I can’t decide what’s right some days. Is it that I love the woman I should hate or that I hate the woman I should love? But then, how could I feel so strongly about a woman I have never met? A woman I do not know? How is that possible? It’s possible, you see, because we have something in common. We share a bond. She gave birth to my son.
My son was born positive for drugs. Lots of them. He experienced horrific and painful symptoms of withdrawal. He spent more than 100 days in a neonatal intensive care unit, fighting for his life. His neonatal abstinence score was the highest the hospital had ever seen, a record he continues to hold until this day, so I’m told. Not the kind of record you’d celebrate, but you get the idea of how serious this was for my son. I am told that my son was inconsolable then. He cried constantly and reacted to even the subtlest changes in lights, sounds and even smells. He struggled to breath properly and the full extent of the drug exposure was in constant question.
So you see? This is why I’m stuck in this war with myself. Should I hate this woman (whom I have never met) for doing this to my son? Or should I love her for giving life to my precious child?
I hate her when my son’s mouth struggles to form the sentences he has planned in his head. I hate her when my son can’t control his body from moving and wiggling. I hated her the day I sat in a medical office and listened to a doctor tell me that my son had autism. And when my happy little child screamed in pain because he had horrible cramps piercing through his legs, I hated her. I hated her on all of those days.
But I don’t always feel this way. And that is hard for even me to understand. Sometimes I love her. Sometimes I’m thankful for her. Sometimes I hope that more than anything in the world she is healthy, happy and at peace. I love her when two little arms wrap around my neck in a hug that he claims he’s too old for these days. I love her when my son explores his world and sees the best in it. I am thankful for her when my son fills the room with joy, erupting in laughter by telling jokes. (I like to say that he got that wicked sense of humor from me, but maybe it was her. Maybe it was both of us.) I love her a lot. Probably more than I hate her.
Adoption is a wonderful thing. It’s also complex and stressful and scary. You have been trusted with this child…a child from another woman’s womb, but from your own heart. You hope you can get this right. For me, I didn’t feel like I was “saving” my son or that I was his parent in shining armor. It was more selfish than that. It’s simple, really. I met him and I fell in love with him. He wiggled his way right into my heart and never left. I wanted and needed the opportunity to be his family. I take the responsibility of this privilege very seriously.
Being adopted myself and working in the child welfare field, I feel even more pressure to make sure that my son has a healthy understanding of his own adoption story. I tell him about his birth family and why they couldn’t keep him safe. This story adapts and changes as his understanding grows. I tell him about foster care and about how he was sick when he was just a little baby. I tell him that his tummy mommy loved him then, and still loves him today. I hope that he will grow respect and a special kind of love for his birth mother. But secretly, I hope that he loves me more.
Do you see the dilemma? My conflict? It’s confusing. It’s complicated. But it’s also simple. I’m still figuring it all out. And that’s okay because I am filled with love, respect and gratitude for this woman every time my sweet, funny child beams his lopsided smile. A lopsided smile that probably looks a lot like hers. A smile that she gave to our son.