The one thing me and Angelina have in common.
Some people think adoption is ‘the easy way to be a parent’. They scoff at actors like Brangelina and their rainbow brood. And talk like war-veterans when they encounter an adoptive mother and her child, “Oh you dont really know what its like to be a parent…not until you’ve carried a baby for 9 months/labored for 10 days straight before finally getting cut open with razorsharp vampire teeth/ breastfed a child while climbing Mt Everest – not until then can you TRULY be called a mother!”
Eight years ago, my Young and Restless family welcomed a newborn baby – that I didnt need to vomit for 5 months straight to produce.It was the easiest delivery ever. A taxi pulled up, an elderly grandmother got out, handed me a still-bloody-with-newbornness baby wrapped in a red towel and then got back in her taxi and drove away. Tah-Dah! I was a mum for the 4th time. My youngest at the time was only 11 months old so it was like I had instant twins. But I was Supermum, I could handle it – couldnt I? For the first two nights, that little boy slept like an angel. I had never had a baby that slept for more than two hours straight so I was in heavenly awe. “He’s the best baby in the whole world! He was meant to be ours.” I started legal proceedings for adoption. And wondered where we could get some more babies to adopt seeing as how it was sooooo easy and I’d always wanted 8 children and the doctors had said ‘dont be stupid, do you have a death wish?’
The very next night, that baby started to cry. And cry. And cry. And cry some more. He cried before he ate. While he ate. After he ate. When you hugged him. When you didnt. When you rocked him. When you drove him around in the car. When you sang to him. When you begged him to stop. Even when you gave up and completely ignored him – that baby cried. It went on for months.Colic, one doctor said. Gas, my motherinlaw said. Aitu, evil spirits, my housekeeper said. He hates us, my daughter said. Her theory made the most sense to me. This baby knew we were technically strangers and he was pissed off to be stuck with us.
And so I asked my husband a question I have never forgotten. One that has crossed my mind a few times since then. “Can we give him back? Please?” Walking a baby up and down a moonlit hallway, crying just as much as he was, I thought about how easy it would be to return him to sender. I knew where the birthfamily lived. There were grandparents that would know how to look after him. I tried to reason and justify. “He’s not happy here. He wants his real family.We could take them all his baby stuff and boxes of diapers and formula. And money! We could give them money and tell them we’re very sorry but its just not working out.” Yes, it’s true. I wanted to send my child back where he came from.(and bribe people with cash and diapers to take him.) Because loving him was just too hard. He was taking everything I had to offer – leaving very little behind for the other 3 – and yet it was not enough.
We didnt send him back. My husband said, “He’s our son now. We can’t offload our responsibility onto someone else when things get difficult.” I knew he was right. And so I chose to be this boy’s mother. For me, this was the key difference between my biological demons ( okay, so that makes me Big Mama Demon…) and my adoptive one. Choice. When the others drove me nuts, there was no escape hatch, no way I could opt out. I was stuck with them. But with Little Son, I have felt for the longest time, that I am his mother because I choose to be. Its a choice that goes both ways because one day my son will meet his birth parents and his other siblings. And be able to choose how much of a relationship he wants to have with them. It’s a choice that has been achingly difficult for me to make on at least two ocasions in his short life when he has broken laws and my heart, as I have agonized, ‘Am I really the right mother for this son?” (And he’s only a child. I shudder to think what he will be doing when he’s a teenager.)
Does this make me a bad person? A bad mother? I don’t know. Are there other parents out there – adoptive or otherwise – who ask themselves, ‘Am I the right father/mother for this child? Am I doing this right?’ Parents who wish they had an escape hatch? Or who DO have one and are resisting the urge to use it?
Nobody gave me an adoption playbook when Little Son was born so I’m still trying to figure out the game plan. What I do know is that no other child has challenged me as much, made me feel like more of a failure at motherhood, or taught me more about what it means to be a mother. My son turns 8 next week. I dont know how he will test us next. But of one thing I am sure – I love him. Not because I have to. Or because I’m stuck with him.
But because I choose to.
One day at a time.