Sometimes I can hardly believe that I get to blog about motherhood. You see, I didn’t get nine months. I never had a positive pregnancy test, because I have never been pregnant. I’ve never had morning sickness or labor pains or contractions or a window of time where I knew without a doubt that I was about to become a mom.
And yet…I am a mom.
After several years of infertility, my husband and I decided to pursue adoption. Our reasons for doing so were twofold. First, we truly desired to have a family, but couldn’t conceive. Second, we wanted to provide a loving, Christian home to a child who needed it. We prayed a lot, chose an agency, prayed some more, filled out mountains of paperwork, answered numerous personal questions about how we would parent, what our childhoods were like, if our marriage was stable. We had physical exams to prove we were healthy enough, fingerprinting to prove we weren’t criminals, interviews to prove we were sane, a home exam to prove our house wasn’t a death trap, and financial evaluations to prove we weren’t completely broke. On paper, we proved to be good candidates for parenthood. The empty bedroom across the hall proved we weren’t parents yet.
Our adoption process went by extremely quickly. Before the ink had dried on our home study approval, we were matched with a birthmother who was anxious to meet us. In a matter of days we met the woman who ultimately gave birth to our son. Our son…her son, the birthfather’s son, my son, my husband’s son. Adoption is a strange way to become a parent because from the outset we had to grasp the fact that we were kind of at the mercy of someone else. If our son’s birthmother hadn’t chosen us as his adoptive parents, well…he wouldn’t be ours, I guess. And in His sovereignty, God would have been as faithful to us under those circumstances as He was under the circumstances that did occur.
In the span of about a month, we met our son’s birthmother and then watched William Isaiah make his entry into the world. As an infertile woman, I feel blessed to have been able to witness Isaiah’s birth. His birthmother was insistent from the beginning that we attend the birth, and while I never expect that to happen again in another adoption situation, I sincerely appreciate her desire for me to share in that experience. For a woman who has never even had a positive pregnancy test, watching our son’s first breath was a monumental gift.
Because of legal issues that accompany every adoption, we didn’t have Isaiah for a few days. He stayed in the hospital and was cared for by his birthmom and the nurses on the maternity ward. We visited and fed him a bottle or two. I distinctly remember my first time feeding him. His birthmom and the nurses had worked with him, so he was getting better at the sucking mechanism. It seemed impossible that this tiny person had just been in another woman’s womb and was now in my arms. Isaiah’s birthmom looked on approvingly and gave me directions as she has had other children and definitely knew the ropes better than I did. My first diaper change on a brand new infant clocked in somewhere around 3 minutes and 20 seconds. He was so tiny, and the nurse was directing me on bellybutton care. I felt so strangely out of place! To be honest, there are conflicting emotions about being at the hospital, and we acquiesced only because Isaiah’s birthmother really wanted us there. If she had not wanted us there, we would have respected that. It felt strange, though, to be caring for someone else’s baby. When legality issues were completed, I asked Isaiah’s birthmom to pick out one of the outfits I’d brought, and together we dressed the tiny baby and packed him into his infant carrier. We prayed with his birthparents and the social worker and then took our new son out of the hospital room. Surprisingly, I immediately began weeping.
I don’t know if I can rightly express the tumult of emotions I felt just then. This was the goal, right? We were leaving a hospital with a newborn baby. But his mother was back in the recovery room. Wait. Now I was his mother? I felt like I was stealing her baby. I know it was her choice, her decision to choose adoption for our son, but I couldn’t help the brokenness welling up inside of me. This grief-filled experience was the way I would become a mother? It felt….backward.
We took Isaiah back to our hotel room where we were holed up for the next eight days, waiting on paperwork to release us back into our home state. The first night was a surreal ending to years of longing. My husband and I sat up in bed together at 3:00 a.m. taking turns feeding our son, delighting in the chance to do middle-of-the-night-feedings. We were exhausted from that point on, but it was a happy exhaustion. We got together with Isaiah’s birthfamily before returning to our home, and we again wrestled with the weighty emotions of adoption. We felt eventual peace, though, in their peace about this adoption plan. Their affirmation was our deliverance.
When we returned home, things began to blur together. I could finally be numbered among the bleary-eyed new mothers who walk about like zombies and don’t remember basic information about themselves like age and whether or not they ate that day. The days and nights ran together and I struggled to handle the lack of sleep. I was incredibly thankful to be a new mom, but boy–it was hard work when you are that tired! I got the hang of preparing bottles in the dark at 2 a.m. and of changing diapers in the middle of a feeding to keep baby awake. I learned that Mylicon drops are a girl’s best friend! I learned that I have an endlessly patient husband who gladly took over the nighttime wakefulness even though he had to work the next day. I was blessed by how much our church family cared for us by bringing us meals and delighting in our new son. I saw my in-laws joyfully become grandparents for the first time, and I relished watching my mom and dad fall in love with their first grandson. I loved the new baby smell, the curly post-bath hair, the look in my husband’s eye when he held our son. Oh, how blessed I was.
I kept a couple of books on hand that gave me lots of information on caring for a newborn. I felt such a loss as to what to do with this new, tiny human. What was I supposed to do all day? I didn’t know how to get into a feeding/sleeping routine, but eventually I figured it out. As with most things, there is a learning curve to parenting. I bookmarked several pages in those books. I called my mom a lot. I asked friends with older children a million questions. I was a huge fan of babycenter.com. I am continuing to learn…parenting an almost-two-year-old is so different from parenting a newborn! But each day we work at it, and are thankful for the blessing to be able to do so.
Motherhood is something I long sought after. I reached for it with arms outstretched, fingers desperately trying to grasp it–but always just missing it. I prayed endlessly, grieved repeatedly, longed daily to be a mom. And then one day, I became one. There are days that are hard–we’re currently in the midst of the infamous “terrible twos.” Being an adoptive mom doesn’t make my motherhood completely rosy and untarnished. There are definitely days where I seriously have to strive not to be selfish with my time, where I have to work hard at disciplining in love, where I want to sleep instead of anything else. Being a mom highlights my sin the way being a wife highlights my sin. The Lord answered my prayer to become a mother, and I firmly believe He will use it as a part of my sanctification the way He uses my infertility as a part of my sanctification. There are still days I feel like I’m pretending…like I’m not really a mom because I didn‘t get the nine months of pregnancy or swollen ankles or flutterings of life within me, but then there are moments like this, when I’m sitting in the bathroom writing while my son plays and splashes in the tub and I realize…..I am a mom!
Glenna is a pastor’s wife and adoptive mom to her (almost) two year old son. She has the blessing of being a stay-at-home-mom after many years of longing for children. You can find her blogging about infertility at Grace is Still Enough, and life in general: Please Don’t Call Me for Advice.