Adoption, believe, birth mom, family, infertility, mom

Finding Motherhood – My Messy Beautiful

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Ever since I was a little girl I knew that someday I would be a mom. (Well, except for the day I saw an After School Special on where babies come from – then I swore I would NEVER have kids.) My sister, neighborhood friends, and I would play house for hours out back in the playhouse we had in the old barn. We would be dressed in my mom’s old prom dresses getting married in the garden…stuffing dolls under our shirts waiting for the moment we would become a “mom”. Playing Barbies was no different – a mom, a dad and their baby. That is what was modeled to us by our grandparents, parents, relatives and family friends. Everyone was married with 1-3 kids. When you are a child and think about your future – you think that you will go to college, get married, own a house and have a couple kids…in that order and that simply. You never for a moment think that there may be a different order to your life and that things may NOT go the way you see them. That perhaps God has his own plan for you.

Most people spend their summer in between high school graduation and going off to college being carefree and looking forward to their new path in life as a young adult. For MOST. For me, the last month of summer vacation I spent worrying – worrying that I may be pregnant. A month went by – my parents moved me away to college, got me all settled and were on their way. All the while not knowing of my worries. Well into my first semester of college it was confirmed…I was indeed pregnant. Only a handful of people would know this life changing situation – the father, and a couple close friends. I admit that if I didn’t think about it and kept busy with my new surroundings, classes and living on my own that it wouldn’t be true. “Out of sight – Out of mind” – doesn’t really work well when your body starts changing….It wasn’t until spring break that it all came out. I was home over break – my sister first suspected it and from there my mom went on my sister’s hunch and we spent spring break figuring out what to do. I knew that adoption was the best choice – I was 18 and could barely take care of myself – how could I be a mom!? You are wondering where the “father” was in this – we had broken up – it wasn’t a big love affair to begin with – we were better friends. We both decided adoption was a good decision. So in the months to come, I spent my first year of college going to classes, seeing my counselor at Catholic Charities, looking at profiles of anxious parents waiting for a baby to complete their family and attending my OB/GYN appointments. While most people spent spring quarter laying in the sun, going to parties and making plans for summer…I was planning and thinking of the type of life this baby growing inside of me would have – not with me, but with that perfect family I picked out. Not the typical first year of college most kids my age had.
So the evening came that I went into labor. It all went so fast. The baby was breech so I ended up having a c-section. The doctors knew my situation and put a sheet up between me and my belly so I wouldn’t see anything – I did choose not to see the baby – figured it would be way too hard emotionally. A healthy 7 pounds/7 ounces baby boy was born. In the days to follow, papers were signed relinquishing my rights. This baby boy would soon be on the way to his new family where he would be loved and cared for and have the life I planned for him and dreamed for him…..
After the papers were signed, the father and I had 10 working days to change our minds…the baby’s father did. He came to me and said he wanted custody of our son and had a lawyer. I was devastated. I had this perfect family and life all picked out for him and my heart was full of love knowing I had made the best decision for him. After going to court and fighting for the plan I picked out – his father won and got custody.– I was too young to care for this baby and be a great mom to him – and thought his dad was too. The court basically said “If the mother does not want the baby, custody will go to the father”…DOESN’T WANT??? It had nothing to do with not wanting him – it had to do with what was best for him…his needs had to come first. So his father did get custody. He was married a year later and she legally adopted him. Funny how after 20+ years I realized he DID have the perfect life I wanted for him with two loving parents. Who was I to say, at age 18, that I had the better plan?? God knew.
I was 24 when I met Mike. The first time I met him I knew HE was it. Two years later we married. We were excited for our future – all our hopes and dreams. Especially the dream of being parents. We were happy, in love, had our first home and, after a year into our marriage, thought we would start trying to have a family. Who would have thought the word “TRYING” would imply blood, sweat and tears. We “tried” for 6-8 months (give or take) and wondered “what gives”? I told my doctor we had been ‘trying’ and nothing was happening. Now, my doctor was a male and of the “older persuasion” – dare I say a crotchety old man?? Maybe. He had some real profound advice: “Relax, light some candles…it will happen” – Gee, thanks – that thought NEVER crossed my mind. Isn’t that how it is as newlyweds anyway?!?! So – on to an infertility specialist nurse – who thought the doctor’s advice to us was ridiculous! The next few years were filled with all kinds of ‘fun’. Mike got to take a lovely test to see if “the boys could swim” – (yep – no problem there – Olympic swimmers) then I got to take my temperature every morning and chart it to see when I would ovulate. When I was, I had to get a hormone shot in my hip that made me crampy and crabby – not the best mood to “be intimate” with my husband within the next 24 hours. No pressure. First few months you think “oh this is fun” and there are a few giggles and the song “Afternoon Delight” runs through your head, etc. Months turned into years. The giggling stops; being intimate is now a CHORE and still no baby! We decided to take a bit of a break from doctors and in that year Mike switched jobs. We moved and found a new doctor who was awesome! He basically said “how aggressive do you want to be?” – and we were ready to start the process again. This time, we did a few painful tests – tests that determined I had some scarring in my tubes and the only way to conceive would be to have my tubes removed and then try IVF. We had a lot to think about. It takes a toll on a person and a couple….you want it so badly. And you have those people who are trying to be helpful by giving advice: “Oh, just don’t think about it and it will happen” “Once you relax it will happen” “My sister’s cousin’s friend went through that and ended up with cancer and died” “It will happen when it’s meant to be” BLAH BLAH BLAH. I was at the point in my life when all my friends (and everyone under the sun!) were getting pregnant! I pasted on the fake smile “Oh, that is GREAT news” hoping to God that I sounded sincere. Inside, I just wanted to scream and cry. I was beginning to question why things happen. Was God punishing me for the decision I made years earlier by not keeping the baby He gave me? I spent a lot of time being angry, hurt and longing so badly for a baby – we both did. At a time I couldn’t be the best mom, I became pregnant. At the time I was ready to be a great mom….nothing. We decided after almost 6 years to close the door with all the doctors and think about where to go next. It was a major relief to stop trying, stop going to the doctor, stop taking advice from everyone – and just enjoy being a couple again. Because we WANTED to, not HAD to…Again, God had a plan.

Back to my original thought as a child – get married and have a baby or two. Easy, part of life one should never take for granted. We never thought our easy “having a baby or two” would be adoption from a foreign country. I was now 32 and we dove in head first into the process of adoption. This process would take a world of patience, mountains of paperwork, FBI background checks, medical physicals, references, interviews, fingerprinting and a small fortune. I believe there is less paperwork buying your first home! I think it is funny – we hear all about these families or single moms who have an abundance of children, no money or means to care for them and high on drugs and they keep on having kids…..we had to go through all kinds of checks and balances to see if we were good enough – wow, what is wrong with this picture? We went through Children’s Home Society (awesome!!) and got all the information we needed to “start” the process. There were forms to fill out, copies of certificates to obtain, papers to be notarized and workshops to attend. We spent the next month organizing all the needed documentation. We could decide on the sex of the baby and the country we wanted. We chose South Korea and girl. We also got to “play God” – so to speak…we had a long form of medical conditions that were acceptable or not to us in a child. That was incredibly strange…but our social worker pointed out that if we were pregnant and expecting a child, we would want it to be happy and healthy – so why should this time be any different. My mom was a nurse so she helped us decipher all the medical jargon. Once we completed everything, our form went to the bottom of the waiting pile. So we waited and wondered when that call would come. We were told it could be up to 6 months to get a referral. So we both kept busy with work and life. Then one day I was paged with a call at work. I jokingly said to my co-workers “Ya never know when it will be THE CALL” – very tongue and cheek because it had only been 3-4 months of waiting. And sure enough – there was baby girl born December 27th. My husband stopped by Children’s Home Society and picked up the “packet” and photo of our new baby. Instead of a doctor handing us this newborn in the hospital saying “You have a girl” – we ripped open an envelope – read thru all the translated medical and background info – her birth mother was just 16. (How I could relate!) and finally the photo – a cute chubby cheeked little Asian princess!! Finally, the baby we had always dreamed of! We prepared the room, painted, bought the furniture, and got everything ready. That was the middle of March. Finally, May 18th arrived – ‘Gotcha Day’! At that time, we were still allowed to meet travelers at the airport gate. And there we were – the WHOLE family – watching with great anticipation as everyone got off the plane…Straining to get our first glance at our newest member. After what seemed like eternity, there she was! Riding in a Korean sling around her escort’s neck. All smiles and chubby little cheeks…our Maddie! Wow – what a wait. What a reward! My heart was overflowing with love. This beautiful chubby cheeked Korean little bundle was all ours. Three years later we did it all over again – and Olivia arrived February 26, 2004! This time we picked her up in the baggage area. Grab a bag and a baby and – voila! – instant family! Our family was complete!

God certainly works in mysterious ways. You have a plan in your head of how your life is going to go and BAM! Life takes you on a different path – an emotionally hard path. But after that path has been traveled you can sit back and find the brutifulness (brutal + beautiful) in it. I made a choice all those years ago to think about the needs of a baby that I loved so much. A choice to give him a better home and life than I could. God rewarded me on the receiving end of such a gift with my two beautiful daughters. The unselfish decision two young girls a world away made me a mother. I could feel firsthand the wonderfulness of their decision and yet understand the way they must have felt. God planned this.

Not only did God bless me with two daughters, but he had more to his plan for me. I had always thought about and wondered about my baby boy. I use the word “My” because I gave birth to him. His REAL mom gave him his life. One random day I decided to enter his name on Facebook. Previously I had tried to find him or his dad online – but either a million names came up or nothing. This time was different. His Facebook page popped up – not a list, but HIS page!! I looked – a set of familiar eyes looking back at me. My heart jumped – I scanned his birthdate…IT WAS HIM! I froze, smiled, and cried. Then I realized we had a common friend – my neighbor – a young girl who I was very close with! Out of all the people we had in common – it was this young girl who had babysat my girls, confided in me about her boyfriends and life. A girl I could trust with the secret. She worked with him – and would keep the secret until I had a plan. What to do with all this new found information!?!?! It was SO BIG – how does one manage all the feelings associated with this kind of situation!? I sat down and wrote a letter to his parents. Explained my life, how I was not there to disrupt their family (I didn’t even know if he knew about me or not). I made it clear that SHE was his mom, I was his belly mom. Then I put a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox and trusted a perfect stranger to deliver it. I spent the next few weeks “stalking” his Facebook page – trying to read anything into his comments – to see if he knew?!?! One stuck out “I have a lot to pray and think about” – could it be about me!?!?!?!?! Then two weeks later – a quick scan on Facebook before I shut it down for the night….there was a new message….from HIM! I ran and got my husband – I was so excited!! He said he always knew this day would come…mixed feelings. Could we email for now because it was just so much. OF course I thought!! We spent the next few weeks emailing back and forth – then came the message saying he was ready to meet. We picked a local coffee shop. I don’t think I had ever been so nervous. I went early to get a spot – and he had same idea. He stood – we hugged and spent the next 3 hours talking and getting to know each other – all the while looking in disbelief at each other that this day had finally come. It has been 4 years now and he is part of my life. He spends time with us – and has become a wonderful part of our family. All the while respecting HIS family. I sit back in the awesomeness of it all. My journey to becoming a mother has come full circle. It wasn’t as easy as I once thought as a 10 year old playing house in the back yard. It was much harder, but I would not change the journey of it all. God had his plan for me and it taught me so much about my faith in him and I learned so much about myself along the way.

messy-beautiful-700b This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project – To learn more and join us, click on this logo. Also to learn more about The New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of embracing Your Messy Beautiful Life, just released in paperback!

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Finding Motherhood – My Messy Beautiful”

  1. Wow. I can relate to this from several different levels. I am adopted, my son in law is a Korean adoptee, a dear friend dealt with infertlity. Although my birth mother was not comfortable meeting me, she gave information that led me to a sister I did not know existed. This sister, found halfway through life, is the part of me I didn’t know was missing. Thank you for sharing your story. I will end this day with eyes full of tears and a heart full of hope.

    1. Michelle,
      So glad my story touched you. If one person can relate to just one part of my journey, then I feel like the word has gotten out! As I went through each part it was hard and I questioned my faith and had so many “whys?” – but once it all came together it was like an Oprah ‘ah-ha” moment and all made sense. Please pass on my blog and share with other 🙂 Thank you for reading it and leaving me a heartfelt comment 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. You have touched so many of us on different levels with your honesty. I always enjoy all your posts and it often makes my day. You have not lost your evervesent personality that you had as a young adolescent. Sending many Blessings for wonderful things bringing much joy to you and your family.

  3. you know you have always been my hero and i have just reread several ‘pig themed’ cards sent to me from you and your sister. Miss you
    Auntie ‘paws in her purse like mom” Beth

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