I remember when I had my first meeting with my adoption agency in January. I had to explain how I had come to the decision to adopt and why I wanted to adopt an older child. I remember telling the program director that this was an incredibly bittersweet time in my life; I had a few short months before been told by a reproductive specialist that I would not be able to have biological children without the help of a whole frigging school of engineering and even then the window of possibility was ridiculously low. I had always planned to adopt, but I thought I wanted to have a biological child with my husband.
Now I didn’t have a husband and I couldn’t have babies. Awesome.
The realization was a real whammy on my womanhood. I never thought I would be that person. I cried; I cried a lot.
Adoption was never a plan B; it was always a part of the plan; only now it would be the plan. And it would just be me. Making the decision was easy actually. Making the decision gave me such relief and happiness. It made me happy. It made me excited. It scared the ish out of me. But I was starting the best year of my life, the best year ever.
I thought that my family would be delighted. To some degree they were; but I think my decision was perplexing. I hadn’t talked to them about my plans to adopt over the years, so it seemed like a knee jerk response rather than something that had been building over time. It wasn’t, but it seemed like it. It took time for my folks to warm up to things.
I shared with some very close friends; I tried to make new friends who were somehow connected to adoption. I tried to create some support systems to help me through this next phase of my life. I tried to fill gaps that neither Grammy nor Grandpa were quite ready to fill, despite feeling like I had a very, very specific need for their approval and support. I didn’t need their approval, but I still wanted it. I desperately wanted their support, even when I couldn’t describe what it should look like, sound like or be like. I just wanted them, badly. It’s not that they aren’t supportive, but we just haven’t quite gotten it right yet.
In the meantime I mind the gap with close friends and other family members. This has been amazing and rewarding and just everything. I’m incredibly grateful for the kindness and generosity shown to me during this last year. I’m a chatty girl, but I can’t really articulate what my friends and family mean to me. It’s just awesome to know love like this.
Yet, even in the midst of such joy and love and kindness, my own search for approval, acceptance and support from my folks is so incredibly deep that I still cry.
Today, some of my closest friends showered me. It was so lovely. It was fun and silly and yummy and loving. I had my “Paper Pregnant” t-shirt on. We got to drink wine (‘cause I ain’t preggers)! We told funny stories. I got good advice. There were lots of hugs, some tears and lots and lots of laughter. It was almost everything I had hoped it would be. I was surrounded by close friends and family who were able to make it.
But Grammy wasn’t there. She didn’t come. She told me she wasn’t coming because it was cold. I thought she would change her mind. I thought surely she would want to be a part of celebrating the permanent arrival of her first grandchild. I hoped she would call. I hoped she would surprise me. I hoped she would acknowledge this special time for me, for all of us. I hoped and I prayed and I wished. I wondered if she would’ve come if I was physically expecting. I wondered a lot of things.
My daughter has never really known her mother. Sometimes she bristles about mothering despite desperately wanting a mom. She sees me as her mom. Her expectations of me as mom, well, I don’t know if they are based in any kind of reality or not. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing as a new mom. This mom thing is serious business.
So Grammy’s mommyhood is my core template. She was and is a great mom and I have big shoes to fill. I will do things differently; I have to for any number of reasons. But I want to be like her and I want to her to know that I want to be like her, that I am desperate for her approval and support. I want her to know that any frustration I have about her is mostly based on wondering if I can ever measure up and whether she believes I have a shot at measuring up. I have so much to learn and while I don’t want her to tell me what to do, I want to lean in and just soak her up like a sponge and be able to wring out her wisdom with my daughter Hope.
But as friends and family offered advice, support and coaching today, she wasn’t there. It was a huge, unspoken, uneasy (for me) gap. It was a hole. It was a longing and wishing and praying that I just swallowed; and I tried to step over this massive hole, or at least inch around the side of it.
So, much like the day I sat in the adoption agency office and explained the bittersweet emotions I felt about how I got to this place in my life, I find myself in the aftermath of my shower with a mix of complicated emotions about what happened and what didn’t happen. I had and have this amazing, wonderful group of people around me who love me and care about me and who help me mind the gap.
But all I really, really want is my own mommy. I love her; I adore her actually. Even at 40 years of age, I want to crawl up in her lap, have her stroke my afro and say, “There there, it’s ok, you got this. I believe in you.” I know she believes that, at least I hope she does. I just hope and wish that one day, either I’ll have that moment with her or that I just…stop wanting what I can’t get. I know my mom loves me and she’s a great mom, but I’ve got to be sure to take care of myself in ways that meaningfully plug that hole of what feels like rejection, because I know that’s not what it is. I guess she’s got her own stuff to wrestle with. I just don’t want my self-care to turn into outright avoidance; I don’t want that. I don’t like that as a solution to minding my gap.
As always, I try to see the lesson in this. This yearning for mom is intrinsic; it’s only natural right? Hope wants me. She has a mom gap that is infinitely larger, wider and deeper than mine. I actually have something and someone to draw on. I know that it’s not fair to expect my own mom to be my end all, be all and I don’t think I can be Hope’s end all, be all. I know I will disappoint her horribly. I know she will have gaps from her biological mother and gaps that I create because I just didn’t get it right. Like my mom, I’ll try. I’ll try to be present. I’ll try not to disappoint. I’ll wonder if the bar is too high or too low and whether I’m supposed to jump over it or limbo under it. I’ll triumph, and I’ll fail. I’ll cry; she’ll cry; we’ll cry.
As I try to fill Hope’s gaps, while not creating too many of my own, I hope that she will still love me, and be gracious in the face of my inability to meet whatever mild or wild expectations she might have of me.
My shower was lots of fun, and I’m choosing at this moment to just focus on the love and joy expressed today. I’m so ridiculously blessed. All of this other emotional messiness over my mom gap will pass and fade away with time.
At least I hope so.