Somebody who looks like me.....

Girlie night out for mums: one glass of wine each (maybe two for the brave ones who don't fear late night calls and early morning risers) one big tub of Woollies cheesecake with 4 spoons and our favourite subject since early nappie days: our kids (what else); this can keep us going passed midnight!

As we are a diverse little group with different stories of motherhood (all of us have adopted, two have given birth, some have tried to fall pregnant, some haven/t) we found ourselves in the midst of telling our adoption stories.

As for me, I don't have much to tell: Walked along Nordhoek beach with Alan one Sunday in April, childless and happy. We got chatting about a letter my dear friend Ingmar sent me a day or so earlier, in which he debated our decision not to have kids. His very flattering (for me) but admittedly somewhat biased opinion was that in a world where every tomdickandharry can and will procreate, people like us should step up and participate - sort of make the world a better place kind of thing.... his concluding words were: maybe you don't need children to be happy but maybe there is a child who needs you to be happy.

That was all it took - we pondered this sentence for about 2 kilometers and decided: OK let's do it. Lets find this child... Let's adopt.

That was in April of 2005.

9 months later, in December 2005, our daughter Leah was born and two weeks after that she came and turned our lives upside down forever.

I am convinced, that day on the beach, she was conceived...

That's the first part of my story. (Before Kala who is another story altogether...)

Then there is our friend who fell in love with her daughter first and adopted her soon after.

And our other friend who had  given birth to a son and when she did not fall pregnant the second time around, decided to adopt.

And then there is the story of our friend who - as so many women - was desperate for a child "of her own", a child who would look like her, who would come out of her own body. Hers was not a simple joyful journey. It was a tiring, depressing walk across minefields of preconceptions, judgements and self punishment. A story of failure and grief.

Today as she has her beautiful - adopted -  daughter in her life, this story has changed to one of love . I also hope she gained a different perspective on what defines us as women- and mothers - in the process. But I don't really know this as the evening was too short to explore this issue in depth and maybe it was also still too personal an emotion to share easily. But it got me thinking:

What is it with this obsession to create  little clones of ourselves? Somebody-Who-Looks-Like-Me  still seems to be the predominant wish  where parenthood is concerned. And looking at parents and their children - adopted or not - I'd say there is a 50/50 percent chance that they don't - or if you are the glass-is-half-full type personality - that they do have certain physical traits in common with you (why this is so desirable really eludes me...unless of course you are Naomie Campbell or Heidi Klum)

My daughter Leah has the same funny little toes and ears like me. And the older she gets the more I recognise myself in her. My daughter Kala shares asthma and many personality traits with Alan. Strange - considering that they were adopted...?

I am convinced that our children are shaped in many ways by who we are and how we see the world. As we look for us in them, we see ourselves in the way they look, they talk, they approach life. And of course sometimes biological children look like little copies of their parents -and I am certainly not debating genetics here. It's just a fact of life - not something that defines how much we love them.

At least it should not.

The bottom line is that people feel safe with what they know. Racism is mostly a result of fear of the "other", the "unknown". We tend to feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings with familiar faces around us than we do in new situations in the midst of strangers.

Parenthood is a scary journey into the unknown for anybody - whether they admit it or not, whether they are even aware of their fears or too well adjusted to even recognise them....
 Naturally we have an instinctual fear that we might not love a child enough because it did not come from us. Procreating seems the closest we can get to guarantee our future love for our child:  at least I KNOW she/he came from my body.

So what's really at the root of the procreation obsession - a deep insecurity about our ability to love. We assume (like I did) we have to love a child from the moment that it is placed into our arms with that overwhelming maternal love that is somehow part of our genetic make up. Well it's not.

In many  cases -(and I mean MANY cases )  love is not even  part of the first complicated and messy onslaught of feelings that takes over our bodies and souls after giving birth.

 But that seems to be the best kept secret of motherhood - and in my opinion one of the contributing factors of post partum depression. As woman get indoctrinated from early childhood into believing that their main purpose in life and what defines them as a woman is to give birth one day, they also get conned into thinking that maternal love must come naturally and instantly. If they do not feel overwhelmed by love the instant a red faced, screaming little stranger is placed into their arms - something must be wrong.

By omitting the fact that maternal love has to grow like any other life from on this planet from a little seedling to the full blown stuff of epic movies -  we all become part of the problem, which is a misconception about parenthood and subsequently about adoption.

When it comes to love it does not make the slightest bit of difference whether your child is adopted or comes out of your body.
The ability to give birth has nothing to do with the ability to be a mother either.

Stop and think for a moment before you start obsessing about ovulation, fertility treatments and other costly procedures that put your body and your finances on the brink of exhaustion.

Take a deep breath and listen to the message your life / the universe or god (if you believe in god) is sending you. Think about what you might be asked to do with your life instead of giving birth.

Maybe your journey will be different  from what you were expecting - or from what was expected of you.
You can be a mother in many different ways. I am not condemning IVF either - if that's the way forward for you and it works - good for you. What I am questioning is the single mindedness with which so many women put themselves (and their partners) through years and years of grief and heart ache by stubbornly pursuing the ONE course that they feel  life must take regardless of what their life actually has to offer them.

So to all prospective mothers out there who at this point in time are burdened with grief, feel like failures or are depressed because of their inability to procreate: Open your eyes and celebrate what your life is actually offering you. Look inside you for the answer. Maybe the child that you are meant to be a mother to is already a part of your life. Maybe he/she is going to be born to somebody else. Maybe your motherly qualities are going to be needed in an altogether different way. Whatever it is, your life and your happiness are waiting for you just around the corner to come to the party.

(by the way - it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to say this ... as somebody who never felt the urge to grow my own child - I did not really feel qualified to participate in any discussion about IVF or such delicate issues as maternal instincts - and maybe I am not. But - and I say this with a big smile -  this is my blog and I don't care anymore!)


What a lovely and heartfelt post! My experience feels backwards. Being an adopted person myself (and happily so) I alway knew I wanted to adopt, I was unsure however if I wanted biological children. What a surprise when my husband and I found ourselves expecting a baby. Now over 2 decades have passed, we and are thrilled to be the parents of four amazing children, 2 of whom are adopted. I can say without a bit of doubt that they are equally loved and we see bits of ourselves in all four of them.

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