"Are Adoptive Moms Allowed to Have a Bad Day?"

After finally realizing my dream of becoming a mother, I found what most new parents find—along with the bliss come days filled with crying, spit-up, and leaking diapers. But when I dared to vent, I was chided: “You wanted to adopt…you asked for this!”

adoptive mom Sandy Burkett with her daughter as a toddler

To those of you who have lived through the emotional nightmare of infertility, in vitro attempts, and proving yourself worthy to be a parent to an adoption agency, you will understand what I am about to say.

Though my children are now grown and I’m living the Empty Nester Dream, I now have the wisdom and hindsight to look back on these experiences with far less emotion and even some appreciation. I still, however, remember the pain of it all.

I remember that everyone I knew was starting a family at the time when my husband and I desperately longed for the same. I clearly recall that, at almost every event I attended (particularly those with all women), those around me would inevitably launch into mommy-and-child discussions. I was assaulted with the pregnancy experience through potty training, and everything in between.

Of course I get it, these kinds of conversations are easy common-ground for women to gravitate to in social settings with new acquaintances. But what about the woman experiencing the heart-wrenching pain of infertility? If we even leave our homes to attend such events at all, it can be incredibly painful to spend an entire afternoon or evening listening to these conversations. The only thing worse than that moment when the conversation turned to in this direction was knowing that it would never change. Once women are deeply enthralled in the subject of daily parenting, the train has left the station.

There were so many occasions when I went home in tears, being unable to contribute more than a few words to the painful topic. To me, it seemed that these events just added to the layers of sadness I wore, not to mention the well-meaning comments of others. How many times have we would-be moms heard the story of “my friend’s sister who could not have children—but, boom, got pregnant as soon as she decided to adopt.” I think that this type of comment is intended to lift us up or provide encouragement. In reality, it makes us feel angry, standing there with a forced half-smile and nodding.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention the overwhelming adoption process. For some people, the process may prove to be straightforward, but I remember it as involved and stressful. Criminal and child abuse background checks, not to mention multiple pages of hypothetical parenting scenarios and comparing our parenting philosophies. I remember feeling angry and resentful that fertile couples did not have to prove themselves before giving birth, so why did we?

Getting real about parenthood

But the title of Adoptive Parents finally came fairly quickly after the marathon process of completing our home study, home visit, and parental training classes. And there we were…the happy family I had dreamed and cried about. I will spare you all of the gushing details about the stars aligning during those first precious moments with our beautiful daughter (and, later, our son). What I want to talk about are the crappy days. What? We had waited for, dreamed of, and planned a life with children. We had gone through such a difficult process to arrive at parenthood. Surely I would never have a bad day or look at parenting as anything less than a blessing?

I vividly remember having some days from hell. I don’t care what anyone says, there is absolutely no preparation or training for a screeching infant who will not stop crying. Nor is there any training for the weak-stomached mom who walks into the nursery to discover that a diaper has leaked all over the crib, the child, and, somehow, the wall. We get used to wearing clothing that smells like spit-up, but, for gosh sakes, do we have to enjoy it?

And, like most stay-at-home moms starved for some adult company, I would share my no good, very bad, horrible day with a friend or family member. But my ventings would be met with comments like, “Well, you wanted to adopt, didn’t you?” “Don’t, complain, you asked for this.”


author Sandy Burkett with her daughter as an adult

Author Sandy Burkett with her daughter as an adult (pictured above, with her daughter as a toddler).

Yes, I’d wanted the whole shebang—to be a mom with whatever comes with the territory—had, in fact, pursued it intentionally. And, like most other parents, I hadn’t a clue about the reality of parenting until it hit me in the face with a poopy diaper. But I am human. And so are you. There will always be days you are happy to say goodbye to, just as there will be days that you add to the family scrapbook. I did briefly ask myself if I was a defective mom on my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. I watched all the other moms standing there, holding cameras, some clearly upset as their little ones climbed the stairs of the school bus. And there I was—doing a mental fist pump, thinking, Yesss, finally some time to myself.

Adoptive moms, of course we are allowed to have bad days and to not enjoy every coveted moment of the mothering experience. And we should feel no guilt about this. It does not mean that you love your children any less than anyone else. It only means that you can finally join in on the conversation.

SANDY BURKETT is a freelance writer and the creative engineer and co-owner of a custom sign and graphics company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She and her husband have raised two amazing kids to adulthood and happily claim “empty nester” status. Sandy blogs at humorme.lol.

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