Saturday, May 1, 2010

What IF

I've hard a time writing this post. Mainly it was emotional procrastination. I don't want to think about this topic. I think I've managed to keep my sanity and continue to live my life by burying these thoughts. But in the spirit of National Infertility Awareness Week, here goes. (deep breath here)

What IF we adopt and I never feel like the child's real mother?

I want to say that just writing that out takes off some of the pressure. But actually it makes me even more scared. Like it feels more certain it would happen. I am not talking so much about not loving the child. I am the type of person who has no trouble loving people and have an immense amount of love to share. But I worry about forming that mother-child bond that (from what I hear, at least) is unique and changes you and changes the relationship with the child. Will I have a mother's intuition? Will the child grow to love me as his/her mother?

That is my biggest anxiety about moving towards adoption. Because even in a closed adoption, adoptive parents have to qualify their relationship to the child. Sure, in most situations you may just introduce yourself as someone's mother. But when push comes to shove, you will have to admit that there are qualifications to your status as a mother. Maybe it will come at a doctor's office during a medical emergency and there are questions about the child's family medical history. Maybe it will come from someone who wonders why you are claiming this dark-skinned child as your own. Maybe it will come many years later when you are sitting with a group of women and the conversation turns to pregnancy or childbirth horror stories. There is that qualification to be made. Explanations to be given. The child is adopted. You are not a mother in the same way that most women are a mother.

What if I can never overcome the thought that I have to share my role as mother?

I flash forward to the first few weeks with the child and how overwhelming it will be. Rationally I know all new mothers and fathers feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. But when you have sole claim of motherhood, few will have the ability to say you are doing things wrong (other than our own mothers, of course, who always feel like they can tell us what to do--more on this in a moment). Will I be looking over my shoulder and wondering if the birth mother would know better what to do?

Or I think about what it might be like when the child goes through the inevitable "I hate my parents" stage. Usually when a rebellious teenager storms off yelling they wish you weren't their mother, it is all theoretical. There is not really another mother they might be thinking of, someone else who might lay a claim and be a real life alternative to what they might want in a mother. How will I deal with my child's wish to have a closer relationship to their birth mother in an open adoption situation? Or if we choose the closed adoption route and my now grown child wants to track down the birth mother? What if I despite all I offer to my child, he or she still feels something is missing and tracks down this other mother?

And then I flash forward to thinking if we adopt a daughter and she eventually has children of her own. What if I can't offer her the advice or reassurance she is looking for if I was never pregnant or went through childbirth? Can I truly fulfill the motherly duties at this crucial time if I never went through it?

Mel's directions for NIAW (for which you can find the rest of posts here), tell us to end the post with a positive "What IF". I guess I can push myself and ask what if all this worry is about nothing? But to tell the truth, that seems like a cliche to me right now. This shows another key aspect of those suffering with IF. Sometimes we can't find the positive side of where we are. This is why reminding us to enjoy sleeping in or traveling is so hard to hear. We go through dark times. This community is a blessing because it brings light and hope for these dark times, just as I try to hold on to the hope when others are going through their dark phase. But I don't like the idea that we have to be forced to find the light. It is not wrong to be sad. I see the goal as finding peace in the sadness and not letting it define our lives, rather than trying to erase the sadness.

Resolve has more information about infertility and information about NIAW.


  1. Awesome post! Do you think about adoption a lot? - sounds like yes.
    Thinking of you :) (((hugs)))

  2. Hi, Missy. I have experienced many of these WhatIfs myself. I'm a mom via adoption, for more than 9 years now.

    Many of my WhatIfs proved unfounded, such as the bonding (changing diaper after diaper and singing lullabye after lullabye served to cement the feeling of being a "real" mom) and sharing (which implies dividing, when in fact our open adoptions multiply the love).

    We are now in the "I hate my parents" stage (well, more like "don't like"). This one does sting, but I know that even though she may mean these words in the moment, it is not how she feels overall. Just like me with my parents way back when.

    In any case, I wish you well on your journey through the WhatIfs. This is a beautiful post.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing these. I have been thinking about adoption a lot as well and have so very many "what ifs" and fears that I make myself crazy. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

  4. Missy--Obviously I can't really understand what you are going through here, but I have known many people who were adopted, including my future BIL's sister. My future BIL, Ryan's Mom was also adopted, so after having two boys, they decided to adopt a baby girl from Korea. They have been through a lot with her the last few years as she is going through puberty, and being diagnosed with ADHD. But though all of this, and her entire childhood, I know that her Mother, Father, and brothers never for a second "doubted" that connection or felt like she was less a part of the family, just because she was adopted and looked a little different (being Korean).

    I can tell this post was really hard for you to write, and these fears are hard to face, but I don't think it's a What If that you'll actually have to deal with. All of the adoptive parents (and children) I have ever known have bonded with their family in just as deep a way as they have with other (biological) members of the family.

    In fact, some of my friends who were adopted seemed to have even deeper bonds with their parents, as both the parents and children realize that they chose each other as family--that is something very special.

    (((HUGS))) Thanks for being so open and honest, this is very special to read.

  5. I think your honesty in this post is great and I hope that it allows you to face your concerns and move forward with whatever you decide to do. Wishing you all the best.


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