OBG Editor’s Note: As a follow-up to her past post on pregnancy after adoption loss, today Redefining Elizabeth reflects on how adoption loss has impacted her parenting.
While in the hospital after the delivery of my second child (the first baby I’d be taking home with me), I was naturally exhausted and exhilarated. It had been a long labor of 24 hours, breast feeding was proving to be challenging, and I was overwhelmed with family visitors. It was difficult for me to watch others hold my son. While I appreciated their warm welcome and the photo ops of “first pictures” with aunts and grandparents, a part of me didn’t want anyone holding him but my husband and I. Was I being selfish or merely protective of my beautiful baby? I recall feeling it was irrational at the time. Looking back, I know it was about adoption and my need for this baby to be mine alone. As the time for discharge became closer, I was fraught with anxiety. How could the hospital actually let me take this baby home when it seemed no one supported me taking home my first born?
As one would expect, the early days at home with my new son were beautiful and tiring. I had a need to do everything right- to be the perfect mommy. While I know many parents struggle with the need to be perfect, I’m quite certain the loss of my first son exacerbated this. Breast feeding was a huge struggle with much pain, latching problems and infections. At many points, I was encouraged to just stop. However, I couldn’t stop. ‘Good’ mothers were allegedly successful at breast feeding and I had to prove to myself (and everyone else) that I was a ‘good’ mother. While I am proud in retrospect that I suffered through each baby’s early months and successfully breast fed all my subsequent children, much needless anxiety was produced in those early months.
I had changed my professional goals in college so I could more easily make the decision to be a stay at home mom. I was determined that after losing my first son, there was no way I would allow strangers at day care to help care for my subsequent children. Leaving my baby with grandma for short periods of time was even difficult. I couldn’t completely trust he would be safe or happy without me. I felt guilty leaving him even for a couple hours. Over the years, I’ve recognized that my need to be “all” to my subsequent children is related to the fact that I lost the opportunity to parent my first son.
Overprotectiveness has certainly been a part of my parenting. I am hyper-vigilant about safety and the children I am raising certainly have less freedoms than some of their peers. I have learned how to “let go” of my raised children in age-appropriate circumstances, but I suspect it will continue to be a challenge as they transition into teenagers and young adults.
Now that I am in reunion with the son I lost to adoption, I have struggled with the realization that I don’t even let my 7 year old walk down the street alone, yet I allowed an agency to select strangers to raise my first born. What kind of mother does that make me? Forgiving myself is still something I struggle with and perhaps always will. Relinquishing my first born to adoption has certainly impacted my parenting. For those of you who have parented other children after adoption, how has your parenting been impacted?