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.