Lessons from the Great Airport Debacle of April 2013

chicago

Chicago on April 18 (credit: Stephen J. Serio)

I’m a new mom. 32 hours at O’Hare with a baby: definitely a new experience. When our flight was finally cancelled after a 13 hour delay, I realized we were going to run out of formula. I sat on the floor and sobbed. Strangers stopped to ask if they could help, but I turned them away, ashamed of my tears.

After security reopened its gates at 4am, my wife left the airport for a nearby drugstore. When her taxi couldn’t get through because the interstate was closed (semi-truck wreck), the roads were closed (extreme flooding and sinkholes), and the driver didn’t know the area, my wife got out and walked in the driving rain. A kind stranger stopped and gave her a ride. Another gave her a ride back from Walgreens. This took five hours.

I spent those five hours with our baby walking the K gates in Terminal 3. Somehow being alone in the airport with my daughter was infinitely worse, and my need to survive without help finally broke. I found an outlet, charged my phone, and started texting. The first text I sent was to my daughter’s mother: not the one walking in the rain, but the one at home, my daughter’s first/birth/bio/tummy mom.

delaysI know all new parents probably struggle with figuring out this adventure called parenthood. Maybe others are quicker than I am to realize that being a good parent isn’t something you can do alone. But as an adoptive mom, my determination to be a good parent is compounded with the layer of being-good-enough-to-adopt. My wife and I had to prove — to ourselves, to the social workers at the agencies, to the world in general — that we would be good parents, just to get the chance to try.

When other parents hear that we have a very open adoption, with weekly contact with our daughter’s birth/first family, they often say: “I could never do that. Too much pressure.” I won’t lie…it DOES hook into my need to get it right, my drive to do it well, my hope to be an awesome mom. But my relationship with my daughter’s bio mom also gives me support I wouldn’t have otherwise, because we love each other.

I suspect that this is not how it is SUPPOSED to work. I should be heroic, invincible, always reassuring my daughter’s bio mom that she made the right choice in picking me. Instead, I’m imperfect and flailing, a chaotic mess of brave struggle and hopeful love.

My daughter’s bio mom wrote me back right away. She checked in later as we waited through more delays, more weather. She was one of the first people to welcome us home. Maybe this isn’t the way it is supposed to work. Maybe other adoptive parents will call this “co-parenting” or accuse me of failing to hold up my end of the bargain: my daughter’s bio mom shouldn’t have to worry with me through the ups and downs of new parenthood.

But I’m a new mom, new to parenting, new to adoption. And I find that my daughter’s mom, more than most people, not only knows my daughter but knows ME. She gets what it means for me to be alone in the airport, frantic with worry about my wife, terrified about food for our daughter. She gets me and she loves me, just as I am.

So I don’t know if I am doing this adoption parenting stuff in the best way. But I do know this: love is never one-sided. Love is connection and vulnerability, helped and helping, giving and receiving back. That’s what it means when I say that, in our open adoption, we love each other. We, none of us, do it alone.