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The Joys of Adoptive Parenting
By age four, most girls have become interested in dolls. Society, media, and parents encourage this kind of play. We buy these toys for our girls because? Well, it’s good question to ask ourselves: Why do we support our young ones engaging with pretend babies?
Why don’t we naturally give our boys dolls to play with as well? What is it in little girls that when given a choice, they usually choose a doll over a truck? I believe that it’s simple biology; females are born to be mommies. Our bodies were specifically designed to do so. It’s nature, and thus, natural for a young girl to want to pretend to nurture a baby.
What happens, though, when this girl grows into a woman and decides that she would rather pursue a career before embarking on the path to parenthood and when she finally decides she is ready, her body cannot sustain a pregnancy?
More and more, in fact, women in their twenties and thirties are discovering that becoming pregnant wasn’t as easy as they thought it was going to be. Whether due to environmental factors, such as pesticides in our foods, clothing, and linens, or the by-product of plastics, or simply genetics, more and more women are finding that they are unable to become a mommy the old fashioned way.
Forty years ago this was not so. I was nine years old, and had slim interest in dolls myself. I was the third child of four, the only girl, raised at a time when many parents were not all that active in their kids’ lives. Especially when there were siblings to play with, and neighborhoods were safe enough and filled enough with peers to allow outdoor activities into the night.
My own mother was a stay-at-home, a woman with a college degree and a talent for writing poetry. She began creating her family at 23, and by 31 she was done; four kids and a husband who volunteered for a vasectomy. By the time I reached an age when play with baby dolls would seem a likely choice for a girl, I choose sports and crafts instead. Though my mother never once blurted out that she wished she were living a different life, her actions sometimes spoke otherwise; I got the sense as I approached puberty that being a mother was not a choice that would satisfy me. I decided early on that I was not going to be like Mom.
Throughout my twenties and thirties, this intention came to fruition. Instead of marrying a “good” man who wanted to take care of me and our future children, I pursued a career as a writer and a higher education. By the time I did marry, at 42, my health had deteriorated; the mild endometriosis that was discovered in my late twenties had become, some weeks of every month, unbearable. In addition, my husband and I were concerned about the planet’s growing population, and did not want to contribute yet another life for Her to support.
However, once I underwent a hysterectomy at 45 and saw what life without pain felt like, we both realized that we did not want to go to our deathbeds without having experienced parenthood. Choosing adoption felt right for us. So, that’s what we did.
A little more than a year after making our decision to adopt, we flew to Ethiopia, met our daughter, Aster, and brought her back to New Mexico where we have been experiencing the joys of adoption parenting ever since. Because I am the writer, however, it has become my job to share with others in a way that may encourage them to choose to grow their family via adoption.
Though my point of view may be skewed given that I never consistently, or deeply, desired to give birth, being Aster’s mother has been, and continues to be, the most satisfying, sublime, amazing, heart-opening, growing experience I could have chosen for myself. The most wonderful moments for me occur when I witness my daughter acting in ways that are so far removed from who I am.
For me, it is like watching an exotic flower grow from seed into a never-before seen being, with a life like no other I have known. Her innate happiness and light did not come from me; I cannot take credit for her sense of humor, her vitality, or the 24/7 joy she exudes just to be alive. I was not like that. The gift of Aster being my daughter was so unexpected. And though I also know that I can only share my personal experience, I do know that other adoptive mothers feel the same way.
For me, the most astonishing part of adoption parenting has been feeling a healthy detachment from her outcome, which has allowed me to fully enjoy the unique person that she is and is becoming. This distance, ironically, has provided me with a natural inclination to move closer to her, to open myself up in a way that has allowed her to attach to me, her adoptive mother, more purely with more intensity.
She is four now, and our relationship has become somewhat of a love-fest lately. A delightful moment in time, this is, and one that I am so thankful I allowed to happen. I feel deep gratitude that my husband and I decided that adoption parenting was something we did not want to miss.
Photo: Paola Seyffert
Dina McQueen (www.findingaster.com) is the 2006 New Mexico Discovery Award winner for fiction, and a graduate of Vermont’s Goddard College with an MA in Biography/Autobiography. She is also the author of Finding Aster: Our Ethiopian Adoption Story. In addition to spending her life with her daughter, Aster (now 4 years old), and husband, Brian, she helps writers find their inner voice as a writers’ coach and editor. She lives with her family in Santa Fe, New Mexico.