On Becoming Real: My Not-So-Conventional Journey to Mamahood
I was never sure if I was meant to be a mama.
Actually that's an understatement. I felt immense doubt around motherhood.
I cried in a lot of hotel rooms when my best friend and I would travel for work.
"I don't know if I'm ready," I'd say, tears running down my face. "I don't know if I want to."
She'd hug me and say, "Then don't."
Don't get me wrong. I love my friends' babies to the moon. I love my friends’ round bellies and ability to eat all the nachos. I even thought decorating a nursery would be fun. But the rest of it? I was unsure.
I'd close my eyes during vision meditations where I was supposed to see my life and I just couldn't see "it." Whatever it was. That was challenging when at least half the room experienced major waterworks talking about their perfect baby and my best friend pictured her three flannel clad children summiting a mountain.
That being said, after a few years of marriage my big bearded honey of a husband (who was so meant to be a dad and had talked about it on our second date) and I started to "try." We are in love but we are kind of lazy together too, so I was not exactly a "peeing on sticks" and "sex around the clock" kinda gal. I figure if it was supposed to happen, it would and I'd trust that the universe had my back on this one.
We tried. We kept trying. I bought some of those sticks. I peed on them. I took vitamins. Still nothing.
Okay universe, I know I said I was unsure but now I'm kind of pissed.
Fast forward to this past spring. I'm in some stupid outfit that I think is "mom-like." I'm in a stuffy doctor's office with my husband and clutching his hand for dear life. It's a fertility center and I don't like anything about it. After many tests, the doctor told us that there was a chance we could get pregnant but it was pretty small. He immediately ushered us into an even smaller, even stuffier, room to show us pamphlets about IVF and other means of becoming pregnant.
He told us that we could begin these fertility treatments as soon as the next week. Not even five minutes later, a woman shows up with another folder of paperwork about how to pay for said IVF. I was overwhelmed and in tears. We hadn't been trying that long. We hadn't seen a naturopath. We left. Matt drove us to our favorite ice cream shop and we sat outside eating massive cones at 2 pm.
I looked at him and said, "Should we just say fuck it and move to Bali? Just the two of us?"
He looked at me and shrugged. Maybe, he said.
The further and further we got away from that office the more I realized that this was not how I wanted to grow my family. But something else had started to bloom in me. That I was actually meant to be a mother.
Matt and I were on a walk on a Saturday afternoon when I asked him, "What do you think about adoption?"
He looked at me with big eyes and said, "I think it's beautiful."
I smiled. "Yeah, me too. Really beautiful."
I noticed the way adoption made me feel in my body. Vulnerable but open. Soft but sweet. Strong yet tender. It made me feel the way I do when I see my dad's eyes crinkle up with laughter. The way I feel when I'm really connected to others - sometimes in yoga classes, sometimes at church when visiting my parents, sometimes in nature. I felt it in my bones and knew it to be true. For me. For us. For this little human out there. I could close my eyes and picture every curve of their sweet, little face. Picture the moment the car drove up and a social worker placed this baby in my arms.
I didn't feel this way when I thought about the other ways of becoming a mom. To be completely and utterly honest, I didn't even feel that way when I thought about myself as pregnant. It felt right, like soulmate-right, and it made sense to me why I couldn't picture it before. I was trying to picture what someone else's version of motherhood and family looked like, and Photoshop my face on a dream.
Life happens like that. It’s so easy to feel when something is wrong, when something is not for us, not ours. And it’s also so easy to stay in that place of lack, of not ours, of feeling empty. That day in the doctor's office was a gift as it opened up another path full of possibility and heart opening and transformation. Thank God we kept asking the questions, thank God I kept feeling the word “mama” in my body, thank God for a partner who was willing to ask the questions too. There was no trying anymore, no struggle or effort, everything that happened before brought us to the clearest moment. This, this, is how we were meant to be parents.
Fast forward to a few weeks later. We've met with a student of mine who is foster adoption lawyer. She had been coming to my classes for years, front row, front and center. Because life is like that and will not let you miss the important people that will change everything for you. We’ve talked to parents who have adopted privately. We've talked with parents who have foster adopted. We've met with a foster adoption agency. We've made a big, scary, beautiful decision: we are going to become parents through the foster system of Los Angeles.
They tell you that in the foster-to-adopt world, there are no guarantees. They tell you this, and they tell you again, and then they have you talk to other foster parents who tell you: There are no guarantees. You open up your home and a little heartbeat comes inside, and there is no knowing if it will be forever. That being said, I'd be hard pressed to find anything that is absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed in life. I have found peace in this. Matt and I are strong, that our home can hold this level of uncertainty in the floors and in our hands, the whole point is to love and provide safety and what an honor to do so.
I handed a nurse my foster parent paperwork at a physical I needed to get certified. She looked at my paperwork, looked up and said, "I'm sorry."
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Can you not get pregnant?" she asked.
This was the first of many insensitive comments I've heard and will continue to hear, I'm sure, but they pale in comparison to the amount of support we've received. And I looked that nurse square in the eyes and said, "I think you meant congratulations, not sorry. This is exactly what we want to do and exactly how we want to become parents." I meant every single world.
That brings us to today. We've filled out mountains of paperwork. We've delved into our past and talked about our future. We've completed weeks of classes and met the most amazing future parents and social workers. We've learned about burn marks and trauma and what will be asked of us. We've baby-proofed our home. And in a few days or weeks we will receive a phone call and we will say "yes."
We will be parents. To our forever baby? Maybe. But no matter what we will love up this little angel with all we have.
In our training with Extraordinary Families a social worker explains that as an adult the loss should fall on us. These babies, these children have experienced enough trauma and pain in their short lives. We are adults and we have cobbled together tools and coping mechanisms. We have family. We have friends. We have a yoga practice.
Are we scared? Of course.
Is it risky? For our hearts, for sure.
But damn, if that isn't the point then what is?
I was born for this. We were. And I can't wait to walk alongside you on this journey, my love.
'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.'
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
More to read + watch :
This is the nonprofit foster and adoption agency we are working with. We have met the most unbelievable, selfless social workers and parents and feel beyond blessed to be on this journey with them. We live in Los Angeles, which has the largest child welfare system in the world, with more than 34,000 children receiving services.
The F Word: A Foster-to-Adopt Story
A YouTube series by a couple that keep it very real on their journey in foster care and adoption.
Four Castaways Make a Family
I read this NY Times Modern Love piece weekly. Read it and you'll understand why.
This book is by Nia Vardalos, who wrote and starred in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." She adopted her daughter through foster care after 13 failed rounds of IVF. It's an amazing book and has many FAQs at the end.