As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m taking time to reflect on my journey to motherhood. Last year, Mother’s Day was a tough day for me. NOT because I was desperate to have a baby, or because my life felt empty or incomplete without a child- but because the unknown is always tough (always has been for me- a gal who loves a plan and a list). On Mother’s Day last year I didn’t know when the magical phone call would come telling me we were matched with a birth mom. By this time last year, we were home study ready- which is a feat in it of itself (oh the paperwork!). I REALLY didn’t know, that for E and I, it would not be one magic phone call, it would be a series of phone calls (8 potential matches with birth moms. 8 “almosts”. 8 roller coasters of emotions. Some of the “almosts” far closer than others). I felt that motherhood would come when the match phone call finally came- THEN I would feel like a mom. What I’ve come to learn is that I have been a mama from the moment we began this adoption process. It has been long, it has been arduous, it has been joyful, painful, full of surprises and wonder- much like any journey to motherhood.
This Mother’s Day I want to take a moment to acknowledge Rory’s birth mom. She is how I became Rory’s mama and my love and gratitude for her grows as Rory grows. It’s also incredibly important to me to be transparent about the adoption process (within reason- much of the process is Rory’s story to share, if, and when he wants to). Birth moms are often not spoken about openly and freely. Throughout our process, I repeatedly had to dispel myths about birth moms. I think it may be easy to make a birth mom the bad guy; someone who could change her mind and dash an adoptive family’s parenting dreams, or someone who is “selling a baby”. I think this is far easier for some to imagine than realizing that birth moms are living, feeling human beings who are making a decision that most of us would never dream of having to make. I’ve tried to put myself in those shoes, and I can’t. The strength and courage it must take to place your child takes my breath away. It is not the natural order of things. It’s different. And as we know, different for a lot of people is overwhelmingly scary. The unknown is scary, and maybe that’s why I’ve noticed how difficult it is for people to talk about birth mothers, or first mothers as some adoptees prefer to call them. Perhaps it is the perceived power birth moms have in this situation that’s a little scary for people. Power that doesn’t sit well with people who feel a birth mom has the power to take away an adoptive family’s chance at having a family. It is far more complicated than that. In my experience, this fear comes from well meaning people who are not directly involved in an adoption. Very often (not always) birth moms are in some sort of crisis- emotionally, financially, physically- very real reasons why they choose to terminate their parental rights. It is an emotional journey for all parties involved. It is far more than a transaction. It is not a process solely for the adoptive family with the birth family on the peripheral. ALL parties deserve their story to be shared, or at least have the choice to share it loud and clear if they so choose. While I can’t speak for birth families, I am confident I have gleaned some insight from our own experience. Let’s talk about it. The good, the bad, and everything in between.
Ethan and I opted for an open adoption. Which I’ll admit, when we began this process, scared the hell out of me….It seemed far better to have our baby appear in our arms and move on, move forward. However, after a ton of reading and many conversations with people far smarter than myself, we decided an open adoption would be in the best interest of our child. That was the first realization. The second realization was that it is also in our best interest. We know where our child came from and that brings me a profound amount of peace and joy. I will not deny that our relationship with Rory’s birth mom is complicated- but what relationship isn’t complicated? We were at his birth mom’s final doctor’s appointment. The love and trust that filled the room as we all watched her ultrasound together was truly spectacular.
A few things I must cut through the sentiment to say; adoptive families do not pay birth families for a child (not in a legal adoption), birth moms are not waiting to take and take and take from adoptive families financially, only to decide to keep their baby. They are not hiding and waiting to reveal themselves when their child is of a certain age. They are not coerced into signing consent. Can this happen? Yes? Does it happen? I guess so- but mostly in Lifetime movies. Typically a birth mom decides to keep her child because she decides she can parent. Simple, huh? This is WELL within her right. It is her God given right to parent. We were often asked, “what if she changes her mind?” What if. What if. This was a daily thought I grappled with a million times a day after we were matched with Rory’s birth mom on Dec 5th. Even as I held Rory for that first magical moment, and up to the minute consent papers were signed, “what if” was always lurking. I have the grey hair to prove it. After spending two straight days following the birth with Rory and his birth mom in her hospital room-we could still walk out of the hospital without a child. This was very real and very scary.
What if. What if. It would hit me like a ton of bricks, usually right after a particularly clear moment of imagining the birth of our son while we were in BK and even as I held him close in the days following his birth. His birth mom could change her mind. She could change her mind- and, I’ll say it again, that is her right and that decision does not make her the bad guy. It’s her right. And that would have to be okay. Had that happened, it meant Rory wasn’t meant to be ours. A tough pill to swallow. The tears come now, even as he’s sleeping peacefully on my chest. This was a scenario E and I talked at length about and were ready to deal with. That was part of this adoption process. That is part of what we signed up for when we began this incredible journey to parenthood. As with any journey to parenthood, we had faith; tremendous faith in the adoption process, in one another, and faith in knowing that this was the way we were meant to grow our family.
I ask you on this Mother’s Day to think of birth moms, of Rory’s birth mom, these women who through their decision to place their child have allowed countless women like me to become mamas. I have so much more to say on this topic. But I will leave it here for now. I’ve rambled. I wasn’t eloquent. Forgive me, I haven’t slept since the birth of Rory. Holy heavens, I can’t wait to do it all again.
And so- To all of the mamas and papas who mother, to the sisters, the aunts, the grandmas, the Godmothers, the foster moms, the friends…To the birth mothers and adoptive mothers, to cousins and teachers, to babysitters…to anyone who has ever loved fiercely and unconditionally, I wish you the happiest of Mother’s Days.