t able to give her child that first, essential gift.

10.  Every child, at some point, says something that breaks their parents’ hearts.  The first juvenile “I hate you” has got to sting.  And she knows, already, that her child will look her dead in the eye someday and say “You’re not my real mother.”  And it’s no more than a temper tantrum, just like when a kid throws carrots on the wall or hollers like heck in the grocery store.  But it will sting in a different way, and she’s got all these quiet evenings and empty mornings to think about how she’ll deal with it.

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Sometimes I imagine someone saying this thoughtless thing to me, and responding with something incredibly well-reasoned and eloquently cutting.

Or something impossibly silly.  Like, “Oh – whoops.  You’re right, this one isn’t really mine.  Maybe this one is mine!”  {grab random nearby child, preferably child of interlocutor}

And sometimes I imagine just bursting into tears, falling on the thoughtless person’s shoulder, and saying, “I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but that’s my deepest fear – that somehow in spite of all the love I have for my child, in spite of a lifetime of parenting, in spite of all the long years I tried and searched and waited, that it’s still never enough, and I’ll never be good enough to really count as a mother, and this child will somehow always be slipping out of my reach in some indescribable way, and not really mine.”  Bet you a nickel the other person would turn that shit around.  On a dime.

And sometimes I just think, none of these children are really ours, and our parents are not ours, and our friends and lovers are not ours, and we are not our own.  We are floating briefly through a cloud where our lives cling to us like drops of mist, weighing us down, and we just have to do the best we can to help each other remember light, until the storm passes over.

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I seem to have eaten half a chocolate cake while writing this post.  Ooog.

 

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