I’m not sure I can wax poetic about motherhood. Of the many roles I play in this life, motherhood is the one I simultaneously wanted the most, complain about the most, drives me the craziest and is the most fulfilling to me.
I wanted to be a mother since I was still being mothered myself. In my early twenties, I gave myself a deadline of age 26 to have my first baby by. Beyond that, I didn’t put that much thought into what my dream family looked like. I have known plenty of people, almost always girls, who had all kinds of things planned out about their future children. They’d have a boy and a girl, the boy first, or all boys or all girls or a one-and-only. And they always knew what names they wanted to use.
I had no idea what I’d have (of course neither did they, really) nor was I hell-bent on any particular names. I guess I kind of figured I’d only have girls, but I think that’s because I only had sisters and so I visualized families that way. How many kids? What names? I had no idea.
I started babysitting at a young age and began working as a nanny when I was 24. I figured I was more prepared than many but that didn’t stop me from having feelings of doubt when the birthing center staff handed my own infant to take home at the age of 26 and a half. “They let us just LEAVE with this baby??” I thought. “Where did this new life even COME from???” It was positively surreal.
I thought the same exact thing seventeen months later when we left with our son (although that time I had the added doubt of, “A boy??!!” Really?”) And four years later when we drove to a hospital an hour away and the caseworker from the state handed us the foster baby we’d later adopt. It was just as unbelievable two years after that with his biological brother and another two years later with their biological sister. You’d think I’d get over it by then but no, each time the awe and responsibility of caring for a tiny new life was staggering. Each time I couldn’t believe the staff would just GIVE us a baby to take home!
Growing up I would hear it exclaimed that someone “loved those kids as if they were their own” when referring to, for example, a man who adopted his stepchildren or a woman who adopted children because she was unable to have biological children. There seemed to be a universal belief that there was a different love for biological and adopted children and that anyone that could love the adopted ones the same were the exception.
For us, from the moment the hospitals let us “just leave” with each of our babies, they were ours. Fierce was our love for them, even when we didn’t know if they would stay. There was never any difference in how we loved our biological and adopted ones. We protected them; we advocated for them, we (well, he) drove to Pennsylvania in the pouring rain at ten o’clock at night with no Medicaid card to get medicine for them. When they made the slightest whimper overnight, we (well, I) would wake from the deepest slumber to comfort them (or alternately, we/he would be kicked awake from the deepest slumber to comfort them), no matter from what womb they originated.
The parental pride I have felt for the children is the same across the board. My oldest (biological) daughter played the role of a princess in “The King & I” put on by the local high school. In the last scene as the King is dying, my daughter’s part was to break away from the actress portraying her mother and throw herself on her father, the King. Upon seeing this, the woman next to me in the audience put her hand to her mouth and cried. I felt, for the first time in my life, so much pride it felt like it was actually a solid entity growing inside me, threatening to burst. I wanted to stand up and shout, “THAT IS MY DAUGHTER!!” I swear the only reason I didn’t is because I knew my husband would tease me about it for months afterwards if I did.
Now, admittedly, I have been acting my entire life. Maybe there was something to watching my kid, that looked like me, involved in an activity that has been such an important part of my own life that made me feel like that. (And it was even on the stage at the high school that I graduated from.)
But then that wouldn’t explain why I had that exact same feeling on the soccer field. I have never been an athlete or even a person who enjoys watching sports. But watching my (adopted) son on the field on his first grade team made me beam with pride. He’s always been fast and athletic and he’s been on other teams before but on his first grade team, he shone. He’d be playing defense, get the ball and then make a goal (positions are a little free-form at this age level).
My husband, the coach, would tell him over and over again to not hog the ball and to look for teammates to pass the ball to. One Saturday morning game, he got the ball and tore away from the rest of the kids until he found himself in front of the unguarded goal with the ball. “Go! Go! Make the goal!” I shouted. But at that moment, he remembered what his Dad had told him. He looked around and kicked the ball across the field. He waited a moment for a teammate, ANY teammate, to go for it but none of them did so then he ran across the field, got the ball himself and THEN made the goal.
And this time I recognized that feeling. I remembered what that strange sensation inside me was, that felt like it was going to make me burst at the seams. That feeling was parental pride. And this non-athletic, non-sport-watching adoptive mother stood up and cheered (while suppressing the urge to shout, “THAT’S MY SON!”)
It’s true, I had no idea I would end up having biological and adopted children. I didn’t ever expect I would raise two girls and three boys. There’s no way I could have known that my husband and I would be sharing the naming process for some of our kids with their other set of parents. But if I had known any of this, I probably could have still figured that I truly would love each and every one of those kids just as much as the others. And I was right.
I guess I can wax poetic about motherhood after all.