Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

I'm not sure where to begin here. I've flip flopped a lot about what to say, how to say it and just how much to divulge. I'm going to err on the side of getting it off my chest and getting it out there. So, forgive me if it's hard to follow.

Infertiles have two choices on mother's day: we can brood about how are still not mothers and how difficult it is for us to sit back and watch as our motherlessness is rubbed in our faces by friends, family, strangers at the store and all of the internets. For the most part, we are used to this. We feel this pull every single day towards something that we can't quite grasp. It sneaks up on me sometimes, when I least expect it. It's like all of the posts that say "Every day is mother's day!" Yup, unless it's not ever mother's day. Wah wah.

The other choice (and the one that helps me almost every day) is to honor the mothers in our lives. I happen to be blessed with two, a mom and a step-mom, very supportive and loving mothers. Both of my grandmothers have been strong and loving influences in my life and my entire career is based on bonding with mothers over caring for their children (I do all the mom things while they are under my care. ALL of the mom things. I'll spare you the details). I have lots of love for lots of mothers in my life and that is what I am mainly focused on today.

Though, this year, there is one nagging feeling. One that I can't shake with positivity because it feels unfair of me not to honor myself or such a large part of my past. It's hard not to think about how this was supposed to be my first mother's day. It's hard not to feel a little like a mother, because for one week last year, I was a mother and it was the most amazing and difficult week of my life. Here is that story:

May 18 2013
Michael and I get an e-mail from a woman in Nebraska. She is pregnant with baby number 6, birth father is in jail, he also has 4 kids already and his mother is caring for them all while he is incarcerated.  We fly out to Nebraska as soon as we can to meet S and her kids and make sure we are a good fit. An open adoption is a lifelong relationship. We need to make sure we can all get along to some degree and that we can agree on the level of contact that will work for everyone.

It was a match and we had little time to prepare (not counting the three years that we had been trying on our own :).  Birth mom was scheduled to induce labor on June 20. She was adamant that we be there and it made sense for her to be able to plan for child care for her other children.

June 19 2013
We fly to Phoenix to pick up my mom and then we're off to Nebraska for the biggest day of our lives. The excitement is palpable and we all get a good laugh at the fact that we are traveling with a stroller/car seat combo and a suitcase full of baby necessities, but there's no baby between the three of us. I toy with yelling at my husband in the airport, "Michael! Where's the baby?! How could you forget the baby?!" I decide against it, but it certainly would have been funny. 

June 20 2013
We get to the hospital early and meet with birth mom. She has a room, we have a room and as things go we just sit around for hours while the pitocin kicks in.

I cannot begin to explain how or why I behaved the way I did on this day. I don't know if it was hormones or if my body just responded to being a new mother the way any woman's body would respond to being a new mother. The moments of Jessara's birth were amazing, excruciating and exciting all at once. I couldn't wait for her to get here. I couldn't breath when she finally was here and I freaked out and wanted to yell, scream and mame anyone in sight in between the time that she came out and the time I got to hold her. I know that sounds crazy. I felt like a mama bear, which is not how adoptive mother's are "supposed" to feel. I was supposed to keep my cool (I did on the outside), wait my turn and just enjoy the moment. Nothing felt right until she was in my arms and this happened over and over again, until we got to take her "home" with us.  Every time she cried I hurt physically if I wasn't the one to comfort her. I had an internal freak out when it was feeding time, but she wasn't with me/us. To me that is what the first days of motherhood felt like; a roller coaster of bliss and intense pain and I wasn't in any kind of control of my emotions.

We did all the normal things. We ooooohed. We aaaaahhhhhed. We tried to sleep at night with her in our hospital room (not much success there). We met with the pediatrician. We gave her her first bath. We did skin to skin contact. We announced the new love of our lives to the world.

Two days later we took her to our rental house and had a huge sigh of relief. She was "ours." FINALLY we had a baby. We worked so hard for so long trying to conceive and then getting approved to be adoptive parents. It was surreal to be parents. We were so excited we couldn't sleep. If she was sleeping I wanted to hold her and watch her sleep. If she was awake, I wanted to observe every little thing she did. In the end, we regretted not sleeping. :) It didn't take us long to figure out that we needed to sleep in shifts, if we were to sleep at all and for crying out loud that meant sleeping when she slept!!

We got good at packing a diaper bag. We had adventures and changed diapers in the van and in the family room at the local art museum. We took a hike and explored downtown and did our best to ignore that all of this amazing life was hanging on by a thread. We were waiting to hear back on the genetic test that would prove who the biological father was.

This is the first time I got to put her in all of my favorite things. <3

Michael is good at tetris AND packing diaper bags. These two things are related.

Learning to self soothe (I'm an early childhood education geek and this was fascinating to me). We even took video.

3am selfies!
After this the days get fuzzy. I can't remember if it was 3 or 4 days of ignorant bliss. We get the call that the expected biological father is not in fact the father and we have to run another test to determine paternity. As far as we know, this is just time consuming. We were told that if by some crazy chance the second guy was the biological father that he too would be willing to sign away his rights. He had a girlfriend and another baby on the way in just two months. We spend a couple days trying to enjoy being first time parents, but knowing that our perfect little world could come crashing down at any moment. And then it did.

June 28 2013
I had the hardest conversation I've ever had in my life with a woman who was a stranger just a month before.  In that labor room S and I had shared one of my life's most intimate moments and now we had to have a conversation regarding what was best for her, me and this new precious little girl. The man who was Jessara's biological father did indeed want to parent. It wasn't that anyone had changed their minds. The circumstances had changed and it was time to decide what to do about that. Through a lots of tears and sobbing we chatted about what our relationship was like with our own fathers. We chatted about what Jessara might feel like when she gets older and realized that her father wanted her, but we all decided against it. We talked about what he might feel like to have a daughter that he wanted being raised by complete strangers in a far away state. I won't lie. Part of me wanted to beg and plead. We are going to be amazing parents, we can provide a life full of love and support and we are open to him having a relationship with her and getting to know her. But I kept thinking of what it would feel like to have my daughter feel like I had betrayed her. I didn't want an adoption based on taking away someone else's desire to parent, how hypocritical would that be? I choked down that feeling in my gut of wanting to take my baby and flee to the nearest border and I said what I still feel was the right thing. I told S that I can't make that decision for her and that I wouldn't hate her if she decided she wanted Jessara's biological father to parent her. I couldn't hold that against him or her. I had to swallow the heartache and acknowledge that baby was lucky in her own way. How many babies are born to father's that don't want to participate at all?

Later that day, with a strength and courage that I didn't even know I had in me, I handed over my baby to her biological father and watched as he cradled her completely awestruck. I observed that they had the same hands and despite the despair and heartache that penetrated my bones, I knew she was in the "right" place. I said goodbye and I cried for weeks.

This is our last photo together.
I still cry sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I want her so bad, that I lose sight of whatever is next for us. For a long time, I wasn't open to trying IVF or meeting a new birth mother. It took a while to be open to the idea of parenting any other baby. Somehow, I can see beyond that selfishness and know that she is where she is supposed to be and she'll never hate me for taking her away from a father that wanted to parent her. I'm not sure how something that hurts so much can also feel so right, but there you have it.

I had an amazing week being a mother to a beautiful baby girl and I did the hardest, most selfless thing I have ever done in my life. I feel like I was a good mother to her and I know that I will be a good mother to whatever child comes our way in the future. So, happy mother's day to me too and to all of the almost mothers and yet to be mother's out there.