I am a planner. It’s a control thing. I think deep down I’ve always known that control is an illusion, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing it or from trying to plan as much as possible, even in the face of uncertainty.
Motherhood is a prime example of something I’ve been planning for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved babies, and as a child my plan was to get married in my twenties, have four babies, and stay home with them. It didn’t work out that way, but I continued to deny my subconscious suspicion that the terms “family” and “planning” might just be polar opposites.
Undeterred, I came up with Plan B.
At age 30, with no husband on the horizon, I started giving up on my dream of marriage. Sure, I would have loved to have found a soulmate, but something that seemed unattainable for so many was a relatively easy dream for me to let go of. (Even among the marriages that didn’t end in divorce, it seemed to me that longterm marital contentment was elusive.)
Motherhood, on the other hand, was not something I was prepared to give up on without a fight. My perception was that there is nothing in life stronger than the mother-child bond, and that was an experience that I did not want to miss out on. So I started mapping out Plan B, and by the time I was 33 years old I owned a condo in a good school district, and was saving money to adopt a baby girl from China. Six months later I met the love of my life, and we married a couple of months before I turned 35.
With the cooperation of my new husband, I attempted to implement Plan C (a biological child, preferably a daughter) on my honeymoon. After 3.5 years of trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant, it looked like it was time for Plan D. D for Domestic Newborn Adoption.
I was still longing for a daughter, but it was finally sinking in that planning, control and motherhood don’t mesh well in my life. So when I got a call at work (6 weeks before the due date of the identical twins that I had miscarried a few months earlier) telling me that there was a newborn baby boy in need of a placement, I jumped at the chance. Thankfully my husband was on the same page, so within minutes I was able to call the social worker back and tell her that we were on board!
I would love to say that my journey to motherhood has cured me of my need to plan and control. I would also love to say that there is no part of me that regrets missing out on pregnancy (beyond the first trimester), breastfeeding and having a daughter. I would be lying if I said that there aren’t moments where I long for a larger family, and worry that my son is missing out by being an only child. What I can honestly say is that I couldn’t possibly love my son more if I had conceived him, carried him or breastfed him. I couldn’t possibly love him more if he were a girl. Adoption has been a miraculous experience for me, one that I wouldn’t trade for biological parenting (although ideally I would have loved to have had both experiences).
Trade-offs are an inevitable part of life, even for people who seem to have it all. Some trade-offs occur as a result of conscious choices and intentional planning, others occur from circumstances that are beyond our control. In my case, I am confident that my plans would never have worked out as well as my unplanned path to motherhood did. While I am still a planner, I have succeeded in relegating the what-ifs and wistfulness to the backseat, while gratitude for and enjoyment of my amazing family takes center stage. That is how I live my dream.
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Claire lives in upstate NY with her husband and young son, as a mostly stay-at-home mom who continues to strive to let go of the plans and live the dream.