Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dear Sugar: When Jealousy Dominates Your Adoption Journey

One night my husband showed me a post in a Facebook group. A woman sharing how she followed an adoption blogger who seemed to have it all:  perfect kids, perfect adoptions, perfect life.  She inserted a few details, without naming names, and my husband realized the poster was talking about me.

At first, my reaction was one of annoyance.  It’s weird to be talked about behind your back and to stumble upon it, especially by a stranger who doesn’t know even a fraction of my life.  As I’ve shared before, my husband and I have chosen to keep a lot of things private.  We believe in respecting our children, their feelings, and their biological families.  Their stories aren’t our stories to tell in order to gain popularity, even in the name of educating others on adoption.   All this to say, the hard stuff (the questions, the tears, the doubts, the intricacies) are not public knowledge. 
The longer I thought about this woman, the more my annoyance gave way to empathy.  Because I have been exactly where she is.   Assuming that every other parent who has adopted a child has it ALL, while I sat brokenhearted, behind my screen, wrestling with envy.  

Jealousy during an adoption journey tries to creep in at every turn, doesn't it? 

-The baby shower invitation.

-The questions about having “your own” child.

-The assumption that adoption is second-best or that you’ll get pregnant as soon as you adopt.

-The other hopeful parents on your agency’s website that go from childless to having “placement” stamped across their online photos. 

-The pregnant women waddling all around you like a swarm of bees on a hot day. 

-The “not this time” response you get to another profile showing. 

-The match that ends in the mom choosing to parent.

-The viral gender-reveal video circulating online.

-The social media accounts you follow that are flooded with families enjoying their life with cherub babies. 

-The reminder e-mail from your social worker that it’s been a year since you had your homestudy, and it’s time to update it. 

-The ridiculously addicting Lifetime and Hallmark movies that always involve infertility, adoption, surrogacy, and miracle pregnancies. 
The abrupt elation followed by plummeting is an absolutely exhausting cycle.  And something has to be produced from such a roller coaster.  That something, quite naturally, is often jealousy. 

I have been there.  So many times.  And not just when I was waiting for my first baby, but a thousand more times over the course of being in the adoption community for ten years.  

You may not even be inviting jealousy in.  You might be avoiding waiting family websites, baby showers, and walking past the baby clothing department at Kohl’s.   But jealousy weasels its way in:  as you’re switching channels on the television and get a glimpse of a tv show.  As you head to the gym and a group of new moms pass you on the sidewalk, pushing their posh baby strollers.   As you browse your newsfeed and see an event for a “sprinkle” for your second cousin who is pregnant with twins.   (Of course she’s having twins.)   It could even be something as ridiculous as a celebrity adopting or expecting a baby---and you feel the green leaking into your soul.

Newsflash:  There is no perfect family, no perfect adoption, no perfect journey.  There are always intricacies.  There are always challenges.  There are always surprises.  Yes, being a mom (finally) is pretty fantastic: a long-awaited, much-anticipated joy.  But it is not a country house with a white picket fence and year-round blooming daffodils.  It is work.  And it's more work in the case of parenting adoptees who have needs that biological children do not have.  

You cannot control jealousy rearing its ugly head, because it happens suddenly, but you can control what you do with it.  Do you say yes to the dance, or do you resolve that your energy, your time, your heart-set is worthy of something better?  

And please don’t set yourself up for perfection (that pain will dissipate and life will be rainbows and unicorns and cotton candy) once you become a mommy.   That isn’t fair to your child, and it’s not fair to yourself.   Being human means having open arms to all of adoption’s complexity:  not just the “pretty” and “fun” and “easy” parts of motherhood and parenting an adoptee.

I don't have the easy solution for you.   I don't think anyone does. But I implore you to handle your fragility, which comes quite naturally when waiting for a baby to join your family, in the healthiest ways you can: whatever that means for you.  Exercise. Counseling.  Staying off the damn Internet (!!!).   Dating your spouse.  Taking up a new hobby.  Going on a vacation.   Buying yourself that awesome bottle of wine or an expensive latte.   If you want to be adoption-productive, read books to prepare yourself for the future, for the incredible honor of parenting a child.   

Commit to relentlessly be healthy and happy and whole, so when your child does come along, you are ready to embrace the child and whatever the future may bring.   Because there is only so much room in your heart, and you need to clear the space for what is to come.

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