A Mother’s Day Love Letter to Women Waiting to Adopt

by Elizabeth Hunter on May 11, 2012

A little Irish tea room opened in my town the year of our first adoption. I am kind of nuts about tea rooms. I remember one day sitting alone at a table with my rooibos Early Grey tea & scone, writing in my journal.  Mother’s day 2005 was just around the corner.

During my childless years, just those two words–Mother’s Day–made my whole body clench up.  I’d walk around that whole week feeling raw, naked, and strangely guilty, like somebody was flashing a painfully bright neon sign over my head that said,  “this woman has no children!  this woman is not a mother!”

That day, I was struggling to write a letter to my future daughter.  Efforting to find the precise words to tell her what being her mother meant to me. All the things I wished for her and for us and our life together.

I can still feel the fountain pen (I’m so retro)  straining against my hands as I strived to win her over. as if I somehow needed to be more, different, better than I was to seal the deal. As if the exact right combination of words could stretch across the invisibility of time and space and finally be the correct prayer. The one that  also won God or the Universe over: Dear Lord,  GRANT ME MOTHERHOOD.

As if that was ever in doubt…

Looking back on that scene now, as the mother of four children, four adoptions later, having travelled literally (three continents) and spiritually so far from the nervous young woman I was, there isn’t a thing in the whole wacky, scary, exhilarating adoption ride to motherhood that I would change.  Except one.

I wish that as I sat stressed out and alone in the tea room that day, a slightly wiser, kind of glowingly radiant woman would show up out of nowhere, sit  across the table from me , take my hand, look me in the eyes with pure love, and tell me these three things:

1) Motherhood (and adoption) is not a contest. It is not an award for good behavior.  It is a sacred calling. It’s not about deserving or not deserving.  It is not about being worthy or perfect.  It’s about being imperfectly perfect for the situation, for the moment. Right now. Just as you are. You are enough. No better version of you required.

You with your non waterproof mascara running down your cheeks bawling over yet another manipulatively sappy commercial. You with the irreplaceable photos that got lost cause  you never backed them up.  You who is one minute yelling at your husband with a surprising rage that comes from some previously undiscovered dark place inside, and the next is kissing his feet. We are all just works in progress. Everyone is needed. No one is left out.

2) Treat your adoption calling as sacred.  Anything less is just disrespectful. This means stop second guessing yourself.  Stop dismissing your deepest longings and your truest instincts as selfish or impossible . Stop delaying. See your infertility or adoption challenges as the absolutely necessary quirky-shaped little piece that completes a much bigger puzzle.

When I was trying to have a child, I was so afraid of missing out I didn’t see that my little prayer to become a mother was part of a bigger constellation of prayers–my husband’s, my children’s, the birth mother’s, birth fathers, birth relatives, and beyond.

I think even countries have prayers.  Communities have prayers.  (adopting our children from Rwanda and Guatemala connects my family forever to the well being of these countries)

Families have prayers, too.  All these prayers need answers. One person’s plea for help is another person’s saving grace. The whole is WAY bigger than the sum of its parts.

So if adoption is your calling (not just your  backup plan), don’t hold back!  Have  the courage to say “yes!” to it with your whole heart. Even if you’re not sure if things will work out. Even if you could get hurt (again).

Because your little prayer has thousands of other little prayers working for it, depending on it.

3) Treat yourself like you’re pregnant. Now. Because you are. I know this sounds weird so hear me out.  I’m not saying pretend you are pregnant.  I’m saying pay close attention to the changes going on inside you. There are real signs of transformation that take place within a woman when an adoption calling is being fulfilled.

Pregnancy is a process of conception, gestation, development, birth.  No one questions it. But with adoption, the pregnancy is invisible. There’s no physical evidence that new life is growing. You’ll get very little validation from others on this. So here’s what to look for…

You have  to trust the ache in your heart.  A growing surge of energy and the feeling of confidence that a clear path to your child is opening up. The strong sensation in your body, like an invisible magnetic force field, pulling you forward.

(Note: if you don’t feel these things, and you’ve been waiting for more than 18 months with no movement, you may need a major course correction in your adoption plan. Please stay tuned or  you can get on the first-to-know list for  the Pink Tent Mother’s Empowerment Training, to walk through a step by step system to greenlighting a real life adoption plan that works)

For me, the physical urge to become a mother came on so hard so fast it practically knocked me down with its intensity. Clearly,  the hormones I wasn’t using to get pregnant got transferred into this forward momentum  to adopt.

Maybe for you it’s more subtle. But I guarantee it’s there if you pay attention.  They talk about intuition being whispers, but I swear in all of our adoptions there was this voice inside me screaming “now!now!now!”   “It’s showtime!”

You just have to trust  it.

One day, maybe sooner than you think, there’s going to be a baby in your house. It’s gonna happen. You will spend months wondering where this little person came from unless you realize:  It’s happening now.

“Begin at  the end,”  says Martha Beck. Which means live out the feelings that you’ll have when you get where you’re going.  Before you get there.

Don’t wait for Mother’s Day 2013 or 2014   to exhale and celebrate… Right now.  This minute. Celebrate that  you are in the sacred process of becoming a mother.

Today, I wish to welcome you into the mommy club.  You belong here. Your place is already reserved.

Happy Mother’s Day!

At the tea room, one year later...

If you are reading this and know of an adoptive mom-to-be who is waiting, or a women who is trying to have a child, please pass this on and let her know you love her and support her this Mother’s Day :)

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

StacyK May 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Thank you. This is my seventh Mother’s Day in waiting… Thank you.

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elizabeth hunter May 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Hey, thanks. 7 Mother’s Days is a long time. If hope things are currently progressing in your adoption at a pace you can live with. If not, please see my comments to Jess. I don’t believe we should ever languish in adoption waiting-land indefinitely without a realistic timetable (based on people who have adopted through the same exact route with similar credentials to us in the past year). If you don’t have that, please consider a major course correction in your adoption plan. And stay tuned on the blog. Juicy info to help with this topic is on the way! xoe

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Marie May 23, 2012 at 11:29 am

Agree with you Elizabeth when you say you don’t believe people should languish for ever. 7th Mothers day,a long time indeed.

As cannot be healthy for anyone to hope for ever some things that may happen when things simply may not in real life, not been able to adopt “this is as realistic as a miscarriage”, and should be acknowledge as this in a way to?

As with all the signs you say about as IF to be Pregnant while waiting to Adopt, there is also “signs for a miscarriage to happen as well”, and some can have many miscarriages. No fault on a person or anyone else, just the way life can be for some.

Also not much option if some may never Adopt, that it is for them they may not have another route to go to, and feel very bitter, sad but a lot feel that way.

There is still Value as a person/couple with out Children.

Don’t let society dictate how one should feel without children, simply fact for whatever reasons , it may not work that all Adopt.

All hope to those still in the wait.

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Marie May 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

PS:….also that couple should have “as much if not more support one way “or Specially the other when their grief sets it wont be happening.

Also Mothers Day, um well thats over rated, why not everyday be Mothers Day, after all we all Mothers in a sense to someone, or have nieces Nephews etc.

We are so very blessed to have a successful journey, and never will forget all the feelings attached to this. Simply it may or may not happen to some, and acceptance of this reality ” before anything may happen or not may do or not”does make things easier.

As not healthy at all been obsessed for years over , what may never come.

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Claire May 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

This post is a huge gift to any woman who is longing to become a mother. Mother’s Day was always my most dreaded day of the year when I was trying to conceive and then waiting to adopt. Personally, I still think the holiday should just disappear off the face of the earth. It causes false expectations, and can be hurtful to people in a variety of circumstances (women who have lost their mothers, women who have bad relationships with their mothers, women who are longing for a child, etc). Even since becoming a mother through adoption, I struggle every year with unrealistic expectations related to this holiday. (The baggage likes to rear its ugly head around this time of year.) Elizabeth, you hit the nail on the head. If we have to have a Mother’s Day, it should be a day to honor women who are called to motherhood in its various capacities, and that includes women who don’t necessarily have a child in their arms.

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elizabeth hunter May 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for the reminder about all the other women for whom Mother’s Day is loaded. I think the whole mother thing is way loaded with expectation and pressure and baggage that needs to be sorted out. But for now, Happy Mother’s Day!

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Jessica May 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm

This post almost works. Part of it don’t ring true for me but I appreciate the attempt. And I love all your other posts.
But–pretend I am pregnant? Please, I am so past that. Also feeling guilty? I just feel anger and envy and left out.
And, it’s gonna happen? Hmmm not encouraging cuz it aint happenin’. I don’t hang my hope on the future like that anymore.
I appreciate the gesture and glad it worked for some. For me it went, clunk.

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elizabeth hunter May 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Fair enough, Jess! This is a safe place to share your true feelings & I appreciate your honesty.

To clarify, I didn’t say “Pretend you are pregnant.” How silly would that be? :) I was actually describing the physical phenomenon I experienced while being in the process of adopting. For me, that’s how I rolled. All four times.

I would also say, and I hope you can hear this in the totally loving & supportive way I mean it, if “it aint happenin,” and you’ve been waiting for more than 18 months with nothing going on, then something is off in your adoption set up and you need a major course correction, to reach out for some help or to try a totally new approach.

I don’t believe we should EVER languish in adoption waiting-land indefinitely without a general timetable we can live with. Unless we choose for some specific reason to do this.

In any case, I never heard the word ‘clunk’ associated with one of my posts before, and it made me laugh out loud. So it’s all good :)

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Jessica May 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Thanks for being so gracious. And really, i love your blog and you are one of the first to really “get” grief and write well about it.
BTW, on our 1st major course correction with about 3 smaller course corrections in there… so I hear ya, thanks!! (Been trying about 3-4 years.)

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elizabeth hunter May 12, 2012 at 6:20 pm

So happy to hear about your course corrections, Jess. I’m psyched for you! It seems to take many women several of them, like Gabrielle’s story shows, to get the “greenlight.” I think the common denominator in all adoptions that ‘don’t work’ is people sticking with a path that’s obviously not producing results, thinking that maybe a miracle will happen.

Please keep me posted on how things are going. I have some great tools coming out on this subject. I’d love for you to try them and give me your HONEST opinion. Gotta love honesty. :) xoe

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Gabrielle May 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thanks for this. I am a mom this year, and was last year, but I still very well remember how it was before that. How I felt so out of the standing up at church. We were in the process and it was a long, hard, expensive one. It was hard for me to be “expecting” or “pregnant” as it did take so long. I couldn’t quite get myself to do until we accepted our referral. Of our children. No babies here! I wish I’d had your post to read back then. It was 3 Mother’s Days ago that we accepted our referral and 4 that I left church crying and said there’d be no Mother’s Day until I was a mom. My husband was supportive. He said we’d go away for that weekend and enjoy ourselves somewhere else. No church, no cards to our moms. But the next year we had a referral to consider. We did so on a weekend trip and called our moms to tell them and wish them Happy Mother’s Day on the way home.

By the way, we too had course corrections and one major one I really didn’t foresee. I had had a dream of my daughter so hard-hitting it felt prophetic. She was in Russia, 6 years old, with a 2 year old brother. We canceled our first agency. Seemed they only wanted rich people. The 2nd turned us down because I don’t want birth children. The 3rd cost way more than the rest but we had just signed up when that lady sent her son back to Russia. They wanted us to hurry in case Russia closed. We weren’t anywhere near the money to hurry. The option of Poland came out of the blue. The referral we accepted was for a sibling group of 2 from Poland, a girl and a boy. We had them in our home within 9 months!

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elizabeth hunter May 11, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I’m so glad you shared your story! This is a great example of course corrections leading to a swift (eventually) resolution and placement. I applaud you. I think FAR too many people stay stuck in Agency #1 for far too long. Then they say adoption ‘didn’t work’ for them. The choices you made were scary and brave and it takes a certain kind of inner strength and perseverence to do it. But when you are willing to keep trusting your intuition and paying attention to the factual evidence all around you, if you don’t quit too soon you will eventually happen upon an adoption plan (in your case, Poland) that is a “greenlight,” meaning a perfect fit at the perfect time with no outer or inner obstructions. Once you hit this, things move like the wind, right? Awesome.

(And you’re totally right about using the word “child” not baby. I should know, I adopted a toddler. I need to find another word to substitute for “child” because I feel like I’m using it again and again and again. Any ideas? )

xo Elizabeth

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Claire May 12, 2012 at 2:20 am

Gabrielle, the standing up in church for the Mother’s Day blessing always cut me to the core, too. Even now that I am a mother, I don’t stand up for that blessing, because I remember how painful it was, and I don’t want to be a source of pain for someone else.

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Esther Wissell May 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Thank you so much for this post. It’s sweet to know that others remember us “hopeful mothers”. It’s so easy to feel alone while waiting. Thanks again!

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Elizabeth M May 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Wonderful! Thanks for writing this!! :-)

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mamagringa May 13, 2012 at 1:49 am

As a waiting parent for the last eight years, Mother’s Day has always been bittersweet. It is a day that I give thanks to my own beautiful mother but it is also a reminder that I am not there yet. Your post hit home on many levels, particularly about that self-doubt that many of us have. I battle that constantly yet I don’t feel alone in that thought. Even my friends who had their own biological children went through that stage, albeit for only 9 months. 😛

As for the course corrections, we have had many and yet we still wait. For us here in Australia, our adoption journeys are often halted because of bureaucratic red tape which is out of our hands. So, we battle this as best we can, making ourselves heard and pushing the boundaries where possible. This of course doesn’t help to settle the doubt but knowing that we are not alone, does.

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elizabeth hunter May 13, 2012 at 2:09 am

Thanks for sharing and welcome to AG! I’m glad you found your way here. I would love to learn more about adoption in Australia. Is there a good online forum or site you could recommend? I will hold you and your child in my thoughts & prayers. xoe

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c May 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I am Australian and there is now very little adoption domestically in Australia due to adoption being done in a much more ethical manner than in the US (when women get proper counselling about their situation, they tend not to relinquish, weird as it may seem).

As with international, I believe only China and Ethiopia are available and there are still certain ethical issues with both countries.

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elizabeth hunter May 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Fascinating. So are you saying that in Australia they don’t have the severity of the problems we have here in the U.S.–domestic violence, drugs abuse, incarceration, etc..–that create the foster care system with children caught in the crossfire? That would be fantastic and inspirational!

In terms of international adoption, Ethiopia and china are not in fact the only options here in the U.S., although they definitely are the biggest programs right now. I am actively connected to small groups working in several countries in Africa where international adoption is seen as a short term solution to a huge orphan crisis (that sadly, in all the horrible adoption stories in the media, is pretty much being forgotten). I wonder if that would be a possibility for Australians.
A wonderful success story with int’l adoption is Rwanda, where two of my kids are from. They permitted small numbers of highly ethical international adoptions with LOTS of oversight by the government for several years, as they were educating their own people about the benefits of foster care, adoption and birth control. And now, they are phasing out international adoption. which is as it should be.

Thanks for the info!! All the best, xoe

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c May 15, 2012 at 12:41 am

“Fascinating. So are you saying that in Australia they don’t have the severity of the problems we have here in the U.S.–domestic violence, drugs abuse, incarceration, etc..–that create the foster care system with children caught in the crossfire? That would be fantastic and inspirational”

You are being disingenuous as you know I was talking about domestic infant adoption. Of course we have similar problems though we may deal with them a bit differently in that the governments (state) don’t use adoption as a bandaid. For example, I quite often hear about women in the US relinquishing their child because the woman is a victim of DV. Often that means the woman is still a victim of DV after relinquishment. Surely it is better to deal with the combined package so they are both safe. In regards to incarceration, in both the US and Australia when a newborn is cared for by her mother inside (usually up to 18 months), it is often of benefit for both – the rate of reoffending drastically drops when this is done.

However, many women who relinquish *voluntarily* don’t fit into that category. They are often women in a crisis situation who need full and proper counselling about THEIR situation before even considering parenting choices so that when they are ready to do so,they are in the best possible position to do so. The nature and timing of adoption option counselling in the US(i.e. selling adoption as the *only choice a mature woman would chose* and doing it early in the pregnancy) can mean a woman is making her decision in a compromised atmosphere. I am not talking about just agencies here – adoptions options counselling is often done by anyone who works with women with unplanned pregnancies. None of you will ever really know how influenced a woman may be by this counselling – it is very cleverly and subtly done as the powers to be know that the best way to separate a child from its mother is to *hold the child’s safety to ransom* so that, in the end, it can mean the mother ends up feeling that the only way her child can be kept safe is if her child is removed from her, however capable she might be. Btw I have done the NCFA’s online birthmother counselling course so I’ve seen what it is like. I then noticed that the majority of agency websites bmother pages are based on this counselling.

It seems to me that when adoption isn’t used by governments as safety nets/bandaids, then resources are developed to actually deal with the underlying problems. This seems to me to be a major problem with adoption in the US, i.e. adoption is used as a resource, meaning some other resources are not being developed further. I realise you have an extensive welfare system but it seems to me that the “working poor” can fall through the cracks. The irony is that those women that many in the general population believe *should* be relinquishing their children are never the ones that do. Bringing ethics into DIA would not mean more children in foster care.

Btw it would be great if more people did adopt older children from foster care or doing foster care though I don’t see many of your readers on here rushing to do so.

awaitingmyangel May 13, 2012 at 3:05 am

Elizabeth you story is very encouraging, and that’s what people need now. As a 43 y/o without a child, it can be difficult at times. I thank God for his strength, after many years of severe female issues, fertility treatments for the one thing you’ve long for and still without. I just wish the cost of adoption wasnt so expensive, cause theres so many loving children awaiting a loving family. I will never give up hope and look forward to the day when I too will hear that beautiful word Mommie!

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