In my childhood I went through many answers to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Firefighter was in there. Paleontologist, architect (Thank you bucket-o-Legoes), actress, and veterinarian which hung around until I had to take chemistry my first semester at college. But in whatever scenario I created, I was always a mom too. I was never a Barbie girl, choosing instead, babies to mother. Say what you want about the Cabbage Patch craze, my Andre and Alice (I don’t remember the middle names) were my mommy training wheels along with the beautifully handmade Kimberley Lorraine who now lives in my daughter’s room. Mostly though I credit the incredible mothers I had as role models. Everyone from my yiayia to my aunts to my mom’s close friends to especially my mother. These women who were real mothers and dealt with all of the challenges while never ever making the children in their lives feel anything but loved and valued (if somewhat frustrating. At times. Note: That was totally my brother and sister. I was a perfect angel and never frustrated anyone. Ever.)
I am also as close to a clone of my mother as a person can get. My mother just had to think about getting pregnant and BAM! Insta-blue line (or lab result. This was the 70’s and 80’s). So when John and I decided it was time to expand our parenting past beings of the furry four legged kind, I was ready for insta-kids too kind like Bill Cosby explained it.
That did not happen. It did not happen for a year. It did not happen on Clomid. It did not happen on Clomid with ovulation monitoring. It did not happen with artificial insemination.
We did not pursue infertility treatment past that. I went through the process of grieving my empty, apparently faulty, womb and the baby who would have the best of the genes that John and I had to offer. I cursed and celebrated my friends who all seemed to become parents much as my parents did.
We decided on adoption. The money was going to be spent one way or another, at least, with adoption you are guaranteed a kid. At some point. Even if that point is years away and several heartbreaks and therapy sessions later. And being parents was what we wanted. The whole passing on the genes or name or whatever was not our goal. (Though I totally understand how that can be part of the decision, and I get why people want to exhaust all the possible ways of having biological kids. That just wasn’t us.)
We waited. I got a tattoo of a baby phoenix breaking free of his shell and crying out his presence to the world. I felt it represented the chaotic triumph of adoption, a life created from ashes of poor decisions and dashed dreams but ultimately out of love.
We had been waiting over a year. We had had two matches, but the mothers had decided to parent once the baby was born. We were at a point where we needed to update our clearances and potentially look at changing our profile, so when the agency called that day, I anticipated it was something to do with that.
Instead it was the first time I knew about our son, our Coltrane James.
When you are adopting, here is something you hear that makes you want to bonk people over the head with an over-sized inflatable mallet: You’ll adopt and then get pregnant. I know [insert name and relationship] who that happened to.
I hated it when people said that. I know they didn’t mean it this way (most of them), but it makes the adopted kid seem like a lesser prize or a means to your real end of a biological child. So I scoffed and grumbled inside while offering platitudes.
And then in late October, Leila made her presence know with her own little blue plus side.
Yes, I ate a little crow. It tastes like chicken. Only blacker.
Here’s something else that made me wish for that mallet. See, you relaxed because of the adoption and got pregnant.
If anything the time between learning about CJ and his birth was one of the more stressful times in my life. First, his due date was changed by two months. TWO MONTHS. Then his birthmom was spotty in her communication with the agency. It was not all together a fun time.
I will always correct someone when they through that relaxed thing at me. Also I became sure that because it was so hard to conceive that I was going to miscarry. There were at least two or three trips to the bathroom every day for the first trimester in which I was sure I was going to see blood. I just couldn’t accept that something so striven for in such a methodical way could happen so randomly. Or that we were getting so much so fast.
Forward two weeks and we walk into a hospital, into a room, and are parents. No lights, no music, no ceremony. Just the quiet whisper of a very brave woman. “Look, it’s your mom and dad.” To which the only meager reply I had was, “Thank you.”
Can I just say, morning sickness when you are living between a hospital and a hotel is not fun. Though John seemed to enjoy it because it often meant he got to finish my meals.
I wish I could explain what it feels like when the parent switch it turned on. It’s really a dimmer switch. During the waiting or the pregnancy, it slowly turns up, brighter and brighter until the moment that baby is placed in your arms and nothing can get any brighter and no words can really do the moment justice. Nothing will change you so quickly. (And sorry non-parent friends. You probably want to hit me with an over-sized inflatable mallet.)
The only moment that ever felt as right was when this handmaiden-of-God Athanasia walked around a table three times linked to John by a ribbon between two crowns.
It is amazing to realize that even as a small child, I was right. I was meant to be a mommy. I am good at being a mommy even if there are times I feel like I am not. I know I have joined the ranks of women who while not perfect, while sometimes yelling and crying and sleeping and feeling guilty and overwhelmed always love.