The path leading me to become a mother to my second child was one that unfolded by chance, luck and, I believe, fate. I mentioned to a friend that my husband and I were considering adoption. The friend happened to have just seen a posting about an international adoption seminar at our local community center. The speaker at the community center happened to be an adoption attorney who had himself been adopted, and he had a strong relationship with an orphanage in Colombia, where he was born. My husband and I happened to fit the qualifications for Colombian adoption, and less than a year later I brought my son home from South America.
Obviously, it wasn’t that simple. The road was paved with plenty of bureaucracy and heartbreak. But along the way I found many other adoptive mothers who wanted to help with advice and support. Once I told an adoptive mother that I was trying to adopt, she would instantly become a confidante and mentor. And now that I’m on the other side of the process, I instinctively find myself doing the same thing. I’m part of the sisterhood of adoptive moms.
My friend Katherine was the first. She already had a little girl from Ethiopia and was about to start the process all over again to bring home a little sister. Katherine invited me over and introduced me to her 3-year-old by saying, “This is my friend. She wants to find out all about adoption. Should we tell her our story?” And that is how I learned the first thing about being an adoptive mother: Openness and honesty from the beginning. My son has grown up knowing his adoption story. There was never that dramatic, TV moment when I sat him down and said, “Son, your father and I have something to tell you.” And because I’ve always been open and honest, my son has grown up both knowing and owning his story as his personal history.
Next I met Robin, who shared her tragic story of losing a baby late in her pregnancy and not wanting to go through it again. Robin and her husband had an older, biological child (meaning Robin was the birth mother of her first child) who loved helping her mom out with the baby. Robin taught me to consider birth order, and to decide if it was important to me and my first child that the new baby be younger — a “little” sibling rather than a big one, so that my first child’s place in the family … and in the world … would feel secure.
And I spoke with my friend Charlene, who spent years battling infertility followed by more years trying to adopt from China. In a matter of weeks, Charlene beat the odds by not only becoming pregnant but at the same time, receiving word that there was a baby for her in China. She is now the proud mother of two gorgeous girls who are very close in age. I asked Charlene if she felt equally bonded to each of her girls, and the answer was a resounding yes. I will never forget her telling me, “I look at my biological daughter and I recognize her, because she’s so much like me. I look at my adopted daughter and I am amazed, because she’s someone I could never dream of.”
And that is when I learned the most important part of being an adoptive mother: You honestly love your children the same, whether they came to you through adoption or biology.
Now that I’m on the other side, consumed with the business of raising my children rather than bringing them home, I occasionally cross paths with someone at the beginning of the adoption process and find myself stepping into the shoes of the women who mentored me. I remember the adoptive mothers who helped me along the way. Many had endured the anguish of unsuccessful fertility treatments, and some were still recovering from a frustratingly torturous adoption process. They all shared a commonality and a desire to help other parents adopt. I’m a part of a sisterhood of proud mothers with children born of their hearts but not from their wombs.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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