Note: This article started as a journal entry and later became my first published piece. It was printed in the February 2005 Adoptive Families Magazine.
My wee baby written about here is going to be 18 next month and graduating high school this year. He’s an incredible and amazing human. In honor of his upcoming birthday, and because it’s adoption awareness month, here is the story of how my youngest son, Tory, joined the family. In this publication, and other publications in that era, I refer to him by his middle name Craig. (Tory, if you’re reading this, I love you and so incredibly proud of you every single day <3.)
Becoming Craig’s Mother
My younger son ’s arrival signaled the end to a decade of heartache due to secondary infertility. So why was I so sad?
Would he love me? This time last year, while waiting for my son to be born, I worried that he wouldn’t return my love. I was certain that when he was a toddler he would, but as a newborn?
Would he sense my love for him as I pulled him close or would he strain to hear the song and sounds of his birth mother instead? Would he feel fear and heartbreak and have to keep it locked tight in his body, unable to communicate anything more than a cry?
I also wondered about myself and if I possessed a mother’s sense with this child who was not biologically mine. At night when the baby whimpered or cried, would it be his birth mother, fifty miles away, instinctively waking up to reach for him while I slept?
The month before he was born, the huge obstacle of grief blocked much of my joy. My husband didn’t understand why I experienced such negative emotions. We were supposed to be the happiest expectant parents on the planet. I had a difficult time explaining that my tears were for my unborn son’s mother.
He and I had tried to conceive off and on for the last ten years, since our son Jared was a toddler. It was a decade of waiting mournfully, hopefully, and of soul-crushing heartache.
There were days I felt I couldn’t live through it and I should die; other times, I built up a wall and said, “Fine we’ll be a happy family of three.” But still, to be infertile was like mourning a child or children, in the sense of what could have been. I didn’t have memories of a sweet dimpled face and saucy laugh, only imaginations of all that was lost.
I felt as if I was trading my grief for my new son’s biological mother’s happiness.
She was going to give me my dreams and I was going to give her nothing but empty arms. She wasn’t going to have to imagine, she’d know. She would be able to picture exactly how this baby of ours looked, smelled and felt.
I could leave behind the pain that I had carried from infertility. It felt suddenly shallow compared to what I could imagine of her pain. She wouldn’t get a decade sentence; she’d have to carry her grief for life.
My youngest son was born on the first day of winter with stick-straight blond hair and flashy blue eyes.
I stood in the back of the room and watched as he emerged, saw the doctor as he gripped his head with firm, gentle hands that twisted and tugged to pull the baby’s shoulders out. Upon his arrival, the baby cried soft and briefly; my cries were loud gulps. I remember his grandmother – who’d just met me that day — coming over and hugging me. We cried together.
“Do you want to cut the umbilical cord?” the grandmother said a minute later, relaying her daughter’s question to me.
It was unexpected. I’d not considered being the one to do this. It felt right, so I did. I knew then that I wasn’t cutting the baby’s link to his birth family. His biological mother placed him with us, a life and family she wanted for him, one she, at the time, couldn’t provide.
She was a stronger mother than I, and with her trust and a few snips, I now had to be as equally strong to raise my son. We would all three always be connected in spirit, through him.
Ours is an open adoption. The farewells said the next day as my son’s birth mother was discharged weren’t to be the last. I realized by then I couldn’t stem her pain with my words. I knew I could no more truly understand her depth of emotions than others could understand what I felt with secondary infertility.
My role in this triad was to be Craig’s mother. The only way I could help his biological mother was to raise him in a committed family environment and to love him as my own.
Later that night, with all of us tucked in safely at home, I woke up from a deep sleep and reached out instinctively for Craig. He had just started to fuss and was in my arms before the first cry of hunger.
So much for that worry, I held him close and he turned his head to me, latched on to his bottle and I rocked us both back to sleep and momentary peace.