May 6, 2012
I remember the first Mother’s Day card I received. I was in India adopting my son and my bff Libby was with me, and she had brought a card all the way there so she could give it to me on the day I met my son for the first time. She wanted to be the first to wish me Happy Mother’s Day! I had been so completely focused on preparing everything in my life for Rahul and making sure I had everything he would need that I hadn’t really thought about how my own role in life was changing. I remember thinking, Oh yeah! I’m a mother now!
As someone who came reluctantly into motherhood I had to wrestle with feelings of fear and distain toward joining “the mommy club”. I hadn’t dreamed of becoming a mother my whole life–in fact, I hadn’t dreamed of it at all. I remember once, on an ill-fated date, being asked how many children I wanted to have. Zero, I said. My date looked at me in absolute horror. He literally stood up and paced and nearly left (good riddance) until another friend talked him down. And you may be surprised, but I’ve received many similar reactions throughout my life when I have said I didn’t think I wanted children.
It wasn’t until about two years before Rahul came home with me that I began to have stirrings that I was supposed to be doing something more with my life. A friend who had a similar lack of desire for children (and had been taken to a psychiatrist by her mother-in-law who thought she was a lesbian because she didn’t want any children–seriously, has she MET any lesbians?) had experienced a life-changing yearning when she held her nephew in her arms for the first time and was now expecting a child with her husband (a second marriage–the first one dumped her because of the “no kids” thing). She advised me to seriously reconsider my ideas about motherhood. And I did. I thought about it seriously for the first time, but could not wrap my mind around becoming a single mom. Then a few months later I experienced a big heartbreak and in the pits of my despair I realized I was yearning for something more than what that relationship could have given me. I was yearning to be meaningful to someone. To create family. To use the blessings my life was overflowing with to help someone else. Adoption. The idea gelled completely in my mind and I knew it was my life’s purpose. And a few weeks later I was filling out adoption papers!
So when I found myself facing my first Mother’s Day I thought it might be fun! A day to celebrate me! Well, my first Mother’s Day was so completely horrible that I literally wore sunglasses all day because I was crying and didn’t want Rahul to see. People called me all day long to wish me well, which should have been encouraging, except that Rahul was miserable and unstable and totally hated me. Every time I got a new “Happy Mother’s Day” phone message I wanted to throw the phone across the room. It wasn’t a day much different from any other in those first few months, except that I had people congratulating me all day. And to me that created a chasm between myself and everyone else. I was prepared for Rahul’s difficult transition. It was incredibly hard, but I didn’t have expectations that it would be easy. I think it was hard for most of my friends and family to understand how painful and traumatic it was for Rahul. Most people pictured a much happier situation than it was in reality. But I wasn’t crying that day because Rahul was making me sad. I was crying because I felt like no one understood what I needed that day. Not well wishes and congratulations. I needed a hug, comfort, a visit, support. I realized that day that being a single mom to a child with special needs was incredibly lonely.
Subsequent Mother’s Days have gotten increasingly better. Rahul is happier each year and he has expressed so much gratitude and love to me on Mother’s Day and every day that I don’t feel like there is anything I need from a special holiday. And being a mother is my favorite thing in the world. It is the most amazing experience and I’ve never regretted it once. But I still feel a familiar tug each year on my heart at the beginning of May. A reminder of the chasm that I still feel exists between myself and so many others. Do people really see me? Do they understand how treacherous my motherhood journey has been? Do they realize how different my life is from theirs? My side of that chasm is much more crowded now–with people who have held my arms up and remembered me and taken care of me. Friends who have loved me and listened to me and supported me. Friends who have had similarly crazy journeys through motherhood. Family who have laid down their lives so Rahul and I could make it through the past four years. It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village to keep mom standing.