Monday, February 1, 2010

Our Journey to Parenthood

I never really wanted children.  Growing up I never saw myself as a mother.  I felt that people grew up and got married and when they became bored with each other they had a baby.  As positive of a thinker I am, I saw the world in a very negative way.  I felt that it was unfair to bring a child into a world full of hate, and anger, terrible living conditions for many, institutional living for people with disabilities, and overall a very unhappy place.  I think this had a lot to do with my line of work.

In my late teens and early 20s I worked at an institution for people with developmental disabilities.  I saw things that I never want to see again.  While rights for PWD have certainly improved, their treatment has a long way to go, especially the treatment of people with developmental disabilities.  I started working in direct care (providing basic activities of daily living like dressing, bathing, meal prep, etc) and when I graduated college I became a supervisor.  I quickly moved up the ranks and was basically an assistant manager of a facility with 80 beds.  I regularly rotated as the manager of the facility, even at just 23 years old.  I worked for an amazing manager who to this day I say made me into the supervisor I am now.  I heard allegations of abuse, placed people on administrative absence, filed police reports and recommended terminations.  It was a difficult job that made me question not only my motives in the field, but how I wanted to live my life.  This job opened my eyes to staff people who worked for the state, yet qualified for state assistance like food stamps.  They were de-valued human beings expected to take care of de-valued human beings.  It was a job that I truely loved and truely hated simultaneously.  I thought I would work there forever even though a very good friend said I wasn't a "lifer" like many other state workers.

I was completely obsessed with work.  I worked late, got in early, and often put in time on the weekends.  I poured my heart and soul into the people I worked with, and then I met N.  I suddenly saw more to life than work.  A few years into our relationship I decided to go back to school.  This also opened my eyes to different options for work.  I went back to school with the intention of continuing to work with PWD.  It wasn't until I decided to take a chance on an internship at a Center for Independent Living that I realized that things aren't the same everywhere.  I was at the end of my graduate school and took a few steps back with my career.  I didn't supervise anyone, went from keeping people in an institution to helping them move out of one, and found out what it's like to work at an agency that values the people they serve as well as their employees.  I guess it gave me a new, and desperately needed perspective.

8 months after starting the new job N and I got married.  It was December 2006.  It was around that same time that my biological clock was not only ticking, but was slamming my ear drums on a daily basis.  I remember getting my hair done before the wedding and my hair dresser at the time asked if N and I planned to have kids.  I said that I never thought I wanted kids, but then I met N.  She said, "doesn't meeting the right one just make you want to mate?"  That is pretty much how it felt!  It was like a big desire to reproduce.  But I wanted to be married for a while before talking about kids.  Plus, my view of bringing children into the world was still a bit negative.

Around October of 2007, my desire for having kids was at full force.  N and I talked about it and began to consider adoption.  I was still unsure about bringing a child into the world, and the thought of taking care of one that was already here seemed like a good choice for us.  I remember having a dream once that I was holding a little baby girl from China.  I named her Lyla and can still remember the way she felt in my arms during that dream.  She smelled so sweet and she was all mine.  We started looking into adoption agencies and international adoption.  We went to a few meetings and started to learn this completely unfamiliar process.  We even got passports!  The more we learned about it, the waiting lists, the cost, and all of the things involved, I began to feel more like we were taking the spot of someone who couldn't have kids rather than helping a baby find a family.  The waiting list was years long with many, many families waiting to adopt.  We looked at local adoption, but we soon realized that most of the children in our state that needed to be adopted had disabilities.  While adopting a child with a disability is something we haven't completely rejected, we both felt that we weren't ready to make that commitment by choice.  After a lot of thought, we decided we did want to have a child.  I remember at one point realizing that I am happy to be alive and in this world even if it isn't a perfect place.  I see all of the bad things, but I also see the many wonderful things about life and living and taking care of the world and the people in it.  It was an eye-opening realization for me that also gave me a new and desperately needed perspective.

It was November of 2007 and we wanted to start trying for a baby in the spring of '08.  Having heard it can take some time to get pregnant, I stopped taking the pill at the beginning of November.  We used other methods of birth control, except for one day...Christmas morning.  We found out on January 9 and the adventure called pregnancy began.  I LOVED being pregnant.  I loved the clothes, I loved the friendliness, and above all, I loved that a little human was growing inside me.  I dreamt about what he would look like, and what his personality would be like, and eagerly awaited the day he would come into the world.

He went exactly 1 week past his due date, and I'm sure many moms can agree that those last weeks before the baby is born are full of fear, and excitement and everything in between.  Well I had serious buyer's remorse that week.  I was sure that he was late because he didn't want to be born to me and that I was going to be a terrible mom and what was I thinking and I can't do this and blah, blah, blah.  And then he was born, and nature just took over.  He was born and I was a different person.  I was a mother, and suddenly I knew what everyone was talking about.  He was here, and he was mine.  He grew inside me and here he was.  I was madly in love with my little boy.

I know that I would have loved an adopted baby just like he or she was my own.  I actually still think about adopting one day.  I know I would like to try and have one more of our own, and after that who knows what the future will bring.  I have heard that people who don't have kids feel badly for people who do because of what they are missing, and people who do have kids feel badly for people who don't because of what they are missing.  The grass is greener in their own yards in that case I guess!  ll I know is, my life is completely different than I ever imagined it would be.  It's a wild and somewhat scary ride, but we're hanging on!