Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Being A Birth Mom... My Son's Adoptive Dad

When I first read his letter in the prospective adoptive parents file, I immediately knew that he’d be the one.  Here was the man who could take up the mantle of fatherhood and do it justice.  He could be caregiver, disciplinarian and breadwinner.  He could teach my son how to make his way in the world confidently, bravely, and without the need to step on anyone else.  He could show my son how to be compassionate, self-confident and courageous; to not back down from challenges and be smart about making choices.

24 years later, I realize that’s exactly what he did.

When I think about what I was able to learn about my son, about who he was as a young man, I am so proud.  My pride comes from both being his mom (nature) and choosing his dad (nurture).  And even though my time was so limited, I was given an amazing opportunity to get to know him.  This is what I perceived from “outside” (my window being primarily social media): he demonstrated gentleness and kindheartedness for others, a knack for artistry and patience.  He also had an ability to be wild, uninhibited and brave.  He liked cats.  He brought joy to those around him, and although he was a big man, never imposed himself on others.

I know that much of who my son grew to be was a result of how he was raised.  His dad, moms and brother being the ones who shaped him: the sculptors of his life, forming him into an amazing young man.  Recently I’ve had the chance to get to know his family a little bit better.  Being given the chance to watch the familial interactions has verified that I did indeed make the right choice of father and family.  

And, yes, there is certainly a sense of relief that comes with this realization.

There is so much more to say about him, but I will leave it for now.  Step back and be grateful, to the man who provided a wonderful life for my son.   

Our son.   

And as I ache with my own loss, I can’t help but feel his too.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

On Being A Birth Mom... Embracing My Motherhood

There are days, like today, that I don’t feel worthy.  That I don’t deserve to grieve because I’m not a “real” mother.  No matter how many times others tell me not to feel this way, it’s still there…  An internal message, repeated over and over again.  

My own personal recording – I put it there, and it’s become ingrained.

I’m pretty sure it all began as a way to get through the initial grief of the adoption, and once in place became a crutch.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It was a coping mechanism; a way to get through the day-to-day without completely falling apart.  And a way to get through all those birthdays, mother’s days and holidays.  

The times I did give in to grief it was still with a lingering sense of unworthiness.  I can remember hearing whispered comments or seeing judgmental looks at particularly vulnerable moments, and they reinforced these internal messages, but it’s not anyone else’s fault.  It’s mine.  Just like it is now my responsibility to silence them.

Because unfortunately, the message is still playing.  And it doesn’t help anymore.

But I don’t think stopping the message is enough.  I must instead replace the old message with something new.  So here I am, yelling out into the universe “Yes, I am a mother!” and challenging myself to remember that even though there’s been more pain than joy, there has been joy, great joy.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Grief of Losing a Child

To lose a child is just not something that is easy to describe, yet many of us try.  I try to share with loved ones and friends what it is I am going through, but it seems that no matter how many words I use, there are never enough of them.  When I try to explain the complexity of my feelings I get stuck at where to start: am I a birth mom first or a woman who lost her child?  Does it really even matter?  Some days I browse birth mother blogs, other days those relating to the death of a child. I find value in both; they both address the loss I am experiencing.

I think this is why forums and websites for grieving parents are so important.  When I’m reading others’ experiences about the loss of their children it makes me feel less alone.  And when I say “parents” I mean all of us: those who have experienced loss through accidents, illness, adoption, infertility and all the many, many ways we are separated from our children.   

And, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for all of you reading this that have experienced the loss of a child too.  

I’m grateful to those who choose to share their stories and to those who bear witness to our losses.  I’m grateful to my loved ones, my friends, my sisters, and all of you who’ve taken the time to read this blog, who’ve expressed their love and support.  I’m grateful to my husband, who is a rock when I need strength to hold me up and a soft embrace when I need to be held gently.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On Being A Brith Mom ... And Selfish

Selfishness was brought up the other night, specifically in relation to the decision on whether or not to have children.  A friend said she was too selfish to have children.  That she enjoyed her carefree existence, and didn’t want to have to change her ways.  She wanted to be able to sleep-in whenever she liked or go on hikes at the spur of the moment.  I understand her perspective, and can relate to it.  I’m selfish, and I have absolutely no qualms about admitting it.  In some ways I even take pride in my selfishness, because I think it’s healthy.  

Let me explain.

When I was pregnant, one of the many issues that I grappled with was the fear that I would resent my child.  I never wanted to be put in a situation where I would begrudge the fact that I had to take care of him and that his needs had to come before my own.  I knew I would feel bitter, for example, that any potential mate would need to prove himself capable of being a good father before being a good lover.  So the only way to assure that I didn’t resent my son was to admit my selfishness and make the choice not to parent.  Selfish, yes, but also honest, which is why I think selfishness can be healthy.

Too often selfishness is viewed exclusively in a negative light.  And, so, while some would label my reasons for placing my son for adoption as selfish, I would counter with my belief that those who choose to parent are also selfish.  To have a child for self-gratification, to fulfill a need for unconditional love or in hopes of being taken care of in your old age are all selfish.  And it’s selfish to have a child when you know you can’t afford too.  But being selfish doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing.

There are two sides to the selfish coin: one side is healthy, honest and moral; the other narcissistic and self-absorbed.  Most of the decisions so far in my life reflect both the “good” and the “bad” of selfishness, but more importantly I’ve attempted to enter into my decisions with an understanding of my motives and intentions.  With clarity.

Realizing that I did not want to feel resentful of my son is certainly selfish, but I want you to take it a step further with me.  In my resentment I am fairly positive that I would have become abusive –neglectful, verbally or physically abusive.  I would have become that which I desperately did not want to become, that model I’d been shown most of my life.  And, had that happened, the cycle would repeat and perpetuate itself.

Now I know there are those of you out there who say it’s different when you’re actually in the situation, that you’ll “rise to the occasion” when it’s your child.  And I have seen that happen, but I’ve also seen when it doesn’t.  And the time I took to really think this through and be honest with myself made me realize I’d be taking a huge risk.  And I’m not the gambling type – certainly not with another’s life in my hands.  

So, this is why I’m proud to say I am selfish.  And while my choice to place my son for adoption represented both sides of the selfishness coin, that choice ultimately benefited us both.