Birth Story

This month's PAIL writing prompt is on birth stories.  My experience is vastly different from the norm, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject.

When I was still on my message board one by one my online friends got pregnant and the birth stories came rolling through. I looked forward to the time when I could write out the birth story of my firstborn.  I didn't have any preconceived notion of how it would go (after all, I focused on the getting pregnant part), but at that point I thought that one day I would be writing it.

There's been four births this year among my close circle, and I still have pangs as they tell their stories.  It's something that I can't empathize with having never been through it, much as they can't empathize my journey through infertility and adoption.  In this regard, we are literally on different planes of reality.
If you adopted and were not able to witness the birth do you think that affected your parenting?
We were not present at Baby X’s birth.  The day that he was born, I had appointments for an oil change and a mani-pedi.  In other words, a mundane Saturday in our household, that probably ended with us going out to eat, having a few drinks, and wondering when the hell we would be matched. We knew that we were number 7 on the waiting list, and were trying to exist while anxiously waiting for that phone call. In my mind, Baby X was “born” the day we met him, two weeks later.  I had mixed feelings about being matched pre-birth, and our match with Baby X and C was textbook easy. She had time to spend with Baby X while he was in cradle care since there was no way she could take him home. She had time to consider available options without us in the picture, and she had time to consider the consequences of some of the options being presented to her by her parents. In the end, she chose the option that let her retain her identity as a mother. An option that does not lie about Baby X’s parentage, and we are the lucky ones who get to raise him. 

Because adoption is something very different from birthing a baby, my parenting style was not affected by Baby X’s birth, but rather by the entire process. Before we knew about Baby X, I knew that it would be beneficial to practice attachment parenting, and I assembled slings and carriers to help with that. A friend of mine gave birth 8 weeks early, and her son had to spend time in the NICU. Through that experience I learned about kangaroo care. During our education classes taken for the homestudy, we learned that it’s essential that parents don’t allow any other caregivers to hold or feed the baby for 3 weeks after placement. Parenting a baby that we were adopting was different, but we knew that it would be different the day we turned in our application, 2 years prior to placement of Baby X.

Now that Baby X is a super cute, energetic, independent, opinionated toddler, I doubt that my parenting style is different just because he happens to be adopted. I am working hard to parent differently from the way I was raised, and would be doing that regardless of how my child came to me.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Baby A’s birth and placement. Given that we were in the hospital hours after his birth, I’d have to say that the way we dealt with the situation was much different. We deferred a lot to D and I didn’t feel like a parent. She did the bulk of the feedings and changing, and he spent 90 percent of the time in her room. I felt like I couldn’t become his parent until the termination papers were signed. Needless to say, it didn’t make it any easier when we had to place him in cradle care 3 days after coming home. In general, it was not a good space to be in, and I would much rather be made a parent after the decision has been made and papers signed. Then, I can parent freely without uncertainty hanging over my head.

One last thing about judgment from others, or feeling judged. I refuse to cowtow to judgment by others.  Over the last several years, I’ve learned that those who judge frequently know nothing about the situation.  During the recent shutdown, I kept Baby X in daycare because it’s the best thing for both of us. I was asked  why I was putting him in daycare when I was home all day. My reply was pretty simple “He’s two”. When her kid is two, maybe she’ll understand, but since she hasn’t even given birth yet, I’m going to go with she doesn’t have a judgey leg to stand on.