My mind didn't naturally switch from birthmom to mom like I thought it would. For weeks I worried that maybe this child would be better off without me too. That maybe I made a mistake thinking I could actually do this whole mom thing.
Last summer during my pregnancy with my daughter, I wrote a blog for Adoption Network Cleveland, entitled “Pregnant again, for the first time.” In it, I shared:
“I placed my son for adoption in the Spring of 2009 and no matter how much time passes or how much contact I have with him and his Adoptive Parents, the ache I feel for him never leaves me. He’s always on my mind and in my heart. Even though I knew that being pregnant again was going to be emotional, I don’t think there’s any way I could have prepared myself for the feelings and reactions that would come to the surface during even the seemingly insignificant moments I’m experiencing now.”
Now, that I have given birth to a baby that I am parenting and consumed with every day, I am experiencing so many new things. So many new challenges. So many wonderful moments I treasure in my heart now that our little girl is here. My world revolves around her and for the first time I feel permission to express my motherly love in ways I've only dreamed of these past seven years. But it wasn't easy getting here.
Baby R was born on October 8, 2015 at 7:48pm. She was (and still is) perfect in every way. She started her life showing me just how stubborn she can be, refusing to turn from her breech position which resulted in a fast C-section delivery. While I'm extremely grateful for the skillful hands of my OB, the very minimal scarring, and surprisingly quick recovery, I would never want to go through that experience again. Being awake during surgery and fully aware of what's happening was one of the most traumatic things I've ever gone through. But I will never forget her little cry and hearing my husband say "You did it, she's here!"
And just like that, I became a new mom.
The C-section added to my already complicated emotions and struggles after the delivery. I was devastated not being able to hold her after she was born, and I felt the overwhelming sadness kick in when my husband and our new baby went one way to the hospital nursery and I went the other for my post-operative recovery. In the span of 45 minutes, my baby was gone and I was completely alone. The separation felt all too familiar. All I wanted was to be with my little family, and instead I was sitting in a curtained-off area with a nurse monitoring my vital signs for the next hour. I struggled to hold back the tears as I shook uncontrollably. The nurse noticed and placed another warm blanket around my shoulders. "The medication from the surgery can make you shake. It's normal." That wasn't the reason why I was shaking, but I just smiled and said "Thanks." I know all too well that being separated from your child, no matter what the reason, is not normal. Not by a long shot.
My husband took the first week off of work and I couldn't have been more grateful to have him by my side. We had family visit the following week and that helped preoccupy my mind. It wasn't until my husband went back to work and company left our house that my anxiety kicked into high gear. I literally became afraid of the dark, knowing that all night I would be alone with this little person who needed me, and I felt so completely clueless. My husband was incredibly supportive, offering at every moment to help, but most of the time I chose to let him sleep so he could function at work the next day. The nights seemed to go on forever, but eventually morning would come, he would leave for work and I was once again alone with my little human, struggling to figure out this whole motherhood thing alone. There were times I felt more like her babysitter than her mom, and this really took me by surprise. When was this maternal instinct supposed to kick in? Even though I had 10 months to mentally prepare, it was hard. My mind didn't naturally switch from birthmom to mom like I thought it would. For weeks I worried that maybe this child would be better off without me too. That maybe I made a mistake thinking I could actually do this whole mom thing. I worried that my daughter would suffer being raised by me, and that my desire to raise my own child had put her in the crossfire of something horrible, something I couldn't take back.
It took some time, but I finally got to a place where I feel more confident and our bond is stronger than ever. I never thought my best friend could be an infant, but she truly is my best friend. I'm extremely blessed with a job that allowed me to bring her to work with me until she was 6 months old so my best friend was by my side all day, everyday. I got to witness all of her little milestones from baby giggles to being able to sit in her Bumbo chair by herself.
One specific milestone happened in January when she was about 3 months old. My husband had an out of town work conference and Baby and I tagged along. One evening at the hotel I was busy cleaning some of her clothes and my husband told me to come over to them quick. I dropped the clothes in the sink and spun around to see my baby up on her side trying to roll over. I grabbed my phone, hit record and watched as she rolled from her back to her belly for the first time. I can't even describe the pride I felt rise to my chest from the very bottom of my toes. I was grinning like an idiot from ear to ear and giving my baby all kinds of congratulatory remarks. She looked at us like we were completely nuts, before breaking into a big, gummy grin herself, knowing she must have just done something awesome to make us freak out like that. I looked down at my phone and realized it hadn't recorded! We quickly put her on her back again and started encouraging her to do it again so we could get it on camera this time. We watched as she fussed and cried and struggled to will herself to do it again. There were moments when I was sure she was going to let herself give up and rock back, but my baby kept going. She tried and tried and cried and cried until finally she gave one last push and over she went onto her tummy. There were more cheers and smiles as I realized just how strong my little girl is. She has sheer will power and determination and I'm so proud of that. Now, our job is going to be to nurture those things as she grows so she knows she can literally do ANYTHING she wants in this life.
My 3-month old taught me something that evening, and it's something I reflect on often. There are things in my life that I just feel like giving up on. Life has happened and I've been worn down and the idea of throwing in the towel is extremely tempting. I've tried to do things to make progress in these areas and it's worked for a little while, but then it falls out of place and I'm left to start over. Some days I don't want to try again. Being a birthmom isn't easy. Living far away and not being able to see my firstborn in person for the past 2 years isn't easy. Navigating being a birth parent with my husband who is trying to find his own place in the adoption triad isn't easy. Dealing with other family members who don't understand the boundaries needed in an open adoption isn't easy. But giving up just isn't an option for me. Things happen, life happens. And as my little girl so often reminds me, I just need to learn to roll with it.