One of the first things we were taught in our pre-adoptive training is that adoption is about loss. Sounds sad and depressing, when you should be gearing up with anticipation and excitement about a new addition to your family, I know. However, understanding loss in adoption is integral to being equipped to handle both your child’s emotional behaviors as well as your own. I’m not going to regurgitate and educate on the topic of loss, but I am constantly amazed at how frequently this topic rears its painful head in our lives.
A couple of weeks ago (hey, I’m a BUSY stay-at-home mommess, it takes me a while to sit down and blog about stuff!) I was at the dentist with my daughter. The hygienist was examing her teeth and pointed out to me that her two bottom front teeth were LOOSE!!! I was in shock. My baby is just barely 4 years old!! How could this be? Such a sign of growth, this rite of passage from baby/toddlerhood to school-age childhood. I was totally unprepared for the news, despite recent activities to register and orient ourselves for Junior Kindegarten, starting in September. Then the bomb really dropped. The hygienist confirmed that 4 WAS indeed a bit early for loose teeth, and asked me WHEN my daughter got her first tooth.
Silence. Truth is, I have no idea. We adopted my darling daughter at age 18 months, when almost all of her teeth, including molars, were already present (as she painfully confirmed for me one day when I stupidly stuck my finger in her mouth a few weeks after adoption to count her teeth and molars!).
So, I was forced to tell the hygienist that I had no idea when she got her teeth and why I had no idea. I’m not ashamed of adopting our daughter, that part doesn’t bug me in the least. However, I LOATHE the fact that I missed SO many of her “firsts” – first smile, first tooth, first step, first word. Once again, that thorn in my side – LOSS. Sometimes I’d like to LOSE that word from my life.
I tried to rationalize that I was PMS’ing and feeling overly-emotional about not knowing when she got her first teeth. After all, the hygienist assured me that it was no big deal and that generally the earlier the baby teeth came in, the earlier they came out, so Baby Girl probably got her teeth early. That didn’t help. I am her MOM and I should KNOW these things. No matter that there are hundreds of far more critical pieces of information about my daughter that I have no knowledge of – her birth father’s identity, the origin of the scar across her left temple in to her hairline. All more important questions than when did her first tooth come in, yet so far, nobody has asked me about these things.
I’ve considered it’s my own pride that is most bothered by this lack of knowledge. I’ve always liked knowing the right answer to questions. Yet somehow it runs deeper. I feel a longing for something I can never have – the experience of being the person who knows these things about my child because I was right there when they happened. There is my loss. Yes, there are other losses for adoptive parents (loss of fertility in some cases, loss of information about their children, etc) but for some reason, I can’t get this particular one out of my head.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so adamant on not missing ANYTHING in Baby Girl’s life from the moment we brought her home. My husband and I agreed that I would not seek paid employment until she was in school full time. We are currently at a point of discussion on this matter, as JK in our district is a full-day class, every OTHER day with alternating Fridays (maybe we should LOSE the politician who thought of THAT ridiculous idea!). My husband, who is also motivated by the frustration of being the sole breadwinner for the past 3 years, is keen for me to get a paying job come September. We are both growing tired of making financial sacrifices that we didn’t have to make prior to Baby Girl’s arrival, but I think I am still more willing to follow it through for another year. Don’t get me wrong – he is respectful and subtle, but I know he wants the financial relief of a 2nd pay cheque so the burden doesn’t always ride on his self-employed shoulders to support our family and lifestyle.
However, I can’t bring myself to consider daycare for the 2 or 3 days per week that it would be required. If Baby Girl MUST go to school, then she must. But I don’t have to like it, nor do I have to agree to also give up the time in between those school days when I could be with her. Because I don’t want to. I don’t want to miss out on that time together.
Now friends and family who may actually be reading at this point are probably sarcastically cackling to themselves and thinking about all the times when I’ve been desperate for an escape from mommy-land, or the times I’ve been on the phone with them and heard me shout at my Baby in utter frustration brought on by spending all day, every day with her sometimes trying little self. Ok. Point taken. But just because I’d rather miss the tantrums, saucy responses, whining, panty-wetting, and irritation-provoking doesn’t mean I want to give up the GOOD stuff that occurs in between the stuff I’d like to lose.
The hilarious unintentional jokes, the hugs, the “I love you’s”, the moments of sheer Mensa-brilliance, the smiles, the learning, the laughter, the funny sayings. I want to horde all the firsts that I possibly can to compensate for the ones I’ve missed. I don’t want to voluntarily give up ANYTHING that I could be a part of. She is my world, and to be honest, I can’t even imagine having the attention span required for employment. My brain cells are all on reserve for someone else. I doubt her being in school every day, all day will change that, but I will have run out of excuses to be with her at that point. Desperately trying not to think about that looming additional loss and enjoy what I can until then. Try to focus on what I’ve GAINED, instead of the losses. Thankfully a fairly easy task with all the joy I get from being with my daughter.