November is National Adoption Month.
A few weeks ago, during a conversation with a dear, well-meaning friend, the idea that I did not have children “of my own” came up, as it does from time to time.
And so, I have been thinking of two other mothers a lot.
One mother has a son. He was a busy baby and a crazed toddler. When he was 16 months old, he cut his head open and had to have stitches. He was a boy who made it his mission , daily, to remove all of the plastic containers from my cupboards. He was scared of things that went bump in the night. He has never fully trusted that there weren’t space aliens poised to remove him from his bed as soon as he closed his eyes. He hates peas. His friends are his world. He is smart, honest, and loyal. A wonderful son and brother.
The other mother has a daughter. She was a baby who sucked her thumb and followed her big brother all over the yard when she was little. She is a singer and dancer. A lover of books who gets angry when people turn the corners of pages down instead of using bookmarks. She has really small feet, which is only problematic when she can’t find anything age appropriate in the kids’ shoe section. She is a natural leader. She is smart, honest, and loyal. A wonderful daughter and sister.
Adoption is a miracle and a gift, it’s true. But adoption is also about loss.
Most women never think twice about being able to conceive a child. They decide to start a family and it happens. Women who are infertile do not have this luxury. Adopting a child makes women like this mothers, but it doesn’t take away the loss of the phantom children they thought they’d have. I think that’s important to understand.
Most women raise the children they’ve brought into the world. Women who place a baby for adoption do not have this luxury. And so, while adoption may well be the least terrible option for a woman with no good choices, it doesn’t erase the heartbreak of losing a future with a child who is very, very, real. I think this is also important to understand.
I raised two, very real, children. I was not a perfect mother, but I did my best. And even when I was tired and crabby and overwhelmed, I loved them desperately and still do. There are only two people in my life that I would gladly stand in front of a speeding train to protect. My son is one. My daughter is the other.
Her son. Her daughter.
And so, adoption is filled with both joy and pain. Gains and losses. This is true for everyone involved. Adoption is, in a word, complicated.
Love, on the other hand?
Not so much.