In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is sharing some guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
By Cindy H., foster and adoptive mom from Wisconsin
They call me “Mama.” I believe I was put on this earth to be their Mom. And though that statement may have become a cliché or conjure up images of a Hallmark card, I feel well qualified to redefine the sentiment. I find that I am more in touch with God, healthier, physically stronger (even at 3 a.m. walking colicky babies) and pure (even after changing diapers assembly-line-style), than any other time in my life because of my children.
I have been a business owner/President of a market research company, a preschool teacher, a ballet dancer and a college student (twice). I’ve known other careers and lifestyles. But the “job” I feel most at peace with has been the “job” of being a parent for the past 18 years. I am more comfortable being on the floor with my children playing, teaching and nurturing them than I am running deadlines for a business. And lately, because of the job title of “Mama,” I’ve found myself in a position where I’ve creatively pondered this notion of Nature vs. Nurture.
I am both a biological parent and an adoptive parent. And even as I write that last statement I cringe. Those are not titles that I normally use. I never let them pass through my mind, and I certainly never talk about them publicly. I have two biological children, three children who I have adopted and one I am fostering. After all this time, I find that I am blind to the diversity that lives in our family and my heart is definitely blind to the way my children entered my soul.
Recently, as I visited Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for what seemed like the hundredth time in one week for my special needs (adopted) daughter, my mind was catapulted into dealing with those two titles: Adopted vs. Biological. While I was there, I was asked a million “family history” questions that I simply didn’t have the answers to. My mind was forced to deal with the differences between my children as I tried to talk a doctor into seeing medically what I was feeling inside, while my daughter had entered into yet another health crisis.
My daughter entered my world, our family, and our hearts at four weeks old. I became her foster Mama, eventually her pre-adoptive Mama, and finally her “Mama.” I know that she was abandoned at birth and, at three, has undergone more surgical procedures to “make her better,” than most people will in a lifetime. She was initially released to us from the hospital after a surgery we were told would make her “all better.” What started out as a sketchy medical history, three years later, has had many blanks filled in. But there are puzzle pieces still missing.
My daughter has had numerous, lengthy hospital stays during which I never left her side. She has gone through many inpatient/outpatient procedures and experienced various crises that have caused me to learn and employ nursing skills far beyond my comfort zone. All of this has given us a lot of time to get to know each other and to become completely trusting of one another. It has also given us a bond that is so strong that, at times, I forget that she didn’t grow inside me.
I feel her every pain, as if it comes from my own belly. I anticipate every health crisis before it presents itself to the doctors clinically. I advocate fiercely for her throughout each diagnosis, each prognosis, each treatment plan. And even though she is only three, she has become such a part of my life that it seems as if she has always been here with me.
In addition to my (adopted) 3-year-old daughter, I also have a 16-year-old (biological) daughter. She did grow inside me. I gave birth to her, nursed her and have watched her swiftly, without warning, grow to be a young woman. Unlike my (adopted) daughter, she has been blessed with excellent health. But as the years have flown by, I look back and remember how protective I’ve been of her. I see how intertwined our souls have always been, and how often, intuitively, she knows when I need her, and vise versa. The teen years have approached. I am proud of the quality moments I have stolen away from academics, sports and her peers that will allow me to keep our bond cemented.
I have birthed a daughter from my womb, and I have birthed a daughter from my heart. I have been blessed by Nature providing me with my 16-year-old angel, and I have been equally blessed by Nurture providing me with my near 3-year-old angel. I’m here to tell you that the emotions I feel for my two baby girls mirror each other significantly. I ask that you search inside your heart, and ponder the same.
Each of my six children has a place in my heart and holds a special place in my soul that makes them unique to my existence as “Mama.” Although each daughter has needed me in different ways, the power of our bond is similar. It’s unbreakable, it’s intuitive, it’s natural. So when the anesthesiologist comes out of surgery and comments, that my husband and I “made a beautiful daughter,” (he’s unaware she’s adopted), I have to stop for a moment and remember that God made her for us, in someone else’s body. And when a stranger stops me at the mall and tells me how much my baby girl “looks like my teenager,” I have to pause a second and remember that they are much alike, if not in looks, then in how much they are loved.
Nature vs. Nurture. Biological vs. Adopted. African American vs. Caucasian. I’m mute to the political correctness of the terms. I’m deaf to the sounds of the titles. I’m blind to the blatant differences of our appearances. My hope is for you to join me – release the clichés and just be Mama.