Into the deep end...

Today, while I was hunched over the drawing board, deep in my work, the mailman pushed the latest copy of Cookie magazine through our mail slot. (Does anyone else love that magazine?) I didn’t discover it until hours later when, taking a break from work, I curled up on the couch to read. Flipping to the literary section, I opened to a wonderful illustration of a frightened child drifting in what appears to be a flimsy box on top of a dark, roiling sea. The section, written by mother and author Eyelet Waldman, lists several books she recommends for moms, all of which explore the darker and more fearful realms of motherhood.
In her reviews, she touts the bravery of mothers/authors who are able to break through their own walls and lay open their most tender and vulnerable innards, their darkest hearts and their worst fears.
I have my period this weekend — always a weak spot for me, both physically and mentally. These are the two days out of every month when my skin is the thinnest and my emotions perilously close to the surface. So I thought... Why not?
This might be a good time to cop to my own greatest fears about motherhood.

- Waldman’s reviews are concise and beautifully stated, and she has hit on a couple of my hot buttons. One thing she mentions, and for which I give her a lot of credit, is that she herself has written about the fact of loving her husband more than her child. This is a big one for me, because (you may have noticed) I love my husband very deeply. Although we’ve been together for six years, we have only been married for a year and a half and are technically still newlyweds. So yes, I do have a fear of loving my husband more than my child. It seems wrong somehow, and yet it seems right. As a couple, we need to maintain our own love and respect for one another as a top priority - not only for ourselves, but for the sake of our child. We will be, after all, her example - her standard of a loving and functional relationship.

- Directly on the heels of that fear comes another, equally as daunting: that I might love my child more than my husband.
My marriage has turned out to be the biggest surprise in my life so far, and consequently my greatest ongoing wonder. Its joy and its power and its unfaltering comfort are with me every day, and this is something I don’t want to lose. My hope is that our combined love for our child will actually add to the wonder and strength of our marriage, and make the two of us larger by the addition of another. But we have been warned (by those who care about us, and value our union) of the pressures that a child can put on a marriage. I know that the warnings are well-meant, and I know that some people fear that, by taking on a special-needs adoption, we could be putting the security of our marriage at risk. I don’t believe that this is the case. We are two strong and grounded people, we know what we’re taking on, and we aren’t taking it lightly. I believe this adoption will only make us stronger and more tightly bonded. But I’m human, and I know that we will face enormous challenges, challenges the impact of which I can’t yet imagine. In my weaker moments I worry that these challenges will dissolve the intensity of the joy we have now in our lives.

- Another good point that Waldman brings up is a mother’s loss of identity. She really touched a soft spot in me by mentioning the novel The Awakening (first published in 1889) by Kate Chopin. This is a book that I discovered at the tender age of 18, and which had an enormous impact on my psyche. It was really the first book that caused me to become fiercely protective of my own identity and my independence as a woman. I truly believe that The Awakening set off a train of thought in me which lead to the failure of my first marriage. By that time (at the age of 24) I had convinced myself that nothing could compel me to give up my identity either for a husband or for children. I had such a great aversion to the possibility of giving my independence up for others in my life that I had become incapable of truly bonding with my husband or of forming a family with him. I should not, at that point, have agreed to marry, but I did, and we both suffered the consequences.
That aversion to commitment was formed by fear, my own fear that someone else might take away my identity and my independence. I did not understand, at the time, that there was another way: that one could exist in a partnership and in a family without “losing” onesself to that family.
By the time I met and married my current husband (nearly two decades later) I had come fully into my own identity, and realized that there was no danger of my being consumed by someone else’s persona. I was much more confident, and much less fearful. The fact that I no longer feared losing myself allowed me to open myself completely to another person. Hence the success of my current marriage.
My hope is that that confidence, that fuller understanding of myself, and that acceptance of my husband as his own person within our marriage, will also allow me to open myself up as easily to the unique identity of our child, and that I will be able to move into that relationship without fears or barriers, without either losing my own identity or trying to control or impose myself upon the individual identity of our child.

- Remaining on the subject of husbands and wives, one of my greatest fears is that our daughter will attach instantly to my husband and not to me. M. is a magician with children. He’s famous for it. He’s gregarious, warm, and a natural entertainer. The kiddos love him instantly and universally. I, on the other hand, do not have a natural way with the little ones. I was an only child and grew up among adults, with few other children in my environment. I’m also a loner and an introvert.
I am lucky to have the love and adoration of our niece, V. - but our niece is a free spirit and a very self-confident child. She is also eight years old - old enough to admire me for my independent spirit rather than for my entertainment value. I am not the Pied Piper of all toddlers - far from it. My husband knows this, and hopes that Flynn will attach to me first and foremost. But the reason that he hopes for this is that he knows that it would devastate me to be turned away. He know that he’s tougher, that he can handle it, that he can wait his turn to win her over - and this also makes me feel ashamed and insufficient.

- Finally (and this is the most trite of fears), I fear that I will not be a natural mother. We all want to be one of those people who say “I knew the moment I saw her/him that he/she was my child, and that we were meant for each other”. But most of us in the adoption community have heard the other kind of story as well. We have heard of the mothers who feel alienated and disconnected from their child in the beginning. Selfishly, I don’t want that to be me. I want the instant connection, the instant love, the feeling that I would give my life for this little person from here on out. I know logically that this might not be the case, and I only hope that, if so, I will have the grace, patience and courage to wait it out and learn to love, right alongside my child, who will also (one hopes) be learning to love me in return.

My gut feeling is that I will be a good mother, that I will bond with our daughter as tightly and as easily as my mother bonded with me. I sense that motherhood will come to me as instinctively as web-spinning comes to a spider (yes, I’ve still got Charlotte’s Web on the brain). My feeling is that my daughter will be the one thing in my life that I will look out for instantly, naturally and always, before myself. If that means I have to give up a bit of myself, then so be it. I know I will still be me.

And I also know that I could be wrong. I could be barking up the wrong tree. Life is always capable of throwing you a curve ball at the least expected of moments.
If my worst fears come to light, if I have to change my outlook, if the compass of my life swivels in a new direction, I only hope that I am flexible enough and strong enough to face whatever comes with grace, honesty and humility.


Janelle said...

I've stopped in here a time or two and this is my first time commenting on your lovely blog.

You've culled some very real & valid feelings and fears. Motherhood will add a whole different facet to life as you know it. You may experience some of the things you describe - but I expect you'll emerge changed, strong, and full of joy.

That's my sincere wish for you!


Vivian M said...

As a mother who was rejected violently by her adoptive daughter the first few years, I can tell you it was not easy. I bonded, she did not. She tested that bond.
My fears did come true, but with patience, love and understanding, and the help of professionals, we made it through. Attachment issues are a very real possibility, and something you think you are prepared for - that is, until it actually happens to your child. But there is a positive side: that which hurts you can make you stronger. We emerged a stronger family, a more united family. Every precious show of affection is sincere, and well earned. And the laughter and joy that fills our home now is priceless.
There is nothing to fear really, but the fear itself. Life has a way of happening regardless. It's how you deal with it that makes all the difference.
I sincerely hope none of your fears come true, and that all you wishes for your child and family become a reality.

TBG Happenings said...

Swimming out to you with a raft friend:)

The best "mommy" advice I ever got was "your family can only be as strong as your relationship with your spouse." The reality it is tough some
times...but there is nothing wrong with teaching our children that their parents need "husband and wife time" (often easier said...)

You have shared feelings and fears that most waiting moms worry about. Especially those being honest and realistic. Acknowledging that they exist is half the battle!

sweet-P's Mum said...

love cookie...even though it is too 'rich' for me...but the articles are good.

Maia, well said, it is always good to look inside yourself at your fears and expectations...that way you are more 'prepared' for any eventuality.

I could never say it as eloquently as you, but I mirror most of what you say in my own questions, and believe me, it is no different when it is you second child...except there is another question...

Will I love my second child as much as my first?


tiffany said...

What a thoughtful and transparent post. The things you wonder about-those pesky unkowns-those are real things. Some will be issues, some won't, but all are possibilities. Having adopted 3 times now, I have experienced different scenarios or different versions of the same scenarios with each. :) I think it's great and important to consider lots of possibilities and your possible reactions to those possibilities. That will leave you more prepared than the person who just shows up looking for their cutie pie baby.

I think I was at my best with our first adoption when I was the most aware and concerned with the different possibilities. With subsequent adoptions, I became more and more comfortable in my knowledge that all would be well in TIME. Because the bottom line is that TIME is the main resolver to most adoption related issues.

I look forward to watching you transform into a mother. You are going to be a fabulous one, that is just so clear.

Oh and since you touched on something that was one of my biggest fears in the beginning, let me just say, I believe your child will adore you. I mean I know your child will adore you eventually, but I hope it happens quickly for you. I am also not a toddler magnet. :) But kiddos want/need/crave...a mother. And while there are also some tricks to it (imo), and I know that sometimes they initially resist (due to their difficult beginnings...not due to anything about you personally), I think that the majority of the time, they respond quickly to having a mommy of their own. All three of our kiddos took immediately to me and although they adore their fun and loving daddy, there is no replacement for mommy. And that is as it should be really. :)

krj said...

I think the love you will both share with your daugther will, as you more eloquently stated, only strengthen the love in your marriage...and I think she will give you an even greater sense of who you are, also strengthening your own identity, while reminding you that it extends far outside of you, and rests often in the ones you love :)

GREAT post.

Tish said...

Beautiful post. In the short 6 months since adopting, I have experienced all but one of the fears you mention. In the moment it is difficult, but you either take action to change your course...or wait it out and things just change naturally.

Best wishes with your adoption. Flynn is a beautiful name.

Barbara said...

Oh man, I remember in our first adoption group (CCAI #133!!!) a girl who velcroed herself to dad and totally rejected the mom. Mom was so devastated but just kept plugging away. On day 7, the girl let her mom carry her and we were all in tears and cheering. The unknown is scary but forewarned is forearmed! You can always convince a baby that you're lovable!

Tamara said...

I can't give any advice from real experience yet, but I think worrying about the hard questions now makes you both better prepared to deal with issues if they do arise and grateful for not having to if you're lucky enough to not need to.

In retrospect some things will probably be surprisingly hard and some far easier than you dreamed, but I don't doubt for a second that you are up for the challenge.

Yoli said...

You are an artist. You are the master of improvisation. When it is your cue to get on stage, you will make the part your own. Don't fret none. Eat chocolate.

"I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me."
The Awakening

Julie said...

So beautiful. I wish more people would look internally at these feelings. I know I've had them all at different stages with our first adoption and I will probably feel the same for our second.

Stacie said...


God how i remember these feelings so vividly.... one year ago on March 5th we got our referral for Z. Actually once you get the referral i think you will have less time to worry.... you get so wrapped up in the devilish details and logistics.

vivian m. said it very well. Z HATED me at first and would scream bloody murder everytime i looked at her. She only wanted my husband.... the best thing we ever did was force my husband to go do the paperwork as soon as we got back to the hotel on "gotcha day" and i stayed in the room and plugged through it with lots of cheerios and sweet water. By the time he came back she was smiles and decided i was the primary care giver. I think that is very important. Also, WEAR HER, WEAR HER, WEAR HER!!! Facing you and close to your heart. I stopped doing this too soon when we got home and it was a big mistake. I know Flynn may be older but i would still do it.

I still doubt the mother that i am, the mother i will be. Once you hold her in your arms, though, you will never doubt your love for her again.

We have been dealing with attach issues and ptsd with z.... i thought that if i did all the things that the professionals rec'd for attach in the beginning i could beat it. i needed help and i got it and now we are slowly progressing even further. like vivian m said- it is a reality, one that many refuse to acknowledge even when it is staring them in the face.

For me, my love for my husband is conditional. That might sound shitty, but there are certain things that if done, would result in him not being my husband any longer (not that i think these things would ever happen...just saying). This is not true for Z- my love for her has no conditions and no MATTER what she does in her life she will always be my daughter.

This is just how I feel.

when are you expecting your referral? You will have a whole new set of questions and angst once you see that face... but the salvation is that you will be so busy that you will not have time to drive yourself nuts!

I cannot wait to see who your daughter will be.... you will be amazed at how the red thread and destiny works. So excited for you.