Slam! My daughter’s bedroom door nearly came off the hinges as she stomped into her room to pack a few things. She was none too happy to be disciplined for misbehaving and, for the third time in three weeks, informed me that she was running away, that I was the worst mom in the world, and that she was going to go live somewhere else. Sounds like a familiar child-rearing scene for some of you; only for me, this came at a time when I was still adjusting to the “instant parenthood” that adoption brings.
You see, my little family was born out of loss. For me, it was the loss of the dream of having a biological child — a child who, in my fantasy moments, is a combination of all the good things about my husband and me. For my daughters, the loss is that of their biological family and other losses incurred throughout their three years in the U.S. foster care system.
My husband and I were married for two years before we even attempted to start a family. None of my sisters had any problems getting pregnant on demand, and so I believed that I could plan the arrival of my children just like I had efficiently organized my career, my home, and my higher education. Only things didn’t happen for us. Three years of trying, lots of pill popping, prodding, ultrasounds, injections, and infertility specialists later, I had reached the end of my sanity. I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a deep, black, hopeless well, fighting like mad not to fall in.
Through late night talks and lots of prayer, my husband and I decided to stop trying to make our own baby and pursue adoption instead. We chose domestic foster care adoption because it was far more affordable than international adoption, and we were open to any race, any gender, and even sibling groups. I remember talking to a friend of mine who had adopted from Russia ,and she told me how adopting had filled that void in her heart. She had also been through multiple miscarriages and infertility and now was contentedly doting on an adorable one-year-old girl.
My husband and I went through the foster care training, received our license, and, within two months, were matched with four-year-old Kate and her six-year-old half-sister, Elisabeth. I eagerly prepared their room, bought little girl toys, and counted the days until they came to live with us. I had romantic visions of snuggling in with them, reading a good Ramona Quimby book to their expectant, enraptured faces, and painting little girl fingernails.
However, reality hit big time the day they were dropped off with two big black garbage bags of mismatched clothes and random toys. These girls ran at max velocity and talked as much as they moved. Their African-American hair was a full-time job to maintain. I felt like I had been hit by a bus! I would crawl into bed exhausted each night, wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. I didn’t feel like a void in my heart was filled. I struggled to form a bond with Elisabeth because of her defiant behavior. I felt such guilt that I didn’t love them as deeply or as equally as I felt I should. I felt ashamed that I didn’t take to mothering like a duck to water — a surprise to me since I was a wonderful aunt to my 19 nieces and nephews.
I thought I had put the grief of infertility behind me, but it reared its ugly head when the behavior I witnessed from my adopted daughters didn’t match the fantasy I had in my head about what my biological child would have done. I felt sheepish that when people asked, or rather told, me how much I loved being a mother, I didn’t feel this gushing exaltation of sheer delight. I am sure, after our long years of infertility, I was expected to say motherhood was the best thing on earth, but I felt like I was half drowning, half getting clobbered every day.
But gradually, ever so gradually, and with the help of the proper medication for what turned out to be Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for both girls, the bonds of love grew. And grew. And grew. They truly became my girls — or, as I jokingly call them, my squirrels. I took myself less seriously. I let go of the guilt about my momzilla moments. And two years into motherhood, I still let myself have moments of grief over the loss of a biological child, but I don’t wallow in that pit. For without that infertility, I may never have known Kate and Elisabeth. And I would have missed out on the amazing blessing they are to us now.
This post is a part of our feature series this month on adoption and foster care. Learn how you can help make an impact during National Adoption Awareness Month in November and find ideas on teaching your children about the plight of orphans in the world with our Guide to Teaching Your Children about Orphans.
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