I Don't Have A Birth Story To Tell You

by Danielle Helzer
Stepan Popov / iStock

I don’t have a birth story. There are no sweet post-birth photos or memories of my husband gazing at me in admiration, in awe of the incredible act of childbirth. Perhaps our children’s adoption days will be that moment for my husband, but those moments feel so ordinary and less monumental than the physical birth of a child.

I worry that when the chaos of life bites down on us, during those times when I lose my shit—when I’m folding mountains of laundry, bra-less, in my pajamas at 6 p.m.—I worry my husband will look at me and see just a woman, bra-less, in pajamas, folding laundry, not one who braved searing pain to give him the greatest gift outside of grace. I fear he won’t have a defining moment to look back on to revive his sense of love for me when I’m at my worst.

I have no pictures of my kids as infants, no memories of my kids’ first smiles, their first steps, their first words. We had no cute baby phase. Our kids came to us at ages 4 ½ and 5; their story prior to their adoption is largely a mystery speckled with tragedy and trauma. When my frustration with their behaviors takes hold of my nerves, I wonder: Would I be so frustrated with them if I had birthed them or cared for them at their most vulnerable age? I never endured a screaming baby at 3 in the morning, and I wonder if I’d be more equipped to deal with my kids’ fits at age 7 if I had dealt with them when they were toddlers or babies, an age when screaming and crying is expected.

I don’t have sweet stories to tell my kids about how their dad and I prepared for them, how we meticulously decorated their nurseries, and picked out their names. We had two months to plan for our first child and three weeks for our second. And because much of their early life is unknown or steeped in stress, we’ve had to rewrite their narratives. I say things like, “If Momma grew you in her belly, she would’ve sung sweet songs to you each night.” We rock them at night since we didn’t get to rock them when they were babies and tell them that we would’ve kissed their squishy baby cheeks.

Therapists tell me this is supposed to help, but I don’t feel better, and I don’t think my kids do either. I search their faces to see if they feel the same sadness I feel, because despite being in a loving and stable home, my kids still have experienced a level of loss that most people haven’t.

I don’t have a birth story, but I do have much. I have a family—a husband who never left my side during the tidal waves of grief brought by infertility. I have two kids who have taught me more about resilience and forgiveness than my 29 years of life have. I don’t have a birth story, but I do have a story about becoming a mother and learning to love children not of my flesh. I have a story that connects me to women desperate to be mothers but facing the news of infertility, to parents struggling to give their love away to foster children, and to couples hopefully waiting for an adoptive placement.

I have been given much, and I realize that I should be grateful. I should tie this piece up in a little bow and end with #soblessed. But I can’t…because sometimes I still ache in my longing for a more normal family story for my kids and for me. Maybe you’re right here with me in this weird place of wanting to be happy for all you have but still longing for something you probably will never have. If this is you: You’re not alone, and maybe together we can find some sort of peace in this solidarity.