Today we went for afternoon tea with B. It was arranged at our local nursery where B is signed up to go, which is also a children’s centre so does a lot of kid activities. It was within walking distance and cheap, so we thought we’d give it a go.
We had signed up to go with the grandparents – his paternal ones, as we are going to see mine on Sunday – but unfortunately they weren’t able to go as T’s dad unexpectedly landed in hospital the day before.
Fortunately they didn’t find any signs of anything although he had been taken in with a suspected stroke, and T had driven an almost 4hr round trip to see him the previous night and he’d been reassured he was in good hands. We had already paid in advance for the afternoon tea so thought we wouldn’t waste it.
Well, it was much nicer than I’d expected! Of course there were lots of children there but it wasn’t too hectic given the main event is tomorrow. Think we made a good choice to go on Saturday! They’d decorated the room really nicely with vintage crockery and so on. They had Alice and Wonderland on the projector (one of my favourite Disney films!) and a load of activities for the kids. Sadly B was still too young to take advantage of the chocolate fountain and cupcake decorating! The kids even had mini teapots of orange squash. It was all very cute.
So we had double servings of afternoon tea – luckily we were given boxes to take the excess away at the end, so we could have it for dinner! And two glasses of bubbly each which contributed favourably to the mood. B snoozed away in his buggy until he woke up near the end.
Then a guy came and started singing some classics. B woke up and T had him on his lap. They looked adorable because they were wearing matching tops! T has this jumper he wears all the time with stripes on, and we found a babygro that is in the same colours so they can be cute matchy matchy. (I am so cheesy and I make no apologies… I’m trying to find matching mum and baby outfits that we can wear, haha!)
The singer started singing “You’re just too good to be true” and I was waving B’s arms around pretending to dance with him.
And then he smiled – he’s been doing it on and off for the last week or so. We weren’t sure if it was random or not, wind or something, but it’s been getting more regular.
Then, after smiling a bit, he started laughing! His first laugh, looking at me dancing with him.
It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.
I started crying a bit… and T started to feel emotional because I had tears in my eyes, and B was just there giggling whilst I was pretending to dance with him and sing “You’re just too good to be true”, and really that’s the best Mother’s Day gift ever.
This year, our rainbow baby is here.
Here in the UK, it’s Mother’s Day at the weekend. It will be my first Mother’s Day as a mother.
I still equate Mother’s Day with my mum, the only mother I’ve ever known (since I was adopted at a few days old). Every other year I’ve just been me – a person with no biological relatives. This year, I have my first biological relative in B. I have a child! I’m a mother. It still feels surreal.
I’m sort of amazed by motherhood, in that I never really saw myself as the maternal type. I knew I wanted a kid, but I expected this first part to be the tiresome and boring part – before the baby turns into a toddler who can express himself. But here’s the thing – B can express himself just fine! And there must be some sort of hormones, or biology, that makes you love your own child.
I’ve spent years primarily being defined by my work. After over a decade of infertility I never defined myself by the typical female traits. Instead I was always about achieving stuff in a mainly male world. I was the female of colour in a white guy’s world and I ploughed my own furrow.
And now I’m “one of the mums”. And to my surprise, I don’t hate it. I relish it. I find it all the more precious because I know I have less time than the others. Most women in the UK take a year off when they have a baby. More than a year because they accrue holiday when they’re on maternity leave. I could take a year – I’m entitled to it – but because I started my job pregnant, I am unpaid by my company for all the time I’m off. And I can’t really afford more than the four months I guesstimated we could do without my salary.
Mum life is fun. And it’s even easier because T is off at the same time as me. Although we realised that a lot of stuff is geared just towards mums and babies and not dads. On the one hand I think that’s unfair, but on the other – I’m only just seeing how there’s a biological imperative and it makes sense for the mother to be the primary caregiver.
I knew it intellectually but I never really knew it. B knows I am his mother. He looks for me, and he’s comforted pretty much only by me. He likes T, but after a while he will look for me. And I’m the only one who can feed him. That’s such a big thing I hadn’t really fully understood. I see with B that instinctively he searches for me and wants to be with me.
It’s weird to think that I was once his age and that even before I was the age he is now (just two months old!) I was taken from my first mother and given to a new one. Because I see now how B knows me, knows my smell, is comforted by me. Quite aside from looking like me. He knows me from being inside me for nine months. It’s a real big thing to think that happened to me at such a young age, a fraction of the age B is now. I wonder what that must have felt like to me as a baby.
The funny thing is, I have almost a deeper relationship with my parents now because of B. They want to see him every week. We bond over our shared love of him. They don’t love him any less than their biological grandchildren – they are super proud grandparents of all of them. And I feel like we’ve had deeper, more critical conversations lately, especially about adoption. The fact they’re able to do that and to listen to my musings without getting defensive has been really a bonding experience for us.
Having my own biological child has thrown up all these thoughts and feelings. I’ve had time to think and I’ve had time to bed into the idea of having a biological relative. It’s still so new and yet he feels like he’s always been here. It’s so huge in one way and so little, quotidian in another. In one way I feel like I’m still just me and in the other, I feel like everything has changed.
I’m still active on adoption groups and lately a lot of adoptees I know have found their birth parents and families. It makes me wonder about looking for mine. I’ve thought about it a lot. But also I’ve seen how it doesn’t seem to make them happy. It seems to make them sad a lot of the time and yet they feel compelled to search.
For me, I don’t feel compelled to search. I wonder if I should feel it and there’s something wrong with me that I don’t. I wonder if I found my birth family whether I’d recognise myself in them. I’ve seen pictures of adoptees and the family resemblance and I wonder about that. Maybe B is enough for me. I feel like my birth mother would be like me – accepting of life, not really looking back. Not expecting me to go back. I don’t want to drag up difficult feelings because I don’t want to ruin the happiness I have now. And I hope she’s happy and I don’t want to ruin that either.
T is also adopted and I wonder how much his experience has shaped mine. He found his birth mother a long time ago. They’ve only met a couple of times. It’s like they just needed to do it and then go back to their lives. Since B was born, we were supposed to see her and it seemed really difficult to arrange it. Lots of tangled communication. Then she cancelled.
I wonder if she’s cancelling on purpose because it’s too much or whether the excuse she said is true. I feel slightly defensive and miffed on his behalf and on B’s behalf because I don’t understand why someone’s biological mother and grandmother doesn’t seem to want to see them. Maybe it’s too much emotionally.
Part of me feels like she’s not entitled to see B because she’s not his “real” grandmother, as she hasn’t been an involved mother to T. But that’s just me being defensive for him. I guess I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to see this beautiful man she made. I think maybe a lot of adoptees have complex and angry feelings towards birth parents and we can’t know the circumstances.
I feel compassion towards mine but it’s easy because they’re abstract and not real right now. If they were in this country and easily accessible I would feel mad if they didn’t make the effort to see me. And I kind of think feelings like that are why I have never searched. I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole of hope and disappointment. I’m fine and happy with life as it is. I kind of can’t believe how it’s worked out lately, how I have these three amazing guys I live with (if you count the dog as a guy!) and why would I want to change that, to drag up difficult feelings? Maybe that makes me a wuss.
So those are the thoughts that have been at the back of my head. At the front of my head have been the happy thoughts. The “I can’t believe that title now belongs to me” thoughts. The thought of my first Mother’s Day. On Saturday we are seeing T’s parents. And on Sunday (Mother’s Day) we are going round to my parents’ house with B and having a double.
Mother’s Day still feels like it belongs to my mother, because I’ve had thirty-odd years of celebrating it as an honour for her. This year my dad is taking us all to a restaurant for lunch for my first Mother’s Day, so it’s about me too. And it’s about T’s mum, my mother in law, and her first grandchild. And it’s our time to think of our first mums who gave birth to us all those years ago. And I think of the mothers without babies too. The unacknowledged mothers. They matter too.
As a new mum, I know I’m not special – hundred and thousands of women do it every day. And yet this year I have joined that circle of life, of women who have given life, our ancestors and the women to come down the line. I imagine I’ve joined that lineup of women, a line I never thought I’d join – through not inconsiderable effort and medical intervention – and I feel significant and insignificant at the same time.
I am me. The child of two mothers, a shadow mother and an everyday mother. The partner of a wonderful, kind, funny man. The flatmate of a brilliant dog. The mother of baby B.
Life is good.
I’m pretty new to the world of blogging, and even more so to this concept of “infertility blogging”*, and so far I’ve found it really interesting and enlightening – and comforting – to find that there is a whole community of people out there who are dealing with infertility. I’ve found it heartening to hear of success stories; I’ve empathised with those who’re dealing with horrible things, and I’ve generally found it to be a really supportive and lovely community.
(*Oh, the sadness in those words…)
I wanted to write down some thoughts about what seemed to be the sole topic of infertility bloggers over the weekend: Mother’s Day.
Because the thing is… I don’t hate Mother’s Day.
I know this seems really counter to what everyone else has been saying. I’m with you on the baby showers, the pregnancy talk, the need to share countless pictures of babies and bumps on social media (aaah, the bumps!)… I understand your pain with all that stuff, because I’ve been there too. I’ve avoided social gatherings where I’ll be the only one without a baby. (I’ve also been to them, because sometimes I just have to suck it up.) I’ve reacted well (throwing baby showers) and not-so-well (throwing tantrums) and I’ve generally been, y’know, human. Fallible.
But you see, I had a mother before I even thought about becoming a mother. In fact, I had two mothers. My birth mother and my mother. So to me, Mother’s Day has always been about her – my mother. (And somewhere in the back of my mind, my Other Mother.) For me it is a day of celebration and it’s not a day of mourning. I spent 30-odd years of my life without a baby (and I still don’t have one) and with a mother. My mother who’s been there for me my whole life and who I hope will stick around, however crazily at times(!), for many more years to come. I think I’ll always celebrate it whilst I have a mother, and I hope I’ll have the strength not to begrudge it when she isn’t around. (Who am I kidding, my whole family are going to live forever.)
And for the Other Mothers… I’ve even been fortunate enough to have an amazing mother-in-law (now my ex-MIL… life is complicated) who was part of my life for a really long time. And even though I no longer see her, I still think about her and love her. I hope she knows that I still love her. And I have a new almost-MIL who’s also lovely, who has welcomed me into the family. And I hope my birth mother knows that I think of her, too. I hope she is at peace with the idea of the grown up me, that I don’t blame her for giving me up as a baby, that I hope the life I lead honours that. I’m lucky because I’ve had not one mother, but many who have taken me under their wing and nurtured me… loved me. Even though I can be really annoying at times!
And to be fair, it wasn’t even Mother’s Day in the UK – it’s in March. So I didn’t have to “deal with” anything yesterday. But I didn’t have to in March either. I’ve not entered that club yet… I hope one day soon I can join them.
I’m not going to make Mother’s Day about mourning, but a celebration of my mothers’ (purposeful apostrophe placement) love for me, and my love for my mother(s). I’m lucky… I came from nothing in life, travelled halfway across the world, gained a family of a different colour(!), have had all sorts of opportunities in my life. I’m lucky. I’m healthy. I’m in a solid relationship that I am set on keeping hold of until one of us kicks the bucket. I have an awesome small furry being that likes nothing better than snuggling up next to me and licking my face. (Fortunately I don’t mind that bit!) I generally quite like my life, and a baby would add to that more than not having a baby subtracts from it.
My infertility does not define me.
Mother’s Day is not about me and my lack of being a mother. I’ve never been a mother. Maybe I never will. But I can say with some certainty that I’ll always be grateful to my first mother for giving me up in the hope of a better life. I’ll always be happy that my mother picked me (okay, I was next in the queue, but she picked the idea of me… and my dad did too).
And please understand me – this is only about my thoughts, and I don’t want to take away from people who have suffered far greater losses than I have. I haven’t ever been pregnant. I’ve never been a mother. And I don’t pretend to know how that feels… I can’t imagine that. This is just about how I feel, and no pronouncement or judgement on anyone else. We all deal with things in our own way and I think it’s safe to say there is no right or wrong. I would like to think that’s what makes us human.
Be kind to yourselves.
So – Mother’s Day. A day of celebration, not mourning. A day to be kind to yourself and let your loved ones be kind to you. A day for one half of my awesome parents to be celebrated and thanked. A day of flowers and cards and I know I’m all grown up now and I have my own life but I still need my mum. A day of gain; not loss. A day of considering my lovely T and how far he’s willing to go in helping me to become a mother, dreaming of us one day maybe becoming parents. Because that’s something to celebrate, not mourn. If it never happens, we can still look back and say we tried.
A day of choosing to be happy.
I choose happy.