Many, many, many moons ago… in the ancient days… B.C. (Before Children) we knew a young couple who had a baby. We had hung out with them before and found them to be interesting, intelligent and fun people.
Our first Post-Baby dinner party was revelatory. Now, I’m a “kid person” to say the least, and am particularly crazy about babies. At this point in time, I was a daycare teacher. Suffice it to say, I considered myself very child-friendly.
But even I can acknowledge that infants, apart from their considerable aesthetic appeal, are somewhat dull in the first few months.
However, our once interesting friends seemed oblivious to this fact. We spent the entire evening looking at the baby, browsing through endless pictures of the baby (and btw, new parents, changing the hat/hairdo/barrette on the exact same angle does not actually make for a new “look”), talking about the baby and generally admiring every little thing the baby did.
But the highest praise of the night was reserved for the earthshaking gas passed by the tiny child. He was lauded for his valiant contribution to the evening. Our hosts proceeded to share with us about his ongoing struggle with constipation, quite exhaustively.
Dessert, drinks and details about baby’s latest and greatest poops. Consistency, frequency, colour… nothing was sacred. I could see Glen turning green as they enthusiastically discussed the benefits of suppositories. Finally, we were given a real life demo, as a particularly rank diaper was changed right there on the floor in front of us, as we ate our dessert.
As their front door closed behind us that night, we had one of those symbiotic marital moments. Turning to look in each others’ eyes, we said in unison, “that will NEVER be us.”
Repeatedly they told us, YOU’LL SEE… Someday, when you have kids, YOU’LL SEE.
It’s something we hear all the time:
…when you meet that special someone, YOU’LL SEE.
…when you’re married, YOU’LL SEE.
…when you get your own place, YOU’LL SEE.
…when you get to high school, YOU’LL SEE.
Because certain kinds of education only experience can provide. Because part of us can’t believe we will ever change like that, feel like that, or act like that. Because life alters us in ways we don’t expect, no matter how many times we are told to expect it.
Sure enough, one day a few years later, Glen walked through our front door, looked over at me and said “Well?” and I immediately knew he was asking if our baby had had a good poop that day. We try not to discuss it with non-parents or over chocolate ice cream, but poop is now a common topic of discussion. Because constipation is a big deal for a baby. Because parental love trumps gross factor. Because living it is vastly different from hearing about it.
This week, we are experiencing a lot of those as adoptive parents. Things we were told to expect, things we had read about, things we knew, but didn’t understand until now, as we are living it.
- Boys are different. Not a universal truth, but in our family the stereotype fits. We’ve never experienced the constant desire to wrestle, the risk taking, the climbing on everything in sight, the tough guy who bounces back immediately from all but the most serious injuries…
- People don’t really understand adoption. And who can blame them; it is full of strange paradoxes. It is completely different from giving birth. It is the same as bringing home any of my children. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. This is one of the best things I’ve ever done. My experience as a parent has prepared me. My inexperience in parenting THIS child leaves me feeling unprepared.
- Adoptive parents feel isolated. Some of the people you expect support and encouragement from do not “get it,” and often adoption is treated as “less” than giving birth. Which would probably seem like a mild disappointment, if we weren’t so tired and overwhelmed.
- Rejection is hard to take. Whether learning to build attachment for the first time, or transferring from the old caregiver, this is a difficult time, and quite often during toddler adoption, one parent is “rejected” in favour of the other (usually Mom). I had read about this. I had heard of it from friends. But I was sure that my Mommy-love was strong enough and rational enough to take it on the chin, and look beyond it to the big picture. And it usually is. Except when it’s not. Those rejections are fewer and farther between these days, but they still prick.
- Toddlers grieve. We have seen flashes of it this week – the yearning, the sadness, the frustration… it passes quickly, but it is heartbreaking.
- Adoption draws our family together. We are closer than ever. Even with the grumpy times and the crazy times, our family time has been closer, more fun and more meaningful than ever. We’re being stretched, but we’re pretty short, so we could use the growth.
So here’s me, and if you’ve ever wondered about adoption I can tell you all about it, but most of it… YOU’LL SEE.