Done: This mother of babies has retired.
The email surprised me. Apparently the Chinese orphan we had sponsored for the last five years had been adopted. Not three days earlier I had finally shipped off a package of specially selected Christmas presents: a doll, a few Chinese picture books, a cheongsam (Chinese dress), and some craft items.
Where was she now? Would she get her presents? Would we learn about her new family? Know she was happy finally?
I was bittersweet and surprised by that emotion. I needed to investigate how I felt further. But I put on a happy face as I told my younger two girls about her adoption. They had come to know her through the yearly update emails and her progress report that hung in our mud-room among all their own art work and school reports.
I was happy. So happy for her. But I felt a twinge of sadness that this child we had developed a simple bond with was forever out of our lives. In all honesty, I had, on occasion, considered the what-if’s of adopting her. But the thoughts had been nothing more than the passing dreams of a mother who loves children. I had known we were not her forever family.
My youngest, herself adopted from China, asked her usual compassionate questions.
“Why didn’t we adopt her?”
And her honest comments.
“I really wanted a younger sister. One like me from China.”
I did my best to explain how we, as a family, felt this worked. God’s role in her adoption. God’s plan for us. Our duty to consider His will, and not just our own.
And I empathetically listened to her desires for a younger sibling. One like her.
Finally she moved on to her next activity of the day, seemingly content in knowing that Mom and Dad, and God, had her life in their hands.
But, I found myself wondering for a moment about my own life and plans and at that moment I knew for the first time I was done. And I felt what it was like to not necessarily wholly want to be done, but to know that like it or not, I was done.
With three children, two biological and one adopted, and two elderly parents to care for, I had not really given having more children a thought for a very long time. It seemed that life just kept me too busy to even consider it, let alone rule it out – cross it off my list – tick that box and move on – let it sink to the bottom of life’s bucket list never to be seen again.
Years ago, shortly after our youngest came home, I had felt very drawn to adopting again. I worried about our adopted daughter not having a sibling that looked like her. I wondered if having someone in the family to identify with – to share her deep feelings and fears about adoption – would make her heart hurt less. I even let myself fall in like with a photo and video of a sweet baby girl waiting in China.
But neither God, nor my husband, was buying it. So I prayed that if it was not His will for us to adopt again to please remove my own desire to do so, so I could get on with my life. As usual He answered my prayers. And as usual I was in awe of His ability to do so.
Then life churned forward. We moved to Asia for work and then back home again three years later. We faced tough, dark days and hot, loud “I am lost!” moments of sorrow as our youngest’ s heart – opening again to life – broke and then healed over her abandonment and adoption. We created room in our minds, and lives, to take on overseeing the care of my dying mother and aging father. And we went to school and to work and to the soccer field.
All this kept away any thoughts of more babies, more children in our nest.
Yes, I would sometimes ogle them. I came to consider myself a baby stalker. Sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room or in the pew behind a new mother I would soak in the loveliness of others’ babies. Their O-shaped yawns; their sweet smells; their balled-up fists suddenly flicked out in startle reflex; their quirky, jerky leg and arm movements as they came to know their body and the world around them.
Sometimes I found myself wondering what new career would enable me to work with them. To hold them. To cuddle and protect them. Then life would bring me back and I would move on, forgetting about babies until my next encounter in the grocery line or park.
That is, until the other day when I realized, with an equal mix of sadness and reality-driven recognition, that I was personally done with babies. I mulled the whole idea over and tried it on for size.
I knew with treatment I might be able to give birth once more. Higher mountains of age and infertility had indeed been climbed and conquered in recent years. Or we could go the route of adoption again, gathering the documents, doing the home-study, and facing the months of red-tape and perhaps years of waiting.
But these thoughts didn’t fit my body, our lives, nor God’s plan for us anymore. At mere months shy of fifty years of age I finally knew that we would not be having any more babies – biological or adopted. I was at a new stage in my life.
A stage that had snuck up on me while I looked away. A stage between burping and walking with my own babies and cuddling and spoiling my grandchildren – who in all honesty are hopefully years from the making.
A stage when I mothered differently, but still mothered no less importantly. A stage of homework spread out on kitchen tables, rather than diapers and pacifiers. A stage of shouting from the sidelines of soccer matches instead of cooing at chubby-milk-breath faces. A stage of perusing the shower-chairs at elder-care supply stores rather than the rocking chairs at baby boutiques. A stage of pushing wheelchairs through the mall rather than strollers in the park.
And while I am sad I will not myself parent any more babies, I am okay with the stage I am in. Yes – respectful pause here for some tear wiping and lip quivering – I am done.
Dear Reader: We want to hear from you! When were you “done?” Are you ever “done?”