It's hard for me to write this post because I'm worried that it's going to sound like moaning, when really it isn't. The #WASO theme this week is 'Transitions' and even though I've already linked up a post that wasn't really on that topic, a very small thing that happened (or rather didn't happen!) this morning has prompted me to write again, this time on the theme.
This week I transitioned from being OB's foster Mum, or Mum-in-waiting, to being his actual, legal Mummy. In many ways, nothing has changed, but in a deep, fundamental sense, everything has changed.
Like most adoptive parents, adoption wasn't my first option. In fact it wasn't even on my radar. Of course I had dreamed of becoming a parent, like most people, and assumed that would be through a very traditional route of marriage, pregnancy and all the trimmings. Obviously, that didn't happen. I couldn't even manage the marriage part!
When I started fostering, I was warned that this wasn't to be seen as a quick route to adoption, but actually I had no intention of adopting at that time - it was only that OB stole my heart! So OB came to me as a foster child, exactly 2 years ago today, and my family and friends have followed our journey from that point until last Tuesday when we were granted our adoption order.
It's been a very long 'pregnancy' :)
But now it's official, I've noticed a range of reactions in the people I know. Most have congratulated me and a few have attempted to find 'Happy Adoption' cards (unsuccessfully I might add!). There has been a tea party and a meal out with family - good times! But even among people I know well, I've sometimes sensed a sort of uncertainty, as if searching for the right words, the right emotions . . . "Errr . . . congratulations?".
Others seem to have had a complete non-reaction. I understand that as well. After all, in the eyes of people around me, I've been OB's 'parent' for nearly two years. They haven't seen the contacts, the social worker meetings, the paperwork, the adoption prep or the court paperwork. As far as they are concerned, OB has lived with me for two years, and is still living with me. As it was yesterday, so it is today, and a piece of paper doesn't really change anything.
This morning I went as usual to my lovely church and lots of people, seeing me for the first time since Tuesday, came to congratulate me. Now, usually, when somebody in our church gets pregnant, there's an announcement. Then when the baby is born, there's another announcement. When the parents first bring the baby to church, they are brought to the front and everybody oohs and aahs over the baby. Later there will usually be a dedication, and another opportunity for the happy family to share their joy with their friends.
Well, on Tuesday I became a parent, so today was my equivalent to the first Sunday after my baby being 'born', and there was no announcement. No mention of it at all. It's not like people didn't know, but obviously nobody made the connection that becoming a parent in my situation was equivalent to becoming a parent through birth, so nothing public was said.
I'm not annoyed about it as I know for sure it wasn't deliberate. I really don't expect others to think things through as deeply as I do, and like I said, lots of people came individually me to say how pleased they were. But I was sad, because I fear it's a sign of things to come. Being an adoptive parent is different to being a parent the usual way. I was blessed enough to get OB at a very young age, but still, there's so much that adoptive parents don't get that birth parents do.
Obviously I never got to carry OB, or give birth to him, or breastfeed him. There were no birth announcement cards or baby showers. Nobody wonders who he looks like, or wonders which of my genetic traits he will inherit. Throughout his childhood I will constantly be reminded that he has another family as we do our letterbox contact, and I have to face the likelihood that sometime in the future, he will want to seek out his birth mother, with all the insecurities that brings up for me.
I can't imagine how OB could feel any more like my own child. And yet I will never be able to forget that in some very important ways, he's not.
A couple of people said to me today that they thought I was a wonderful parent, and couldn't possibly be more of a Mummy to OB. I was very grateful for those comforting words, but actually, I already know that! What I hope for is that everybody else will know that and act on it too.
I have become a parent by an unorthodox route, but it is the only route open to me. This is the only type of parent I'm ever going to be, and although may not have actually given birth myself, I still want everything that other mothers get! And that includes all the 'trimmings' - announcements, cards, parties, cakes (I've ordered a big one for his dedication party!!), paying a fortune for those cute baby photos and everything else!
These things are important, partly because I never thought I'd have them so I covet them especially, and partly because as a stitched-together family, we are building something new, entirely from scratch, and these milestones, commemorations and events are an essential part of the fabric of our lives together.
Ah well, it's not the first time in this long, long process that something I expected to be plain sailing has had a surprising emotional impact on me, and I know for sure that it won't be the last!