My mom tells me that when I was little I said that when I grew up, I wanted to have a house with 100 different rooms, and a baby from every single country in the world. I collected dolls from around the world and always knew someday I would adopt. I also figured I would get married. I was about half right.
College came and went with no sign of Mr. Right. Career, travel, friendship and adventure took me through my twenties. Thirty hit and the knight in shining armor still hadn't ridden up. I told my parents I was serious about wanting to adopt.
My father asked me to take a year and work on finding a mate. I tried! But at the same time, I started researching adoption agencies and programs. China opened up and suddenly it all became clear. I was one of the lucky early pioneers in the program, traveling to Hangzhou in to break new ground and bring home my daughter Claire.
At that point people pretty much figured my family was complete. But I knew in my heart it was not. As elated as I was with my daughter, as exhausted and overwhelmed as I was juggling work and family as a single mom, I knew I wanted another child. I felt at least 3 irresistible pulls:
- I didn't want an only child. I wanted her to have a sibling growing up and later in life.
- I wanted to help another child, to offer a family and love to another child in need.
- I didn't want to be so completely focused, infatuated, obsessed with one individual. I knew it wasn't healthy for her or for me.
So I pushed forward and a few years later I welcomed my son Cameron home from Vietnam. (Getting a boy has been really fun, but I can't say wanting a child of the opposite sex was a reason for wanting two. I would have been thrilled with two girls as well.)
What's it like to be outnumbered by one's children, alone in the house with a toddler and a preschooler? Exhausting, overwhelming and a whole lot of fun. While the first period of time with a new infant was not for the faint-hearted, things really are getting easier and more enjoyable all the time.
Many adoptive parents relate to the feeling that they were "meant" to have this child, that they got exactly the child that was supposed to be theirs. I feel that times two, PLUS, I feel my two kids were "meant" to be siblings. They're star-crossed, a love match. It's beautiful, moving and emotional to see them together and know that they will have one another for the rest of their lives.
The drawbacks? Time to myself has gone from none to non-existent. Between work and home, I have ceased to exist as an individual. I've let myself go, do not exercise or even cut my hair. I have NO free time. But these are the crunch years. I really believe things will get easier (and those of you with older kids, please don't tell me it doesn't get easier!)
Besides having no time, I have no money. In a two-parent household, you have the option of two incomes, or one income and free child care provided by the stay-at-home parent. I have one income and pay full time child care for two kids. It's killing me. Again, I think things will get easier.
Lack of time and money sometimes leaves me feeling lonely (but never alone, of course). It would be nice to be sharing the ups and downs of all this with someone else. Anyone out there got a nice, single brother who loves kids?
Some of the second child issues are amplified in a single-parent household. For example, it's very difficult for me to carve out time to be alone with either child. And certainly those long nights of crying baby and cranky toddler are worse when there is only one parent to try to get everyone settled.
Bedtimes are tough because kids of different ages need different routines. When I was rocking my 8 month old, it was tremendously difficult for my three year old to stay away from us and let him fall asleep. I'm sure plenty of couples face these same dilemmas when one partner or the other is out-of-town, working late, or otherwise unavailable.
Still, the pay off comes when the two of them laugh hysterically over a private joke, comfort one another when grumpy mom yells, or run off to make "pancakes" in the sandbox. It's worth every ounce of effort for those moments!
Meanwhile, I have to say that in general, I've gotten far LESS support for my second adoption than for my first. I think it is often true that people are less excited about a second child than a first.
But for me I got a message along the lines of "I could understand you really wanted a child and supported you. But two? Now you're going too far." When I express feelings of being overwhelmed by this experience, I feel some people are thinking "What did you expect when you took on TWO?", or "You asked for it..." It's true, one child is a LOT easier, more manageable, more contained than two. But that just means parents, especially single parents, need even more support when they take on a second.
The adjustment to two? It takes a good solid year. With one, I felt such bliss that the late night feedings were a joy and an honor. With two I felt despair, even depression after months of sleep deprivation. I felt like I would finally get one of them happy or settled and the other one would wig-out over something. It was rare that the whole household was happy at one time.
But those days are starting to seem like a long time ago. Now we're mostly happy most of the time. The kids are busy together, running in the sprinkler, finger painting or putting on a show for me. Everyone is sleeping better. Each child is becoming more capable and independent, and every day I'm even more happy that I decided to adopt a second child.
Can I hold the line at two? Everyone keeps asking me that. I don't know for sure. But I do know that we're all pretty happy right now. I've got no money for another adoption and I don't want another BABY. But I could imagine a day when a third child, older than a baby but younger than the two I already have would enter our lives. You never know.
My parting advice to anyone, single or married, thinking about two: It's hard, it's a lot of work and I'm SO glad I did it. I can't imagine life without my pair.
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