mothering, a tribute to the cause – (jess)

This time of the year is all about honoring mothers. Over the next two weeks, we have International Bereaved Mothers Day (May 5), Birth Mother’s Day (May 11), Mother’s Day (May 12), and Step Mother’s Day (May 19). In recognition of this, we will be featuring a different post every day this week from a PAIL reader who has volunteered to share her thoughts about mothering. We hope you enjoy reading everyone’s posts this week! 


Remembering Mother’s Day

Birth Mother’s Day is a day to recognize the special role birth mothers play in the adoption triad, and in the lives of adoptees. I had someone ask me recently, “Why can’t we just celebrate everyone on Mother’s Day?” My answer was “Of course you can”, but the initial purpose of the creation of Mother’s Day -and subsequently- Birth Mother’s day was to recognize under-recognized groups. (No- Mother’s Day was not created by Hallmark to make money, though it sometimes feels that way… it was actually created to recognize the work women did in the home when that role was under-appreciated.) In fact, Birth Mother’s Day was created by a support group for birth mothers. And I like the idea, on a personal level, of celebrating birth mothers. Birth Mother’s Day is the day before Mother’s Day.

Recently, I got into a bit of a Facebook “tiff” with someone who made the statement that birth mothers gave birth but there was “no real parenting going on…” I had to disagree with this person. My role as a RPL mama has led me to know the connection you have with a child each and every time you get pregnant. And even though I was never pregnant more than a few weeks, I do feel I cared for my little embryo. In fact I cared for  my little embryos each and every IUI or IVF. How did I care and make parenting decisions for something so small that no one else can see? Anyone who has ever dealt with Infertility can tell you- you decide what to eat, you give yourself shots, you take pills, you don’t take a drink of wine no matter how stressed out you are, and you plan the things you would like to do with your child… from daydreaming about vacations to planning a nursery. All of these things are acts of love. And when those children were taken from me unwillingly, no matter how small their footprints had been they left a mark on my heart. While it’s NOT the same thing as a birth mother making the decision to place their child for adoption, I can only begin to fathom how they feel, having lived through what I lived through. In any case, I can be sure if they had a child in their womb for 9 full months, that they were making parenting decisions all along the way. They are parents, who make the final parenting decision to allow another couple to raise their child as their own- because they love their child so much.

Which brings me some of the worst things I’ve heard people generalize about birth mothers. These are all things I’ve heard personally or other adoptive parents have heard (or things birth mothers have told me that they’ve heard:)

– You don’t really love your child, if you did you would never give them up

– Were they a teenager?

– Were they uneducated?

– Were they poor?

– Were they are prostitute?

– Was she on drugs?

– Was she not married?

– Well she clearly was living in a bad situation, and your home is going to be so much better.

– Watch out they are out to steal your money, take the child back, whatever kind of scary story you can imagine.

Let’s start by saying birth mothers and adoptive parents are not better or worse than each other. They are different, and coming, typically from different situations. The only assumption one can make about a birth mother is that they are not in a position, currently, where they can parent. V’s birth mother was none of the above things (well she wasn’t married yet, but I know plenty of birth mothers are. I believe our adoption agency said about 40% of birth mothers were married. Also, coincidentally, the average age of birth mothers was in their 30’s.) It drives me crazy when people assume birth mothers are “bad” and adoptive parents are “good.” The truth of the matter is people suck the world over. And there are birth  mothers out there that are out there for money and lie and do horrible things. However, have you heard all the stories but there are also plenty of adoptive parents out there who are ONLY after a child and lie to a birth mother about all kinds of things (like how much contact they will allow post birth) and then do horrible things like physically abuse children even though they have allegedly been vetted by a social worker as “safe”? I saw one such story on the news this morning of a local adoptive family who had locked their children up in a bedroom to stave to death. Let’s just do each other a favor and do away with assumptions, they do us no good. The fact of the matter is the vast majority of birth and adoptive parents want what is best for the child involved and people do bad things all the time, that probably play little relationship to whether adoption was involved. Just like you can’t assume all women or all infertile people fit one personality, neither do birth mothers. They are unique snowflakes and the reasons bringing them to adoption, the way they feel about adoption, and who they are as people are varied. Let’s try and give birth mothers the benefit of the doubt (at the very least!) and assume that they are trying their best and want the best for the child they are carrying.

Birth Mother’s Day allows us to honor the parenting decisions that birth mothers make in the lives of the child they gave birth to, and even before they gave birth. But also, birth mothers play an important role in the lives of all adoptees. Some people think that by having a closed adoption or limited contact with birth mothers, they aren’t important any more or adoptees cease to care about them. But nothing could be further from the truth for many adoptees (I have heard of some who were not interested in the birth parents, but I would say that is rare.) Whether or not adoptees have contact with their birth mothers, they care about them and are interested in them. And you know what, I’d have to say those who have zero contact probably spend even more time thinking about their birth mothers than those who see them regularly… because there is just so much more to wonder about, if you know what I mean. Trying to act like that bond isn’t there doesn’t mean it ceases to be… the truth is birth mothers and adoptees have a special bond. That bond may mean different things to different birth mothers and different adoptees, particularly because circumstances differ so widely. I’ve seen adoptees who didn’t feel close to their adoptive parents, and I’ve seen adoptees who didn’t feel particularly close to their birth mothers. I’ve also seen birth  mothers who yearned for more contact with adoptees, and some who were comfortable with very little contact. But all this boils down to, there is a bond and it’s a sacred bond and it’s important to remember and honor the bond that exists- on both sides. And in many cases, having a special “Birth Mother’s Day” allows for those of us in more open arrangements a way to maybe make it less awkward way to honor both the adoptive mom and the birth mom, though to each his own. (I know our BM preferred the thought of being celebrated on a different day than me, but I know some BMs don’t feel this way.)

Our birth mother is a wonderful, caring person and I cannot say enough wonderful things about her. She is part of my family now. She made the decision to create an adoption plan for V for a few reasons. First of all, she loved V 100% and wanted what she thought (only she can make that personal decision and live with the consequences)for V. She didn’t drink, took vitamins, ate the right things and even gave birth naturally as she thought these things were best for V in utero. Second,  has experience with adoption in her own family (and infertility too with family members) as her grandmother adopted four children and she LOVES her grandmother and sees it as a positive thing. Third, she was deeply affected by her parents’ divorce as a child and wanted her child to grow up with a loving couple. She was not in a loving couple. Fourth, she didn’t feel the urge to parent (though she did want to know her child)- at least not yet- and didn’t want to do it even though she has a home and had complete financial support. Her family in fact tried to talk her into keeping the baby and offered all kinds of support, but she wasn’t feeling it personally. In fact, V’s BM had chosen two families to parent before us and they pulled out on her which broke her heart and shook her to her core as she felt certain she was supposed to take this path with her child, she was feeling very down and rejected as to her, she was giving the ultimate gift to a couple. However, she said she knows now it all worked out as it was supposed to when she found us.

V’s BM has shared with me that she feels that adoption was “the best decision of her life”, particularly the fact we are in an open adoption and that she can be part of V’s life, she views me 100% as V’s mother and she just wants to play a role in her life. (None of this is to say it was easy on her at first, it was not, and she definitely did and still goes through a grieving process. In fact, V’s BM submitted a story to NPR about our story as she is so upset by people who try to demean her decision in any way, and she wishes more pregnant women would chose this path. But I digress.)  However, I reminded her that she is also V’s mother, though she is not doing the parenting. We have bonded over the types of losses we have experienced in our lives and also that we both love V more than anything in the world. This might make some people uncomfortable, but it’s true and I can only hope that having an open adoption and embracing this fact can only help V.  I think one quote sums it up beautifully.

“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood.” ~desha wood

A good thought to think on as we enter the weekend of mother’s day.

PS- I am discussing adoption in the here and now. I do know that adoption has an ugly past, when many birth mothers were mistreated and taken advantage of, and forced into decisions where they felt motherhood was robbed of them… and I am sure that this sometimes still occurs. However, this has not been my experience with adoption and this is not the experience I see with most adoptive families and birth mothers I am currently in contact with… however, my thoughts are with birth mothers who are hurt by Mother’s Day as with all people who cannot be mothers in the way they wished… such as baby loss mamas or those currently dealing with infertility. I have heard about these topics many times, and while I do they they are important and very tragic, and I mourn for the mothers this has happened to, it is not the ONLY story in adoption (and I don’t even think it is the majority any more) and I think it’s important to recognize the other stories that can exist in the world of adoption. I wish I could make the entire adoption world a better place. But all I could do personally was chose an ethical agency and an ethical adoption situation, which was extremely important to me as it was very important to me that our birth mother was treated with love and respect. Interestingly, V’s BM switched agencies to the agency we used because she liked them so much  and still speaks highly of them. 

jessJess of It’s Just A Box of Rain is an endo sister, RPL sister, and an infertility sister. She now has a daughter through an open domestic adoption and is a SAHM. She has a degree in Counseling Psych, loves photography, and just might have an unhealthy obsession with muppets.


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