I am a mom. Sometimes that statement surprises me more than anyone else. I first began trying to become a mom in 1999 and quickly realized it wasn’t as easy for me as I worried it was when I was 18.
After four failed fertility treatments, my first marriage dissolved amidst the irony of a natural conception that occurred when our "marital relations" were the last thing to go. Sadly, that pregnancy didn’t survive and I was a single, childless divorcee at age 35.
Then I met my husband , aka Huzbo, who came with a built-in family by way of a son who lived with him half of the time. I instantly became a mother-away-from-mom, with the word “step” jabbed in front. Are you one of those people who thinks a stepmom isn't really a mom? Think again! Regardless of your opinion about the quality of stepmom that they are, stepmoms usually provide some kind of mothering to their stepchild. I am a stepmother who believes it is my job to love and support my stepson. Initially, I thought that meant “as though he were my own” but I came to learn that there are many kinds of love and support and each stepmom has to figure out what works best for her and her family's situation. He is “my own” stepson, and there are differences between a son and a stepson, but that's ok. I'm not here to replace his mother, he's not here to replace my child. You can’t take a square peg and force it to fit in a round hole just to fulfill your own heart’s vacancies or the expectations of a society that doesn't fully understand the complicated layers of step-parenting.
I have a good relationship with my stepson. I always love him. He can make me feel happy, sad, mad, confused, disappointed, excited, and proud. Sound familiar? Yep — you guessed it: just like any other mummy feels about her kids. Except that nobody was calling me mommy for the first 3 years of my marriage, despite undergoing more fertility treatments with my second husband that were extensive and expensive, both financially and emotionally.
We always knew we would adopt if fertility treatments didn't work out, so, in 2009, my husband and I began the process to adopt internationally. In September of that year, we travelled to South Africa to adopt our daughter, who was 18 months old at that time.
Even without hearing her call me “mommy,” I FELT like a mom for the first time in my life.
Just like bio-moms, I had experienced the "pregnancy" of a privacy-invading home study, the wait for the home study to be approved, the wait for an Immigration file to be opened, and the wait for our child to be chosen and presented to us on paper and in pictures. I then endured the "labour" of preparing to travel, the frenzy of buying everything we needed to introduce a toddler into our lives and home, the packing for us and a new child to spend 4 weeks in an unfamiliar country and the wait to leave Canada to travel to meet her. Again, like a biological mother, I finally felt the incredible heart explosion of seeing, touching and holding my daughter for the first time.
There are a lot of people who are touched by adoption in different ways, as well as many who are connected to a blended family. Moms like me are the same as any other moms — we love, we laugh, we cry, we feel frustrated and suffer from mommy guilt. We want other mothers via adoption and other stepmoms to know that giving birth is not a prerequisite for access to the 'mom' club.