Lessons from the Great Airport Debacle of April 2013


Chicago on April 18 (credit: Stephen J. Serio)

I’m a new mom. 32 hours at O’Hare with a baby: definitely a new experience. When our flight was finally cancelled after a 13 hour delay, I realized we were going to run out of formula. I sat on the floor and sobbed. Strangers stopped to ask if they could help, but I turned them away, ashamed of my tears.

After security reopened its gates at 4am, my wife left the airport for a nearby drugstore. When her taxi couldn’t get through because the interstate was closed (semi-truck wreck), the roads were closed (extreme flooding and sinkholes), and the driver didn’t know the area, my wife got out and walked in the driving rain. A kind stranger stopped and gave her a ride. Another gave her a ride back from Walgreens. This took five hours.

I spent those five hours with our baby walking the K gates in Terminal 3. Somehow being alone in the airport with my daughter was infinitely worse, and my need to survive without help finally broke. I found an outlet, charged my phone, and started texting. The first text I sent was to my daughter’s mother: not the one walking in the rain, but the one at home, my daughter’s first/birth/bio/tummy mom.

delaysI know all new parents probably struggle with figuring out this adventure called parenthood. Maybe others are quicker than I am to realize that being a good parent isn’t something you can do alone. But as an adoptive mom, my determination to be a good parent is compounded with the layer of being-good-enough-to-adopt. My wife and I had to prove — to ourselves, to the social workers at the agencies, to the world in general — that we would be good parents, just to get the chance to try.

When other parents hear that we have a very open adoption, with weekly contact with our daughter’s birth/first family, they often say: “I could never do that. Too much pressure.” I won’t lie…it DOES hook into my need to get it right, my drive to do it well, my hope to be an awesome mom. But my relationship with my daughter’s bio mom also gives me support I wouldn’t have otherwise, because we love each other.

I suspect that this is not how it is SUPPOSED to work. I should be heroic, invincible, always reassuring my daughter’s bio mom that she made the right choice in picking me. Instead, I’m imperfect and flailing, a chaotic mess of brave struggle and hopeful love.

My daughter’s bio mom wrote me back right away. She checked in later as we waited through more delays, more weather. She was one of the first people to welcome us home. Maybe this isn’t the way it is supposed to work. Maybe other adoptive parents will call this “co-parenting” or accuse me of failing to hold up my end of the bargain: my daughter’s bio mom shouldn’t have to worry with me through the ups and downs of new parenthood.

But I’m a new mom, new to parenting, new to adoption. And I find that my daughter’s mom, more than most people, not only knows my daughter but knows ME. She gets what it means for me to be alone in the airport, frantic with worry about my wife, terrified about food for our daughter. She gets me and she loves me, just as I am.

So I don’t know if I am doing this adoption parenting stuff in the best way. But I do know this: love is never one-sided. Love is connection and vulnerability, helped and helping, giving and receiving back. That’s what it means when I say that, in our open adoption, we love each other. We, none of us, do it alone.

15 thoughts on “Lessons from the Great Airport Debacle of April 2013

  1. Holy crap, Liz!! What an adventure you had! (To say the least.)

    As a bio/first/birth/whatever mom myself, I can say without a doubt that you are doing things RIGHT. Your daughter will always have 3 moms – two of them doing all the raising, and one doing the supporting – because that’s what us first moms are SUPPOSED to do. We are SUPPOSED to support our child’s adoptive parent(s) in their parenting roles by providing insight into who our kids might be and just to be there for emotional support. So what if your adoption is more open than others? It’s the ATTITUDE (which you have in SPADES) of openness that counts, and not the actual practice.

    Also, I can pretty much speak for L in that I’m certain she’s not questioning her choice of you to be Ladybug’s parents. Every parent, no matter how they become a parent, has struggles in parenting – times when they question their decision to become parents and the wisdom of other people who might’ve been involved in helping them to become parents (even if that person is a significant other). After that “adventure” in parenting, I think ANYONE would’ve been questioning why they became a parent and worrying what others might think of their parenting abilities!

  2. Hi Liz- Here from ICLW. Wow- that ordeal would test ANY parent, let alone a brand new one! You are doing things right. Absolutely. Parenthood is often about survival- plain and simple. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all shed tears, experience fear (terror might be a better word), get frustrated, even angry at times. It’s normal. I know when my daughter was an infant, I was terrified to even go to the mall with her, for fear that she would be screaming her head off, and the whole world would see that I had no clue what I was doing. I think you’re very brave and very wise for reaching out for help. Hugs…

  3. I think it’s great that you have such an open communication with your daughter’s bio mom! I also think that it’s so wonderful that you get to utilize her for support and comfort! She gets to be a part of your journey of raising your daughter! You’re doing everything right, don’t worry. So looking forward to following your journey!


  4. Hello! I am here from ICLW and let me say what a beautiful story. Never let anyone else tell you where to find support for yourself or your daughter. Never worry about who you need to turn to. I am sure that your daughter’s first mother chose an open adoption because it allowed her to be a part of all of these moments, the good and the bad. Your daughter is lucky to have so many people who love her and work together to build the best life for her.

    • You are absolutely right, my daughter’s mom does embrace the good, the bad, and the in-between. It is such a struggle for me to let go of needing to minimize the bad in a (futile) attempt to protect others. Thank you for the reminder!

  5. What a beautiful story — apart from the nightmare you and your wife went through! What you said about love is so true. You love your daughter enough to want to do the best for her, even when it means reaching out for help. It sounds like her bio mom, rather than seeing this as a sign of failure, sees your self-awareness and openness as part of what makes a good parent!

  6. So sorry you had to deal with this delay. I’m glad that you do have such a strong support system in place for instances such as these when they crop up.

  7. Oh my goodness, what an ordeal! It sounds like you have a good relationship with your daughter’s birthmom, and that’s awesome! ICLW #61

  8. I think the relationship you described with your daughter’s bio mom is beautiful. There is no right way to navigate something as complicated as adoption – but I love that you have found the right way for YOU. That is a blessing.

  9. Hi from ICLW! From another semi-new mom, I think it sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job (your wife, too!) I can’t imagine being stuck in an airport that long with my twins. I am just imagining the dwindling formula situation…and the ensuing panic… Don’t worry though, we’ve all been there in one way or another!

    PS: As an adoptee myself, I think your relationship with your daughter’s birthmother sounds pretty amazing 🙂

  10. Thanks for the comment on my blog.

    I have so much admiration for you and what you are doing here – allowing yourself to be open like that and almost sharing the parenting experience and I’m sure the bio mom values that so much. I am so sorry you had the delay and no formula, that must have been just awful.

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