My oldest daughter was not born my daughter.
I did not carry her for 9 months with anticipation for her arrival. I did not endure labor and delivery or get to hear that first cry. I didn’t loose endless nights of sleep in the newborn years. I missed her first steps and all her newborn milestones. I wasn’t there for her first birthday or baptism.
My oldest daughter was born my niece.
More accurately… she was born my husband, Cory’s, niece. We were just a couple of dating teenagers when she was born. But when she was three we were married and I became her aunt.
I know I have a privilege most adoptive moms of older kids don’t have. I was their shortly after her birth and in and out of her life as she grew up. Although I missed most of her earlier years because of college. And when Cory and I moved back to our home town we didn’t get to see her much due to her birth moms stability up and downs. But I was there. I was her aunt. I already loved her. I was a part of her life, and she was a part of mine.
Most would think this would make our transition to parenting much easier…
Most would be wrong.
As much as I love my daughter nothing about this experience and our new family has been easy.
We didn’t go through an adoption agency with hopes of picking a baby to be our own. We didn’t wait for a birth mom to choose us. This wasn’t part of our five year plan, our life goal. This wasn’t even a choice… not really.
Our daughter becoming ours was a necessity.
A necessity for safety and well being. A necessity for health and a chance at a future. A necessity for our daughter.
Her necessity out weighed our choice.
We did what needed to be done. Not necessarily what we wanted to be done. We saw the need for our innocent niece, said a prayer, and dove into the shallow end.
We called social services. We did hours beyond hours of paper work to get licensed as foster parents. We got ourselves physically ready with a room and needed things. We did what needed to be done to help our girl.
But… it was what was needed… not wanted.
Every day is a struggle and a fight. It has been for 18 months. And we have yet to find any light at the end of the tunnel. I have been living in a fog of confusion, anger, and depression but not understanding why. A fog that no matter what I tried would not clear… at least not for long. Don’t get me wrong I have joy every day (who wouldn’t with four amazing kids!). I laugh daily, I get smothered with kisses, I am a human jungle gym, I snuggle and breathe in my baby’s scent. I have joy. But I also have a dominate overpowering force that doesn’t let the joy win for long. I know I am not alone, and know neither are you!
It came at me like a bulldozer, but this past week I was opened up to my why. Why I have been struggling so personally with our new family. Why I felt angry but that I shouldn’t be angry. Why underneath it all I had sadness and not anger at all. Why I can look at my four loving and lovable children and some times feel nothing but grief.
The life I’m living is not one I had (or even sometimes still) want…
Saying this has taken an impossible amount of guilt and self reflection (plus help from a therapist… yes therapy helps!). But again, I cannot stress how much I love my daughter. I love her unconditionally as my own. I will love her all my life and she is my daughter now and forever. But sometimes we feel grief that is out of our control. And I grieve the family and life I had envisioned, the life I had planned for, the life of my choosing.
Grief isn’t just for physical losses. Grief can be towards ambiguous losses too. It just takes longer for the grieving process because lack of closure. There isn’t a definitive loss, something that is no longer there.
You can grieve the loss of an idea or dream that didn’t come true. You can grieve your preconceived notions of what should or could have been. You may be a momma who needs fertility treatment to conceive, and you grieve the idea of a “normalized pregnancy”. You may be a working mom who grieves the idea of staying home with her babies. You may be a stay at home mom grieving the working life you put on pause or gave up. You may be a dad surrounded by beautiful daughters grieving passing down legacies and the family name through a son.
I grieve my “what if” or “could have been” life that I will now never live. And I am not alone.
So many moms (and dads) are suffering from depression, depletion, grief, and guilt. But let me tell you, there is such a healing power to saying it out loud, or writing it down. Accept and acknowledge what you are grieving.
It comes with all new guilt and emotions, I won’t sugar coat that. I felt awful. But grief is something that passes with time (and help). It can be healed. I can be healed. You can be healed.
As I wrote this post it kept taking such negative turns. The same negative turns I have been fighting daily with my emotions. It was someone’s fault. It was someone else’s fault. If they hadn’t done this, or had done that I wouldn’t feel this way… But as I reread each sentence and paragraph I found myself deleting all the negativity. All the blame.
Yes I am angry at my daughters birth mother and probably will be for some time. Yes I am bitter I was thrusted into a new phase of parenting that I wasn’t ready for. Yes I am saddened I am (most likely) done having kids when I only got to “have” three and my dream was four. But my angry and negative emotions are not what is fueling my days. It’s my grief.
I grieve daily, but at least now I do so with understanding. As they say in counseling, admittance and acceptance is the first step. I still feel guilt for why I am grieving. After all, I am a mom and daily guilt is a part of the job! But with accepting why I am greiving, I can start to make new dreams. So I may not give birth to four kids, I still have a full mini van. So I may be “too young” to have a 9 year old, I have 18+ years with my youngest to make me feel old later in life. And I may not have a comparable family story to other moms in my community, but I have a family I can thank God for every night.
Our family is different than my husband and I dreamed up through out our years. But It is our family and that is what I need to start focusing on. Little by little, and with a little help from my friends.
What is the grief holding you down? What keeps you in a fog and are you ready to let go? From one moms grief to yours.
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