I read Pioneer Woman's latest birth story and frankly thought wow, glad I have kids and I never had to give birth. I would probably start screaming for an epidural right after conception; possibly even beforehand...
Then again, I had to have a tooth pulled about 6 months ago and when I found out that getting laughing gas would prolong the whole miserable experience and cost more I said FORGET IT. Give me a shot of Novocaine [or whatever] and yank that thing out -- while I squeeze the nurse's hand into a bloody pulp.
That's as close as I can get to a birth story.
No, wait - when I got my pacemaker it was an ordeal. I was in put into "twilight sleep" which was horrible. I wasn't asleep for most of it, just groggy and scared. I was aware of everything, including being strapped to the table and having my face covered. For someone who has occasional bouts of claustrophobia, it was a nightmare. I still don't like to even think about it.
So God knew what he was doing when we skipped the whole pregnancy and birth deal and opted for Plan B, adoption.
Adoptive parents are like veterans. We talk about being "paper pregnant" - which is a unique experience. Gathering up the 7,000 pieces of paper necessary for an international adoption is not easy. Everything is scrutinized - our physical health, mental health, financial records, family dynamics, marital history. (All the stuff which my mother would say is "nobody's business.")
Still, I suppose it's better than being in a room with feet in the stirrups, my hoo-ha exposed to everyone who walks by. Mother says nobody can be shy after going through THAT.
A few years back I was at our neighborhood pool chatting with a friend of mine and somehow, I soon found myself in a circle of women. The birth stories started. This is not uncommon. Giving birth is probably one of the few really terrible and simultaneously wonderful things anyone can possibly do. Still, I felt left out. I told a story about adopting my daughter -- I don't remember what -- and everyone just stared at me like I was from Mars. There was a very awkward silence. Then they went right back to the birth stories. Followed by the nursing stories. Followed by the what-my-toddler-did stories.
I fervently wished for just one other adoptive parent to swim over and stand by my side in solidarity -- not anyone did though.
There are some things only other adoptive parents will possibly understand.
My daughter called the other day and asked me to send her birth certificate, Russian passport, and Certificate of Citizenship to her. She also wanted "the paper you said you'd show me when I was older." After I hung up, I felt really angry and sad and puzzled, and just upset, in general.
I don't begrudge my daughter any of it. She needs to see everything. She needs to process what happened to her in Russia. Being taken away from one's family and put into an orphanage is a terrible and life-changing thing, and she will deal with the after-effects for the rest of her life. Institutions are terrible places for children.
I sent her everything, including a copy of her parents' marriage certificate, and the transcript of the hearing where her birthmom had her parental rights terminated -- with English translations, of course.
I had very carefully gone over everything with Alesia when she was about 16 but she had no memory of that. None. Her brain dumps painful memories.
If I could talk to other adoptive parents right now, I would say this: don't hide anything. Don't sugar-coat anything. Whether you adopted a baby or a toddler or a teenager, it doesn't matter. The stories surrounding the birth family are critical to our kids. They have to process some very painful things, and there's not much we can do.
A lot of adoptive parents who adopt babies can say to them "Your birthmom simply couldn't parent you, and felt you would be better off in another family." In many cases, the birthmoms are teenagers, or very poor, or they simply aren't equipped for parenthood.
In the cases of my kids, though, who remember their birthmoms, they have to deal with the fact that they were with a birthmom for 6-8 years and the mom chose alcohol and partying instead of parenting. A judge had to remove my daughter from a cold, dirty home with no food, when she was so malnourished and sick she had to be hospitalized. A home where she was left alone for hours with no food, age 6 or younger. A home where neglect stunted her brain development. Michael's birthmom was the same story.
These are not pretty stories. They are tragic stories.
We were talking the other day, Michael and I, about a family he used to babysit for. The oldest child is now old enough to sit for her siblings. "In Georgia, the law is you have to be 12 to be left without supervision," I told him. "I was left alone when I was much younger than that and I was OK," he replied. "Yes, but you shouldn't have been left alone," I replied quietly.
So I don't feel bad about being kind of a coward about physical pain. I have shouldered emotional burdens most of the neighborhood ladies cannot fathom. I have had to deal with my own sadness and fear for my kids' mental and emotional health after being treated so badly by their birthmoms. Bandaging emotional boo-boos that result from severe neglect and abuse is very different from what a typical mom experiences. [I took both my kids to a therapist but with limited success..]
I have almost stopped reading accounts by other adoptive parents of teenagers who go off the rails despite all the love and care we give them. Sometimes love and good intentions simply cannot make up for the early trauma. Very often, even for kids adopted as babies, the teen years are anxiety-producing nightmares. Our kids have to figure out their identity in the context of abandonment, which is very difficult. As parents, there's little we can do.
Alesia has gone through a period of rebellion, and I hope and pray she is getting her life back on track.
Michael has had some ups and downs the past couple of years; it hasn't all been smooth sailing. He's going to start college classes in a few weeks, though, and he just got a new job as a Host at a local restaurant.
They are both finding their way.
I cannot eliminate the feelings of sadness and abandonment they will always grapple with, no matter how much I envelop them with love. It simply isn't possible. I cannot wave a magic wand and go back in time and give birth to them. I wish.
Truthfully, I've done about all I can do, in a physical sense. I wish I had done some things differently, but hindsight is 20/20, of course.
Here's how I stay sane.
I remember this: my kids have been given something most of their peers in the orphanage didn't get: a chance at a good life. They have a mom, Granny, and uncle who love them fiercely and devotedly. We don't have a lot of money or material riches but those things are ephemeral. My kids were born in far-away places to women they will likely never see again, but they were re-born here, with me as their Mom, and I will never stop loving them or fighting for them to have decent lives.