My husband and I were married a bit over a year when we decided to start our family. At that point in time, I was six years post-placement. (I say, "I" as the child I placed was not his, but he was/is fully with me on the path to finding my healing.)
I was exhilarated to be walking intentionally into parenthood with a loving husband/father without fear and shame looming over me. I foresaw joy and snuggles in the near future when we finally did become pregnant, but there was so much, SO much, I didn't know that I wish I would have.
What I am about to discuss are a few things that I wish I knew walking into a pregnancy, parenting, and sending my child to school post-placement. If you have other, 'I wish I would have known's, please shoot them my way in the comments or via the 'Contact' section of my website. I would love to add more insights for the sisters-in-triad who have come after us in this unique challenge of parenthood.
1. Pregnancy: Know what to say before strangers inevitably ask, "Is this your first child?"
OOF. Ladies, this question can be triggering. Having a standard answer for curious strangers helps our brain work in a logical sense rather than on emotions, which can help lessen the trigger. This answer, I mean to direct only to strangers, not those whom we do life within close-knit circles.
The standard answer I chose was, "This is our first." My husband and I had not had any other children together. I felt it was not a denial of my birth child, but a loophole in the conversation to protect my heart and mind when I was not in a mental/emotional space to share my story with those whom I did not know. While this was my standard answer I would also share my placement when I felt I was in the right space and with the right company to share. It took time to be able to feel out my audience.
2. Babyhood: Bringing a baby home to parent post-placement can be isolating. Seeking a village and reaching out for help is brave and the mark of an excellent mom. I placed my self in isolation after I brought my first child I parent home. I felt that asking others to help was me showing I was not fit to be a mother or that I wasn't grateful to have this child. I became depressed on "mommy island". Motherhood is hard and truly does require a village, which I denied myself access to. A support system is such a powerful resource, a needed resource to have no matter how motherhood looks for you (placement, parenting, step-parenting, adoptive/foster parenting, etc.).
I spent so many months processing why I was/ was not able to parent my birth child while I was considering adoption, weighing the pros and cons of what I had to offer. That mindset was still there when I brought my first child home, though it was almost a decade later. Another OOF for this statement.
I naively thought that asking for help was equivalent to asking for someone else to parent my child. I wish someone would have told me that asking for help is being an excellent mom and not at all showing I wasn't qualified to be a mom or ungrateful. If no one has told you, asking for help is a brave strength and the quality of an excellent mom. Find a village, motherhood is a sisterhood and in the sisterhood, courageously seek help when you need it. 3. School-aged: The first day of school can be heart-wrenching.
Placing our child in the care of another adult. This very general statement describes both adoption and school. I wish someone would have told me that sending my parented child to school for the first time would be SO triggering. Yes, my child came home that evening, I was still her mother and her teacher was not her parent. All of that is true but my heart could only see, that first day, that my child was leaving me to go into the care of someone else. I sobbed after I dropped her off. I was so heavy-hearted. I wish I would have known to tell my support system that I would need them that day.
Parenting after placement is nothing short of complex. Overwhelming joy sits perfectly side-by-side with sorrow and so many other seemingly contradictory emotions. Knowing some of what lies ahead can help alleviate some of the anxiety in the novelty of parenthood. Having this knowledge base allows for joy to take the forefront while still granting yourself the need/right to process and feel those inherent hard emotions that come with parenting post-placement.
Your Sister-in-triad, Jennifer Mae