These days I feel very much like Phoebe on the TV show “Friends”. No, I am not super eccentric or funny like Phoebe. What I connect with is what her character must have felt like when she was a surrogate and carried triplets. Was she pregnant? Yes. Was the pregnancy real? Absolutely. Did she feel every kick and stretch and move that those babies made? Yes. Did she have all the side effects and hormones that all pregnant moms have? Definitely. Were those babies “hers” for the months that she carried them? Completely…except that they weren’t.
There’s a moment in one of the episodes where Phoebe is pregnant that Monica and Rachel decide in the heat of a moment to give her a baby shower…before they’ve thought anything through. Phoebe is super excited about it, so by the time they do think it through, they can’t take it back.
Monica has just returned from the store where she’s bought three cute, little outfits for the babies. As she’s taking them out of the bag and excitedly showing them to Rachel, she says, “Aren’t these cute?! Phoebe’s going to have so much fun dressing them up in these…” And that’s when it hits her and Rachel both. Phoebe will not be dressing the babies or feeding the babies or taking the babies home. She is “only” the surrogate, and while her role in the process is crucial, once her part is over, it’s over.
Monica and Rachel decide that it may be a less depressing party if they give Phoebe presents for her instead of for the babies…presents that she can use after she is done being pregnant, like alcohol and a pair of leather pants she’s always wanted. It is at the point when Phoebe is opening these gifts that she connects with her feelings about being “only” the surrogate as the end of the pregnancy draws near and with it the inevitable loss she faces.
I feel different. Feeling different triggers me because I always felt different growing up. It was a bad different, like I wasn’t good enough or cool enough or fun enough or pretty enough. It all stemmed from a social anxiety disorder that I didn’t know I had until I was in my early 20s. When I felt different then it was because I was lonely and sad and confused and insecure and anxious.
Now, I feel different because I am on a journey that I firmly believe God has called me to, and while it is wonderful and exciting and scary and so difficult, it can also make me feel lonely and sad.
I am a mom…but I am not. This statement is so small, yet it is packed with meaning. When people stop me to ask me how old my baby is or to comment on how cute he is, I answer them, I thank them, I talk to them as if he is my baby…because right now, he is. When people I know, who haven’t heard about my fostering journey ask me who’s baby that is that I’m holding, I tell them, it’s my baby…because, for now, he is. When I go to doctor’s appointments and they ask me questions about my baby, I answer them to the best of my ability and explain to them that I did not carry this baby or give birth to him, and that, no, I’m not breastfeeding because I am a foster mom.
I have had all of the sleepless nights and doctors’ appointments and anxieties and everything else that a new mom has. I have had unsolicited advice from strangers and acquaintances, moments when I just want to cry for no reason and do, and pure joy as I hold my baby while he sleeps peacefully.
The thing about being a foster mom, though, is this: This is not my baby, and people don’t know how to respond to that. I don’t know how to respond to that. There are all kinds of questions that go with it. Do you throw a baby shower? Do the friends sign up to bring meals to the new mom? Do you treat the baby as if he belongs to me? Do you treat me as if I am a real mom? People are trying to figure all of this out, and so am I. And the process is messy and a little bit painful at times.
I am not a “real” mom…but I am. I don’t know how those two things can co-exist at the very same time, but they do.
Right now I am focusing on the gifts of it all. I get to love and nurture a baby that needs me, I get a little piece of my desire to be a mother fulfilled, I am doing God’s plan for my life, and I have some very supportive friends and family who are loving me through a time of newness and change.