Mothering My Child Named “Anxiety”

My anxiety is one of my children. It’s new, so it’s just a baby. Maybe a toddler. I wonder what gender it is? Let’s call it a “she”, because I don’t actually have any girls and I don’t know what they are like. She – my anxiety toddler – is demanding. Selfish. And I don’t like her.

She was dropped on my doorstep. I have no choice but to live with her. Where did she come from? No one knows. She might have been created in pregnancy hormones. she might have been birthed in the operating rooms where I almost died. She might have decided to stay when the demands of “triplets” became too much.

I am learning how to live with her. I am learning what she needs, and what makes her flip out. I am a little ashamed of her, because she is badly behaved and has a black spot on her heart.

I am ashamed that I am ashamed.

She makes me tired and scared at the same time. She confuses me. She is a paradox. She doesn’t want anyone to see her, but she begs for reprieves from others.

She is selfish. So so so very self-absorbed, as most (all) toddlers are, but she doesn’t give any of those cute wet slurpy kisses and fat arms around my neck and warm heavy snuggles into my bony chest to make the selfishness feel worth it. She just takes takes takes. And then, when other people need me, I am too stuck under her weight to physically move.

wp-1456000594353.jpgShe is the reason that just taking my children to the park makes my hands shake. She is the reason that laundry seems like an insurmountable mountain (which sometimes it literally is). She gets hold of my phone and gives it some sort of virus that prevents me from emailing people back. She, like a newborn, keeps me up at night and causes me to pace the floor to rock her back to sleep, and makes me feel exhausted upon waking.

She makes me sweaty and headachy from the adrenaline of chasing her. She overstimulates me so badly, that once the children are in bed, I collapse onto the couch and have to turn my body to face the couch. I block all else out, and just stare at the busted up leather two inches from my face until I can breathe again.

She hides in the shower curtain and jumps out when I’m least expecting to play hide and seek. Worst of all, she steals from my children. She sneaks up on them too. She steals experiences and time and games and imagination from them.

She doesn’t know it, but, as her mother, I am determined to find her best qualities, no matter how hard I have to search. Since no one else will love her, then I have to try even harder.

Against her will, she is teaching me to say “no”. It’s embarrassing at first, but a surge of relief later. I say “no” to chores during nap time. I say “no” to baby showers, even though I love my friends dearly. I say “no” to doing more than one thing in a day. To certain places, certain activities, certain people, and certain responsibilities . And this can be a positive thing. She is teaching me my own limits. She is helping me draw that line between what *I* can do and what *other moms* can do.

She is accidentally teaching me compassion toward others’ “faults”, which may just be their own evil babies dropped on their doorsteps, too. She would hate that she gives me empathy.

She is somehow reminding me how to breathe, count my blessings, pause, and contemplate. Because of her, I am learning to retrain my brain about a few things. She doesn’t like that either.

wp-1456000626204.jpgMost importantly, she has taught me that she is the source of my stress, not the children. It isn’t them who make me hide in the bathroom. It’s their evil sister! This realization is big news in my addled brain.

Anxiety, and not my children, is the source of my stress. 

How long will I have to raise her? When will she be grown enough to leave the nest?

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Reblog: Please Educate Your Kids About Adoption So Mine Don’t Have To

Dang it, I wish I had written this one myself. But, since I didn’t, and this woman says it so well, you get to read from someone else today. This mom has two brown (and adopted) sons and two white (and birthed) daughters. I think she knows a thing or two. Here is Kristen, from the Rage Against the Minivan blog:

Please Educate Your Kids About Adoption So Mine Don’t Have To

As my son gets closer to school-age, these kind of peer conversations are.going.to.happen. Help him out by teaching your children about all the different kinds of parents in this world.

(PS, Her selection of books is wonderful. My son and I just had a special moment over “A Mother For Choco”… but it’s too precious to write down here. Sorry.)

Some Things about Adoption vs. Biology are Hard to Admit

Pumkpin PatchSome things about adoption are hard to admit. And some things about biological children are hard to admit. I hesitate to be too forthcoming because my sons will read this blog someday. (If I can ever find the time or money, I will totally make this into a book or photobook or something. They will be all like, “Ugh, Mom, that’s so stupid. Who cares?! Stop talking!”) But here is one nugget that I have recently allowed myself to admit:

I am upset with my biological sons for gaining independence, but I am proud of my adopted son for gaining independence.

By the way, I never say “adopted son” unless I’m at the doctor. But here it seemed necessary to the sentence. I don’t want to be Mr. Royal Tennenbaum and introduce you to “my adopted daughter Margot.” Just as it’s important to say “the child with autism” (rather  than “the autistic child”), it’s important not to let “adopted” become that child’s adjective. Adoption was something that happened to him one time: on the day he was born.

Anyway, about that independence… My oldest son didn’t come from my body. As a result, I didn’t have the hormones that come along with pregnancy and birth. Adoptive mothers are still given the gift of that  lovely cuddling-induced hormone oxytocin, though, so we still bonded. But I never had to wrestle with that bittersweet feeling of watching him grow inside of me, and then grow outside of me. He came as a fully separate human being from me.  Therefore, when he started to crawl and walk away from me, it didn’t hurt. It was celebratory. I cheered him on. I see him doing things by himself and I have surges of pride.

Something weird is happening in my brain as my “biological sons” (again, I promise I don’t use that phrase in conversation) are learning to walk. I am feeling a wee bit, um, mad at them. Am I crazy?! Do other moms feel this way? In the newborn phase, they cuddled me because of gravity. Gravity forced them to rest against my chest. Then, in the baby phase, they actually cuddled me because they wanted to be close to me. Now, in the toddler phase, they are separate human beings with their own will. Sometimes that stings. It stings the momma who felt like they were part of her body for nine months of gestation and then one year of baby-dom. I am proud of them, but it stings, too.

To quote Raising Arizona (the best movie about infertility and child-stealing ever made): “Course I don’t really need another kid, but Dot says these-here are gettin’ too big to cuddle.” And that’s the “crux of the biscuit” right there. (Obscure Frank Zappa reference thrown in there for my Dad.) I have mommy guilt, and now I have mommy sadness. It’s not about them walking- it’s about me! I’m so sorry, kids, but you have to deal with me putting my issues all over you.

1)      I never had enough arms or time to cuddle them the way they needed, and now it’s too late = guilt

2)      I want more children but I don’t know if I can have more children (via any method) = sadness

As anyone who has watched a baby grow up knows, once he can move, that’s all he wants to do. Babies who can move are constantly on the move. If you’re lucky, you might get a few minutes of cuddles when they are falling asleep, waking up, or feeling sick.

However, I am noticing that the amount of children one has is inversely proportional to the amount of cuddling one receives. I may get one twin to cuddle for five seconds before he is distracted by one of his brothers doing something more exciting. I have been pushed aside for the wonderful world of movement, brothers, and distraction.

It’s the natural order of things. It is beautiful and wonderful and terrible.

How I Really Feel about Birthmothers

I’m not going to talk about R’s birthmother here. I’ve said all I’m going to say about her already. Her story and her information belongs to my son. What I am going to talk about is how I feel about all birthmothers in general.

A birthmother is selfless. A birthmother chose to place her baby for adoption because she loves him so much that she wants more for him. She chose adoption out of love and selflessness. Of course she could have raised that baby. What she is doing instead is providing him with whatever she feels she can’t give him: a father, an education, stability, or maybe even protection. She is considering the needs of the baby, and not the needs of herself.

A birthmother is brave. Placing a child for adoption is probably the hardest decision she will ever make in her life. She has to live with the loss every single day of her entire life. Would I have that kind of courage?

A birthmother may be alone. The number one deterrent to adoption, according to Gordon B. Hinckley, is the birthmother’s mother. In other words, the baby’s biological grandmother is often the one who discourages the adoption. Birthmothers who choose adoption anyway may do so without the support of their families or partners. I want to give all of those women a huge hug. How’s that for bravery?

A birthmother loves her children and she loves the adoptive parents. Every birthmother loves her child. Again, she chose adoption because she loves him. Additionally, birthmothers love us adoptive parents. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t let us raise their children! When I went to an adoption conference to hear birthmothers speak, they repeatedly said versions of this statement: “I wish the adoptive parents knew how much I love them for caring for my child as their own.” This touched my heart. It made me see birthmothers more as friends and less as someone to fear.

A birthmother is facing challenges. The majority of birthmothers who place children for adoption domestically are not actually teens: they are in their twenties! Therefore, the stereotype that a birthmother is just too young to raise a baby may be inaccurate. Often, she is a full-grown woman, and she is choosing adoption for a different reason. She may be facing challenges that we can’t imagine.

A birthmother chooses adoptive parents for different reasons. We may never know why a birthmother picks a certain family to raise her child. When birthmothers look at profiles of adoptive parents, different things might impress them. For example, I heard a birthmother say that she chose birthparents who ice skated, because she used to do that as a child and wanted her child to have some of the same experiences that she did. Some birthmothers express a spiritual feeling, which helps them to just intuitively know where their child belongs. Some even express a feeling that the baby never felt like theirs, and that they were entrusted with the job of delivering the baby to his parents.

A birthmother wants to be defended. When I hear someone say, “Well, I could never give my baby up” , especially in front of my child, I bristle. I got in the habit of defending birthmothers, long before my son could understand, so that he would hear me and be able to mimic my responses later. A birthmother chose adoption out of love, and that makes her far more amazing than anyone who questions her decision.

Each birthmother has different needs. Some birthmothers need to see the baby on a regular basis; some may need to see pictures; some may just prefer email updates because pictures are too painful; some may need to distance themselves completely in order to deal with the pain. All of these are okay. I have no idea what I would need if I were in their shoes.

A birthmother doesn’t want to be forgotten. It is very important to a birthmother (and to me) that we teach the child about her. She wants him to know how much he was loved, how much she struggled with her decision, and who she was.

I have gone through many different emotions about birthmothers – awe, fear, anxiety, love, even a little jealousy. I believe that my son’s soul belongs in our family, and that it didn’t matter in what body he came here. Our bodies are just a vessel for our soul. His birthmother brought him to us when my body couldn’t carry him. I love my son exactly the way he is, but sometimes I feel a little jealousy of his birthmother because I wish he would have just come from my body. On the other hand, I also feel completely in love with her for bringing us this little soul and want to celebrate her – and her genes and her selflessness and all that she is!

Sometimes people pretend his birthmother doesn’t exist, I think, but not intentionally. I might be the only one who thinks about her every day. I have taught R to pray for her every night- both to thank her and to bless her. I have to admit that sometimes I might feel just the tiniest bit flattered that people forget about his birthmother, because that means that they truly accept me as his mother. However, I know that his birthmother is extremely important and should never be forgotten. I am teaching him that he has two mothers, two stories, two histories. He will be taught to love her and respect her.

I really only answer to my son when it comes to his birthmother. Someday, I will have to fill in more details for him. Someday, I will have to answer the harder questions. Someday, I will need to show him our correspondence and the paperwork I have. Until that day, we will talk and we will pray. And we will teach others to love and respect birthmothers.

Enjoy Every Moment? Bah.

We spent eight years childless. We went through 15 (!) rounds of fertility treatments (including two IVF procedures), a miscarriage, an adoption, and a high-risk twin pregnancy that nearly bested me. After all that, you can bet your whatever that I am grateful for my children. Does this mean that I “enjoy every moment”? No, it does not.

I hear that phrase often. A lot of us young (young-ish?) mothers hear it. We hear it in the grocery store, in the check-out line during a tantrum. We hear it at church, when our kids are going three different directions and one of them is saying, “Don’t sing, Momma!” We hear it. Often, the woman who is saying it is a little older than us and has a dreamy look in her eyes. I can tell that she has forgotten what it’s like to be in the trenches every day. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she’s just realized that the trenches don’t matter and that time passes quickly. (Insert any overused cliché here!) She might be right.

I have heard other moms complain about this “enjoy every moment” thing on blogs and in person and in articles. I am not the first to write about it. Of course we don’t enjoy being up to our elbows (literally?) in poop. Of course we don’t enjoy multiple tantrums in one day (or hour). Of course we don’t enjoy fixing dinner/showering/facebooking while three children cry. Of course we don’t enjoy seeing our husband’s stress and disappointment when he opens the door after work to chaos, dirt, no dinner plan and a wife with dead eyes. So, no, we don’t enjoy every moment.

I used to feel guilty about that. But Okayest Mom is setting the bar lower. Okayest Mom has had an epiphany.

I went to the LDS temple, which is a peaceful place that we Mormons go without our children. It is not church or Sunday services – it is special. I was there for the first time in two years, after the IVF/bedrest/birth/recovery (I need an acronym for that). I was pondering my Mommy Guilt, and I knew it was not a spiritual feeling. I wondered how to deal with it. This scripture came to mind: “Men [& women] are that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)

“Have joy” was the phrase that warmed my heart. It doesn’t say that we are supposed to be giddy at all hours of the day. “Have joy” maybe means that we feel the joyous moments, that we find joy in our moments. “Have joy” is a thing you can DO, not an emotion that you are supposed to feel. Does that make sense?

For those of you who are not religious, the other phrase that came to mind was from Bob Dylan’s song “Most of the Time”: “I’m halfway content most of the time.” That sums it up pretty well too. He isn’t doing cartwheels either.

If we can be “halfway content most of the time” and find moments that “have joy”, then we can drop the guilt for not “enjoying every moment”. It’s my new goal to REALIZE when I have joy, and appreciate it. I want to notice that moment when I have that momma-gushy-feeling where I feel like I could eat my kids. I want to notice that moment when they squeeze me and I want to die. I want to notice that moment when I know I would take a bullet for them. I want to notice that moment when they say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or “I like your underwears”.

I’m gonna realize those moments, feel them and appreciate them, and move on.

 

bono

(Okay, okay, here’s me actually ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT. Me + Bono!)