I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to grow a human for 9 months, then birth it, and listen to the world throw advice. But here are a few things I think may be different about adoption than birthing a biological baby.
Our parents didn’t wait in the hospital waiting room and light cigars.
Our parents waited with us for sure–a year and a half. But when it came down to delivery, my son didn’t come from my body. We heard over the phone that he was born and healthy. We were thrilled but with open hands, knowing he may not be ours two days later. Our parents waited to meet him until we left Texas (we had to wait for paperwork to clear before leaving the state) and then waited while we bonded for 6 more weeks. Becoming instant parents was wonderful but also took consideration from others to understand we were catching up on 9 months of not knowing our li’l guy.
Cocooning; “I went to the county fair when my baby was 3 days old, etc”
Our worker had stressed the importance of “cocooning”–limiting his sights and sounds so he learns us. It really sunk in when he came home. Every sight and sound was new to Jeremiah. Nothing from his en-utero experience was still there. His little mind couldn’t express to us that he missed the familiar voices, smell, and touch, so we had to take into account this was probably true. We had lots of support and lots of meals delivered. It was a great 6 weeks of bonding. AND IT WORKED! At 5 weeks he turned his head towards our voices! When we finally busted out of the cocoon and left the house, I got lots of stories of “Wow, I took my baby everywhere right away, or, “He’s not as fragile as you think.” They were all supposed to be encouraging I think, but this made me realize adoption bonding is different. It took, and still takes, work and consideration I would not think about if we did have 9 months together.
“You look great!”
Sometimes I just say thank you and sometimes I say “oh we adopted.” I loved walking around with him as a newborn and seeing expressions as somebody would say something about my body or postpartum recovery. It made us laugh every time. But I’m pretty darn sure I would never mention a woman’s body who has a newborn in her arms, no matter what. Pregnancy scars are battle scars of bringing life into the world and our culture is twisted.
However, my favorite story: he was 6 days old and we went out to get breakfast after his first doctors appointment. I was wearing him in a wrap, which covered my entire mid-section. A waitress walked up and after chatting about him, she suggested I need to buy a certain postpartum shirt because it was sexy and she added “I know its really hard to feel sexy right now?” Jay was rolling. I said “yeah, I’m really tired. May we have more coffee?” Hilarious.
“Is he healthy?”
But this question. When I have met newborn babies, I usually ask who he looks like (N/A for our situation), how was labor (fair question), how tired is mom (totally relevant for us too) but never have I asked “Wow congratulations, but is he healthy?” This assumes that most adopted babies are not healthy, and most adoptive moms don’t live healthy lifestyles. Stereotypes. But maybe this is a normal question for all births? But probably not.
She is truly the most selfless, brave, and wise person we may ever know and we will uphold that every day we get to look at her tiny reflection in our arms.
“Is your husband black?” “Where’s he really from?”
Ah, adoption has forever warped my brain of what is “normal” in pregnancy. But really, I get questions about his race differently than I thought I would. Mostly, if Jay is black, or how black is he, and what part of Africa is he from? I say Texas and watch the faces fall. I often forget that most babies look like their parents because to us, he is our son and our normal. I love how God has already used our multiethnic tiny family to bust up preconceived concepts of family and race.
Sarah is an Oklahoma native and social worker who loves a challenge and holiday hype. She plans to teach her son to longboard, beautify things, and be fully alive. She blogs with her husband Jay at Bringing Home Baby Key.
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