Motherhood: Sandra Glahn's Story
Sandra Glahn became a mom at 36 and is now 61 with a 25-year-old daughter. She had ten years of infertility that included seven early pregnancy losses, three failed adoptions, and an ectopic pregnancy. After adopting their daughter, they discovered she was on the autism spectrum. Sandra said their daughter is pretty high functioning, so was able to finish high school, but still lives with them and does not work.
Tell us a brief version of your journey to becoming a mom. What were some of the hardest times? What were some of the most joy-filled moments? The endless cycle of hope and despair, of crushed dreams, of great disappointment took their toll. I was so beat down by the end that I was no longer sure I wanted to be a mom. I gave myself permission to not experience love at first sight with our daughter. But the moment she was placed in my arms, I fell in love. It does not always happen that way for adoptive parents, but I was grateful it did for me. It did not hurt that she was adorbs!
I cannot imagine a parent loving a kid more than I love mine, whether or not she came from my body.
What was your experience of meeting your child for the first time like?
My ob-gyn had been our initial fertility doctor. He referred us to an endocrinologist, but then my husband and I accompanied him on multiple short-term trips to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Mexico. And he and I ended up co-authoring seven books (he passed suddenly in 2013). He once described our ten-year journey as the longest labor and delivery of his career. When we got the word that Alexandra was ours, we wanted him to place her in our arms. He called to say to meet him at his office, but when we arrived, she was not there—which confused us. But he told us where to sit, rolled the camera, cued up Pachelbel’s Canon and THEN he went to the next room where she was waiting with our friend and got her. He wanted us to have that moment on film, complete with background music. So we have this beautiful footage of my face the first moment when I saw her, of my husband and me together staring with wonder in our eyes. For years we could not hear the Canon in G without weeping. I recently saw on a Netflix documentary called “Babies” that choosing to become a primary parent (like in fostering, adopting, or raising a family member’s kids) alters the parent’s brain and bonding hormone levels (oxytocin) in the same way that a biological parent’s brain and oxytocin levels are altered. With this research in mind, what has been your experience with bonding with your child? I wish we had known in the mid-90s what we know now about cocooning with adopted kids. Alex was eight months old when we got her, and she would happily go from person to person. Everyone loved that, but now I think we would have benefited from private time with her all to ourselves. Still, we loved her as our own almost immediately. We were just flooded with affection and the desire to protect and the sense that she was ours. My sister has one daughter she adopted and one to whom she gave birth. She told me once that sometimes she forgets which is which. That’s how I feel about it. I cannot imagine a parent loving a kid more than I love mine, whether or not she came from my body. What did you think motherhood would look like before you became a mom? What were you surprised by? We were surprised by very little, honestly. So many people had told us that our deep longing must be because we were idealizing parenting. But we’d done enough housesitting of kids and working with teens to know kids don’t make life perfect. I think we had pretty realistic expectations.
He keeps us on our knees, because we always need wisdom. And he gives it when we need it.
What have you learned about yourself through motherhood? I’ll say what I wish the books had said—and I promise you I’ve never hurt my kid: While everybody says parenting has its tough moments, people usually don’t mention that kids can evoke rage in you that you did not know you were capable of. When you are going on three hours’ sleep because a kid woke you up to say she found the sock she’d lost plus she steps on you for the twelfth time within an hour and you have PMS and she glares you in the face and repeatedly says NO to something you’ve told her to do, and then purposely dumps her dinner on the floor, you can feel so. much. anger. The defiance is the worst. The Bible says we are all falling short of the glory of God. Parenting reveals that in us, for reals.
Share with us the biggest ways God has worked in your heart and shown his character to you through this journey of motherhood. Because our daughter is not neuro-typical, none of the classic Christian parenting books have been very helpful. They assume a certain brain type. One in particular who comes to mind depends a lot on the assumption that kids can connect cause and effect. But our daughter does not think linearly. So we have had to find different ways to discipline, ways that work for her. And people don’t understand. Friends at church don’t get it. Strangers don’t get it. I’m sure there are people who think: Her mother is a seminary professor and her kid acts like that. But those people don’t have to get it. God does not expect me to give account to them. God sees it all. Knows it all. And he sees what other people don’t see. I love Hagar’s name for God: The God Who Sees. He keeps us on our knees, because we always need wisdom. And he gives it when we need it. God is the source of wisdom.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience as a mom? A lot of times people will see a TV show that features a kid on the autism spectrum. And they will tell me about it so I can watch. But I have zero desire to watch. Autism is our lived reality. But it has its magical moments, too. Once our family got stranded in Colorado Springs in a cheap hotel because of an airline problem—the airline got to pick the hotel. When we opened the curtains, so many dusk flecks floated in the sunlight that I opened my mouth to groan. But our daughter stretched out her hand toward all that dust in the sunlight and exclaimed, “BUBBLES!” I would hate to have missed her unique way of seeing the world.
Thank you for reading this story of Sandra's motherhood journey. I hope, as we continue the series, your life will be enriched by the stories other moms share.