A few months ago, in a glorious daze of caring for our littlest child — a newly adopted baby boy — an article I wrote was published in Chicago Parent magazine. You can read it here. I called it “Invisible Pregnancy,” but that title was changed by the magazine. The article focused on the few months between when we were contacted by an expectant mother who wanted to talk with us about adoption and when the adoption actually took place, two days after our son’s birth.
It was written just a few weeks after bringing our baby home, but even now I cringe a little when I re-read my words.
I’ve only been an adoptive mom for eight months now, but I have already learned some things. In the article, I refer to our son’s Birth Mother as “our” Birth Mother. Well, that’s just not accurate. She is not our Birth Mother, she is our son’s Birth Mother. It might seem like semantics or a small distinction, but it is not.
And many people in the adoption community refer to the “gift” that Birth Mothers make to adoptive families — the gift of a child that would not be possible for them, most often because of infertility. While my husband and I struggled with secondary infertility, I have never thought of our son as a gift bestowed upon us. Never, not once.
Instead, my husband and I entered into a pact, a sacred pact, a pact that for me is more sacred than marriage (which has, for better or worse, the out of divorce available) with our son’s Birth Mother. We agreed, with love and gratitude and trust and hope, to care for her child for all of his days as our child. To love him, to feed him, to clothe him, to keep him safe, to educate him, to nurture him, to watch him fall and help pick him up, to tell him the story of how he came to us, to let him know that he is loved by another mother.
Our son has two mothers.
On Mother’s Day, I will be the mom who gets to hold him and smile at him and tickle him under his chins just so, until his belly erupts in laughter. There will be pancakes and flowers and love and joy and probably a homemade card or two. (And, for me, a heaping dose of sadness, too, as one of the days that Donna’s absence hits hardest is the mid-May ode to motherhood.)
My baby’s other mother, the one who conceived him, grew him, cared for him enough to bring him into this world, will not be with us in any way other than Skype and spirit. She will be clear across the country. This breaks my heart to this day, as I am certain it does hers. I know, more than most, the pain of not being with your child on Mother’s Day. It is a cruel, bitter pill.
Mother’s Day is hard for many of us, for many reasons. It saddens me deeply to know that a person I so respect and admire, our son’s amazing Birth Mother, feels the deep pain of a Mother’s Day without her child. And yet, this too is adoption. It is not all joyful gifts freely given and happily ever after.
The bravery of Birth Mothers astounds me. The heart and courage that is required to place your child, your loved child, in the arms of another, precisely because of the love you hold for that child is wrenching and affirming all at once.
I shake my head, because after the death of my mother and my daughter, I never thought Mother’s Day could get more complicated. I was wrong. Mother’s Day has gotten more complicated. For the rest of my Mother’s Days I will hold three so close to me — my mother, my daughter, and my son’s Birth Mother.
I see you. You are not invisible to me, though others may not know you are also the mother to my son. He will know and he will see you, too. He will always know that he has two mothers who love him deeply. Not one, but two, and that two includes you.
Happy Mother’s Day to all Birth Mothers.
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