Originally written in 2016
Thursday night I was reminded that there will be many young women experiencing this Mother’s Day only weeks or months after signing adoption papers. For millions of women, whether new birthmoms or our older first mothers with closed or secret or turbulent adoptions, this weekend is almost unbearable.
More than praise and thanks for “choosing life” (a phrase we should possibly rethink considering for most the decision was between parenting and adoption, not abortion and adoption), what they really need is affirmation. Validation that they *are* moms. Because inwardly, it seems that everything about them has changed. Hormones are chaotic, they’ve endured pregnancy and birth and their emotions are complexly tied to someone who is not with them. Yet it’s that absence that nags and says they aren’t actual moms. Maybe it’s even the title “birth” mom that makes them feel “other”. Maybe it’s comments like “giving birth doesn’t make you a mother” that cultivate doubt. And that’s what they’ll be wrestling with on top of the frustration of wanting to be recognized but not receiving it, or the embarrassment of being recognized when they are, and the flood of emotions and thoughts about what they’ve just went through, for all 24 hours of this Sunday.
One thing is true for all of us: birthing children signified a turning point in our lives. Sometimes for the rest of our lives it defines us and is the source of our identity. If not for the rest of our lives, then often for a number of years until we find a sense of peace and healing. Yet even then, our healing evolves with each year. With each year and with new experiences and life stages, we have to adapt our emotions and our perspectives. It’s continual. And it looks different for each person. And sometimes things happen years and years down the road to completely upset the peace you thought you had attained.
And that’s probably not something you would know unless you had been in the same situation.
Just as adopted babies eventually grow up into adult adoptees, birthmothers don’t stay frozen in time and their story doesn’t end when they sign papers. Really, that’s when it just begins.
I’d like to end with an excellently-worded quote by Chel Thompson:
“To Birth Mothers Concerning Mother’s Day:
Here’s the thing — You were not a surrogate. You were not a prenatal nanny hired by his “real” parents. You acted in no one’s name but your own. You were his mother. You cared for him, loved him, protected him, provided for his needs, made a plan for his future. Yes, he has another nuclear family now, a different mother. acting parents with all the rewards and responsibilities of parenthood. Some day he’ll be grown and probably have another nuclear family and kids of his own, and his acting parents will be relegated to extended family just like you are now. They will still be his parents. You never stop being his mother, too. It doesn’t matter what he calls you. It doesn’t matter how often you see him, or how many moms he has. The bond is forever. Even if it were a closed adoption and he did not know you, your absence would be felt. The title is forever. There is no such thing, for anyone, as “Once upon a time, I was a mother.” Whether a mother’s child is alive or deceased, whether she is actively parenting, or her job is done, whether she tried to do her best by her child or caused him untenable pain, whether he calls her by the title or another name, whether or not someone else is his mother also, motherhood is not a state of being that exists in the past tense. My father has been retired from the military for 20 years. He is still Capt. ___. My immigrant friend is not currently licensed to practice medicine in the U.S., and is currently working as a medical technician. He is still Dr. ___. Every birth mother has experienced the rights of passage. Every birth mother has held the job in her capacity at one time. That truth cannot be erased. Mother’s Day is hers, too, as it is to all Mothers past and present, the remembrance, the honor, the loss. There is no, “I was a mother.” There is only, “I am a mother.””