Both reactions baffle me really, but the reason they do is the same. I don't see my son as a good deed. The fact that we tried for years to fall pregnant and were told it might not happen made us determined to adopt. I had been prodded and checked and Hubbie had been tested. The medical professionals didn't sound hopeful and it was increasingly depressing to hear how unlikely it was going to be that we'd ever be parents. So we decided to go ahead and proceed with adoption.
We were questioned and assessed and checked. We had professionals comment on our relationship, our home, our families, our friends, our finances and even our cat. We sat in a room with 13 people who decided if we were fit to be parents and then waited for them to tell us that we would be allowed to adopt. Then we waited. And waited. There were children who we knew we could be parents to and who we asked to be matched with. We waited some more.
After almost a year of waiting and when we least expected it I fell pregnant with Brown Bear. It was amazing and unexpected and exciting. Our families were delighted. I sat in the Sanctuary in Covent Garden with a close friend and told her I was pregnant and she started to cry - to be honest most people did when we told them. Even father in law who is not known for his emotional responses. Our first son was universally adored and everything we had hoped for and dreamed of.
We had always talked about having a few children, but as it had taken so long we were grateful for the one we had and hoped that lightning might strike twice. It did. I fell pregnant again and we rejoiced, but it wasn't quite right. Something wasn't the same and sure enough I miscarried very early on. We made a deal to move on and get on with being the best parents we could to Brown Bear.
Then we made the decision to go back to adoption - we knew the process this time round and it was closer to home. We also had the advantage of being parents already so we thought we knew what we were getting into. Again with the checking and the questions and the visits from professionals. This time it also involved our son and I resolved that if he did not seem to be ok with it at any time we would just stop.
When we were matched with Blue Bear we played it cool. Not because we didn't absolutely adore him and want him to be part of our family, but because we had no idea if this was real or not. If he would be dangled before us only to be taken away and offered to someone else. It was safer for us to just wait and see what happened. Before long it was real. He was in our lives and our home and everything changed again.
In my head the boys would love each other and be great mates. Instead they spent the first 6-9 months fighting, arguing, screaming for my attention and hating each other intensely. I felt torn in two and like a terrible mother for inflicting this pain on my children. Most days I was convinced it would never get better. When people smiled and said, "Oh he really loves you doesn't he ?" I'd nod and smile back all the while thinking, "He doesn't have a choice. No one asked him who he wanted to live with." Even now not everyone knows how Blue Bear came to us. If it's relevant I will mention it, but it's not necessarily an opener for a conversation is it ?
So to come back to the pity and awe that I'm greeted with. I don't need the head tilt and pity. I am blessed to have two wonderful sons who are funny, smart, handsome and kind. They love each other and fight like brothers do. I also don't need the suggestion that we are saintly in any way. For me it's pretty simple. We wanted to have another child in the family. It wasn't going to be in the conventional way and with my history of falling pregnant it certainly wasn't likely to happen 'by accident.'
Adoption was an entirely selfish act on my part. I got to have the baby I wanted without incurring any stretch marks. Brown Bear got to have a brother without having to wait for the boring bit when he was a baby and wasn't at all interesting to play with. At first he was intensely annoying taking toys and things, but now Brown Bear loves having a Blue Bear shadow and is realising the benefits of having a younger sibling who hero worships him. The cat has a new infant to train up and already has Blue Bear bringing him tins of cat food (even if he can't actually open them.) Hubbie has a 'mini me' who adores him - who wouldn't want that ?
Brown Bear is my first born. Blue Bear is my youngest. Neo was my first adoptee. Hubbie has been my constant in all of this. We've shared the pain, the sadness, the joy, the bafflement, the sheer bloody-mindedness and the love.
It's not heroism. It's not charity. This is my family.