Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Midwifery and Adoption

I just came from my friend Jen's blog, and I realized as I typed the title to my post that Jen and I really really have a lot in common. We're both adoptive mommas, and we're both in midwifery (I'm yet to be a midwife and she's waiting for her babies, so were in different stages, but these two subjects are big for both of us!). So props to my friend Jen! Hi! I mean, we always knew we had these things in common, but it was particularly evident to me just now.

I have finished my application process to UBC. Transcripts, applications, fees, etc, are all in. Now I have to apply separately to the School of Midwifery, which I should get going on this week because the deadline is January 15th. With Christmas coming I'm pretty sure schools will be less speedy with transcript requests and stuff, so I am feeling that January deadline looming!! But I'm quite satisfied to have completed the process of applying to UBC. I don't find out from them until the spring, but I'm not worried. It's the School of Midwifery that I'm worried about!

I've been wanting to post about this adoption thing I've run across SO MANY TIMES. Someone will express to me that they or their spouse are very interested in adoption, but that the other one of they or their spouse is not. The other one will generally be afraid they 'won't love an adopted child enough/as much as their biological children/as much as a biological child that could or couldn't be.' These are legitimate concerns, and no one should enter adoption without knowing themselves well and without knowing it is the absolute right choice for their family at that time. But this fear of not enough love for an adopted child kind of makes me frustrated. And sympathetic. And sad.
I think all of us who have children ALWAYS fear we will not have enough or the same amount or type of love for other, newer children than we have for our existing ones. It is a really common feeling. But then the other, newer ones arrive and we realize that actually we DO have enough love, for all of them. In fact, I have found that each new child makes me love and appreciate the other children I have more, and those children make me love and appreciate the new one more, so I am surprised each time to find that the love doesn't just increase by 100% each child. It increases more.
Learning to love an adopted child is different from learning to love a biological one. It is less intuitive, organic, and instinctual, if you are a woman. If you are a man, learning to love an adopted child is much the same as learning to love a biological one, because it doesn't start off as something that IS you and slowly differentiates into an individual. The DNA is really only theory. It doesn't MAKE you love someone. It's the IDEA of the DNA that makes us feel connected, which grows into love. If something else makes you feel connected, that can be your seed that grows into love. It took me a lot longer to love my adopted child than it did to love my biological children, but (a) that is not a universal experience, and (b) it did grow. And it does feel the same.
But all of this talk of love growing in a parent's heart is besides the point. Once a child is born or adopted, it is no longer about what we feel or don't feel as parents. It is about the children involved. Everything shifts and changes, and becomes about someone other than ourselves for the first time, and suddenly when our kids are hurt, we cry, or when they are ill, we can't rest until they are well, or when they need something, we give it to them. So it shouldn't matter whether or not we might love them differently or less, because what a child in foster care or an orphanage needs is a family. Period. Not a perfect one where everyone loves everyone else the same and performs perfectly all the time, but a family with weaknesses and fears and dysfunctions, which values the children who live in it. The life a child could have in the arms of a family that loves imperfectly is far better than a life with no family at all.
What I'm trying to say is that we fear that we don't have enough to give to more children, but we do. We are enough, exactly the way we are, today. We have enough love. We don't have to be perfect or love perfectly or parent perfectly, to be enough. We are already enough. With our imperfections, and weaknesses, and mental illnesses, and tired days, and crankiness, and mistakes, and all: we are enough. Because of God. Because of Grace. Because there is something Holy in all of us.
Could you make a mistake? Yes. Could you fail? Yes. Adoption is the hardest thing I have ever done. But wouldn't you rather live in a family that makes mistakes and tries next time to do better, than no family at all? I would. I did!! I grew up in an imperfect family, and yet it was okay, and I would far rather have grown up with them than without them.
The good you show and extend yourself and your 'other children,' if you have them, through adoption far outweighs the risk of not loving a new addition enough.

Which is not to say that all families should or can adopt. It is a very personal and important decision, not to be taken lightly. But this idea that we 'might not have enough' is a groundless fear. I am enough, and I have enough, despite my fears and shortcomings. So are you. So don't fear. Leap! If it is for you. But don't hesitate because you fear you don't have enough. You do.

In conclusion, Matthew wants me to tell you that he is Matthew. I told him that you are all my friends and of course you already know who he is, but he was afraid you might forget. So consider yourselves reminded: Matthew is himself. Here is a picture from his third birthday, just to remind you:


Louise and Gary Chapman said...

Okay, anything I say won't be good enough for such an awesome post but I just want to say that I appreciate it. I even have to say that with my two biological kids, I loved them differently at birth (well, not even love for one at first) and I love them differently now. Same `amount' but a different feeling. Don't know if that makes sense.

My fear with adoption, and I hope this comes across the right way, are the feelings that would exist between the adoptive and biological kids and with us. What if my biological kids feel they weren't enough? What if my adopted kids didn't feel that they fit in? What if we adopted a girl and the boys felt that I had wished they had been girls (I don't, I love having boys!). Gary and I have been interested in adoption for the past 2 years. We haven't gone beyond talking about it, but, who knows!

We love you Vose family. We love you Matthew, you crazy, adventurous climber!

Rachel Clear said...

This was great, Melissa.

Perfect. Poignant. Applicable to me in big big ways.

Thanks for writing this.

Asheya said...

That's so great you have your stuff in to UBC! I'm so excited for you!

And thanks so much for this post on adoption, and having enough. I'll be passing it on to Eric to read.

The other thing I worry about with potentially adopting is that it will somehow negatively impact my other children. Like, what if the adopted child turns out to be especially challengning because of things the biological mother did or did not do during pregnancy, and takes a lot of time and energy and the other kids get neglected? This could happen with a biological child, too, of course, but I guess i feel that I have more control in some ways because I am the one makikng decisions in pregnancy. And it seems like there is more of a risk of challenges with an adopted child. Does that make sense? If we had no other children I wouldn't worry about if we had enough love or not, I know it would be okay. But the other kids are now a factor in the decision. Also because adopting is so obviously a CHOICE, whereas sometimes pregnancy just happens :) So if things got really hard I think I would feel like it was my decision somehow that things would be so hard.

Anyway, this all sounds kind of awful when I write it down like this, but if I was to have any more children it would be either by an unplanned pregnancy or adoption (or both, I guess ha ha).

Thanks for your passion and your openness in sharing your experiences. xoxo

Jen said...

Mel, Big congrats on getting your midwifery app in! I love, love, love it that you are pursuing midwifery. It is much more than a career. It is a calling - a unique and challenging one, and so rewarding.

It's true, we do have much in common. I love how each of us has gone ahead of the other in one area, which makes us better able to give advice and provide support. Being able to talk to you about adoption last July was HUGELY helpful for me. I am so thankful for your friendship and support in this.

Thank you for writing what you did about adoption and how we are enough. It touched a place in me that fears the opposite. I am encouraged and inspired (once again). Thank you.