Growing up, I never imagined I would have a family via adoption. I just assumed, like everyone else, I’d get married and have babies. In fact, that was always my childhood dream. I got married, but the babies did not come.
Sometimes I think God places walls in our life for a specific purpose. My wall was infertility. Walls force us to move in a different direction. After a year of infertility treatments, all of which never resulted in a pregnancy, it was clear that God was moving us in a different direction and pregnancy and childbirth was something I was going to have to lay down in surrender to Him.
At the time I did not know why God was not allowing me to experience something that I had marveled in for years and dreamed about for a decade. God was leading us to adoption and I was unaware, but I was about to experience something that was just as miraculous as giving birth.
I was about to become a mother through the miracle of adoption. In the span of twenty-six months, our family grew from two to four as we adopted two girls via domestic infant adoption. Little Bug joined our family in May of 2009 and Sweet Pea joined our family in August 2011.
This journey has been full of ups and downs, joy and heartache. There is so much fear when walking the adoption road. You don’t know if you can love a child that was not born from you. You wonder about bonding. You wonder if you will feel like a mother to the child.
Motherhood via adoption has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Here are five things I never knew about motherhood via adoption until I adopted.
1. The moment I laid eyes on them, they were my babies. This does not mean that I instantly bonded with both babies the moment I laid eyes on them. I was at the hospital for Little Bug’s birth. I saw her enter this world. I held her minutes after her birth, but she was not yet mine. The plan was for her to be mine as her birth mother, Tracy, had made an adoption plan for her baby girl and had chosen us to be Little Bug’s parents. But at the time of her birth, the termination of parental rights had not yet been done. Holding her in the hospital before she was officially my baby was very hard, but it was also the right thing to do because her birth mother wanted us there for the birthing process which was very generous and kind. As I held her minutes after her birth, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if everything went according to plan and Tracy did indeed give parental rights to my husband and me, I knew I would love this baby girl as if I had just given birth to her myself. The love was there. It was held back somewhat though in those first couple of days as a way of self-protection, but I already knew in my heart that given the opportunity, I could and would love this baby girl as my daughter.
Our second adoption was very different from our first. Due to certain circumstances, Sweet Pea was not born in our city and was born in a city about 1.5 hours away. Because of this distance, the first time I laid eyes on Sweet Pea the termination of parental rights had already occurred and she was completely and fully mine. There really are no words to describe the emotion of meeting this sweet baby for the first time knowing she was already mine. I think pictures speak well for this, so here are a few from the first moments we laid eyes on our second baby girl.
2. DNA doesn’t matter. I learned pretty quickly DNA has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with parenting. It is caring and nurturing your baby that develops the mother-child relationship. I was the one getting up with her in the middle of the night to feed her and change her diapers. I was the one holding her and swaddling her for a nap. I was the one looking into her eyes the few minutes she was awake and wanting to interact with her world. From spending time with her constantly, I learned her likes and dislikes, just like any mother learns her baby when they are first born.
3. I had motherly instincts even though I did not give birth to my daughters. The motherly instincts were automatic even though my daughters were adopted. A mother just instinctively knows what is going on with her baby. It is no different for the mother created via adoption. There was an instance in the hospital right after Sweet Pea’s birth when the NICU nurse was insisting Sweet Pea needed to be on this particular formula. When Sweet Pea refused to drink the formula, I could tell instantly my baby did not like that formula for some reason and I asked if we could please try a different formula. The nurse even tried to take the baby from me and feed her as if I wasn’t feeding her right! I let her because I was confident Sweet Pea wasn’t going to take the bottle from her either, and I was right. Finally, the nurse listened to me and let me try the formula I wanted to try with Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea guzzled it down! It was motherly instinct. I knew right from the start what my baby needed.
4. You don’t have to breastfeed to bond appropriately with your baby. First let me say that I am not anti-breastfeeding. The opposite is in fact true. I believe breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby. So much so, I attempted to breastfeed Little Bug! Not many people know about this, but I did go to the doctor to get medicine to induce lactation. However, I was not aware just how much work it was going to be to induce lactation, and then even if I did induce lactation, I probably wasn’t going to be able to exclusively breastfeed due to lack of supply. There were only 7 weeks from the time we were matched with Little Bug’s birth mother to Little Bug’s birth. They were a whirlwind of a seven weeks and before we knew it, the baby was here, and she had to be in the NICU for a week and then we finally got home and…I just wanted to sit and hold the baby I had waited so long for and prayed for and dreamed about since I was a little girl. I wanted to enjoy my baby and not feel stressed about getting milk for her. I didn’t want to have to set the timer to remember to pump every 2 hours. It wasn’t long and I put breastfeeding aside. There was a moment of guilt, of course, but it wasn’t long and I knew this choice was best for both of us.
Both of my babies were exclusively formula fed. You can bond through formula feeding too! It is possible! I cherished those bottle times with my babies. In those early days and months, I limited the number of people who fed our babies bottles. My husband, myself and my mother who came to help during both births fed the babies the most. I held my babies close and put the bottle against my body as if it was coming from my breast. Little Bug never learned to hold her bottles because I wanted to sit and hold her for feedings. Sweet Pea did learn out of sheer convenience-sake because I also had a two-year-old to take care of, but I still held Sweet Pea and her bottle for most of her feedings that first year.
5. I never imagined I would love my daughters’ birth mothers like I do. When the girls were born, I had people say things like, “I bet you were so relieved when they signed their rights and then you didn’t have to see them again!”. That is not how I felt at all! I love these women in a way no one else but another adoptive mama can understand! And I’ve never even met Sweet Pea’s birth mother. The picture below was taken during the one visit we’ve had with Little Bug’s birth mother since placement.
It is a humbling experience to be chosen to parent someone else’s child. Due to certain circumstances in each of their lives, these women knew they could not parent their babies so they made an adoption plan. No matter the circumstances behind the adoption, it is a very courageous thing to carry a baby in your womb for 9 months and then give birth and chose to place that baby with another family. I am forever grateful to these two women, who despite pressures to abort, chose life for their babies and as a result gave me the privilege of being their mother.
Nearly four and a half years into my journey of motherhood via adoption, I can’t imagine my life any other way now. I always pictured my family as being my husband and four children; two girls and two boys. God had other plans and perhaps the most important thing I learned through this entire journey is that God has plans to prosper us and bring us hope and a future and, many times, those plans look very different from our childhood dreams.
His plans far exceed my dreams of long ago and I count it one of my greatest blessings to have become a mother through the miracle of adoption.
Elaine is a stay at home mom and is extremely excited about her newest journey in this life: homeschooling her two daughters. Elaine blogs at faithfullyinfertile.com about her faith in Jesus Christ, infertility, adoption, Babywise and homeschooling.
PS – Well that made me cry, I don’t know about you. I’m over at the Graceful Mom today writing on what to do when your children have a favorite parent!
Want to learn your parenting style?
Each of us have our own personality, temperament, and giftings. And, the truth is, we parent best when we work with these instead of against them. Take this assessment so you can work to your strengths, and be the mom you want to be for yourself and your children.
New to this community? Start here, friend.