By Rachael Moshman
I have wanted to be a mother my entire life. As soon as I could write, I started making lists of possible names for my future children.
When I was 20, I fell madly in love with Mr. Wonderful. He was handsome, funny, smart, kind, responsible, and settled. Our romance was on high speed, but after a few weeks, he dropped a bomb. He didn’t want kids. Ever. He felt like we needed to discuss this because it seemed like something that would be a deal breaker to me.
It probably should have been, but I was so very young and so very in love. I felt he was worth the sacrifice. But the truth is, I was confident that he would change his mind. We were young, happy and in love. I couldn’t fathom why he wouldn’t want to have a baby with me.
We got married one year after we met. Years went by and I waited for him to change his mind. I waited and waited and waited. I nagged and nagged and nagged. He held his ground. He didn’t want a baby. Too much responsibility, too loud, too stinky. After a few years, he said if he were ever to be open to having a child, it would be through adoption of an older child. He said it didn’t make sense to him to bring a “disgusting baby” into the world when there were children already here who needed parents. I started bringing up the possibility of adopting an older child on occasion, but held out hope for a baby as well.
About seven years into our marriage, I had an “oops” with my birth control pills. I didn’t even realize I was pregnant until the miscarriage started. I was devastated to lose something I had wanted so very badly before I even had a chance to rejoice in it. It just seemed so cruel.
Mr. Wonderful was very sad, but it was because I was in pain. He was totally freaked out by what almost was and was relieved it wasn’t going to be. It became painfully obvious to me that he didn’t want a baby. He really, truly didn’t. Babies aren’t something that should be a compromise or an ultimatum. I didn’t want to continue trying to change his mind and wind up with a baby that he resented even in the slightest bit.
So as much as I wanted to know a little person with our DNA, I gave it up. It was a very difficult time for me. Not only was I mourning the baby lost through the miscarriage, I was mourning the possibility of any other baby.
When the fog of my sadness started to clear, I realized that I just wanted to be a mom. That’s all I had ever wanted and how that was accomplished didn’t really matter. Each time I brought up the possibility of adopting, I seemed to get a stronger “maybe” from my husband. We sold our itty bitty house and bought a different house, perfect for raising a child.
“Maybe” turned to “someday”. We started talking about our future daughter on a daily basis. I started doing extensive research on older child adoption. When I told Hubby about the classes we would we need to take, he said, “Sign us up.” We were moving out of “someday” land!
We started classes in May of 2009. We explored the grief, trauma, and behaviors that come with older child adoption, which is also called “special needs adoption”. Our instructor frequently spoke of children who pooped in their new parents’ shoes in the night or molested the family dog. We had piles and piles of paperwork to fill out and a long to do list. We had to buy a fire extinguisher and get it certified. We had to have our home inspected by the health department, where they looked inside every cabinet with a flashlight for bugs and checked the temperature of our refrigerator. We had to be fingerprinted multiple times for background checks at the city, county, state, and national level, including the FBI. We had to have physicals and evaluations of our past, current, and future health. Our dog had to have the same! The classes were emotionally draining, filled with gut-wrenching videos, role playing, and very personal conversations.
Next our home study began. A caseworker came to our house twice for lengthy interviews. She asked deep, probing questions about our childhoods, marriage, beliefs, family, and every aspect of our histories individually and as a couple. She gave us random situations and asked how we would respond as parents. She helped us use the information we learned in our classes to determine what sort of child we would be able to parent best. She toured our house, collected references from our friends and employers, and studied our financial information. At the end of July we were approved to adopt a waiting child from the foster care system- for straight adoption only. We were not interested in becoming foster parents. The goal of fostering is always to reunite the child with the biological parents. We wanted to be forever parents and didn’t feel we were good candidates for the foster care program.
When you hear about all of the children waiting to be adopted, it sounds like you can just go out and pick them off trees. That’s not the case at all. In our area of Florida, prospective parents are left on their own to find a child to adopt. We spent hours every day scouring Internet photos of waiting children, inquiring about those we thought we might be able to parent and emailing every possible adoption social worker. Searching for a child became second full-time jobs for both of us. We were glued to the computer. I started a spreadsheet to keep track of all the children we had asked about.
I felt we would never be chosen to parent a child. We had inquired about over 200 girls and never heard back from anyone. Friends, family, and co-workers just couldn’t understand our frustration, anxiety, and sadness. To them, it had been less than six months – no time at all! To us, it was an eternity.
Suddenly we were matched with a little girl in Texas who had just turned nine years old. We felt a strong pull to her. She was diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression. She had been bouncing around the foster care system since age four and had experienced two failed adoptions (one by a biological relative). She had five siblings who were all either adopted or to be adopted separately. After spending a whole day reading her file, we maintained our “yes”. We knew there would be challenges, but we felt we could handle it.
Six months later, we were finally able to meet her in Texas. We arrived home with her one week later. We finalized the adoption in November of 2009.
Is it hard? YES. Is it exhausting? YES. Does she drive us crazy sometimes? Oh, YES. She has major separation anxiety, an inability to talk about her past or feelings, and will scream for an hour at a time on occasion.
She is also so very brave, funny, adorable, smart, and kind. We adore her and are confident that she loves us back. We have bonded and she has attached to us. She wants to do well. She wants to be healthy and happy. We are all working hard to help her heal. Being her mom is the greatest accomplishment I could ever make. She is what I was meant to do all along. I was made to be her last mom.
I won’t have the opportunity to use any of the names from my girlhood lists, but that is just fine with me. I have given my daughter the love, home, safety, and future she needed and that is much more important than giving her a name.
Our little girl was worth all of the time, effort, tears, and anxiety. (I actually ground holes in two of my teeth while sleeping!) Older child adoption isn’t for everyone; they really do call it “special needs” adoption for a good reason. But if you think you have the room in your heart and life to give to a child who needs a family, please explore it. Before you know it, your house might be filled as ours is with giggles and glitter!
Rachael Moshman is a Florida native, but hates the heat. She is a freelance writer, blogger, educator and family advocate. Her greatest accomplishment is becoming the last mom to a little girl adopted from the foster care system in 2010. Aside from her daughter and husband, she lives with three cats and a mannequin named Vivian. Find her at www.rachaelmoshman.com.
By: Rachael Moshman/ Rachaelmoshman.com
One moment I was lying in bed, calmly reading a novel. Then the main character became pregnant and I snapped. I got up and searched through my jewelry box for the pointiest pin I could find. I pulled out a large, vintage yellow daisy pin. I grabbed the condoms from the night table and started poking holes in them. Poke, poke, poke. Jab, jab, jab. The pin was too large and left big, gaping, noticeable holes. Just like the ones I felt inside of me.
Looking at those holes in the silver wrapper was a big wake up call for me. I hid the condoms under tissues in the bathroom garbage can, sat back on the bed and sobbed. I’d been hiding my feelings for so long. I hadn’t allowed myself time to mourn or grieve. The pain couldn’t be held back any longer and came out in a big ball of crazy condom poking.
I had experienced a miscarriage several months before. The pregnancy wasn’t planned. In fact, babies weren’t in the plan at all. My husband made it clear from the beginning that he didn’t want children. I told him that I was willing to sacrifice babies for him. I actually thought he’d change his mind. He didn’t and I struggled with letting go of my strong desire to have a child.
We were in a really stressful place about six years into our marriage. We were trying to sell a house in a market where no one was biting, after feeling forced to vacate it due to harassments and threats from the people across the street. We were living in an empty home owned by my mother-in-law until our house sold and provided us with the funds to buy again. We weren’t happy living there and the situation created all kinds of family drama. Finances were tight. My husband was a full time student. His father was extremely ill. We were stressed to the max. I forgot to take my birth control pill for three days.
I was sure the exhaustion, headaches, and nausea were from the stress. I thought stress was also what was delaying my period and that my breasts were so incredibly sore because of PMS. I assumed I was having a bad reaction to my toothpaste when I threw up several mornings in a row. Being pregnant didn’t even cross my mind. Sex was scarce during that time, so I didn’t think much of it. Plus, I’d missed doses here and there in the past without problem.
Then I woke up in the night and a pool of blood hit the floor the moment I stood up. Pregnancy still didn’t enter my head. I thought my period must be extra strong because it was late. I called my gynecologist the next day when the heavy bleeding continued. The doctor called it a “missed pregnancy”.
I was numb and in shock. I stayed in bed crying and eating chocolate peanut butter ice cream for a few days, but I didn’t fully deal with my feelings. I shoved them down. I went back to work. I pretended I was okay. I told myself I was fine.
I wasn’t fine. Women who are handling things “fine” don’t poke holes in condoms. I was a mess. My husband was sad when he learned of the miscarriage, but it was only because he knew I was hurting. He was relieved there would be no baby and terrified pregnancy would occur again. I finally realized that he wasn’t going to change his mind. No matter how much he adored me, he did not want a baby.
Would I have actually gone through with using the condoms if the holes weren’t so big and noticeable? I like to think I wouldn’t, but I don’t know for sure. I’m glad the holes were so glaring. It forced me to stop what I was doing and to acknowledge my grief and pain.
I opened up to my husband about all the feelings swirling around inside of me. I wasn’t just mourning the loss of my pregnancy, but the hope of any future pregnancies. I felt so ripped off, like the universe was playing a cruel joke on me by allowing me to get pregnant, but then miscarry before even getting the chance to be happy or excited about the prospect of motherhood.
We talked and talked. The conversation kept coming up again and again for months. I had a lot to process. Through these talks two big points became clear. My husband wasn’t totally opposed to being a father, he just didn’t want a baby. I just wanted to be a mother and how it happened actually wasn’t important to me.
We’d thrown around the possibility of older child adoption for years, but never seriously talked about it prior to this. We started to really consider it. We made it a tentative “some day” plan. I dove into research. I was shocked when I told my husband about upcoming classes to get licensed to adopt from the foster care system and he said, “Let’s sign up.”
A year after we officially started the process, our daughter moved in with us. She was nine years old and had been in foster care for five years. She had suffered abuse, neglect, poverty, homelessness, abandonment, instability and many other things children should not have to face. We finalized the adoption six months later.
Parenting a traumatized child is challenging, but it is also so very rewarding. Our daughter has made huge progress since coming home to us. She’s learning to control her anger, work through her feelings and trust us. I felt a pull to her from the moment I saw a photo of her sweet face. She is my daughter. My baby. I was made to be her mother. My husband is an amazing father. Nothing brings me more joy than watching the two of them laugh together. She has healed me. She has completed me. The holes in my heart were waiting for her to fill them.