outside in

So I went to my first “new moms” group meeting last week. It took me nearly six months to finally do it. I’d been reluctant to even get together with other moms who aren’t familiar with my situation, and even some who are. We go to our monthly adoption support meetings which include newly formed families (as well as birth family members and prospective parents). But I haven’t been able to bring myself to join a whole group of women and their newborns with all the talk of babies, birth and breastfeeding, etc. I get enough of that from my friends and family, thank you very much. Why opt for more?

I know it’s good for both of us to get out of the house more often and to socialize Baby J with babies around her age. I figured it might be good to try to talk with other moms about various issues that arise too — like, for example, babies who rarely nap, introducing solids, that sort of thing. A new group was forming and it was literally right across the street from my house. So I figured what the hell, I can always leave, right? So I took a few deep breaths, packed up the stroller, braced myself, and went along.

There were only three other moms, two with tiny newborns in slings and one with a toddler too old for the group. I should say that I live in an area heavy on the neo-hippie attachment parenting, big on co-sleeping, baby wearing, home births, extended nursing, stay at home parenting, etc. I’ve done some of those things myself. But here I was with my formula-fed baby in a stroller. I was way more out of shape than these fabulously fit glowing women who you’d never know had just given birth two months ago were it not for the squishy newborns attached to their nipples.

Not even 10 minutes had passed before the boobs came out and the two new moms were nursing and comparing birth stories. I sat there somewhat awkwardly, even though I think breastfeeding is the most natural thing, when you can do it. There they were, talking about their planned home births (both ended up in the hospital), their love of nursing (both babies took to it so well), and how no one can satisfy their babies without the boob (not even their husbands).

Soon enough, they turned to me and one of them said, “So tell us about your birth experience.”

Hmm.

“Well actually,” I said, “we adopted her at birth.”

A moment of quiet, and a single “oh…”

I went on, “She was born at home, at her birth mom’s home, and we were lucky enough to be there.”

Surprise. “Really?” Their ears perked up at the mention of the home birth since neither of theirs worked out. They seemed surprised that we were there too.

“Yes,” I said, “I even got to catch her. Not many women can say that!” Agreed.

They asked more about how we found K and about the openness aspect. I explained how the ongoing contact has been beneficial for everyone, how our family has extended to include hers.

Strike one for a little open adoption education.

And hey, at least I’d been to a home birth, even if it wasn’t my own. Right?

Eventually the conversation turned from general topics such as sleeping to more complicated issues (for me) such as family building. Just as with breastfeeding and so many other topics, I was left cold. How close together, how far apart, how you can ovulate while nursing, what the next birth plan will look like, how the siblings will get along, etc.

Just so much taken for granted. When they are ready it will happen. As if it’s a sure thing.

As if it’s even an option.

Then the discussion about who looks like who, which features came from where. All I can say is “she looks like her birth mom.”

I honestly don’t know whether I’ll go back. I actually liked one of the women, but I just feel like no one “gets” me. Not just with this small group, but all of our parenting friends and family. They keep on having babies, growing their families to just the right size however and whenever they want. Even now that I’m a mom, it’s hard not only to join those conversations but even to listen to them.

At our adoption support group, many of the families have experienced infertility and loss. All of them are in very open adoptions. It’s just SO much easier. I don’t have to explain a thing. It’s just understood. There’s a comfort in knowing that even if we have nothing else in common, we share the beautiful way in which we have built our families. We share common views about adoption at least. We encounter similar challenges and issues. I don’t feel on guard, defensive, insecure, inadequate.

It’s not that I feel like an inadequate mother — although I’m sure there will be moments when I will — I’ve had plenty of time to think about what kind of mother I want to be, and not. I know what I can be, and what I can’t be to Baby J.

It’s just that these little gatherings are not really affirming for me. I want to get something from them, but it seems that I always need to explain something. Sure I can talk about sleepless nights and exciting new developmental milestones. I can marvel at the incredibly sweet nature of my child. I can feel happy watching her with other children. I can feel joy in being her mama.

But I still don’t fit in.

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~ by luna on November 22, 2009.

22 Responses to “outside in”

  1. I haven’t actually attended any gatherings yet, but I belong to a local multiples group as well as a general group for parents of young children. I was bracing myself for the same kind of experience you describe until I realized that in the multiples group, many (though of course not all) will have experienced IF and conceived their children through ART.

    I don’t know if I will attend any meetings of the non-multiples group; maybe child-centered gatherings when the babies are older, but maybe not mom-centered gatherings. Between infertility and the twins vs. singletons experience, there is just too much separating me from them.

  2. I’m sorry you felt so ‘other’ in your new moms group. I’ve heard from so many IF-ers that their moms groups made them feel awkward and different. I wish I could bring you all to mine because all the moms have been so wonderful with me and H and have given us nothing but respect and joy for the way our family was created.

    I have found the group SO valuable, so I’d encourage you to keep searching until you find the right fit. Good luck.

    And I’m thinking of your Mom.

  3. I totally understand, you never really fit in because you are right as long as everything went as planned then of course it is taken for granted. It us upsetting now, but I remember back to before we even started trying to conceive, my sister in law was unable to get pregnant and I really had no idea what she was going thru or what she needed or for that matter didn’t need to hear, its not that they are trying not to be nice they just dont know. Much easier to stick with people who get it and so its unspoken you just know becasue you have been thru it before. At least you tried and can always go back if you want. This is how I feel as well about the OB/GYN office, I have all the unworking parts but I DO NOT BELONG THERE, and I hate it.

  4. I have wanted to start an ALI type group in my area so very much–since the 2 groups I have met with so far, have just left me feeling so ….empty. Wish we could be in the same group-we’d make one awesome mommy group.

  5. Oh yup, I have been there. I went to one shortly after we got Elijah and I truly got sick of explaining the system, how it works, and correcting assumptions, myths and down right ignorance. That was all I got to contribute to the entire conversation and that’s not what I was there for. I unfortunately never found one again, except for online.
    I say stick with the comfortable group, there’s no reason why you have to be uncomfortable just to belong to a group.

  6. It’s so hard when you feel like you don’t fit in or aren’t part of the group. Maybe when she’s older you’ll find a mommy group that will work better but for now if the adoption meetings are working stick with that. Hugs to you.

  7. I really “get” how you didn’t fit into the group. With the whole sperm donor thing and then X being hospitalized in a different city for over four months, there was much about my life as a new mother that I knew others could not relate to. I figured I had spent enough time in my life feeling like I didn’t fit in, so why push it with the emotional and personal experience of birthing and mothering? I avoided these groups until X was well past the baby stage, and stuck with people knew who and supported me. Not to say that I’m private about our story; in fact, I love sharing it. I just don’t always want to feel the responsibility of educating the curious and uninformed. I’m finding, as time goes by and X grows older, his unorthodox beginning is a smaller (but not less important) part of his story, and I feel less and less need to share. Sounds like your adoption group is a really supportive place for now!

  8. I am practically jumping up and down here shrieking because you just went through my idea of hell. One I have found myself in more or less every time I’m in a room with more than one woman. I hear you. Remember when I went to my friend’s party with all her mom support friends? They think I’m going to joining them! No F*** way! They’re all just the sweetest group of women I’m never going to hang out with.

  9. I’ve avoided new moms groups for now, out of fear of what you described. One day, I hope to find a good support group of adoptive families in our area. While I generally don’t mind speaking about adoption, I’d rather have the focus be on the kids themselves.

  10. Kudos to you for giving it the group a test drive. Not sure I could have been that strong.

    This line in your post leaped out at me. “these little gatherings are not really affirming for me” … it speaks volumes and underscores the importance of finding environments where you and Baby J can thrive. There will always be time to educate people, but the good news is that you can choose the time and place. Meanwhile, find a nurturing, sensitive place to enjoy Baby J, not one that creates awkwardness more than 50% of the time…

  11. That is exactly why I have never gone to one of those groups. I tried to reach out to a few women at the lactation center I used and it amazed me how much they had taken their pregnancy and the healthy birth of their baby for granted. I avoided everything else after that. And now that Sweetness is approaching 15 months, I am back to avoiding all contact with people who ask “when are you going to make her a big sister?” It never ends.

  12. Mom groups are still awkward to me, especially when the moms have more than one kid. Sometimes it gets to me, and sometimes I never want to go back and avoid it for months. Don’t you wish there were some secret handshake we could all have?

  13. I admire you for giving it a go. I don’t think I would have ever even tried! I hope you can find a group where you’ll fit in and feel happy.

  14. I too can relate to your feelings of not fitting in, Luna. Although I do find the women in the group I attend a valuable source of support with regard to sleeping/feeding issues, many of them are already talking about the best time to start trying for a second baby. Although having a child is undoubtedly a healing experience on many levels, it’s at times like that when I realise that I can never truly put IF behind me.

    Still thinking of you and your mother – I can only begin to imagine how powerless you must be feeling at the moment.

  15. I hope this isn’t inappropriate, because I do understand what you are saying here and I do understand that I’ll never really “get” it, coming from an “easy babies/easy births” viewpoint. I just thought I’d add that I never feel comfortable in mother’s groups either. It took forever for me to find some friends with kids who I wanted in my life and as a part of my days. Keep looking. You will find a group of moms you love – and it will mean the world to you!

  16. Mmm….totally get this. We certainly are on the periphery. For me no one will assume that T is biological but it’s still difficult to be a part of these kinds of groups. And the hardest part I find is when people talk about when they’ll get pregnant or when they’re trying to decide if they have another one. My blood pressure rises and I think to myself “you just don’t get it.” So much taken for granted in this life.

  17. I’m sorry this was your experience, Luna. I’m glad you posted about it as it is one of those things I have been thinking about a lot lately. Sometimes you don’t want to have to be an advocate explaining the process and differences in building your family through adoption. You just want to be Baby J’s mom with all the other moms. I hope the right group is out there for you.

  18. Just wanted to say “I hear ya, sister.” Particularly after spending a weekend with my SIL and her friends, all of whom have lovely families, none of whom have struggled to get there. The assumptions they make in conversation, while not intentionally hurtful, are breathtakingly so, nonetheless.

    Spending time with my open adoption mama-friends, on the other hand, is always heart-warming and soul-affirming.

  19. Welcome to the world of being different. It seems like alot of adoptive parents want so hard to escape that aspect of adoption, but it is just impossible. Adopted people also feel different, our whole lives. I am also the mom of a premature baby, so I can relate to the trauma of being separated at birth from both angles. It is a life-long trauma that can’t be escaped, but thank God, for healing.

  20. incoming link:
    http://ourlittletongginator.blogspot.com/2009/11/sunday-linkage_29.html

  21. I could have written this post! It goes beyond being an adoptive mom for me. I am a single adoptive mom by choice. We have been home for nearly a year and I still feel like an outsider, even in adoptive mom groups.

  22. […] for. While infertility still clouds and colors the way in which I experience the world, even from where I now stand, I know how fortunate I am to experience this journey of motherhood, […]

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