Adoptive FamiliesBabiesFertility

You and Your Damn Babies

I’ve rewritten this post at least four times. I keep searching for the perfect words to convey my emotions. I want to hit the right notes, the right balance between your right to share your birth and baby experiences and my pain at constantly hearing them. Even now I can tell I’m not saying this right, but I need to say it. I need someone, anyone to understand this and tell me I’m not alone.

I always knew I wanted to have kids. I looked forward to getting pregnant, feeling my body change, making a birth plan (and possibly watching it fall apart in the face of reality). I looked forward to holding my tiny offspring in my arms. I wanted to make my own decisions about feeding and nurturing that new life. It hurt like hell to accept that I’d never get any of that.

It hurt like hell, but I moved on. I built new dreams and made new decisions, and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything. I wasn’t there for their births; I never saw their first steps or heard their first words. But I took them to their first days of school and helped them build their first dioramas. I’ve cleaned vomit and shit and quelled nightmares. I’ve read bedtime stories and made dinners and watched My Little Pony a hundred times. But once in a while, people still slip and ask about my kids’ “real” parents. I still get left out of all that parental bonding. All because I missed a couple years at the beginning. Like the rest of my kids’ lives (the rest of my life) doesn’t matter.

Get enough moms together and they start to share birth stories. It was amazing, it was terrible, it was life-altering, it was the Most Important Experience Ever! Let me tell you about all the changes my body went through! And then come the baby stories. Feeding, sleeping, diapering, carrying . . . it’s an endless comparing of notes and sharing of insights on the first few months of life. For me, it’s an endless reminder of what I missed out on.

Ever since I joined this site I’ve had an endless stream of baby chat delivered straight to my inbox. The first couple of weeks were so bad I almost quit before my first post went up. No one meant to leave me out–no one ever means to leave me out. No one meant to imply that birth and the first few months of life are the MOST IMPORTANT part of parenthood. It just sort of happened.

And that’s why I feel so awkward bringing it up. No one’s talking about babies just to make me feel bad; people aren’t trying to rub their birth experiences in my face or tell me adoption makes me a second-class parent. I don’t blame people for sharing these experiences and there’s nothing wrong with using them to bond yourselves as a group. It’s not even the individual stories that bother me–it’s the weight of story after story, day after day that’s getting to me.

Ultimately, I don’t want to rain on the baby parade. I don’t want people to feel guilty or self-conscious talking about things that are obviously important to them. I just need people to know that I’m a parent too. I exist, I’m important, I’m not the only one with this problem. If all you can do is say “wow, I can see how that would suck for you,” that would be great. I promise not to be such a downer next time.

Jo S

Jo S. is more scared of you than you are of her. She's a stay-at-home mom in the heart of Utah, where three kids is considered a small family. She cooks, crochets, blogs, and runs a small but dedicated skeptical book club.

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  1. Thank you for writing this. I’m so sorry we were insensitive in the back channel, and I really appreciate being made aware of this. I think it’s important for people beyond our back channel to be aware of it as well because being clueless doesn’t make it any less insensitive, and doesn’t make it hurt any less. I’m really, really glad you stuck it out with us.

    1. Thanks. I’m mostly over it. This is one of those things I usually don’t think about at all, and then something happens and I get super emo about it for a few weeks. Pushing my pain onto everyone else through the internet was really helpful in getting me back to a better state of mind.

  2. Less importantly: I’m with you on the birth stories. I almost NEVER talk about my kids’ birth in regular conversation (though I write about it a ton–hey, my kids are one, so birth and pooping/eating stories are all I’ve got). I just don’t have anything to say when I get stuck in those conversations, and explaining my kids’ complicated beginning is never worth it. Instead, if asked, I say “oh, I had a c-section, you were saying?” and assume the person will continue on with THEIR story and we can move on to topics that are a bit less personal and that I hate less.

    More importantly: You said “No one meant to imply that birth and the first few months of life are the MOST IMPORTANT part of parenthood. It just sort of happened.” I think part of the reason we write/talk about those first few months is that they were difficult, and because we have been bombarded with information on how important the first year, the first week, the first MINUTE of a baby’s life. Therefore we pay close attention to what we’re doing, and second guess ourselves constantly.

    Parenting advice reads so black-and-white to me on the issue of the first year that it drives me nuts: if you don’t do the exact thing suggested during that essential first minute/week/year, your child will grow up to be a serial killer is the general implication. Alternatively, if you don’t do the suggested thing during that key time, you are a bad parent. It’s an immense amount of pressure to put on new parents, so they dwell on that time and thus write and talk about it more.

    None of this excuses the hyper focus on that first year. . .especially since kids are pretty darn resilient, and since there are so many important things to do later in their lives. But, perhaps it explains it. Either way, I’m not a fan of conversations that are by nature exclusionary, as birth stories tend to be. It would be deemed rude to have an extensive conversation in a small group that completely leaves out one or two members, but when it comes to birth people feel very comfortable continuing a lengthy and graphic conversation while excluding those who adopted their children or did not have a traditional birth experience.

    1. A friend of mine sees baby chat as a cheap version of group therapy after the trauma of birth and baby days. 🙂 I’m glad I’m not one to worry too much over my kids–if I was I’d be terrified they were ruined by the shitty care they got as babies. (One of their previous foster families actually did obsess over that possibility.) It’s kind of awful that so much parenting advice is geared toward scaring the hell out of sleep-deprived new parents.

  3. I think it’s great that you called us all out on this, I am sure many of us will try to be better people. (I know I will try)

    I hope you feel free to share your stories of becoming a parent. I’m sure there was nervousness about caring for your children (you just were not pregnant) and you brought them home (just not from the hospital). I for one would be very interested in hearing them.

  4. I agree 100%, I am a part of two organized mom’s groups and I have sat mute often, listening to the seemingly endless talk of pregnancy, birth and early days talk. I brought my son home at 14 months, and almost nothing is known about his early life (making the little I do know precious and something I don’t share all the time). I love it when the talk gets to toddlerhood and I can participate. At one book club meeting someone asked me about how we adopted internationally and I told them, and answered questions. It turned out they had been really curious, but did not want to offend me by asking questions. It made me feel like more a part of the group to share my story of becoming a parent.
    Listening to moms talk about this tends to make me glad I missed the pregnancy, birth and sleepless nights of early babyhood. That being said, do I wish I could have given birth to him and raised him from day one? Yes, but life did not work out that way.

    1. True, hearing all those hard baby stories makes me glad sometimes I didn’t have 2 AM feedings or labor pains to deal with, but it’s hard to know I missed time with my awesome kids. I’m glad someone got brave and asked you about your adoption–people get nervous about asking, but it’s nice to be able to tell our own stories of parenthood.

  5. Yes, the missing time is hard to deal with. We too try to focus on the firsts we have, like first steps, first time he called us Mama and Daddy, first day of school, etc.. Missing out on the first tooth, first giggle, first smile does hurt though. I also feel for his first mother, and wish desperately that I could share his new firsts with her too, but we have no idea where she is.

  6. Found your post via Stirrup Queens and since I feel so strongly about this I had to register and comment. I loathed those moments and would often find all sorts of ways to excuse myself, I suddenly had to go the washroom or make a phone call. Anything to avoid being asked questions that would require explanations and questions I didn’t want to have. I just went to a adoptive parent support group this week. I hadn’t gone in a year cause I moved out of the immediate area and I work nights, but this year I determined to return as much as I could. This is something that would really help bolster you endure those moments. I listened to women talk about their travel experiences, when they first were matched with a child, the day we brought them home, and of course, all the stupid, mean things people say. We even encouraged one woman with stock phrases we used to get random strangers to mind their own business. We talked about our triumphs and our worries. It was great. Maybe you could even host a meeting in your home.

    1. Thanks so much. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s bothered. And thanks for talking about your support group. I’m sure there’s something like that in my area, but I never thought about what good it might do just to be around people with similar stories. And now that I write that, I’m no sure why I never thought of that–maybe I’ve just been too stubborn about “not needing help.”

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