Are You Starting To Feel Like Their Real Mom Yet?

In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fourth 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 Heather Kurut

I have never given birth. Facing a total hysterectomy next month, I know for sure that I never will.  And, for me, that’s okay.  Not giving birth is not something that defines me. Without a single labor pain to get me there, I am mommy to beautiful twin girls.   My husband and I have always known that we wanted to parent, but we never felt that pregnancy was our only route to parenthood.

Near the beginning of our adoption journey, in one of the mandated courses for our home study, we were asked to discuss, write down and potentially share with the group the sense of loss we felt surrounding adoption.

We tried our best, but we really struggled with that.  Neither my husband nor I felt anything that resembled grieving; we weren’t mourning anything, really, because we both knew early on in our marriage that we were interested in adoption.  When it became clear – without the assistance of fertility treatments, by choice – that biological pregnancy wasn’t in the cards for us, we forged ahead with an adoption plan.

For us, there wasn’t any overwhelming sense of loss, nor was there the feeling that adopting was our second choice.  For us, adoption was the best choice, and the excitement of possibility was our prevailing feeling!

As a yoga teacher, I have been asked to teach prenatal classes, but I have always resisted.  It wasn’t that standing in front of a room full of pregnant women made me feel badly.  I don’t somehow feel inferior because I have never carried a child in pregnancy – instead, my resistance arose from my lack of experience with what it feels like to be pregnant.

The closest I have come to anything resembling a pregnant “feeling” is the enlarged uterus I currently carry around – with my fibroids, I have a uterus the size of a woman twenty weeks pregnant.  People have asked if I am expecting.  While I think the assumption is rude, their questions don’t hurt me.  They make me question a particular outfit, perhaps, but they don’t leave the sting of a hurtful remark.

What does bother me, however, is the unintentional implication that I am somehow less of a parent because I didn’t grow these girls in my womb.  When my maternity leave was very suddenly announced, (we had one week to prepare for our girls’ arrival; they were already nearly seven weeks old) a well-meaning co-worker, curious about our adoption choice asked, “Don’t you guys want children of your own?”

About six months after the girls’ arrival, another friend, who is also a parent, inquired, “So, are you starting to feel like their real mom yet?”

When trying to set up a baby registry with Target, I had to select the anticipated birth date… but our girls’ birth date had already happened – they already existed!  When the website offered no way around choosing a future date, I called the registry department of customer service, and was told by the representative that the “traditional” way of having a child involved pregnancy and a baby shower prior to the baby’s arrival.  (I not-so-calmly told said representative that we would take our non-traditional mommy-and-daddy-hood to Babies R’ Us and register exclusively there, which we did).

Perhaps my feelings stem from having grown up in a family where adoption was never seen as “less than.”  My cousin Melissa, who is mere months older than I, was one of my dearest and closest friends growing up.  There are studio portraits of the two of us at age five, in matching red and yellow Polly Flinders dresses, also sporting matching enormous, somewhat-toothless grins.  We had identical Minnie Mouse stuffed animals, went to sleep-away camp together, and had grand plans to marry brothers and build a mansion, which would also house our veterinary practice.  We were peas in a pod, and I adored that closeness, which I attributed to a familial bond.

I have very vivid memories of the day Melissa told me she was adopted, though I cannot now recall if the conversation happened before or after we saw Annie together.  We were in Melissa’s bedroom playing with her Brenda Breyer horses, singing Annie songs, and she simply stated as fact – “I am adopted, you know.”  I responded that I was going to tell on her for lying, and she told me to go ahead and ask her mom.

The ensuing conversation with her mom (my Aunt Marilyn) and my mom was very reassuring: yes, Melissa was adopted, yes, we were really cousins, no, she wasn’t going anywhere.  The message was clear – however you came into this family, you are in it, you are cherished, you are permanent.  I was instantly reassured and never gave it a second thought.

When couples approach parenthood the Target-approved “traditional” way, they have months to prepare for a little one’s (or multiple little ones, as in our case) arrival.  We had a week.  Couples who parent through pregnancy meet their children in a delivery room; we met ours in a belonging room at the adoption agency when they were six and a half weeks old.

But I imagine many of the feelings are the same – we laughed and cried. We were at once both nervous and excited to meet our baby girls.  It was love at first sight, and altogether overwhelming.   I have every assurance that these children were meant to be our daughters; they just didn’t arrive at that title through the miracle of biology.

Our girls are nearly two years old.  We have known them for twenty months, and we loved the idea of them before we met them – just like any other parent.  Our days are filled with random snuggles, juicy, sloppy kisses and belly laughs.  Phrases we had never uttered before are now commonplace in our household – “No, you may not ride the kitty like a horse”, “you have your own fork, you don’t need your sister’s”, “let’s go sit on the potty!”

We have sleep trained and lost sleep due to emerging teeth and taught baby sign language (sometimes successfully) and read the same books to the point where their spines have fallen apart. We have sung every Disney song we can think of.

We have comforted them through meltdowns over having to leave the toys in the church nursery and in the doctor’s office waiting room, and we have laughed on slides and “fwings” in parks all over our neighborhood.

We have one girl who loves sprinklers, and one who is terrified of them.  Neither of them can pronounce the word “spider,” and a little part of me hopes it will always stay that way.  Between the two of them, there are a million teeth and masses upon masses of curly, crazy hair.

They are loved beyond measure by their family.  Daddy and Mommy, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all live the same resounding message: no matter how you came into this family, you are here, you are cherished, you are permanent.

My family’s love story doesn’t involve me giving birth.  And that’s okay.

Heather Freer Kurut lives with her husband, twin daughters and a pair of cats on the city’s South Side.  When she isn’t playing with her family, she spends time as the principal of a middle school and a yoga teacher.  Her articles about yoga have been featured in Yoga Chicago.

Heather's girls

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