An adoptee explores her relationship to motherhood

April 19 2012 | Guest post by Monk-Monk
Photo by thorinside, used under Creative Commons license.

"Hey monk-monk, where do babies come from?" she asked.

"Offices," I replied, without missing a beat.

I was six years old, and that was my reality. One day we were a family of three, and the next, four, and later, five. Pregnancy skipped a generation in my family. While I vaguely understood how other people's babies might be welcomed into the world, I believed my existence began at day three when I entered my family. Offices were where I came from and were where you went to get siblings. In fact, it wouldn't be years until I witnessed pregnancy firsthand by watching my co-worker's belly grow daily.

Growing up I had no real desire to be a mom. Childhood games of "house," with my siblings, revolved around the premise of orphans dealing with some sort of crisis (shipwrecked or lost in the woods, etc.), and I, as the big sister, was tasked with caring for them. I played with dolls, but they were never my babies, always my friends. Even into my early twenties, I had no maternal drive to procreate. Boof and I talked about having kids someday, and both agreed that if it happened we would welcome it, but we certainly weren't going to stress about it if we couldn't. In the back of my mind I always just assumed I would never become a mom. And I was mostly okay with that… or so I thought.

So when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant (yes, it only takes one time without protection folks), I realized I better get my act together and explore my relationship to this reality that I would become a mother…and a biological mother at that.

Having two mothers is sometimes confusing and painful. There is one woman who I knew for nine months and then didn't see again until I was 25. Then there is another woman I met on day three and have not known life without. Both mothers have informed my existence, and yet here I was trying to figure out what kind of mother I would be. I will have given birth to a child and will never be apart from him in the way my biological mother was apart from me.

During the first few weeks I literally felt like the only woman to have ever been pregnant. And in some ways, I was. I could go to my mother for support, but found myself censoring my thoughts and feelings to protect her from the reminder that she never experienced pregnancy herself. We mostly stuck to facts, and part of me was sad as I was the one teaching her about cervical dilation and signs of braxton hicks vs real contractions. I practiced becoming a mother by teaching my own about what physically carrying a child was like.

And I couldn't very well go to my biological mother during this time, as my pregnancy is a painful reminder of carrying and not raising a child herself. So while I knew a few things — like that I was born c-section — I was mostly flying blind about how my own pregnancy would progress.

What I was able to do during this time was explore my own feelings about becoming a mother, without having to compare myself to my own mothers. I got to listen to my body and respond manfully to my own self and not second guess whether I was doing it right. While it could have been seen as re-inventing the wheel, giving birth to my son felt more like creating a beautiful piece of original art, rather than trying to create a poor imitation of a masterpiece. He is the first biological relative I will have known from the beginning, and I am enjoying being his mama. How could I have ever thought otherwise?

  1. I relate to this so much. Because I'd been adopted the whole concept of pregnancy felt bizarre to me. I assumed I wouldn't get pregnant and when I did, easily, three times, it was surreal. Almost 15 years after becoming a mom for the first time, I stills struggle to own the title.

    • So happy you could relate! I have been referring to myself as "mama" because in my mind it is a different category than MOM or MOMMY. Somehow I feel like this fits me, even though they all kinda mean the same thing.

        • I can relate to this in a way, I am the proud "Mama" Of 5 kids, 12,8,8,6 and 3…Non of which I carried… I would do anything to feel that,but in the end I get the hugs and kisses and loves that others are missing out on. I think its beautiful that you have such respect for your Mom's…Being sensitive to issues like this is so important…I personally have felt hurt and upset or even angry when I have found out others in my life have gotten pregnant… Its a painful road when others dont understand your what your going through (or dont even try)I am so happy for you and your new addition, I am sure your Mom is as happy as mine is having her Grandbabies around!

  2. love this. I used to tell people babies could come from the hospital or the airport (but the airport was better.) My brother is adopted, and from Viet Nam, and this is what my mother imparted to me. The airport was so much easier, better in every way. LOL. I got my guys by moving into their house! So kidlets can come from almost anywhere, and it's all good!

      • There's not much to write about. I started having hot sex with their dad, and wound up falling in love with all three of them! Didn't really give it a second thought, even though I had never planned on having kids (broken ovaries) because my lil bro was adopted, so raising someone else's kids just seemed like no big deal to me. Besides, they needed me, what else was there to do?

    • Agreed!!! I call my babies Kidlets! Cute!!! I got 4 of mine the same way the other is a crazy sort of shared adoption thing,but it works we love our "kidlets"!

      • Well, my "kidlets" are grown ass men now. One in the Air Force and the other just about to graduate college!! So it has been a long road, but so worth it. I'm so very proud of who they are and what they've become. I'm honored to have shared the ride with them.

  3. How refreshing to know I'm not the only person in the world without a maternal drive! When I played house, I too was never the mother. I was always the aunt, the teacher, the college-aged sister. Now as a newlywed in my mid-twenties, people keep asking me when I'm going to get pregnant. I don't know how to tell my extensive, very close but very nuclear family I don't plan on being pregnant. Ever. And that's OK. Congratulations and good luck on your adventure!

    • It's definitely OK! We need awesome aunts (or "aunties"!), teachers and sisters in ours, and our kids' lives. I think your question is a good one…perhaps ask the OBM folks in a post of your own what they would do to explain their decision to their family/friends? 🙂

  4. Something about your second-to-last sentence really got me. "He is the first biological relative I will have known from the beginning." I would never have thought about it from that angle… and that made it even more amazing to me.

    Congratulations, and thank you for sharing this really great perspective! Loved reading it.

    • Thanks Cali!

      It is surreal to know that he is biologically connected, and from the beginning. I see my baby self in him, and that makes me smile. He is a joy for sure! And I love getting to share him with my large family…those genetically related, and those related by love.

  5. This hit home for me as adoptee. My birth mother contacted me two weeks before my son was born. Though I had spent my whole life wanting to know her I was somewhat dismayed at the timing….my son was supposed to be my first biological relative. In a lot of ways he still is though as I have not met her in person….and its been really nice that my son gets to grow up with this extra person to love him.

    • Wow, two weeks before! I think I would have been an emotional wreck! I met my bio mom and bio dad 1 day apart…and it was only a few months before my wedding. I had to make the hard decision (for very personal reasons) to have my bio dad at my wedding and not my bio mom. Your attitude of more people to love your child is so lovely!

      Blessings on your reunion. Knowing your bio mom will not take away from the sweetness of your first bio relative in the flesh! At least it hasn't for me!

  6. Thank you. As the daughter of an adoptee, it's nice to get an idea of how my mom must have felt during her pregnancies.

    • I would love to know your experience as an child of an adoptee. We are already having discussions of how to handle things like christmases or family tree assignments. I think we focus on adoptees and forget the experience their children might have in relation to the adoption experience. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  7. I really appreciated your article as a foster(hopefully adoptive) mom.

    "Having two mothers is sometimes confusing and painful. There is one woman who I knew for nine months and then didn't see again until I was 25. Then there is another woman I met on day three and have not known life without. Both mothers have informed my existence, and yet here I was trying to figure out what kind of mother I would be."

    This was my favorite part, it so beautifully put into words how I would like my future relationship with my son and his biological mother to be.

  8. Parts of this are totally me. I also met my birth mother at 25 (actually on the day we conceived my son…I know) and struggled with my identity as a mother. Now pregnant with #2, I still find it difficult talking to my mother about pregnancy and birth when she herself was not able to carry a baby to term. But in a sense, I find it freeing, because as you so perfectly said, I was able to find out my identity as a mother without comparing myself to either of the 2 (wonderful) mothers that I have. Thanks for posting ths!

    • So glad you could relate! It's nice to know that I am not the only one 🙂 I wonder how many more adoptees feel this way as parents…and if we should talk more openly about it…I know people in my life were pretty surprised and had never thought about it.

  9. Great article. Would love to hear from some adoptee dads, too. My FH is an adoptee and some of his views on children are so different from mine. For example, he never wants to adopt a child. I find that so strange coming from an adoptee. But the clash of our opinions isn't negative; in fact, I find it fascinating to hear his perspective.

    • I too would love to hear his perspective! Boof and I were clear when we were discussing kids that adoption was not an option for us. While its too long to talk about in a comment (and I'm not sure its a perspective welcome in this community???) We decided it was biological kids or no kids, for us. Would definitely love to hear another's perspective on this, especially from a dad's point of view!

      • While it may be too long for a comment, I am sure the perspective would be welcome. There have been a few articles on people's choices not to have children. I think Offbeat Mama is more about the family choices people make (including the choice not to be parents, and to be a different sort of family) than about just having kids.
        I, for one, am really interested in hearing adoptee's opinions about adoption as a choice for their families. It's not something that I think gets discussed, and there might be a lot of other people out there in the same situation that would benefit from hearing about it.

  10. I'm an adoptee too and this hit home in a lot of different ways.

    I was adopted within the family by my biological grandparents (very common in 1980's Ireland) which means that I've known my biological mother all my life.

    This still doesn't mean that I have a good relationship with her, in fact we never talk about the situation at all.

    I have questions but the answers aren't worth the inevitable fights that asking would stir up (to say that she is dramatic is a severe understatement).

    I hope to someday be a mother and my relationship with my Mum (adoptive) is something that I treasure and hope to live up to and the one with my sister (biological mother) is one that I hope doesn't deteriorate even more.

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