Here’s Where I Start To Confess

She’s Not Sleeping

But that’s nothing new. Our daughter didn’t start snoozing “through the night” (i.e. for 6 hours) until nine months. What’s new is losing the one thing we had going for us…her fall-asleep-fast by 7 p.m.. It’s gone. I’m not sure whether it’s tummy issues, a recent trip, the heat, or having a cold, but the past month has been…there’s just no nice word. “It sucks” is moderate, but not adequate.

After two to three hours of singing, rocking, cajoling, and every-baby-whisperer-trick-we-know, she passes out only to pop back up again after a few hours.

I Don’t Want to Complain

I get that sleep is this THING. I’m not here to swap war stories, because, frankly, with only one child under a year old, I know I’ll lose. I read your blogs, moms: I know.

What makes me tired-upon-tired is the bigger reason I don’t complain: I’m an adoptive mom. Grateful and maybe chagrined or determined, I can be those things. But end-of-rope-tear-spilling-weary? Nope.

I Know What You’ll Say

Oh, sure, you’ll write nice comments (I hope) and tell me how an adoptive mom is like any other mom, and that we are ALL bone weary. But I don’t believe you. I know better.

And you, adoptive mamas, I think you do, too. Even if we aren’t supposed to admit it. There’s a higher standard:

Our own.

It started with the home study, right? When we had to select pictures of ourselves, and few of them were good enough? And then the letter we had to write. And then, the match interview, or interviews, and meetings. And the way we worried about what to wear to the hospital? Casual, but not sloppy. Motherly but not so motherly it seemed we were making assumptions.

This is Where I Start to Confess

And then, just when we think we’re done, there’s the parenting part. The open adoption part.river
The visits, meetups. Our house, the park, parties. Hosting. Welcoming and open-armed. Making space for everyone, for family-of-origin misunderstanding and ignorance, for birth family nervousness and grief. Holding everyone around the child together.

And through it all, being real and vulnerable, but not so vulnerable you can say all the secret things you think: about how you are so tired.

About how no one said it was this hard. Precisely THIS hard.

How Adoption is Different

Being an adoptive mom is no different than being a…what’s the right word…normal/standard/usual/expected mom. Every new normal/standard/usual/expected mom is exhausted, and shocked to discover exactly how tired she feels.

But those moms get to complain. And I don’t feel like I can.

Because I’m the lucky one. The million-in-one-chance-someone-chose-you-so-don’t-mess-it-up one.

And So I Tell Myself:

Your child needs you to be present, not wallowing in selfishness.

Your child needs you because your child is separated from her first mother, the one who was normal/standard/usual/expected until she chose you.

And you are standing in the gap of that loss, for both of them. You are the one in the river of need up to your neck, holding the tiny hand of the child and the hand of the mom and the hands of the families, and they are all depending on you to keep your head above water.

Don’t you dare, for one second, drown.

The point of writing this now…

is not to elicit sympathy or praise. Or speak for all adoptive mamas. Or make us seem heroic (god forbid). Or, in any way, even the smallest, minimize how hard it is for the moms who chose adoptive parents to raise their children. Or imply that open adoption is a bad choice because it is “too hard.”

The point is just to admit that I’m tired, and to let you see me.

It’s Brené Brown’s Fault

She said to be real is to risk being seen.

My what-would-I-do-without-her adoptive mama friend says that I should get a T-Shirt that reads “where I come from, there’s shame.” And she’s right: it’s shame of being found out that keeps me quiet and makes it worse.

I’m ashamed of my weariness and deeply afraid that you’ll read this and think me selfish or ungrateful or self-aggrandizing or entitled or callous or broken.

So Here I Am

If to be real is to risk being seen, then here I am. I’m an adoptive mom. And I’m tired of adoption. I’m tired of what it adds, for me, because of MY standards (which are my own problem, I know) to the daily life of parenting.

I just want to show up and tell you this, and risk your reaction.

For although I am ashamed of my tiredness and my inability to own it, I am also determined to stand in that river and BRING IT with all that I have, to claim all that I am, even the parts that work against me and make me weep.

18 thoughts on “Here’s Where I Start To Confess

  1. Liz – the thing about being a mom for the first time — adoptive or not (and I’m sure that adds layers I can’t even imagine) — is that (unless we raised our siblings) we are all amateurs. I used to say to my first baby all the time — ” Sorry, I’m an amateur. Sorry, I’m new at this.”

    It sounds like a tired day for you. There will be more. And there will be many days of ease and pleasure. Sleep issues are awful. You didn’t ask for advice, but I’ll just suggest that you pay attention to how much she is sleeping during the day. And, I will guarantee you two things: 1) This phase will end. 2) She will sleep really well as a teenager. 🙂

    p.s. – See my blog for my confessions about how hard it is to be a daughter to an elderly mom.

    • Hi Marjorie. Yeah, I’ve been telling myself that it is “just a hard day” for months now. 😉 Finally got the courage up to write this post. I’ll check out your blog!

      • Unfortunately, sometimes the bad days last for a while. Own your frustration. Everything with a baby is a phase, and every phase does pass . . .

  2. Tired is just that – tired. It doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t give you a choice. I’ve honestly never held adoptive mothers to the standards in which you mention. I would be more concerned if an adoptive mom with an infant tried to pretend she wasn’t tired. That’s so unrealistic, especially concerning something you have no control of. All parents with infants deserve an insane amount of grace. 🙂 Mostly from themselves.

    The only thing I wonder about concerning adoptive parents is how they choose to handle the story of their child’s first family.

    • “An insane amount of grace” <--- love that, thank you! We see our daughter's first family weekly, and her first mom and grandparents are a big part of her life, so I am hopeful that the story we are writing together is a good one. 🙂

  3. Yes, yes, yes, yes….Are you allowed to complain about something that you choose to do, that you do with a full and open heart, that you ultimately want to do, but that is still really hard? Can you walk the line with your support group…defending these hard choices you are making and also asking for help when you are overwhelmed by those very same choices? Can you talk to others who are struggling about your own struggles without sounding crass and selfish? Can you still be sad about the process of adoption even when you get to be the one to raise the child? And can you do it all with no sleep? Oh the questions. Oh the tiredness. Oh I get it. I sooooooo get it.

    • EXACTLY. It is all the other stuff, the second-guessing-myself and shame and sadness, that is so hard to explain and find support for. I am so grateful for you.

  4. Wow. So thankful that you wrote this. I have traversed much of this same ground – afraid to speak up and say that things were hard, that I was struggling with parenting, that being a parent was creating challenges in my relationship that I never foresaw, and of course that I was so frickin’ tired I couldn’t see straight.

    I think that it really matters that you show up and say this and be honest and vulnerable about it. Because that gives everyone else involved the chance to do the same thing – to show up and be real about it. Because the reality of parenting a child who isn’t sleeping well is that you are tired – so tired. I feel ya, Mama.

    • Hi Meg – Thank you for mentioning the challenges that parenting brings to your relationship. That is something else we are navigating that I haven’t heard other adoptive parents talk about. Thank you for seeing me. It means so much.

  5. love you honesty beth. parenting is one of the most awesome, exciting, terrifying, scary, special things I have ever done. just when I start to get a handle on it, think I have this….my little guys changes.

    it is exhausting. the continual putting aside what I want for what is best for my family. and son. but I am so glad that…most of the time I have the patience and strength to do it.
    I have found that I am growing as a person through this process. that I am growing in my faith and dependance upon God.

    it is ok to be tired!

    this is the time to give lots of family hugs and lots of deep breathes.

    love brene brown. read her books a few years ago. the gifts of imperfection and I thought it was just me. changed my life.
    love you. hang in there!

    • Thanks Shannon. 🙂 You are right, I have prayed more in the past year than I think I have in my whole life! Thanks for the reminder that I have Divine assistance if I can just remember to ask for it.

  6. Thank you for writing this Liz. Wow, so powerful. I know exactly what you mean … the strength required, feeling like I can’t complain even for a second because I should be perpetually thankful and grateful … and yes, of COURSE I am (you know what I mean), but man, adoption is tough some days. Being a mom is tough some days. Being present is tough some days.

    This made me cry:

    “And you are standing in the gap of that loss, for both of them. You are the one in the river of need up to your neck, holding the tiny hand of the child and the hand of the mom and the hands of the families, and they are all depending on you to keep your head above water.

    Don’t you dare, for one second, drown.”

    I feel this way. All. The. Time. Like I have to be a pillar for everyone in our triad. And some days I just can’t. I need to just say this is fucking hard. Some days I feel like I’m holding on for dear life and am hoping that the others are in my world are still above water too.

    You are amazing. And yes, it’s hard. Thanks for admitting this. I’m right there with ya.

    • Thank you for being with me in the fucking hard. It means so much to me to hear from people who get it.

      I was wondering today if it isn’t only our own expectations/standards/etc. but also the open adoption controversy. I don’t know about you, but I have to defend our openness to some members of my family, acquaintances, random strangers at the store and online who think I’m “confusing” my child by seeing her first mom so regularly. That wears on me, too.

      It’s tricky because, like Tara said above, being an advocate for openness means that I then find myself in the position of not wanting to acknowledge the hard stuff for fear I weaken my argument.

      But, as Lisa (my daughter’s first mom) would say, it isn’t all-or-nothing. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice.

      • Yes, just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. And I agree that having to defend openness makes it scarier or more risky to talk about when things are challenging.

  7. Being bone-tired affects everything else to such an out-of-proportion proportion, doesn’t it?

    One of the best things we can do for our children — especially daughters — is to model self-compassion. It’s so effective at neutralizing shame.

    Hugs to you, Liz. In hindsight, you’ll realize what a wonderful job you’re doing, even when you’re dragging due to exhaustion.

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