I wrote this post for a contest on BlogHer.com, so if you like it, click through!
It’s difficult to say when I officially became an adoptive mom. Did I first don the title when my husband and I began compiling the paperwork to apply for adoption and simultaneously started praying for the birth mom, that she would take care of herself and therefore her baby? Was it when our baby was born, even if we didn’t know he existed yet (since he went into interim care until the birth mom’s parental rights were terminated)? Was it when my hubby and I got the call from the social worker that a healthy baby boy was ready for us to pick up and take home? Or was it when we held that precious treasure in our arms for the first time, looking at each other in awe that this moment was actually happening?
I guess all of those moments could signal the beginning of my journey as mom. But I didn’t feel it. Gazing at this being that looked nothing like me, that I didn’t give birth to, I didn’t feel like his mom for a while. I felt a disconnect, like I was a temporary caregiver and this was a dream job that would end at any moment.
I asked a colleague–and fellow adoptive parent–when that title that I had sought for so long would feel like it belonged to me. It’ll come, she said. Which was hardly reassuring. But then she said something else, something that took me off guard. Shall I come take your baby for a week while you figure it all out? Um, absolutely not! I responded, confused why she would even ask such a thing. Good, she said with a chuckle. You’ll be just fine. I’d be concerned if you’d said ‘yes’. The feeling will come. Just concentrate on taking care of your little boy.
And so I took her advice. I dedicated myself to taking care of my little boy. My husband and I alternated nighttime feedings. We took him to baby showers. We introduced him to everyone we knew. I scoured the Internet looking for the perfect nursery furniture and accessories. We read baby books to learn what developmental milestones to expect and then watched in awe as he began to achieve them. But during those first few weeks, that feeling of being a mom remained elusive. The weird thing was, I couldn’t define it. When friends would ask me what it would take to feel like a mom, I couldn’t articulate what exactly I was missing.
Then my little boy got sick. Or maybe it was allergies. Can infants get allergies? Whatever it was, he was congested. And not happy. Watching him struggle to breathe and cry from exhaustion, which only made breathing more difficult, I just wanted to make him better. While my husband made a 4 a.m. drugstore run to get a nasal aspirator, I held him and tried to calm him so he could breathe easier. Unlike during midnight feedings, when I felt exhausted and yearned to go back to sleep, I was wide awake and filled only with the longing to make him better.
And suddenly, there it was. For the first time, I felt like this precious boy’s mother. As I rocked him in the darkness while he sniffled and shuddered and whimpered, and waited for my husband to return with the remedy that would allow us all to get some sleep, I marveled at the feeling: This bundle of snot and slobber was mine, not temporarily, but forever. I cuddled him closer to punctuate the moment.
The snot-sucker did its magic, and peace returned to the night. As I lay back down in bed to sleep, I savored this feeling of motherhood, grateful I had achieved my own milestone.