I don't consider myself any less of a mother because I did not give birth to my daughter, but I'm afraid some perceive it that way. I can clearly remember when a very close friend of mine made remarks regarding maternal instinct - and spoke as if these instincts did not apply to me. I don't think she intended to sound vindictive, but the impact was the same. I have other family members and friends who are so focused on the fact that Olivia did not come from my body that it consumes their conversation when they're with me. I have learned to deal with them in my own way but it has been difficult.
I'd like to share that as an adoptive parent, these facts are not relevant on a daily basis. It's not the topic of discussion at the dinner table, and I do not look at Olivia as the child I did not conceive. Instead I concentrate on loving and nurturing her, making her a happy, healthy child so that she can grow to be a productive, loving adult. Which I'm pretty sure is the intent of most parents.
To be honest with you, I stood on my adoptive soapbox hollering at anyone who would listen that they were wrong - that I couldn't possibly be any closer to, or love anyone more than I love Olivia. And part of me was terrified to test this theory. Yet it's being tested right now and I can tell you that I was right.
Although my bond with Olivia may have started differently since she was delivered to my heart and soul through another woman's body - it's still just as intimate as the bond I share with the child I delivered through my own body just four short months ago.
While birth mothers share their delivery room stories, I have Olivia's story to share. The pain I experienced was not physical, but the emotional toll it took on me was immeasurable.
Olivia entered this world on August 14, 1994. The pregnancy was unplanned and kept secret. She received no prenatal care, no love, no nurturing during that crucial time. And while she was being born I was busy painting my first house, working and going to school full time, and planning my wedding. I had no intention of becoming a parent at that time - in fact it was probably the farthest thing from my mind. But circumstances changed all that. And when I was faced with the challenge of becoming Olivia's mother I decided that I had no choice. One look into her eyes and I immediately fell in love, and that intensity has only grown with time.
My friends looked upon the situation with pity. They thought that it wasn't fair that I was faced with this decision at such an independent time in my life. It never occurred to me (or my husband) that becoming Olivia's parents had taken away our independence - all we focused on was the love we gained through her, both for her and between us. I do not want to pretend that it was a walk in the park, because as any new parent will attest, parenting is the hardest thing you'll ever do. And becoming a parent when you are not prepared adds to that ten-fold. But you get through it, and you're a stronger person for it.
My purpose in writing this piece is to make people aware of the bond that exists between adoptive parents and their children. In his book, "The Prophet," the poet Khalil Gibran said that children are not to be owned, they are not our property. If we're lucky enough, God lets us hang onto them for a while to nurture them, but they are their own people.
Becoming a mother does not always happen at conception or birth. Instead it comes in those dark moments at night when that baby or child is crying for someone to love them, hold them, and take care of them, and you're the one who is there.
So please - next time you meet an adoptive parent or child, choose your words carefully and with a better understanding of what they've gone through. Do not use the word "real" to describe the birth parents, and be careful not to show sympathy - it's not necessary.