by Karen Squires
Adoption.The word conjures up images in the mind.
For example, my mother would think of a cute little girl in a pretty dress. Me? Well 20 years ago when I was trying to adopt, it brought up images of a baby, my baby, girl or boy, cute and tiny. It also brought to mind the end of aching for a child. And at least temporarily, the end to infertility treatments. Most of all it would bring me something I desperately needed and longed for, to join in the ranks of motherhood. I wanted to feel like I belonged when surrounded by mothers and their children, which is a daily occurrence when living in Utah. I wanted nothing more than to feel like a normal family.
I lived in the small town of Springville when I brought my son home from the adoption agency. News travels fast in small areas and 1/2 the town knew of the adoption so there was no getting on with life as a “normal family” as everywhere I went people wanted to see the “adopted baby.” On one hand I wasn’t getting the normalcy that I longed for at all. But on the other hand I loved having a baby to hold and my son and I probably got more attention that most new mothers so it made up for the years of seeing others having fun with new babies and feeling left out.
Another woman living in Springville who had also suffered though years of infertility adopted a baby a few months after I did. You’ve heard people say that couples who are suffering from infertility just need to relax and they’ll conceive. This lady became pregnant with twins when her adopted son was three months old. The news flashed across town in days and of course the added comment was “See, she just needed to relax.” (Incidentally, relaxing is not the answer to infertility. The spontaneous pregnancy rate for the infertile couple who do not adopt is no lower than for those who do. And to suggest to a couple that they need to relax is counterproductive as they will stress out trying to. Also, think what wonderful birth control it would be to just wish not to be pregnant, or to be afraid that you may conceive). Over the next few weeks as I heard about this woman over and over, I was surprised, then amazed, then sickened at what people said. One person suggested that since she was now pregnant with twins she should give back her adopted baby, as if the baby were nothing more than an extra pair of shoes. Can you imagine the reaction if somebody suggested to a mother who became pregnant with twins when her biological son was three months old that she give her baby up for adoption as she now had two more on the way? It was quite obvious that there was confusion as to how much adoptive parents love their children.
When my son was about three months old I was at a friends house visiting. I was telling her that I was exhausted from a lack of sleep due to feeding my baby during the night. I expected her to understand as she had three small children of her own. Rather than understanding, I was saddened to be told that if my son were my own child I wouldn’t mind the middle of the night feedings as I love him so much. I felt awful. I love my son desperately. Didn’t other mothers feel tired from a lack of sleep? I knew they did. I’d head them saying it before many times. As I was strapping my son in his car seat to head back home I looked at his small delightful face and wondered if something were wrong with me. I knew there wasn’t, but something was bothering me, something.
When he was 5 months old I called the adoption agency to see if I could hire a lawyer to finalize the adoption, something you have to wait six months after placement to do. I wanted to complete the adoption to give me piece of mind that that nobody could take him away. My adoption worker told me not to get a lawyer yet as they had tracked down my sons biological father(they hadn’t known who he was before this) and were waiting to see if he wanted to claim paternity. She said this so calmly, almost flippantly, as if I were going to be giving back a car, not my child. I hung up the phone and felt instantly sick. I’d seen shows and read in papers of adoptive parents losing their children. I didn’t want to be one of them. Wouldn’t be one of them. I told my husband that if they tried to take my baby away I would flee to another country. Didn’t people realize that I loved him as much as they loved their children!
Luck was on my side and the father said no. We went through court and he became legally ours although he was already ours by love.
I moved to another town to attend school when he was 5 years old. I didn’t tell anyone that he was adopted. Nobody knew me, didn’t know of my struggles with infertility and subsequent adoption. At last to be free of feeling different.
I made new friends. I didn’t feel the need to tell them and it wasn’t something that I even thought about most of the time. But every once in a while I’d wonder if they found out would they be upset with me for not telling them.
As my son grew up I heard many more naive comments. They were usually a remark to suggest that he was “just” adopted, somehow not as important as biological, I didn’t care for him as much. They were made by mostly kind people who had a skewed notion of adoptive children’s importance in their parent lives.
I was and still am a strong supporter of adoption. I cheer on friends who are in the adoption process. And I’ve always voiced my belief that parents of adopted children love them as much as biological parents do. I love my son so powerfully, how could anybody love a child more? I didn’t have a biological child at that time so somebody could have challenged me by asking how I knew it.
I became pregnant when my son was 12 years old. I wasn’t doing anything other than what brings most babies into the world. No infertility treatments, no timing, no bargaining with fate, or God. He just came along. When he was born I was very aware that this baby was something that I had made and I was thrilled to have a child that looked like me. When I had brought my older son home I had been very aware that I had not made him. After a few months that awareness left with both babies and was replaced by daily living. I don’t think about how my children got here, they just are and I can now say without any possibility of questioning, that I love them both the equally.
Some people may feel that adoption is second best. I didn’t but I let their comments get to me. It was my insecurity that allowed it. Adoption may cure childlessness but it does not cure infertility and it was unresolved feelings of failure in that area that I was struggling with. I remember when I was about 8 months pregnant with my youngest. I was driving down Redwood road, my belly was big, round, and bumping into the steering wheel. At that moment I had a revelation. I was no longer infertile. At that moment I was as fertile as they come. What surprised me even more was that it hadn’t occurred to me until that moment. After 16 years of feeling inadequate it was so ingrained in me that I had to be 8 months pregnant to let it go. I’m back to being infertile again. My sons are 19 and 5 years old. I’ve had many miscarriages in the last two years. I still feel the pain of not being able to achieve what I see other women achieving every day but not as acutely as before. If I were to adopt another baby now I wouldn’t even bat an eye at comments suggesting I loved him/her any less. I would however, gently let the person know that what they were saying was inappropriate.
My sister-in-law brought home her new adopted baby girl a week ago. I tried to call her to say congratulations but there was no answer. The message on their machines said “Sorry we missed you but we’re having too much fun to come to the phone.” My guess is that they’re out buying cute little outfits for their very much welcomed and loved baby daughter. I’m incredibly jealous. I wish I had a new baby in my arms, adopted or home-grown.
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