Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Motherhood and Apple Cake

There are a few conclusive signs I've seen that I am a mother. One is that I was up feeding someone last night at 2:00, and it wasn't James. Another is that I have a baby on my lap right now. And a third is that I am starting to love my mother-in-law, who is here for 3 weeks to help with the babies and the night shift, as much as I love my husband. Maybe more. She made us apple cake, too, and that got her right up there.

Besides the concrete evidence, there have been certain moments that I truly felt like a mother. The first was when the girls came home from the hospital, and I would go in their room while they were sleeping to put clean clothes in their dresser. Getting to go into the dark room and tiptoe to not disturb the girls, but still having housekeeping duties that were more important than the need to avoid their quiet room... I must have learned this from my own mother. It made me feel like I had the very special resposibility, and the privilege, to care for these little babies.

The next thing that made me feel like a mother was when we took our first trip to Babies 'R' Us, just the three of us girls, to load up on more diapers and Diaper Genie refill bags. After I had strolled them around in their double stroller inside the store, we came out to the parking lot, I loaded them in the car, put the stroller in the trunk, and told them we were going home now. As I backed the car out of the parking spot, I had a flash of tremendous maternality. I was looking carefully to see if anyone was coming, and I backed out very cautiously. I was suddenly very aware of my very precious cargo, and the fact that the quality of my driving had a direct impact on their survival.

The next moment of maternal bliss came when I was changing Elisa's diaper. After I got her dressed again, I picked her up, and she had her arms sticking straight up above her. Once I got her up to me, her straightened arms instinctively clamped around my neck, and I felt the amazing rush of The First Hug! She may not have meant to do it, but it was a wonderful feeling for me.

The last such moment occurred yesterday morning as I was singing to Amanda to calm her down before a feeding. A friend lent me a songbook with the lyrics to every imaginable song, and I was making my way through the "Friendship" section. I sang James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" (You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call, and I'll be there. You've got a friend) and the AIDS benefit song "That's What Friends Are For" (In good times and bad times, I'll be on your side forever more; that's what friends are for). And as I sang those words, I realized how much I meant them. It may have been the friendship section of the book, but it was easily translatable to maternal love. I looked at Amanda's somewhat sleepy face and tried to do my Kay-Bailey super-duper facial expressions to impart to her how much I meant what I was singing. A mother's devotion to her child, coming out through song and through singing.

And do you know what? Not a single one of those moments has involved thinking about our genetic link. We spent a lot of time in the beginning talking about which of the girls looked like whom, and who had whose eyes, etc. But my moments of intense maternal feeling have been entirely situational. My friends and I in the infertility world spent many, many months yearning for a child who was biologically ours, with DNA we could trace to our own ancestors. It's what we all want, because that's the way the species works.

But I'll be damned if motherhood, for me, isn't turning out to be about the way I take care of the girls and the way we relate to each other through our behavior and our communication. I know that's easy for me to say, the mother of two beautiful babies that are entirely my own biologically, but I think I "get" adoption now. And for those people who choose to create their family that way, I'm so glad to know that they'll get to back their kids out of parking spaces, too, and feel just as wonderful about it.


I.M. Noone said...

What a sweet and beautiful post.
Thank you for this.

DAVs said...

Ack, that's me above. Sometimes the computer has us signed in to Lee's old blog that he took down.

Not Your Aunt Bea said...

I have found myself falling in love with other people's children because so much of it is in the caring for the child and their interaction with you, not just merely the act of having the child. I can remember being just as excited when one of them started talking after being a "delayed" talker or melting when a shy one choose to sit in my lap to snuggle. Neither were my kids, but I did fall in love with them a little bit. I totally "get" adoption from those experiences too.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad for your post. Al and I have often talked about this fact -- that we don't think parenthood with biological children would be much different from parenthood with adoptive children. After a being a parent for a little while, you just realize that each child is their own little person and you forget that you created the child. Of course, this is something I could never say to someone going through IVF and yearning for their own biological child.