I see you back then. You were scared and worried about the unknowns. The path was unfamiliar and the baby was not yours, per se. You had biological children of your own, but this territory seemed new.
It was a cloudy day when you received the call. As much as you thought you were prepared for that day to come, you so were not. When you hung up the phone with your social worker, you still did not fully comprehend that your baby had already arrived. It was truly a surreal feeling to be amiss from your child’s birth. You did not hear his first cries or smell his tiny head. You did not know what he looked like; his weight or height. Did he have hair? As you prepared to trek to the hospital with your husband, fear and doubt began to creep in. Your journey was about to begin.
The drive to the hospital was distant and its town unfamiliar. As you both rode silently, fear’s sound cut through the quiet like a sword. The measure of the risk you were about to take on weighed on your hearts and minds like few other things could. Wonderings about your children’s futures played out in your head. Uncertainty was abounding.
Quietly walking into the hospital, your arrival there was unlike the birth of your other children. Having no family to celebrate with the birth of one of your own was lonely and stressful, and somewhat overlooked. There, the baby’s birth was not met with celebration, but was an awkward and sad event. Tears flowed easily from the baby’s biological family members, and understanding of his placement was cloudy at best. They were most certainly mourning the loss of their very alive child.
As a nurse directed you to the birth family’s room, nervous tension and excitement filled your body. Your mind went back and forth between wanting them to keep their baby and getting to him as fast as you could.
You remember quite vividly when the birth father took you into the nursery where your child was waiting. As you approached the little one, you could vaguely see him sleeping; swaddled in the hospital’s blankets at the very back of the room. A hat covered his hair-filled head. When you picked him up, his tiny body spilled over your hands and then into your arms. Holding him did not seem real. Thinking back to the birth of your others, you remembered smiling at the sight of the familial features you recognized in them after they were born. There were no features to determine with your new little, except those prevalent in Down syndrome. Although your child now indeed, he seemed more like a stranger in your lap.
Sadness occasionally filled your heart as you held your baby. You wondered what he must be feeling inside. Is he confused by the outsider holding him? Can the tears, pain, and torment from his birth family be felt in his heart? Does he know the feeling you have when you hold him is empty, that you want to love him like you love your others, but the connection is only small?
How foolish you were to think this whole adoption thing would be easy! You thought that once you saw your baby, you would connect with him right away. You thought that when he saw you, when he smelled you, when he heard in your voice how much you wanted to love him, he would know you were his mother.
You thought it would be easy for a newborn baby to leave his birth mother.
But it wasn’t. He did not want to leave her. You did not want him to leave her!
When you brought him in to say good-bye to his first family, he was content. He was actually more satisfied than he had been in your arms the entire four days after his birth. The blatant connection he had with his birth mother was humbling. Cradled and caressed by his first mom, he peacefully dozed for the time being, completely comfortable in his new surroundings. Things seemed back to normal for him. He obviously thought you were a temporary inconvenience. Her smell entranced him and as he awoke, he wanted to be fed.
It was then that things became rushed. Good-byes became hurried. Emotions ran high and feelings were tense.
As you packed up your new baby and walked out the hospital room, guilt crept its way in. Instead of leaving with a sense of purpose and joy, you felt like you were taking someone’s most precious gift. There was nothing whimsical or satisfying about taking your baby home from the hospital that day. You were not rescuing this child from the trials of a bad life in exchange for a better one with you! The love your baby’s birth family had for him was so very evident in their sorrow.
Feeling the extreme hurt of your new family, you wanted to rush back into their room and exclaim, “He’s yours! He belongs with you! You can do this; just have faith!”
But you didn’t. You kept walking, looking down at the little bundle in his carrier. He was patiently awake and quiet, despite the noise and despair you felt for him in your heart.
Things were more challenging than you had thought they would be at home. As time went on, guilt turned into grief. For months you mourned for your child the loss of his natural family; those that knew him like only a family could. Sitting in his room, you would rock him tightly, tears streaming down your face. Before they relinquished their parental rights, you would occasionally hope they would reconsider their choice and ask for his return. You felt most undeserving of this gift. You knew if they only tried to love him, they could!
The time they had to ask for him back grew shorter, however, and grief turned into anger. Feelings of frustration and inadequacy as his mother were daunting as your baby began to struggle health-wise. You felt like you were failing him; completely insufficient to navigate the trials of an unfamiliar human being. You couldn’t help but feel that they were selfish to give him up to you, a person lacking a natural mother’s love and instinct. It became increasingly hard for you to fathom why they gave their baby away, and you were deeply disappointed in their decision.
It wasn’t long, though, until your relationship with his birth family started to grow and you began to acknowledge the depth of their situation. As it turns out, anger can bend to understanding if you try. Understanding can remit to love. You see, despite all the challenges you faced as you became a new adoptive parent, the easiest (and hardest) thing for you to do was love. Going through the early stages of your adoption permitted you to feel for others in a way that you had never felt before. It required you to love people that you didn’t know, and it forced you to accept a situation that you couldn’t change. You didn’t have to understand to love…
It is hard to look back on those early months of your adoption’s process and decipher the many emotions you felt as a new adoptive parent. Often you find yourself embarrassed by your own insecurities, specifically that you ever doubted your ability to love or parent your child. In your adoption, love did not come easy. Love was wanted, worked for, and grasped as if it could somehow escape your heart once it landed there. Some days it felt like love would never settle willingly. Your heart was stubborn and reluctant; confused and unaccepting.
You don’t think much about your child being “adopted” anymore. It is a relief to be comfortable with his being. Should anyone be in doubt, you are clearly amazed by your son and luck! You love your child indescribably, and as time has gone on, your love has only grown and developed inexplicably into a love that is only felt by a mother. You can’t recall what it was like before your newest arrival came, and you are so thankful that he is here to stay!
You now know the hardest part of your adoption was the feelings that were unexpected. They left you torn inside, and you couldn’t predict or remedy them yourself. It’s been nearly three years since your baby came home from the hospital. You no longer feel despair for your child and you do not misunderstand your birth family’s intentions. You certainly realize that there is simply no way to determine what can possibly be happening in other people’s hearts.
And as it seems, your heart may have been the one that needed work!
November is National Adoption Awareness Month! If you or someone you know has a question(s) about a domestic, open, or special needs adoption, please feel free to contact us!