this is motherhood {too}: a journey of adoption and deployment.

February 3, 2014, This is Motherhood Too, 2 Comments

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I became a mother in a quick and rather unconventional way.

I was married just less than a year and settling into my first real job as a pediatric speech therapist after getting a master’s degree, and motherhood was something much further along the timeline I had planned for my life. I claimed to trust God with my life, but of course I had a course charted for myself. As usual, God had other plans.

And so, I found myself in a hospital chapel with a social worker, a 16-year-old girl, her mother and my husband. A little newborn boy in a teal and brown carseat sat next to us. Tears were seeping from everyone’s eyes as we read the poems the social worker had picked out for us about our commitment and our bravery. I’m not sure any of us even knew what we were saying. I watched my baby’s birthmom walk away sobbing, clutching a green body pillow against the spot where her belly used to be rounded. We snapped the carseat in place after a few fumbled attempts and drove off in silence.

We were parents.  

It took me time to fall into the motherhood gig, to go from Mother to Mama in my mind. It was all so sudden and complicated with family ties, the obvious desire but inability of the birth mom to keep her/my baby, our complete lack of preparation for this life change and the transition to being a stay at home mom. I wanted to do it all perfectly and with deep gratitude because of the remarkable gift that had been placed in my arms that hot August day. But it took time to feel I was truly a mama, as much as I loved that little baby.

I felt guilty every time I complained about being tired, every time I sighed internally at another diaper blowout. But then I’d look at his perfectly round head, the chubby rolls that passed for his thighs and his trusting deep brown eyes and I’d be humbled again by the fact that he was indeed a pure gift. I thanked God for His grace to us even as I asked Him for patience and strength to navigate the complicated waters of adoption and being a first-time mom.

Then nine short months after he was born, we saw a positive result on a pregnancy test. I went through my first pregnancy toting a baby on my hip, chasing a newly mobile toddler and napping every afternoon after I put him down for his nap. I was thrilled about having a baby and I didn’t have the time or energy to be nervous about the fact I would have two children so close together in age. I simply smiled when people would comment, “Isn’t that so funny?  Whenever people can’t have a baby and adopt, they always get pregnant!” because that wasn’t our story but it didn’t really matter.

I pushed my daughter out two weeks early with my husband at my side and as she gushed into the world, I could not stop sobbing. I loved her instantly and part of it was the stretching room her brother had made in my mama’s heart. There were scary complications after her birth but she was perfect and I recovered quickly. Just eighteen short months after I walked out of that first hospital unsure of how to be a mom, my arms were full with two babies and my heart was bursting. I realized my fear that I would love her more because she came from my body was completely unfounded. Instead of boundaries and delineations of my mother’s love, it simply expanded exponentially.

We found out during my pregnancy that my husband would be deployed to Iraq for a year; I did the calculations and realized that when his plane flew off to the desert, I would be left behind with a sitting-up baby girl and a two-year-old little boy. In that year alone of being Mama to an active toddler and a baby, I found my heart. I found the strength I knew was inside of me and I fought hard for it. I snuggled and cuddled and fed and taught, sharing it all with the love of my life in his desert camo through emails and phone calls and an occasional Skype session. The year passed slowly as I watched that sitting-up baby girl learn to crawl and walk and eat and talk.  I watched that two-year-old boy learn to run and count and sing ABC’s and talk in long sentences before my husband finally returned safely to me. He marvelled over their changes, and we learned to love and parent in tandem again.

Life settled down into a predictable rhythm. I felt my heart expand again and again as I learned anew what the mantle of motherhood really is and as I observed the wondrous and complex little people God had given me. A positive pregnancy test two years after my husband’s return surprised us and filled me with hope and a tiny bit of fear. Was I up to the challenge of another child? Would I encounter the same complications again? I watched my waistline expand little by little and I nourished the life inside of me even as I sought to extinguish my doubts and fears.

However, at my twelve-week checkup, the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. As soon as I saw the screen, I knew what maybe I had always known. It was empty. A dark hole. There was no baby and my body had played a cruel magic trick on me for nearly three months.

The doctor called it a “blighted ovum” meaning the egg had fertilized and implanted and grew a placenta (which produced the hormones that made my body think it was pregnant) but no fetus ever developed. I reeled a bit, having no idea such a thing was even possible. I had been miserably soldiering on for weeks through early pregnancy symptoms, waiting to hear that quick whir-whir-whir of a baby heartbeat at my checkup only to hear silence. We chose to have my empty womb cleaned out through surgery and we wait now to see if my hormones will return to normal so we can decide whether we want to try again.

My journey to embracing my role as mama to two amazing hearts has not been without struggles or doubts. The more mamas I meet, the more stories I hear, the more I realize that motherhood isn’t clearly defined or neat and tidy. It keeps shattering hearts wide open with its immense power and its inevitable teaching of what love really is.

this is motherhood {too} an army wife's journey of becoming a mama. #adoptioniWritten by Julie.

This is from the collective writing project: this is motherhood {too}. Do you have a story you’d like to submit?

2 Comments

  • Reply angiefirefighter March 1, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    Such a wonderfully transparent and brave story. It’s a gift to read.

  • Reply Jolie February 6, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    Thank you! This makes my heart glad & I like to feel connected.

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