While I’m an adoptive mom, and would gladly extol its virtues, I wouldn’t say I’m expert material. A passing glance at my blog would call key parenting skills into question. So while “expert” is beyond reach, “adoptive mom who lost it a couple of times on strangers” is pretty accurate. “What is there to lose it about after adopting?” you rightfully ask. Well, apart from all the lovely stressors parenting brings, there are some comments you field that are unique to your situation. Sometimes, they just get rub you the wrong way. I really don’t think people mean any harm. They just don’t think or realize. My plan here isn’t to make you feel uncomfortable, but rather to help you see some things through the eyes of an adoptive parent. One less foot in a mouth… that’s what I’m all about here.
I’ll start out with the biggie:
Loving them as much as children by birthMy husband had two daughters when we married. I asked him repeatedly if he’d feel differently about his new sons vs. his daughters. After weeks of denial, he cracked. “Of course I’ll have a different relationship with them!” That saddened me, until he quickly clarified, “I was in my 30’s to 40’s for the girls but will be in my 50’s to 60’s for the boys. I don’t have the same career demands now. I probably won’t need to sit by a Barbie playhouse much.” It was really that simple to him, a question of lifestyle and gender play preferences. When I hear people talk about different feelings toward adopted kids, I go back to him since he’s poised to know the truth. He doesn’t get people who can’t believe you feel the same toward an adoptive child as one by birth. He’s really baffled by men’s reactions. “It’s not like you’d be breastfeeding yourself.” They’re just “his kids,” and by “they” I mean all four, all viewed the same way.
We clean up after kids who get the flu at 2:00am. We cry when we open hand drawn Mother’s Day cards. We stare at our sleeping kids, awed by their beauty, and befuddled that they can look so angelic in sleep while being so devilish when awake. We leave the house at 6:00am to schlep to gymnastics meets 100 miles away. Yep, we’re absolute idiots for our kids too.
This was the phrase that put me over the edge on several occasions. I finally gave up, sarcasm taking over. To the woman in McDonald’s, the mom at my son’s preschool, the family friend at a party, and anyone else my flip tone offended at the time, I’m kinda sorta sorry. Eventually to comments such as, “They look just like your real kids,” I replied:
- "He’s not go strings to hold him down."
- "And yet, faux really is more humane."
- "We decided real was best since the holograms were too expensive.
- "Nope, he’s real. I lost the Nerf one years ago. The hubs was so pissed."
- "Madame Tussaud’s mail order~ what can’t they do?!"
- "Yeah, but the replacement parts are a bitch to find."
“Bet you’re happy you missed that!”
This usually refers to morning sickness, swollen ankles, insomnia, labor pain. The paper pregnancy has its own set of challenges. There are things adoptive moms go through that can tear you down emotionally, then in turn, physically. For starters, births have a due date. You knew, much like a road construction warning, that “on or about January 10…” you would be a parent. In the majority of cases, adoption has no due date. Even when couples are working with a birthmother, there are legal milestones of equal significance, or an undying fear that minds could be changed. When you give birth, there’s no real fear the baby’s going to change his mind.
Adoption brings all kinds of chances for uncertainty until final court approval. Don’t get me wrong- I’m ok with skipping some of the less than fun pregnancy highlights. Anxiety and doubt, though, can torment your stomach and sleep for months on end. Trust me, in the long run, the roller coasters of birth and adoption even out to a dead heat. One other snag I’ll mention that can hurt feelings is the issue that many women who have adopted REALLY wanted those experiences you’re joking about. You never know, so least said, best said sometimes.
“They’re so lucky to have you”
No. Not really. I feel very blessed that I was approved by the caretakers, judge, Russian Education Ministry, and above all, God, to be their mom. But no one walks around thinking, “WOW are my kids suuuuuuuper lucky that I’m their mom! I mean, I am FABULOUS” Whether you gave birth or adopted, you simply don’t think in those terms. Ok, maybe you do. No really, you don’t. I hope.
The last little tidbit I have is something I wish I could scream at every reporter everywhere. I don’t walk around calling my sons my “adopted sons.” They’re just “sons.” Did you ever notice that in a story about any celeb who’s adopted, the kids are always labeled? Read an article about the Jolie-Pitts, Sandra Bullock, Sheryl Crowe, etc and their children are labeled when adopted. Curiously, the genetic Jolie-Pitts are not labeled. They are simply their kids. All of them are “their kids.” Period. If you happen to be a journalist, please keep that in mind. If you know one, please share this. Feel free to message People.com stories. Lord knows I do.
At the end of the day, however they ended up in our arms, they are our children. They imprinted in our hearts, like the werewolves do in Twilight. God sent me to them and them to me, not via a stork, but via Boeing. The humorist Art Buchwald was a parent via adoption. He once said, “You’ll know they’re your kids when you want to kill them.” On any given day, laundry, noise, and bickering floating through my home, I’m with him. I love them more than life itself, yet want to murder them in frustration at times. So I assure, you see, we are all the same. We are moms.