Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
I Am Just Mommy
By Heather Kurut
“Find your tribe. Love them hard.” A pithy, bumper sticker/t-shirt saying, to be sure, but really – don’t we all do this?
Don’t we all seek out like-minded people with whom we can unload, vent, laugh, bemoan our daily existence? Don’t we gravitate towards the people who have shared experiences, who make us feel known, simply by knowing what we’ve been through? Don’t we crave a place where we know - deep down - that we belong?
When I was in college in the early 90s, my “tribe” was theatre people – those weirdly wonderful performers and artists who wore their giant hearts on their plaid flannel and black leather sleeves. The sense of acceptance and belonging they afforded me was (and still is) a tremendous sense of comfort; it’s what I strive to create at school as a principal.
My students hear it from me ad nauseam – I want school to be a place where kids feel safe and comfortable, a place for people to be who they are, and let their proverbial freak flags fly.
In post-collegiate adulthood, I continued to seek the belonging of groups, and found it as: a yogi, a teacher, a New York Yankee fan, a singer, a person of faith, a wife. Eventually, a mom. No, wait… an adoptive mom.
Ah, yes, there it is.
In the adoption process, we were cautioned to address the sense of loss we felt as a couple unable to give birth to a biological child. That didn’t make sense to my husband and me. After all, we didn’t see adoption as a second choice, we saw it as the best and safest way for us to grow our family. Not less than.
I’ve read a million quotes, it seems, regarding how parenting is parenting, no matter how you arrive. I have shared meme after meme proclaiming that parenthood only requires love and not DNA. Weekly, Pinterest sends me email alerts, with new adoption quotes… and always, one of them includes something about how the title “mom” requires no other prefix. Something I could share to broadcast to the world that I am no different from the other members of Team Mom.
Well, yes and no.
Certainly, there are things we share, you “normal” moms and me… I am bowled over, on a daily basis, by the enormity of the love I feel for my children. I marvel at the veracity of the statement, “the days are long, but the years are short.” It seems to have gone by in a flash, but also at a snail’s pace.
I know that other moms - all of them - know what I mean. I am humbled by the exponential growth of the love I feel for my husband, who is an amazing Daddy. Along with him, I am the cleaner of puke, the packer of bookbags, the finder of stuffies and stray mittens, and the source of safety and comfort for two little people, for whom I would give my life.
I am the maker of Halloween costumes and the wrapper of presents. I am the kisser of boo-boos, even invisible ones. I thought I was a worrier before I was a parent. I had no idea. The sheer magnitude of my mom-worry is like nothing I have ever known – all-consuming, and sometimes surprising. Suddenly, my needs are secondary.
When our children hurt, I hurt with them, and want (more than anything) to be able to fix the problem, even when I know I cannot. When they feel joy, the kind of effervescent joy that bubbles up in their little round bellies, and explodes out of their bright and shining faces, I feel at once excited and content. I cry more than I ever did before, especially in happy, tender moments… and also at Disney movies. Boy, do I blubber at Disney movies.
But then, there are the little reminders that I am not quite the same as other mamas. The medical forms that I can’t fill out, at least not all the way. The lovely videos on Motherly, clearly designed to make parents cry, that start with things and feelings I can relate to, then suddenly dissolve into a photo of an ultrasound, captioned with “I knew from the moment I heard your heartbeat…” Nope. Not familiar to me.
There are the school projects and topics that strike terror into my heart, some of which we won’t encounter for years, if at all – the “All About Me” sheets that want to include information about birth details, the study of genetics, inherited traits and reproduction, the dreaded family tree or national heritage project.
The innocuous comment from a stranger about the baby weight I haven’t lost yet (to be clear: I set that record straight. This is pizza and Cabernet weight, my friends). The Facebook surveys (annually, it seems, around Mother’s Day) where we are invited to share the details about our first born… how was the labor? Not sure, I wasn’t there. Did I get an epidural? No, I did not. That would just be weird.
I sat through a church sermon once where the minister, a mom herself, likened the love of God to the deeply-felt, intense love of mothers, from conception through birth. Her message included statements like “ALL mothers have felt the stirring of a child within them…” Sorry, Reverend. Not all of us.
So, my mom tribe, it seems, has a narrower focus than I initially thought. And I have embraced that with intention. I seek out opportunities to connect with other families formed through adoption, both on social media and in real life. I have a friend, also a mama through adoption, with whom I discuss the things unique to our prefixed parental titles. Also the mom of two girls, she shares with me their developing openness with discussing her daughters’ adoption stories.
I have the benefit of her children being significantly older, and am learning a great deal from their experiences, and the unfolding of the communication around their beginnings. I read, and read, and read some more – constantly looking for members of my tribe – memoirs, essays, blogs, social media posts.
I do what I did the week before we brought our twin girls home: I stay up late at night and read the contributions to “30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.” Then I read them again. And again.
What I’ve discovered is that my sense of belonging as a parent through adoption has led me to a number of other connections; the narrowing of the mom group expanded to include many other people with in the adoption triad of birth mother/adoptee/adoptive parent.
My favorite books of the last few years are both memoirs by adult adoptees – Bastards by Mary Anna King and You Don’t Look Adopted by Anne Heffron. A relationship with a colleague, also an adult adoptee, has become closer and closer as we navigate not only a friendship, but a professional responsibility to help school craft curricula that work for all families… so we need not dread the looming assignments that simply do not work for kids who weren’t born into their families or didn’t remain with two biological, differently-sexed, married to-each-other parents.
My cousin, who came to our family through adoption, and is a birth mom herself, recently reunited with her biological family members. She and I have re-kindled a close friendship, forever bound together by our focus on adoption.
My relationship to adoption has also made me acutely aware of something huge: though I did not personally feel a sense of loss surrounding the way I arrived at parenthood, birth parents do feel loss. And so, too, will the children who arrived to our home because of that loss. As a parent, it is my responsibility to address this with the same care that I would tend to another loss.
If I’m to be honest, in the everyday moments, of sticky candy cane kisses, of experimental magic marker on faces, of ballet shoes and piano lessons and stickers galore, I am just Mommy. In the moments of crisis, the passing away of a grandparent, the high fevers in the wee small hours of the morning, and the lost special lovey, I am just Mommy. Not yogi, Yankee-loving, singer, principal adoptive Mommy. Just Mommy.
At the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, I am all of those things. Just like I am a Yankee fan who lives in Chicago, and a yogi whose daily practice has faded, I just happen to be a Mommy who didn’t give birth.
When she’s not hanging out with her family, Heather Freer Kurut works as a Lower and Middle School Principal, Chorus teacher and Yoga teacher. She volunteers as a speaker for the Cradle’s Adoption Education program. She and a colleague created a workshop to help schools craft curricula that works for families formed in all types of ways. Heather Kurut has written previously for the Portrait of an Adoption series.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie's blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
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