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Thoughts on my Newest Job Title

It’s National Adoption Month which means my inbox and feed are full of articles about “forever families”, adoptees, birth families, adoption costs, etc. I stumbled upon a HuffPost blog written by a mother who addresses the 7 questions her family is most frequently asked about adoption(link below). There was 1 question that I would like to add to her list that I hear a lot. Like, a lot a lot….

Where is his real mother?

Here are my thoughts on that:

I know people wonder what it’s like to be an adoptive mother. In most ways, I’m just like every other new mom; I feel a joy I’ve never felt before, I’ve never been so tired, so thrilled, so bored, so fiercely dedicated to knowing how often someone poops, so emotional. I hope and pray that I am being the best mom I can be….I stumble, I trip up. There are days when I find myself in tears because I feel inadequate, not good enough. And then there are days where I truly believe someone is going to knock on my front door and award me the mother of the century award.

There is that question I get asked just about everyday. Something other moms aren’t asked. It’s actually quite formulaic. And it goes a little something like this-

A stranger stops me in the park, or when I’m getting coffee, or walking just down the street with R.

“Are you his mother?”


“His father must be so dark”

“No, his father is white. R was adopted”

Then, the inevitable question:

“Where is his real mother?”

His real mother.

Look, I know. I get it. It’s a legit question coming from someone not familiar with adoption lingo. But, as a new mom who some days looks down and is still covered in spit up and hasn’t brushed her teeth at 4pm, in those moments of feeling “less than”, I deflate when I hear it. Just a tiny bit. They don’t know that. But I do.

Where is his real mother?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. That’s the old adage right? Well, they can. Words can hurt. I don’t get angry, I understand the question. I try to be patient as it’s a chance to educate about open adoption. Yet words have power. To deny them that is a whole other conversation for a different day. Perhaps to some people, I am not the “real” mother and I won’t ever be, no matter how hard I try to explain my family. That’s okay-but it doesn’t mean the words still don’t hurt. Just a wee bit. Or sometimes a whole hell of a lot, and not only on those days when I haven’t managed to shower, brush my hair, or put pants on with a button, yet I’m out with my infant. Words can hurt any day.

It is one teeny additional moment in my day that I have to navigate.

Where is his real mother?

In my weaker moments, when I am feeling like a shitty mother, I want to cry. I want to cry and say, “you’re right!!! This is all an act!! Good question! Where IS his real mother?”

Sometimes I want to get defensive, and bite back, “I AM his REAL mother damn it!”

A friend of mine today said I should try responding with, “good question? Have you seen her?” A little humor is necessary sometimes.

What I mostly do is smile and take a deep breath, look this person in the eye and know, trust, hope that I have an opportunity, albeit small, to educate about open adoption, or at the very least, it’s a chance to set an example for my son. How can I show him, even at 7 months, how to respond with honesty and authenticity?

Where is his real mother?

Yea. Sometimes it just plain sucks to hear.

Sometimes I’m too tired to educate, to explain, to defend. Like today- when I had a whole long conversation with a well meaning passerby who now thinks (because he assumed) that my husband is black and that R looks EXACTLY like his paternal grandma. Oy.

And really, let me be very clear about something. No one needs to convince me that I’m Rory’s mother.

I don’t need convincing, whatever you want to attach to the word mother; real, adoptive, beautiful… ;)

I know I’m his mother. I know it deep in my bones.

Sooner than I realize, R will be able to comprehend that question (and a slew of others). He will be there, holding my hand and he will hear this question being asked.

How I respond, with my son watching me, is everything.

I cannot control the looks we get, or the comments we hear, but I can control how I react. Whether it’s with the facts, with humor, with empathy….most likely it will be a combination of all three, Rory will look to me to see how I handle these questions. People will continue to ask in all sorts of ways. I’m always ready to have a conversation; ready to set the most genuine example I can in order to give my son the tools he will need to grow into himself.

That’s what real mothers do.


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