My daughter recently turned 9 months old. For most people, that is a milestone devoid of much fanfare. For me, it was one I had been counting up to since her birth. It was a milestone which meant she had been mine longer than anyone else’s.
You see, my daughter is adopted. And while we have an incredible relationship with her other mommy, I can’t deny that there was a jealousy there from the very start on my end. Even in the delivery room, watching her push and strain to bring our daughter into the world—I was jealous. I ached for the nine months she had been able to carry this little girl beneath her heart. I cursed my body for not being able to accomplish what she had done. And I even felt guilty that she had to endure this pain and heartbreak, while I was the one who was going to walk away with all the joy and happiness that endeavor produced.
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I would have taken it all upon myself in a heartbeat if I could have.
My daughter’s other mommy is an amazing woman. She is strong, beautiful, and incredibly intelligent and sincere in everything she does. I have loved and respected her from the moment we met—a moment where we effortlessly forged a strong bond and friendship I don’t believe either of us had been expecting. Our adoption story was not facilitated through an agency or coercion of any kind. In fact, it was an act of pure fate—an introduction that occurred by chance just a week before our daughter was born, when she was desperately seeking the right person to raise the little girl she was carrying and knew she could not take home. She is family to me now, and I will always bend over backwards to ensure she is able to maintain a strong role in our daughter’s life.
But something happened when that little girl was actually real; when she was placed into my arms as a living, breathing, crying being—no longer the abstract ideal I hadn’t yet fully allowed myself to believe in. From that instant, I was in love. And she was mine. Suddenly, a shift occurred. It was a change in dynamics, ever so perceptible, between me and her other mommy. I hadn’t anticipated that shift. It wasn’t something I had expected or prepared myself for. But from that moment, my jealousy was amplified. She had carried this little girl for nine months, when I had not even known she existed. My daughter had resided in her womb; allowing her to know her in a way I never would.
I know what it feels like to recognize that another woman knows your daughter better than you do.
I felt like I had missed so much; like this other woman knew and understood my daughter more intimately than I could ever possibly compete with. I fought that jealousy with everything inside of me, because I knew how misplaced it was. But I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t force it away. I hated that someone else knew my daughter better than I did.
I hated that I had to share.
As the months have gone by, I know that jealousy has continued to volley back and forth between the two of us. It would be impossible for it not to, despite how much we each genuinely care for the other. But for me, there was something about that 9-month birthday I yearned for—a milestone which would mean our daughter had been with me for as long as she had been with her. Proof that from that day forward, no one would ever know this little girl as well as I did.
It was petty and ugly and far from admirable, but ... it was real.
Adoption is complicated. Adoptive parents are lying if they say it isn’t. There are emotions that will come about that you never could have anticipated. There are sides to yourself that you never would have believed existed. There is pain, and jealousy, and sadness to be found from all ends. But there is also love, and beauty, and a perseverance that ties it all together.
In the end, that 9-month birthday wound up not being as symbolic as I had once built it up to be. By the time it came and went, I had already been “mama” for months. As I grew more secure in the role of motherhood, I found myself needing that validation less and less. I am the one my daughter looks to when she is sad. I am the one she seeks in a room full of people. I am the only person she will give real, arms wrapped around the neck and face burrowed into the skin, hugs to.
I am her mother.
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And the irony is when the nine month mark hit, instead of feeling the sense of accomplishment and validation I had anticipated, I only felt a wave of compassion for her other mommy.
I know what it feels like to recognize that another woman knows your daughter better than you do, to know that she has given that little girl what you couldn’t. I know that sting, even in understanding the love and sacrifice which accompanies it.
Adoption is complicated.
And it turns out that nothing, not even the 9-month birthday, can ever really change that.