We handed them a bag of lukewarm McDonald’s food and some Christmas sugar cookies and they handed us our daughter. While we were taking in all of F’s perfectness for the first time, her birth parents were trying to nourish their physically and emotionally exhausted selves with nutritionally questionable food. This moment was both the most profound and most surreal of my life.
How did I go from years of absolute certainty that having a child wasn’t the thing for me to years of longing and desperation to have a child? To many it seemed as if it was an overnight change, but, more accurately, it was the gradual growth of trust in myself. Trust that my heart could open up and hold all the love a child needed. Trust that I could share my time and myself. Trust that my child wouldn’t spend years in therapy as an adult trying to undo my well-intended actions. However, after years of being so certain that I didn’t want children, I was suspicious of this new longing and just sat on it for a while, like a mother hen sitting on her egg. Once I was confident that this newfound desire to be a mom was legitimate and not fleeting, I just knew I would become pregnant in no time. I’m the kind of person who sets a goal and works hard to successfully achieve that goal. Plus, hadn’t I learned during the reproduction unit in sixth grade that just looking at a boy the wrong way could cause you to become pregnant?
Apparently I wasn’t paying close enough attention during the reproduction unit because this whole getting pregnant endeavor wasn’t going as I had planned. During five long years of countless doctor appointments, a miscarriage, a high school couple who changed their mind about placing their son for adoption and a painfully quiet “adoption hotline,” I had plenty of opportunities to ponder if maybe something bigger than me was telling me that I really wasn’t cut out for this mom job after all. Maybe I really was too selfish to give up lazy afternoons spent reading on the sofa for hours on end. Maybe I was too consumed with my job. Maybe all my worry about eating organic food and minimizing exposure to plastic really would cause my child to seek out years of therapy.
Despite these worries and doubts, the constant lack of parenthood on the horizon just seemed to make my desire for a child grow even stronger. Christmas was approaching. I was doing my best to muster up enthusiasm for a holiday centered around children while my life remained childless. Just a few months earlier, I was certain this would be the Christmas that we filled a stocking for our son or daughter, not just our dog. Now I found myself wondering how I could have been so foolish as to be hopeful again after so many disappointments. My husband and I had already decided to take a long, honest look at things in January and most likely start shutting down all of our efforts to become parents, accepting our lives as they were and trying to move on. After all, we still had the lives we thought were so rich and great before that we didn’t even think we needed children in them. But even with all the fullness provided by friendships, hobbies and careers, now there seemed to be an emptiness that only a child could fill. Somehow we’d have to try and find a way to make our “enough” enough again.
Then the phone rang, just twelve days before Christmas, and I was, once again, foolish or not, hopeful that my Christmas wish might come true after all.
Read Part II tomorrow