Tag Archives: motherhood

Where do babies come from?

12 Nov

Photo: Zimbio.com

Nicole Kidman, Edie Falco and Sharon Stone did it. Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron and Katherine Heigl did it. Barbara Walters and Diane Keaton did it. I know someone who was with Meg Ryan when she did it.

It isn’t only women who do it. Tony Shaloub and even Ozzy Osbourne did it.

And I did it, too.

Nine years ago, on September 15, I, with my husband, adopted a baby girl from China. I’ve written about adoption before; it was an angry—some might say “snide”—response to the idiocy many people express about adoption and to those on all sides of the adoption triangle.

But adoption hasn’t only exposed me to idiocy. It has brought me an overabundance of joy. My daughter is beautiful, smart, funny, loving, generous, and kind. We adoptive parents like to joke that it’s ok for us to brag about our children ‘cause it’s not like we’re patting our own genetic code on the back. But I will gladly tell you that my son, who came from my womb, is handsome, smart, funny, loving (in a teenage boy kind of way), generous and kind.

Adoption has changed my vocabulary. My daughter isn’t adopted, she was adopted. As soon as the papers were signed, she became my daughter. I don’t usually say my son come from my womb, as I did above, though I prefer that description. I refer to him as my “biological son” if anyone asks and people frequently ask when they see him and his sister together. He has some smart-ass comments he keeps for people who ask if she was adopted, but he has a smart-ass comment for just about everything. Calling my son “biological” seems to imply, to me at least, that my daughter is somehow not made of the same stuff. Calling him my “natural” child is equally strange for me. Is my daughter then “unnatural?”

Adoption has changed the way many people see me. Because I’ve adopted, many people think I’m brave. They consider the things I’ve done—traveling to China, adopting “someone else’s child”—to be scary things.

Becoming a parent was scary. Deciding to try to get pregnant was scary, in a jumping off a cliff and hoping for a soft landing sort of way.

With adoption, there was no fear. We took one red-tape filled step at a time, confident that there was a child for us at the end of the journey. Traveling to China? With an eight-year old boy? Immediately following lifting of the SARS travel ban? Didn’t faze me. Trying to get pregnant is a tentative sort of venture. Who knows how it will end? Adoption is a deliberate process. Every form filled out, every interview, every trip to a consulate, state or county official says, “We will have a child.”

Adoption has brought me close to people I might never have bothered to know. I don’t usually go out of my way to befriend people whose politics and principles are so different from my own. My adoption community includes people with dramatically different politics and principles.

When I was pregnant with my son, a good friend was as well. We had a bump bonding moment in the ladies’ room at a restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana. She showed me her distended belly button and I showed her mine. I can’t imagine showing my belly button to my adoption community friends. Most of them have never met me in person.

But though our world is mainly virtual, our friendship is very real. We’ve been through the typical things long time friends weather like divorces, illnesses, teenagers. But only my adoption friends can provide comfort when I’ve just held my daughter while she sobs for her real mother.  Only they can assure me that I’ve handled it well, that I’ve done what a real mother does.

People tell me they couldn’t do what I’ve done; that they could never love a child that wasn’t their own. There’s a witty reply: I love her as my own because she is my own, just as her brother is my own.

When my son was born, he was placed in my arms and I had no idea what to do with him. I fell in love with him but it wasn’t an overnight thing.

On September 14, a Chinese woman placed Lin Chun Mei in my arms. On September 15, she became my daughter, Abigail Mei. The next day, pushing her stroller toward the elevator at the White Swan Hotel in Guangdong Province, I knew she was my own, that my love for her was no different than my love for my son.

Before I went to China, I learned a single phrase in Mandarin. When I met my daughter, I told her, “Wo shi ni de mama. Wo shi yung yuan ni de mama.”

I am your mama. I will always be your mama.

The Princess of Snide

Does Motherhood Suck? Depends!

26 Apr

When I had younger kids, I read a lot of parenting books. I stopped reading them when I realized the only helpful advice I’d gleaned was that children meltdown when they are with you because they feel safe. Knowing my excellent parenting skills led to behavior my kids wouldn’t inflict on strangers was cold comfort. So I started reading vampire books. Somehow, it just felt right to read about being literally sucked dry at a time when my children were figuratively sucking me dry.

It wasn’t until recently that I started reading parenting books again. Ok, it was yesterday. I’ve been noodling with the idea of writing a parenting book so decided to check out the competition. I wasn’t able to check out all of the most recent tomes; I had to put Bringing Up Bébé on hold. But I grabbed I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

I thought I’d start with I Was A Really Good Mom. Brief synopsis: Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile, two new moms, discovered that mothering is really hard. They decided that no one was talking about how hard mothering is so they took it upon themselves to “talk to more than 100 mothers” about how hard mothering is.

And what did those moms say? That they were shocked to learn how hard mothering is. One said, “I thought having a baby would be like having a pet—oh, this will be cute. We’ll be this happy little family.” I’ll wait while you say, “Oh, my god! You’re freaking kidding me.”

Done? Ok, now it’s pretty obvious to me that that mom never had a pet because anyone who has ever had a pet knows they can be as challenging as children. Of course, you don’t have to send your dog to college, but your child will eventually learn to stop peeing in the wrong places.

“Babies are just human pets” was not the most unbelievable thing I read in I Was A Really Good Mom. The most unbelievable thing I read was the mom who allowed herself to be quoted saying, “…there are some days I don’t even have time to pee . . .so I wear Depends.” The woman wears Depends so she doesn’t have to stop running around like a maniac. Now, I don’t know about you, but the minute I started thinking that Depends would make my life easier, my ass would be in therapy not a diaper.

As astoundingly unbelievable as Depends Mom is, is the fact that Trisha and Amy thought no one was talking about how hard mothering is. Really? Not one person saw their pregnant bodies and said, “Just wait ‘til that little one pops out!” No one rubbed Amy’s tummy uninvited and said “Well, little mommy, life’s about to change for you!” I’m betting Trisha and Amy were so surprised that motherhood is hard not because no one talks about it, but because they weren’t listening.

Motherhood is freaking hard. Sometimes it’s grindingly boring, sometimes it’s physically grueling, sometimes it’s emotionally draining. Any one with half an ounce of hubris would look at the mothers around them and conclude motherhood is not for the faint. But somehow, Amy and Trish and their interviewees came to the conclusion that their MBAs, former executive positions and generally take-charge personalities would make mincemeat of an undertaking that has laid low many a woman before them.

I think Amy and Trisha should re-title their book I Was A Really Good Mom When I Was Childless And Self-Absorbed. Then the utter amazement with which they discuss the challenges of modern motherhood—should I hire a soccer tutor? Should we potty-train at two or three—might make sense. And while I agree wholeheartedly with their prescription for a more manageable motherhood, I don’t for a minute believe that someone who wears Depends so she can get more done in a day is really going to chill out and lower her expectations.

Maybe I’m forgetting my own anxieties over motherhood, but I don’t really think so. Sure, I feel like a failure a lot of the time. My son gets hugely horrible grades in subjects he doesn’t like. My daughter, who weighs 53 pounds at age nine, thinks her legs are fat. My house looks like the Blue Angels did a low fly-by through the living room. My yard has more weeds than, well, than any other lawn on the block. I got involved in the PTA and I’d rather swallow Drano than do it again.

Just as the times I kick myself are many, the times I pat myself on the back are too few. I’m working, writing, helping take care of my dying father and still managing to keep my children safe and healthy and my husband (mostly) happy. Despite all that, I calmly and successfully handled a teen crisis. I even get out to run at least twice a week.

Yes, mothering is a fabulous experience and nothing compares to holding a warm, sleepy child in your arms. But a lot of mothering just plain sucks and when it does, a wise mother just sucks it up.

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