When Pain Is What It Is.
Here I was, all set today to finally pull myself up and talk about the good things that adoption has brought to my life. It is Adoption Awareness Month after all. It’s hard though to do that, because I feel so much like walking on eggshells because so many are grieving their losses in adoption right now. And I respect that. Acknowledge that.
I have been enjoying the posts of many parents who speak so eloquently about the children they are blessed to parent because of adoption. So I was going to have a celebratory post about my children. That was the plan anyway. So let me say this first… (and I will celebrate more fully in another post on another day soon!) I love my kids. And I am blessed to be their Mommy even as their Second Mother. They are still my kids. No doubt about that. And I am honored to be called their mother. It is a privilege to know these two people that have rocked my world. I love you Bug and Si! And today, I stand up and say that I’m not embarrassed or sad that you came to our family through adoption. I would not give up my journey to get here for anything if it meant that I would not have met these two amazing people. My life is changed because of knowing them.
But then there’s this. I don’t know if I am going to express myself very well at all right now. I’m just plain sad and and hurt and I just need to speak about this. I do alot of reading. I do alot of reading of blogs, alot of them related to the struggles, pain, journeys and thoughts of those what are a part of adoption, whether it be someone who was adopted, someone who has placed/relinquished/surrendered/lost a child to adoption or someone who wants to or has adopted a child into their family.
I started reading blogs and message boards mostly out of curiosity, to find out what others who see adoption from a different experience are thinking about. It is a truly enlightening experience, one that I recommend to anyone considering adoption. We can learn from each other. But I also started reading partly out of determiniation too, because, for the most part, the hopes we had of having a truly open adoption aren’t there because the other parents of my kids aren’t ready/willing/able to have a relationship or if I’m really facing the truth never were willing to have a relationship to begin with. So I went searching, hoping to find resources and stories from people who have different perspectives than me on adoption, wanting desperately to understand better what a person who was adopted goes through so that if at all possible, I can help my children on their journey, help them have what they need to become whole and healthy people on the earth, and help make up for some of the loss they suffered when their other parents made the decision to place them for adoption. And I also want to hear from those who have relinquished children, to hopefully help me understand what the other parents of my kids were going through and hopefully, along the way, gain more understanding about the issues related to adoption and be more compassionate about the people who were struggling in their lives because of adoption.
Since I’ve been having a hard time working through some of my own issues right now, I was working equally hard to stay away from the stuff that hurts my heart, even when it is not intended to. I’m just having a really hard time right now with a whole bunch of stuff so I went into protection mode. I have to say that being a parent through adoption involves a long journey of developing a thick skin, especially if you are willing to let yourself see the WHOLE picture of adoption, and to feel the sadness with those who have lost so much. I have seen how some can feel adoption is wonderful, all easy and all hunky-dorey because they don’t know this stuff. I can see how they would want to live there. But I can’t. That’s not reality.
And in the last couple of days I’ve been hit with some pretty hard reality and it has left me shaking. My struggle is this…
As much as I’m willing to listen and learn from the pain and sorrow of others, I just wish there was some willingness to acknowledge that pain is what it is, for whoever is feeling it. I struggle so, because as I deal with some very real grief over my infertility experience, others whose pain is unimaginable to me, some whose pain I readily acknowledge as being real and overwhelming because of what they’ve lost, aren’t willing to have the same compassion on my struggles.
As a parent through adoption who has suffered from infertility, I am constantly asked to set aside my struggle because someone else’s is more relevant and real at least in the bigger picture everyone wants to see. I am constantly asked to listen and learn and understand what my choice to be open to the possibility of adoption, to consider the possibility of adopting so that I could be a parent, has done to them (becomes sometimes it feels that way, by default we all have caused the pain).
Granted, all they feel has to do with their very REAL experience of loss in a very REAL situation very personal to them, but I struggle. I struggle because the pain and loss I feel over my very REAL experience of loss in a very REAL situation is minimized. Always minimized. Or at least it feels that way. The very thing I NEVER, EVER want to do to anyone else is done to me. I read. I learn. I discover. I acknowledge.
When it comes down to it, what I have experienced in my life that brought me to this point in my life, where I am blessed to be a parent, yes, but along with parenting a child who becomes an adult who was adopted, I am constantly having to check the pain I carry at the door of this world because in the end, it doesn’t matter or couldn’t possibly hurt like I think it does. Yes. I’m infertile. No. I didn’t let my infertility stop my hope of becoming a parent. And then, on top of that, I’m asked to re-check who I am allowed to be at least in the eyes of others (because I have no doubt who I am in the eyes of my children) in the relationship with my children. No. I am not their only mother. I must acknowledge the reality of their other heritage, their other family. Yes. I am open to hearing the regret their other mothers express, that they wish the child they chose to place in my family wasn’t mine after all. No. I can’t possibly understand loss because I’ve never had to choose to relinquish a child. No, I haven’t had to do that. I would never, ever want to face the real and heartbreaking lifelong sadness that so many Moms who relinquished/lost their children in adoption have to face. And I would never, ever want to minimize the pain they had when making the decision, when letting go of their child, and for every day since. I would never do that. And I’ll keep reading and hearing about their stories, and struggles every day if I have to in order to remind me of what the other parents of my children lost when they made the decision to place their children in my family.
But here’s all I want, and maybe it’s too much to ask. I don’t expect anyone to accept that my pain that comes from my infertility exists or that it is real or ongoing or anything. I am parenting which in the end, was my hope fulfilled and I am blessed to be parenting. But parenting does not, and never will, cover or completely heal the losses I have experienced in my life (infertility or otherwise…). I would never want it to. After all, that would mean that I am partly expecting my children to fulfill something in me that couldn’t be fulfilled. That would be wrong on so many levels for them and for me. They are not the fulfillment of my dreams. They are children who I am privileged to parent and for whom I am responsible to help grow into a young man and a young woman who know who they are, who have worked through and are working through all the issues related to life as it was handed to them, and who are able to contribute fully to life in this world. That’s my job. I don’t expect anything from them in return.
But what I do hope is this.. that maybe somewhere all the way, there might be a point where someone might acknowledge that pain, however it comes to us, and whatever it does to us, is real based on the experience we have. Not to assume they know what I’m feeling. Or how my life now has resolved any of it. Or what that pain is at its most basic existence for me.
I don’t expect them to care, or even to understand… Lord knows I would never, ever want anyone to experience the pain I have not only in my heart from lost experiences that I have dreamed of my whole life, but also the pain I carry in my body because of the very illness that is the reason for my infertility, an illness I didn’t bring on myself, didn’t choose for myself, but limits my ability even at times, to cope with the whole of life as it is. Parenting didn’t solve everything for me, emotional or otherwise. Because of my infertility and my inability to be a part of some very natural and healing experiences we as women were created to have as a part of pregnancy and childbirth, I am at higher risk for breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer among other things. Because of the abnormal ways that my hormones swing each month I am at higher risk for depression and anxiety disorders not to mention early menopause. Because of the pain I carry in my pelvis day in and day out, I am limited in the activities I am able to do. All these things, although unrelated to parenting still limit my ability to “get over” my infertility as so many expect me to do now that I have finally reached the “goal” of parenting. I face it every day, this thing. Every day. With my body, I can’t ignore it. I have to face it. And sometimes it still hurts me.
Because this journey to parenthood for me in the end, had little to do with biology which is what so many believe or want to believe that those of us who grieve our barrenness are really steamed about. No, I am perfectly content at this point in my life (haven’t always been but… ahh… another post) to be a family of strangers, people from four families come together to love and care for each other for a lifetime. And I will always and forever honor the women that brought us together, that gave us life, not only my mother and Hubby’s mother, but even more, the first mothers of my children.
It’s not about biology. Nope. All along I was told that was it. That is why I am so sad. So many want to believe that for me because that means that my not being over it is harmful somehow, that I don’t love my children, whom I would die for on any given day, enough. It’s not about that. It’s about the experience. And I really didn’t realize until a recent discussion on a support board I have frequented for many years following the loss of my first child to miscarriage. The discussion was about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding. A basic mothering function. And I didn’t get to experience it. I didn’t ever realize how much this hurt until this discussion turned into a “you didn’t try hard enough…you are not a good mother because you didn’t breastfeed scenario”. All of a sudden, yet again, I feel like I’m not enough of a mother, that somehow I’m not all my kids need right now, because I was unable to give my child the nourishment that comes natural. And it didn’t have anything to do with the lack of compassion coming from the person who indirectly said it as much as it had to do with the responses to her, about how she didn’t have to even care about who might be listening because the feelings of others didn’t matter as much as her freedom to express her own feelings and thoughts.
No one cared for the poor, infertile girl. No one probably even noticed. After all, I was parenting wasn’t I? I got my dream right? Well… that really hurt me. But on a more basic level than I ever imagined it would. It threw me into the deepest funk I have been in since I lost my baby Jamie-Noel and realized I would most likely never get the opportunity to experience pregnancy and childbirth like everybody else. This little, really minor discussion about breastfeeding a few weeks ago… years after I thought I had grieved the basic loss of my fertility, and many months/years after becoming a parent… hit me square in the face and set me reeling in a way that I have never experienced before in my life.
It hit me right then and there that it was over… and I would have to face the facts. I would never, ever experience that natural bond that comes when you birth a child. I would never experience seeing my child’s face on an ultrasound, or hearing her heartbeat for the first time. I would never experience the wonder of what that little flutter of a person moving inside of me might feel like. Or the kicks keeping me up at night. I would never experience the joy that others have as your belly gets bigger, people doting on you, celebrating the little person that is growing inside. I would never experience the pain of childbirth and how just that experience alone, you and baby working together to achieve life, bonds two people for life, regardless of whether they are separated then or later. I would never experience the sheer joy that many, most mothers feel when they see the face of their child for the first time and hold their child in their arms all slimy and beautiful. I would never experience the celebration of birth the way others do, knowing full well that this is their child, no questions, no one will take her away, no one cares what you say or how you feel. I would never experience what it felt like to be able to express sheer joy at the birth of your child. Or not be embarrassed or questioned when buying baby things. And I would never experience the natural process of nourishment that is breastfeeding. Never. There are so many other things… but this post is so long already.
And the hardest part for me, harder than all of it, is the sheer loss I feel from not being able, even for a moment, know what it feels like to be a part of God’s plan for the world, to bring a child here, a child he decided needed to be created for a special purpose, that He decided would be my child to raise. That’s part of what I believe I was created to be. And I don’t get to be that. Ever. Never.
And I’m sorry, but no one can tell me that I was infertile ~ that I should get over it because it doesn’t matter anymore ~ so that I could be Momma to Bug and Si. Yes, it is a privilege to be their parents, and I feel so blessed and believe me I never forget the sheer magnitude of what it means to have the responsibility of being their parents at the request of another. I never forget. But just like I don’t believe, will ever believe, that these children were conceived to be my children… they were not!… I cannot believe that God caused my infertility as a “gift” (what?!?!?!?) so that I would be free to parent them when their other parents, by their own choice, decided they would be in our family. THat’s the most ridiculous scenario ever (and I can hardly believe that there are people out there who believe that!) Somehow, however, it all worked out, and I am blessed for it, and thanking God for his mercies in helping us live each day, but I don’t believe it to be pre-ordained or any of that crap.
So parenting aside, I’m still infertile. And at least right now, I’m not okay with it. I’m grieving. I’m sad. I feel a deep sense of loss at what I’ve lost. And even though I don’t expect anyone to care, I would hope that my pain and loss would be acknowledged for what it is. Or at least ignored, not compared as not being as bad especially when it isn’t a part of someone’s life experience. I will acknowledge yours… see yours… be sad with you, and never, ever minimize it. Will you see mine? Not feel it. Not even care that I have it. Just see it as real.