In the world of families, what is “real”?
Before I met OmegaDotter, I feared the dreaded “I hate you!” I worried what I would do. How I would feel. Would the words pierce me like a spear through the heart? Would I fall into a decline, an amorphous depression, which would spread through my life like a big black blob?
OmegaDotter, being a toddler, gets told, on many occasions, “No.” Or, “NO!” Or, “OmegaDotter, I have told you ‘NO!’, and I mean NO!”
On these occasions, OmegaDotter’s lovely rosebud lips develop a lovely trembly pout, and she says, with a flounce in her voice, “You’re not my friend!”
The first time this happened, out of my mouth popped the words, “No, I’m not your ‘friend’. I am your mother!”
No trauma. No misery. No great big black blob spreading throughout my life to taint every waking minute.
So, the word “real” has great emotional implications in the minds of adoptive parents to be, especially those who are coming from years of infertility. The phrase, “You’re not my real mom!” conjures up fears, curdles the emotions. There’s an ongoing debate on almost any adoption list I am on, wherein adoptive mothers debate the phrase “real mom”. There’s a certain defensiveness. “I am the ‘real mom’!” comes the battle cry. There’s a group that denies the role of a birthmother (rarely do people discuss the birthfather or the remainder of the family). There’s a group that very carefully limns the role, talking about the birthmother in terms that put her into a very distant realm–phrases like Rosie O’Donnell’s “tummy lady” tend to crop up amongst this group, or “lady in China”. There’s a group that buys whole-heartedly into the Primal Wound philosophy, that all adoptive children are emotionally broken from the original abandonment.
On the blog of an infertile woman who is adopting that I frequent, there is a discussion of some of the things she recently said about adoption versus biological birth, prompted by pregnancy dreams. Those in the depths of struggling with IF race to her rescue. Those who have adopted race to defend the sanctity of the adoption bond. And in the midst of all of this, someone trying to reassure her about the “real” thing says, “Real has nothing to do with DNA.”
Um. Well, that’s not so, in my mind.
“Real” is a child who doesn’t look like you.
“Real” is a child who may have medical issues you haven’t got a clue about, which could rear their heads, ferociously, at a later date.
“Real” is a child who is into gymnastics, in a family where everyone sits around reading books, and “exercise” is a foul word. Or a child who is born wanting to play with numbers, in a family where poetry is a guiding principle. Or a child who constantly makes music, in a family where the children have always been into sports. Or a child who reveals an obsession with horsies at an ungodly early age, an obsession which Omegamom’s buddies who are into horses say is (given its early manifestation, and its insistence on real looking horsies) likely to continue–in a family where the dad considers horses to be much stupider than, say, cows or pigs and the mom is just somewhat stupefied.
On the other hand, “real” is also a child who will not be consoled by anyone else but mom. A child who has picked up so many of mom’s mannerisms that it’s scary.
“Real” is also a child who curls up on the seat and falls asleep snuggled up against mommy at the booth of the restaurant mommy and daddy and grandma have gone to for dinner after a long day at the pumpkin festival.
“Real” is a mommy who carries on a conversation with daddy and grandma while regularly checking said child’s temperature with her hand, as it rises.
“Real” is a mommy who, when said child begins heaving, surreptitiously grabs a cloth napkin from the table and holds it under child’s chin while child is throwing up, grabs another napkin, and another, and then carries the 35-pound lump out of the restaurant with damp arms clutched around her neck as if they’ll never let go. (Should I call the restaurant and apologize for leaving a heap of napkins with vomit on them? I didn’t even think of it until we were well on our way home, up the mountain.)
I try to inject OmegaDotter’s birthmom into conversations here and there. I am “real”. OmegaDotter’s birthmom is “real”, too. At some point in the future, this dichotomy may be something that matters to her…or it may not. I won’t deny DNA, but I also won’t deny that love is very strong. OmegaDotter has two moms, in my mind. But then, she has at least three grandmothers!
I will probably have the dreaded “You’re not my REAL mom!” hurled at me in the midst of an argument at some future point. I hope that both of us find it is merely another emotional stone to toss in the heat of the moment, and that neither of us find it a great chasm to divide us.
Categories: [Adoption Issues]