Mama. That is the name I most dreamed of being called. I’d sit in libraries and bookstores with my friends in high school and flip through Anne Geddes books dreaming of a squishy baby of my own. When I was dating my now husband in college, I was very clear to him that I wanted to be a wife for a year then become a mom. I didn’t want to wait, and I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to have at least 4 kids. Enough to field a baseball infield and enough to play 3 v 3 soccer with. I made my perfect plan complete with what I thought my future looked like. “We will have two kids then adopt 2 kids after that we will foster.” I told him as we talked about the future. Somehow, that didn’t scare him off. I guess it was a good thing that we were young and naive because wisdom would have made him run- and fast!
Four years went by and no baby- we were full of grief and confusion. All our friends from college who’d gotten married after us were joyfully moving on with their parenthood journey. I attended more baby showers and birthdays than I could count, and our spare room continued to fill with baby clothes and trinkets we had bought through the years for our children. Our very non-existent children. This was the first time I felt “othered”. We’d seen every specialist, taken every medication, done all the procedures recommended and yet we could not get pregnant. All the tests and specialist said the same thing, “you have unexplained infertility”. Me, infertile.
We sought the Lord, month after month and heard no answer. We knew His ways are always better than ours we just couldn’t see when or how His way would play out. It was through a season of prayer that we decided to stop trying and frankly, it was freeing. We began to enjoy our marriage and our family of two. This is when the Lord spoke to us, “adopt”. We knew that we wanted to adopt but our plan was to do that later not now. After a lengthy process of healing and acknowledging our grief, we finally began the adoption process.
The process was long and at times it was disheartening but we knew that the Lord would teach us something through the process and we’d come out a stronger pair. Sure enough, we were chosen by an expectant mother and soon had a beautiful baby boy. He was (and is) perfect.
Shortly after coming home with our son, we began to see the societal views on adoptive parents. I finally become “mama” only to be othered by society. There was an asterisk next to mama. I was an *adoptive* mama, as if somehow that made me less of a mother. There was othering in the process of waiting to. As friends announced their pregnancy to their husbands and then their friends in cute and creative ways; not me- I was waiting on someone else. Friends who were setting up their nurseries and buying all the perfectly cute clothes for their little one on the way. Not us, we had no control, we didn’t know if our baby would be a boy or a girl; would be born in January or July. How can you buy season appropriate clothes for a newborn when you don’t even know when they will be born? Ultimately these things are trivial- at the time though these things reminded us daily that we weren’t yet parents. But eventually, we had our son and bought him the clothes he needed and decorated his nursery. But still during that time it was painfully obvious that our parenthood journey was different. No baby bump measuring and guessing the gender based on old wives tales, no feeling them kick and thinking of the perfect name for our little soccer star. All these things and so much more made us aware that we were in a different category. Not mom, not dad, but other.
When our son came home, we had more of this, the doctor’s office visits where we were asked where his real mom is or if we had proof he was ours. People in grocery stores asking us where we “got him” along with other ridiculously offensive and intrusive questions. The comments of how lucky I was that I didn’t gestate and have to birth him, or worse, how lucky he was to be adopted. We knew it was going to be our job to be proactive in growing our knowledge and understanding of adoption and become students of our son. We needed to be ardent defenders of ethical adoption, our son’s story, and his birth mom.
Where others may see “adoptive mom” as something to make me “less than”, I have worked through the grief and taken the power away from the feeling of being othered. I am
Now, I am a mama to three. And it is easy for me to feel othered because that is what I am on the outside, but the reality is every mom is a ________mom. Yes, I am an adoptive mama, but I am also a boy mama, a girl mama, a proud Latina mama, a mama to a son in Heaven, a Christian mama, and even a bit of a crunchy mama. I don’t feel like the descriptor takes away from who I am, it just reminds me of how I got here.