Birthday Reflections as I turn 30

Tomorrow I am turning the big 3-0, which means that I have been kickin’ it on planet Earth for three decades! Whew!

I normally get crabby around my birthday. It’s happened ever since I could remember, and I didn’t really understand the correlation until I was an adult and in support with other adoptees. I wrote angsty journal entries as a teenager that would often ask my diary the question, “is this because I am adopted?” and now, as an adult, I can unequivocally say, “yes, it is.” For most people, birthdays are celebrations of birth, but for me, a celebration of my birth is also a bittersweet reminder that my birth resulted in a separation from my mother, father, and all my extended family. For the longest time I didn’t really feel born, more like I had simply somehow poofed into existence here, like an alien arriving from a different planet. And, until I was 25, I did not have any pictures of me, as a newborn. There was a few taken a few days later, but none of that moment, the one where I took my first few breaths and was held by my parents. But, when I met Father J, one of the first things he did was pull the two pictures of me that he had, out, and gave them to me. Two pictures. That’s all I have. One of me in my mother’s arms, she is not visible, except for her iv marks, which is strangely appropriate and sad, as a foreshadow of things to come and come and come. And one of him holding me. It’s been doubly exposed, though, as it was either taken over previous film or vice versa. Which is also appropriate…a life captured and then gone to be replaced by something different.

Baby Monk-Monk with Mama Ebaby monk monk with father j

So, this week, I’ve managed to oscillate between feeling excited about my upcoming joint birthday party with Potamus, and pissed off. I’ve mostly felt pissed off. I’ve sulked and tromped around and thrown mini-internal tantrums. Because,  I didn’t really understand the importance of a birth day or a birth story until I gave birth to Potamus. I wonder if I should simply start celebrating his birth as my own, since the day he was born, was the day I became a mother. Maybe in the future I will simply start celebrating my birth on the 2oth, as it was both the day I became a wife (anniversary) and a mother (birth of Potamus). Hey, I kinda like that idea.

Potamus 1 hour old Snuggling

But here I am, an individual, who was earthly born out of my mother’s body on December 13th. In Scandinavian tradition, the 13th is St. Lucia’s Day, typically thought to be the darkest day of the year, which is celebrated with children wearing crowns of candles and bringing their parents hot coffee and cinnamon buns. I think it appropriate that I was born on this day, and have loved the tradition and symbolism since I was a child. In fact, I created elements of this tradition in my wedding, with a red sash and crown and wedding favors of Norway Spruce.

6a00e5521f4a68883401053655aeaa970c-800wi Monk-Monk Wedding Dress & Sash

But in so many ways, 3 decades have gone by quickly. I’ve gotten to meet lovely people, and have had many many adventures. From spending a year barefoot, to river rafting in the Ganges, to riding in the Fremont Solstice Naked Bike Ride. I have a lovely group of friends, a comfortable home to come home to, and a sweet little family that I have created with Boof. I have so much to be thankful for, and am looking forward to the next 30 years. But growing old and looking back is still hard.

Taj Mahal Manastash RidgeSeattle Sounders Fremont Solstice Parade

Baseball

Adoptee becomes a biological mother

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“hey monk-monk, where do babies come from?”

“Offices,” I replied, without missing a beat.

I was 6 years old, and that was my reality. One day we were a family of three, and the next, four, and later, five. In my family, pregnancy skipped a generation, and while I vaguely understood how other people’s babies might be welcomed into the world, I believed my existence began at day 3 when I entered my family, and that offices were where you went to get siblings.  In fact, it wouldn’t be years until I witnessed pregnancy firsthand by watching my co-worker’s belly grow daily.

Growing up I had no real desire to be a mom. Childhood games of “house,” with my siblings, revolved around the premise of orphans dealing with some sort of crisis (shipwrecked or lost in the woods, etc), and I, as the big sister was tasked with caring for them. I played with dolls, but they were never my babies, always my friends. Even into my early twenties, I had no maternal drive to procreation. Boof and I talked about having kids someday, and both agreed that if it happened we would welcome it, but we certainly weren’t going to stress about it if we couldn’t. In the back of my mind I always just assumed I would never become a mom. And I was mostly okay with that, or so I thought.

So when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant (yes, it only takes one time without protection folks),  I realized I better get my act together and explore my relationship to this reality that I would become a mother…and a biological mother at that.

Having two mothers is sometimes confusing  and painful. There is one woman who I knew for 9 months and then didn’t see again until I was 25. Then there is another woman I met on day 3 and have not known life without.  Both mothers have informed my existence, and yet here I was trying to figure out what kind of mother I would be. I will have given birth to a child and will never be apart from him in the way my biological mother was apart from me.

During the first few weeks I literally felt like the only woman to have ever been pregnant. And in some ways, I was. I could go to my mother for support, but found myself censoring my thoughts and feelings to protect her from the reminder that she never experienced pregnancy herself. We mostly stuck to facts, and part of me was sad as I was the one teaching her about cervical dilation and signs of braxton hicks vs real contractions. I practiced becoming a mother by teaching my own about what physically carrying a child was like.

And I couldn’t very well go to my biological mother during this time, as my pregnancy is a painful reminder of carrying and not raising a child herself. So while I knew a few things, like that I was born c-section, but mostly was flying blind about how my own pregnancy would progress.

What I was able to do during this time was explore my own feelings about becoming a mother, without having to compare myself to my own mothers. I got to listen to my body and respond manfully to my own self and not second guess whether I was doing it right. While it could have been seen as re-inventing the wheel, giving birth to my son  felt more like creating a beautiful piece of original art, rather than trying to create a poor imitation of a masterpiece.  He is the first biological relative I will have known from the beginning, and I am enjoying being his mama.