Not long after Jemberu came home, we joined an organized playgroup. The first week, when he wasn't running away, he hovered near the door. Week by week he became a little more of a joiner and by the end he was a fully functioning member of the playgroup, eating his snack and doing his craft. It was fun watching him learn how to be part of the group in spite of the fact he didn't share our language yet.
We moms, like our kids, went through a process of getting comfortable with each other. Each week we gabbed a bit and we got to know each other better. We talked about our kids, the ones in playgroup and their siblings. I shared about adopting the boys from Ethiopia and about our girls.
At one playgroup a mom was talking about how her two kids really adored her husband and when he was around she felt like second fiddle. She joked she'd have another and another until one worshiped her. She then said she was only kidding, she didn't want four children. I laughed and told her that having four children was awesome! One of the moms said "Well, your four don't really count...it's not the same." Did she just say that? I asked her what she meant, since all four of my kids seem to think they count. There was a pregnant pause (pun intended) and she told me that she meant because of the big age difference between my girls and my boys. I conceded that I never had the challenge of having four little ones at the same time. I told her that having little boys at the same time as teenage girls did have it's own challenges for us. She told me she could relate, because her two daughters were 12 years apart. That is when I got that nagging uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. Interesting how she seemed to think her two counted in spite of the big age difference. Curious.
Driving home from playgroup, I realized that I knew all along what she meant, it wasn't about the age difference. My four don't count because I didn't give birth to all four of them. I suppose she thinks because I didn't go through pregnancy and childbirth I got my third and fourth children 'the easy way'.
Although such things cannot be measured, I do think that being seen by some (like her) as less than a 'real family' is more painful than childbirth. Being asked the same questions over and over about how we became a family can be more tiresome than that first trimester tiredness. Getting used to nosey staring and the occasional rude comment is a little like trying to function with morning sickness. The thing with giving birth to your children is that 'paying dues' is short term, after that you are a 'real' family, never questioned as to whether you are a legitimate family. When your family is formed by adoption, especially transracial adoption, you sometimes feel you have to keep earning your right to be a family.
We went into adoption with our eyes wide open. We expected occasional insensitive comments, but that doesn't make them sting any less. Don't get me wrong. Our sons are worth every uncomfortable situation we encounter. I wouldn't trade it or change it and I sure don't regret it.
The same goes for the girls, morning sickness, labor and childbirth....it was all worth it to become their mom. I don't regret a single stretch mark or my inability to laugh hard without crossing my legs.
I have four children and they all count.