In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fifth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
By Rebecca Gruenspan
“Don’t you want to have your “own” baby?”
“Do you really want to do this by yourself? It’s hard enough with two parents.”
“Don’t you want to get married first?”
I was standing there, my belly swollen in the sunlight with the cutest, bohemian chic maternity dress on smiling from ear to ear, as I felt my baby kick inside of me, hand on my belly. Glowing. That was my dream.
I dated. Not a ton, but I thought I would find “the one” and have a gaggle of kids running around. I got married very young and the marriage lasted all of a minute (a little longer than Britney Spears, however). My divorce in my early twenties left me feeling like a failure and completely lost. I cried myself to sleep every night for three months until I had had enough.
Many years of endless dating followed – dating sites, blind dates, set-ups, you name it. I always had an urge to have a large family, and it seemed that my desire to settle down just turned the guys I was dating away. So finally, although fearful, extremely nervous, and totally not what I had planned for my life, I decided I would become a mother on my own.
Of all the dreams I’ve had in my lifetime, this was the one dream I would never let go of. I’ll be damned if I won’t give myself the gift of being a mother.
People thought I was crazy for setting out on this journey to become a single mother. They said it was hard enough with two parents. I would never know the difference, I told them. You adjust to your own reality. Some of my family members preferred not to talk about it, which devastated me.
Maybe they thought if they didn’t acknowledge it, then I would just continue dating and find someone to marry and have children with…as they had wished for me (as I had wished for myself). I get it. People’s natural reaction when they feel pain is to back away…even when I needed them to rally the most. Thankfully, once everyone realized that nothing they said would deter me from fulfilling my dream, I gained their full support.
My journey started with quite a roller coaster ride by pursuing fertility treatments in my late thirties. Nobody really prepares you for what’s to come. Clomid is such a simple little pill to swallow. But that shit made me crazy! Ten pounds later and no baby, I would enter into about twelve months of injectable hormones. That didn’t stop me from carrying on with my dating life though – I would excuse myself to “go to the bathroom” just to inject my fertility hormones and then resume my date, as if everything were “normal.” After a year of unsuccessful treatments, a body that totally failed me, and an extreme roller coaster ride of emotions; I switched my focus to adoption, and finally felt at peace.
I stumbled across an adoption consultant, who told me that while most of the people she works with will be matched in a year or less, I should expect at least a year and a half, given that I’m single, and in my forties. Being Jewish, well, that won’t help.
The entire process was uncomfortable, but heck, who was I to question anyone at that point. I was tired! I was looking for my easy button, when nothing had ever come easy to me. I know I was put on this earth to be a mom, so come hell or high water, I would be! As far as I was concerned, my life was in my consultant’s hands until I could call myself a mom, so I would listen and follow everything she asked of me.
And when my baby’s birth mother chose me, the fact that I am single, Jewish and forty-one didn’t matter much to her after all. She was open to all religions; single or married was fine, and my age wasn’t a factor. I presented a profile that spoke to her, and in her words, she “trusted me.”
First we “met” on the phone – a short conversation in retrospect, for such a huge decision on both our parts. I could tell she was nervous. So was I. She was pretty quiet, with me doing most of the talking. I just tried to learn about her and who she was as a person. Whew, heavy! What do you like to do? Tell me about your job, your family. How are you feeling? Oh geez, that’s a loaded question, but I couldn’t ignore it. Most of her answers were short, but in a very sweet, mild-mannered way. I liked her on the phone. But I was nervous.
I flew out to see her a few weeks later and we saw each other for the first time in the doctor’s office waiting room. Talk about an awkward place for such a monumental meeting! Luckily, not too many other people were waiting. We hugged, a tear streaming down my face, but I hid it from her. She was really shy and sweet, English being her second language. We made small talk. I took her to dinner that night. I found out it was her birthday soon, so we celebrated with a cake, and her face lit up.
Exactly nine months from the day I called my adoption consultant, and four months from sending in my agency applications, I was back on a plane to pick up my son. I was so excited, and so nervous and so anxious – oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! I just might have told everyone on the plane that I was going to adopt my baby, as I was holding an empty Moses basket and feeling proud, confident and strong.
I finally arrived at the hospital. I was by myself at first - so surreal – I expected a big hospital with a long hall, but in all actuality, a long hall was about the size of the entire hospital. I was gasping for air. I couldn't breathe. My heart was racing. Do I even know how to be a mother? What if I suck at this? I was scared and nervous, but also so excited!!
I needed to take a few deep breaths, so I snuck into the bathroom to calm myself down, and texted my sisters… “I’m here, at the hospital about to meet my baby, freaking out. OK, here I go. Love you!”
I rounded the corner to the nursery, where I immediately saw him through a big window! I remember hearing the sounds of a baby crying, but there was one baby, with a full head of dark hair, lying peacefully, and I knew that I could be calling that baby my son in twenty-four hours. My heart skipped a beat. Breathe in, breathe out.
THIS was really happening. But what was THIS? I wasn’t even so sure yet, because it could go one of two ways, which was so scary to think about, yet I was as mentally prepared as I could have been if his birth mother decided to parent her baby. Nonetheless, I would never want to deny this beautiful child my pure joy, happiness and complete open heart. That was easy, because when you find yourself in a situation like this, can you really be any other way?
I walked toward the door of the nursery with a lot of hesitation, not because I wasn’t ready – boy, was I ever – but because this moment that may forever change me felt huge. My biggest dream in life, which just yesterday felt so far off in the distance, was here. How do you really prepare when you haven’t carried this baby inside you or created it in any way other than through a lot of prayers and paperwork?
I was about – to – meet -- my – baby. Breathe. I opened the door. A nurse greeted me and I told her who I was. She pointed and said, “That’s him,” but I already knew. Before I had her put my baby in my arms, I handed her my camera and asked her to capture those first moments of us meeting each other.
She put this beautiful baby, with a full head of black hair, and gorgeous brown skin with the smoothest complexion, into my arms. He looked nothing like me and yet, he was now a part of me. He was perfect. My breath was shaky as the tears trickled down my cheek. I’m sure this baby, my baby, could feel my heart beating so loud and fast. He calmed me.
My life had changed at that moment – it got a whole lot better! Wow, what a strange, weird, amazing feeling! All I could do was stare. I was in complete awe, and it felt like we were the only ones there.
I would call him Trey, after my Grandmother, who made it very clear that her namesake should not be named after her with a bullshit middle name, but a first name. “Mama, you got it! Trey should be as intelligent and strong-willed as you.” I talked to my Grandma about my dream to be a mom and she knew my struggles with infertility. I know she is smiling down at her namesake and watching over us both.
My mom arrived several hours after me and stayed with me for a week before we were cleared to bring Trey home. Frankly, I was nervous about having her there, but learned VERY quickly how important support and community are. My mom was not there to tell me how to parent; she was there to support me, and boy, did she ever! I felt a new bond with her – mother to mother.
We had to stay in Utah with my baby for a week. I truly loved this time, while my father just wanted us home. I learned a bit about motherhood, was able to establish a routine and bonded with my son without having to share him with anyone yet. So when I went home, I was ready to start sharing my baby, my biggest accomplishment, my dream come true, with the world.
Trey looks at the picture, hanging on his closet door, of that first moment he was in my arms, my nose clearly red and visibly crying. I explain to him that those were tears of the most joy I've ever felt in my life; yet, it's hard for him to understand and makes him sad. Sad because his mama is crying or perhaps sad because he understands, in his own way, the loss he had just experienced before being placed in my arms.
Trey looks a lot like his birth mother. I show him pictures of her and he knows who she is. He has her mild manner, and he soaks everything in. I’m grateful for her, I admire her and I’m sad for her pain around this selfless act of pure love for her son that has made me so happy.
Being a single mom certainly has its challenges. It also has its strengths. Just like you need a team to get you through the adoption process, you need a village to help you through parenting. While I hope I don’t have to be a single mom forever, thus far, it’s what I know. And I love it.
Trey’s adoption was finalized on February 14th…he’s my one true Valentine.
Rebecca Gruenspan is the founder of RG Adoption Consulting, which educates, guides and holds people’s hands through the domestic adoption process to provide a faster, easier and safer way to adopt a baby. She is the mother of a four- year old son and resides in Evanston, IL, where she is active in the Single Mothers by Choice and Adoption communities.
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