We Have a Birth Story

I’ve never written for PAIL before, and I’m not even actively blogging right now. But, this month’s topic - birth stories - had me up at 5am this morning, thinking thinking thinking. I read a few of the birth story posts from adoptive moms, and all I can think right now is “I feel differently.” I also think this is a timely topic, given that November is also National Adoption Month. So, here we go. I’m blogging. 

We have a birth story. Did I give birth with my body? Clearly, no. And that is something that every adoptive mom feels differently about, and something that will definitely color the way we see our birth stories. I remain relieved that my body was removed from our family building. It’s a complicated relationship that I have with my body, one that will continue to evolve throughout my life, and one that will likely never include birth. I grieved that loss - which I mostly focused on sharing the birth with my husband, rather than what it meant for me as a woman. Of course, it stings at times. Sure, sometimes I feel left out. Sometimes I feel different. But, when I think about our birth story and it doesn’t feel “less” to me. 

We have a birth story. Is it just like the ones I hear at play group every week? Again, no. But, when I tell our birth story, the room is silent, mouths hang open slightly, and careful but earnest questions are asked. Mothers are amazed. Because, it is an amazing story. So far I haven’t had a single “you’re not a real woman because you never gave birth” reaction. People have been genuinely open, kind, curious, and caring in accepting our story. (Thank Moses, because I’m pretty sure I would destroy anyone who wasn’t.)

We have a birth story. And one of the things I love about it is that my husband and I experienced it all together - in the (almost) exact same way. WE got the call. WE threw our clothes into suitcases and got a rental car. WE took a long drive to the hospital. WE made a pit stop to pick up our birth mother gift. WE waited together in the waiting room for nurses to take us to our baby. I’ve found that not giving birth, not recovering physically, and not breast feeding have freed us in ways we never expected to co-parent on equal footing. It’s been an awesome revelation, and I am grateful for it.

We have a birth story. Here it is, in brief. We were matched four days before our daughter was born. We had only a car seat, a Pack and Play, and a bag of hand-me-down clothes. We were fucking terrified. We were not there for the birth - that was not in the birth plan. We met our daughter an hour and a half after she was born, and have been with her ever since. Her birth mother requested that we have a room at the hospital and that the baby room with us. It was an incredible gift and I will forever be grateful for that time. Have I mourned the loss of those first 90 minutes with her? Yes. Do I wish I was there for the birth? I still don’t know. My dominant feeling here is that the birth was not my time; that was for her birth mother. That was her time, her experience. I accept and appreciate and respect that she kept it for herself. I know that my husband wanted to be present at the birth. I wonder if he still mourns that loss?

We have a birth story. And, I don’t mean to make it sound like it was all easy and fun and perfect. It wasn’t. I’ve never been more terrified in my life. We parented for four days before the termination papers were signed. I was floored by the love I felt for my daughter’s birth family. I still cannot describe the range and depth of emotions I experienced those first moments, days, months. And, I think this makes me more of a mom than I realized at the time. I wouldn’t change anything. 

We all have a birth story. Being “different” is never easy. But, I know I am far from alone as a mom-who-didn’t-give-birth. Thanks to Twitter and the blog community, I know many other women who didn’t birth their children. I know their stories and honored them and lived them and remember them. I also have wonderful friends in the LGBT community who are mothers who didn’t birth their children. We are different, but we are not alone.

Has the manner of her birth affected how I parent? (I’m interpreting this as a question about being an adoptive mom who did not give birth, versus a biological mom who gave birth.) Yes and no. Fundamentally, I’m still me, and so much about my parenting is instinctual. I can’t imagine doing things differently. At the same time, everything is different than the dream world I had imagined for myself. Without experiencing infertility and adoption, I cannot imagine that I would be a stay-at-home-mom right now. That was never in “the plan.” It’s been a gift and a challenge, as it’s not something that feels natural to me, but is something I appreciate beyond words. Did I practice attachment parenting (something many adoptive parents explore)? Not after I read that Dr. Sears thought I should tape a tube to my breast through which to feed my adopted daughter who will never experience the glory of real breast-feeding (I threw the book across the room upon reading this and never opened it again.) We don’t co-sleep, we do baby-wear, we didn’t let people feed her the first few months (it freaked her out), we did let people hold her. These decisions were personal and instinctual to us, and how we understood our daughter’s needs. I’ve never tied them directly to the fact that we adopted, though it would be impossible to deny that it’s affected who we are and how we do things.

Finally, I’m sad to see that there are no birth-mother birth stories listed here. I know that’s not the point of PAIL, as it’s a parenting group, but even in the posts I did read, and thinking of my own daughter’s birth, I have no idea how the birth mothers feel about their birth. Did it go the way they envisioned? Did their birth plan help them through? What would they do differently next time (if they were planning to parent, or not)? I still don’t know how my daughter’s birth mother feels about the birth; I haven’t heard her birth story. I hope some day I will.