Being a Birth Mom Changed the Way I Parent
Parenting is not an easy job. There are many things you can do to help you prepare for the many colossal feats this task presents like, reading books, watching videos, or seeking advice from those who’ve been there/done that. While all of these options are helpful, the thing that I found prepared me most for my role as a parent was becoming a birth mom first.
A Brief Reflection
When I was 22 years old I learned I was pregnant about a month after my boyfriend and I had broken up. We did not get back together upon the discovery of this news. However, we did both go to speak to an adoption lawyer, as I had decided that choosing an adoption plan for my baby would be the best thing for her.
I chose a lovely couple who were looking to bring their first baby home. We spoke on the phone during my pregnancy and met two times before the big day in the hospital. When my daughter, M, was born in the summer of 1999 I was completely unprepared. I had not read any parenting books, watched any videos, or sought other’s advice on how to raise her because it would not be my job to do, yet.
Five Years Later
A year after I placed M in the arms of her parents I met my husband. Four years after that meeting we were welcoming our son. During the years before his arrival there were countless times when I would think of M. Every time I heard someone call for a child with her name my heart would race, and I would turn to catch a hopeful glimpse of the possibility it could be her. It never was. Whenever I would see a child near her age I would try to watch their mannerisms and movements and try to imagine my M doing the same.
My son was born in the same hospital, delivered by the same doctor as M. Aside from the matched love I immediately felt for my son as I had for M, this was where the similarities of my parenting journey ended. As a birth mom, I had to say goodbye after the two days I spent caring for and loving on my beautiful M. In contrast, on the third day after my son was born my husband and I were settling in with our amazing new baby all together at home. The stark difference of being his mom compared to being M’s mom hit me hard on that car ride home from the hospital while I sat in the back next to my son’s car seat. I had not been able to experience this with M and I somehow began to miss what never was.
All Those Little Things
Before bringing my son home I had prepared myself. I had the books, watched videos, and asked for all the advice. But once the days started to pass being HIS mom, it was the things I hadn’t prepared for that shaped the way I thought about my new role. You can read all the books you want, but when you’re up in the middle of the night with a screaming, hungry baby you aren’t prepared for the sleep-deprived day that will follow. However, something happened to me. In the middle of the chaos of being a new parent and learning about all that goes into caring for a new baby, I found clarity.
There are plenty of things to complain about as a new parent. The constant diaper changes, the feedings, the laundry, lack of sleep, and failed attempts at achieving routines. Regardless of all of this, I discovered that I actually loved every bit of it. Granted, it wasn’t always in the middle of changing that 3 a.m. diaper that I felt this overwhelming emotion. What I did grow to appreciate, was that I actually had the opportunity to do all of these things with my son. All of the things I never got to do with my M. Because of this, every feeding, changing, and hour of lost sleep took on new meaning for me.
Taking it All In
There wasn’t a moment with my son that I took for granted. For every moment with him was also a moment lost with my M. And I did not allow myself to lose sight of my good fortune to have the chance to be the mom I wished I could have been to her. It was going on walks with him in his stroller, watching him while he ate, carrying him to bed at night, laughing with him at cartoons, or simply just rocking him to sleep and not actually wanting to let go. I know so many other moms cherish these moments with their children too. But the difference for me was feeling like I had won some kind of prize every day just because I got to wake up, go down the hall, and pick up my baby each morning. I felt that way (and still do), and I felt it hard. But with my next, and third, pregnancy there was a change.
Two years after my son was born I gave birth to my second daughter. We chose not to find out the sex while I was pregnant and for some reason I had convinced myself I was having another boy. When my daughter arrived, perfect as could be, I felt ashamed. Why? What could bring on such a feeling after experiencing so much bliss raising my son? Well, I simply had not prepared myself for having another girl.
She was just as beautiful as my first daughter. And while I knew things were different this time, there were feelings reminiscent of again being in the same hospital and having just given birth to a daughter. But, “It’s not the same. I have a ring on my finger, my husband is right here with me. She’s coming home with us”, were all thoughts running through my head as I tried to remind myself that this time was not like the first. When they first placed her on me and announced, “It’s a girl!” I felt numb. I wanted to feel that instant joy I felt when they had placed my son in my arms, but I was afraid.
Of course, once again, that third day came, and by then we were safe and sound at home with our wonderful little girl, watching as her big brother doted on her. It wasn’t until then that I could feel that security with her. I was finally able to feel like she was truly mine and I didn’t have to be afraid to fall in love with her because she was there to stay.
Things Lost and Things Gained
It has been almost 22 years since I gave birth to my first daughter, M. She is old enough now that I have begun to start the process of trying to reconnect with her through the adoption agency. Because I was fortunate enough to have a son and another daughter after M, I have experienced the amazing joys motherhood can bring. Every laugh I missed with her, every haircut, class party, sleepover, kisses for boo-boos on knees, concerts, practices, games, and yes, even all the dirty diapers, I missed every single bit of it that I didn’t get to have with M. Because I know, after 17 years of getting to have all of that with my other two, those are the precious things that you get to do, and that makes you a parent.
Becoming a birth mom first taught me to appreciate all the small moments of parenthood. To relish in the moments I am fortunate enough to have with my second and third child. All the moments M’s adoptive parents have gotten to share with her. This is the gift of adoption and of parenthood, just getting to be in these children’s lives.
If you are just starting out on your parenting journey or even if you’re already ten years in, let me offer this advice. Be in the moment with your kids. Every single moment. Even the ones that drive you crazy! Because even though you may not know what you’re doing or how you might get through to the next day, it’s all about appreciating the opportunity to be able to make those decisions. To recognize what a gift it is to actually be a parent, in whatever capacity you came into the role. To wake up each morning, walk down the hall and get to see your child every day, that’s really the best part.
As we approach Mother’s Day take a moment to reflect on your journey to parenthood. For an adoptive parent, this journey may have been years in the making, while for a birth mom it was an unplanned occurrence that resulted in the creation of a family for someone else. No matter the road you took or may even still be on, adoptive parents often struggle to find a way to connect with a birth mom. I will let you know that it can be as easy as including her in those small moments, the ones she sacrificed and misses every day. Pictures, texts, or emails, anything that reminds her what a gift it truly is to be a birth mom.
Laura Tuzzio is a writer, wife, mom of two, and proud birth mom of one. She shares her story to inspire and educate anyone touched by adoption.