claiming our own

I recently wrote about the concept of “possession” and “ownership” when it comes to children. We’ve all seen it. Unfortunately I think it’s far too common. Parents who view their children merely as objects to be controlled, or as Shinejil put it, appendages or accessories even.

Sometimes I think a claim of possession can be far more subtle, however. It’s the idea that our children are OURS, rather than unique little beings in and of themselves.

As infertility destroyed my reproductive options, I had to consider whether, if we adopted, I would ever feel as though the child were my own, and what that meant. I imagine this is something with which many prospective parents struggle.

Infertility had taken so much from me — my dreams, my joy, my body, my identity, my dignity, years of my life. Would it prevent me from ever feeling like a mother?

As we considered adoption and I evaluated my own “readiness” to adopt, I had to ask not whether I could love a child through adoption, but whether I would ever feel like his or her mama.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to “claim” the baby’s genetics, nor would my body nourish our child until birth or beyond. I couldn’t control the prenatal environment to help ensure a healthy beginning. M and I wouldn’t see reflections of ourselves or our love blended into our child’s features. Our families wouldn’t be able to engage in the inevitable comparisons among siblings or identify features in common with our ancestors. No, that line stopped here.

Sure, this may seem like a lot to “give up.” And it was.

But as I have said before, when we were faced with a life without children we ultimately decided those issues were not as important to us as becoming parents. We knew we had so much love to share with a child that none of those things would matter once we finally held our baby in our arms. Or so we hoped.

Oddly enough, as a result of this process — this journey through infertility to adoption — I think I learned more about what it means to be a mother than I ever could have otherwise.

It became clear that our quest to become parents through open adoption was very much a process of eliminating our egos and focusing solely on our future child. I realized that after suffering such loss, there may be a tendency to grasp at something to call my own. Yet I knew to be “ready” I’d have to deal with my unresolved issues — my loss and grief, my persistent infertility, all of it.

It would be unfair to expect any child to fill that void. I had to do that myself.

To embrace a child into our lives through adoption was to open our hearts to a whole new way of building our family. As an adoptive mother, I am a caretaker of the most beautiful kind — entrusted by our baby’s biological parents to care for and guide this little girl into the unique individual she will some day become.

It is a privilege beyond measure.

I am hers and she is mine, but it is not a matter of possession. I can’t “claim” her as “my own,” but she is our baby girl and I love her with my whole being. She holds a place in my heart I never knew existed — it may have grown just for her. M feels the same way, saying this place in his heart is both “as vast as the universe and as light as a million suns.” It’s a beautiful thing, yet not a thing at all.

I will never “own” this little girl, just as no parent can ever really possess any child. If anything, I think she can claim part of us.

~ by luna on August 15, 2009.

21 Responses to “claiming our own”

  1. What a thoughtful, beautiful post. This idea of possession is one I think very few parents actually delve into and I see exactly what you mean by examples of possession. It’s all around me and it’s sad.

    Although the way in which you came about your unique and wonderful perspective was difficult (I realize this is an understatement), I see the advantage it gave you. Even before becoming a parent, you have already thoughtfully explored avenues of parenting many will never consider. Your little girl will only be that much more blessed for finding her way to you because of it.

  2. I love this post. And it’s such a subtle shift from being the center (she is mine) to making the child the center (I am hers). Gorgeous writing and a gorgeous idea.

  3. Someone at Bella’s soon-to-be-school said that as parents we’re in this real antithetical position of trying to get a child independent/ready to leave, and simultaneously pulling them back and protecting them. I have a feeling parents (grandparents!) who can’t cope with the tension of raising a human rather than simply purchasing things and making sure they live from sun-up to sun-down are what you describe — the people who simply possess without interacting. I really kinda feel badly for them because they’re missing a lot of what’s lovely.

  4. Beautifully written. We have not yet considered adoption, but I think i too would posses very similar feelings that you had. Just a gorgeous heartfelt post, thanks for writing.

  5. “It became clear that our quest to become parents through open adoption was very much a process of eliminating our egos and focusing solely on our future child.”

    That is very profound.

  6. Thank you for this post. I really needed it today — the day the consents are supposed to be signed and we’re supposed to bring our son (all four of us) out of the hospital and into a new life. A life where he is being raised by T and me, but he will be forever connected to his two other parents. Their love for him is palpable. Today is going to be a difficult day.

  7. I love that you say that J can claim a part of you. I know that little A has absolutely claimed a part of me. It makes full sense to me now as a mother – that our children lay claim to us in a way that only they can. I am definitely hers! And little A – well she is just an amazing little person who has been helped along the way so far by some other amazing people.

  8. incoming link:

  9. Very beautiful, thoughtful, post. So true.

  10. A very thoughtful post. I love your use of the word “caretaker” as this is what all parents whether adoptive or biological are but everyone gets so easily wrapped up in possession terminology.

  11. I came to a very similar understanding of a parent’s role in something of a rebuff to my MIL’s parenting and family interactions. That is I had my ideas, but interacting with her, resisting her, has helped bring my parenting philosophy into focus. As Tash said on your last post about her family, the possessive attitude describes my MIL perfectly. (And also, of course, explains much of how horrid she was after A died.) So, you know, sadly, you are not alone in this. Though your waters are probably trickier than ours. Luckily for baby J, of course, it’s you and M who are negotiating them. 🙂

  12. […] own ego aside for the benefit of our child. It has helped me understand what it means to call her my own. It has helped me realize my role not just as a mother but as a caretaker of our precious daughter […]

  13. What a beautiful, beautiful post Luna. I think it is the perfect intro to the book you should write on open adoption.

  14. What a beautiful post. You put into words what I’ve been struggling to do. There is a uniqueness about adoption and the mother/child bond that is difficult to explain. Thank you for this post.

  15. Thank you for this post. I think I need to save it to revisit when needed. Might you submit it to “Adoptive Families” or somewhere else so that even more people could read it?

  16. I love how you said the place for her may have grown in your heart. That is how I feel about my son. And infertility has also taught me about motherhood and to appreciate everything about it. I wouldn’t trade my infertility for anything now that I have MinMan.

  17. […] mean to imply that this baby was or is responsible for my happiness. As I’ve said before (here, for example), it would be entirely unfair to hang that burden on a […]

  18. You sound like an amazing woman!
    (here from the Creme)

  19. Popping in from the crème de la crème list.

    This is just what I needed to read right now. We’re just starting to consider adoption as a possibility.

  20. […] him. Hell, it’s not her job to heal me either. As I’ve said before, I knew I had to heal myself before I could be this baby’s mama. It would be unfair to unload that burden on any child. […]

  21. […] I answer as an adoptive parent who wants the best for her child. This means helping our daughter understand her origins and how she came to be our child, helping her integrate her story with life in our family (or as Lori says, her biology with her biography). It means, to me, being the bridge to her family by birth until she can decide to maintain those connections herself. It means not restricting who may express love and care for her well being. It means feeling worthy of being our daughter’s mother, but not claiming her as “my own.” […]

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