Originally Posted by Momma Molly
We recently adopted our long-term foster child. I have two primary points I'd like some input on right now.
1. We took to heart the warnings that he isn't ours unless and until finalization. We stayed focused on being his foster parents, even when things were clearly pointing toward adoption. Now that we have finalization and have given it time to feel real, it still doesn't. We're firmly bonded, but don't feel like his legal parents. We don't feel "free" of the CPS oversight or like we're on a new page of our family story. Anyone else ever felt this way?
I know it's not the same, but my first kids (twins) were born extremely premature (24 weeks). That was 16 years ago and the prognosis was nightmarish: 75% chance they'd die before they ever came home; if they did come home, there was a 75% chance they'd be rehospitalized in the 1st year; high probability of serious problems with nearly every organ system in their bodies... When they did come home, they were on oxygen and apnea monitors; had a grueling, round-the-clock schedule of medications and breathing treatments; weekly pediatrician appts. (daily, if they got sick - even a cold); weekly blood-draws to monitor med levels; monthly appts. with 5 different specialists plus a NICU follow-up clinic; and weekly home visits from 2 different therapists and one nurse who helped me, and a second nurse who checked up on the babies.
In the hospital, I was accustomed to basically asking permission, before I even touched my babies. I was conscious that if I got to feed or hold them, it was because the people who were actually keeping them alive were indulging me. Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. I was melt-on-the-floor grateful to their nurses and doctors. But obviously, I wasn't qualified to meet my babies' most significant needs. For a long time after they came home, I didn't feel any different. I was happy they were home. But I was scrambling to follow a schedule and a list of instructions compiled by 7 or 8 doctors and 2 nurses, not to mention trying to reassure my frightened parents and in-laws, who wondered whether a 22-year-old first-time mom could possibly parent these children adequately; and trying to placate the demonic La Leche League rep who kept hounding me, making me feel that if I didn't keep pumping blood out of my nipples, in my efforts to relactate, that I didn't really care about my children... I did not for a minute feel like these children were really mine. I felt like they belonged to all the professionals who knew what I needed to do for them, and who were so closely monitoring how I did it. Irrationally, but deeply, I felt that if I screwed up or deviated from their plans in the slightest way, that someone might decide I shouldn't keep my babies.
Is that, somewhat, how you feel? That if this child were really "yours", no one would be monitoring you as a parent, since you've never mistreated or neglected him?
Well, one day we were going through our normal routine: pediatrician appt., and stop by the blood lab on the way out. But the usual pediatric phlebotomist wasn't in, so we had to go to the regular (adult) lab, in the hospital. They had trouble finding my son's vein. After a miserable 10-15 minutes that seemed like hours, I had one of those epiphanies that are so clear, it almost seemed like everyone else in the room froze, while my thinking changed. All these people were bent over the table, working on my screaming baby. How many times had I watched the same sort of thing, conscious that I was the least-qualified person in the room, and standing back so I didn't get in the way of the people who might save my child's life? But this time, I realized I was the only person in the room who knew that this particular child never cries when he gets blood drawn, and that the phlebotomist who is experienced with infant veins never has a problem finding his. Moreover, I realized that if I stepped forward and told all of them to stop, and said we'd wait and get his blood drawn when the pediatric lab reopened, of course no one would take my children away from me! In fact, they would all do whatever I told them to do.
Because I was his mother.
And after that day, I never again felt like an unpaid, overworked, excessively-emotionally-attached babysitter, who might be fired if something went wrong. It really was that dramatic a shift in my perception of the relationship.
Perhaps, if you try to accept that how you're feeling is completely understandable, given the circumstances; and you try to stop thinking about it, and just live your new life, you will also have a day when you suddenly realize, "I AM his mother!" I hope you will.