I am a mom in many different ways.
I am a mom of five children at home.
I am a mom of two babies in heaven.
I am a birth mother to one.
I mother all of my children differently to meet their own unique needs, whether they are in my home or not. For the children I parent in my home—mamas, you know the drill. I’m there to provide nutrients so their bodies grow healthy and strong (serving what feels like 500 times a day!). I’m there to serve up Band-Aids on boo-boos and give tear-stained shirt hugs. I’m there to listen to my teenager in the wee hours of the night about friendship tensions. I’m there to find the missing shoe and delegate chores so just maybe we can keep track of things when they are in the right place. I’m there for carpool lines, for homework help, for doctor visits, and for all the million and one things in a day that feel unnoticed but are crucial to keeping a household running.
I’m there in so many ways as a mother, but as a birth mom, my role is different. It’s none of the above—and so much more.
Mothering Beyond “Mom”
Legally, I signed relinquishment papers for my birth daughter 16 years ago, when I was just 16 years old myself. Yet, because I chose an open adoption for her, our situation is a bit different than some other adoptive families. I’ve still been around since she was born to watch her grow. I’m still here to answer her questions as she fills in the puzzle pieces of her roots. And I’m still here, “mothering” her in a way that is unique to us both.
“Mom” is a title and role I chose to surrender to give her the family she deserved when we weren’t in a place to be that for her. I chose her mom and dad with care and with much prayer, and I love the relationship they have together. Her mom’s role is one much like I have with my children in my home, a daily presence she can depend on.
But, there is still something uniquely beautiful about my relationship with my birth daughter. No, I’m not her mom in a daily sense, but I am still her mom in a heart-to-heart way. I still am one of her mothers and she considers me to be so. It’s complex. It’s beautiful in a way not many understand. She grew for 9 months hearing my heartbeat from within and I felt her tiny thumping kicks in my 11th grade classes as I took notes.
“She grew for 9 months hearing my heartbeat from within and I felt her tiny thumping kicks in my 11th grade classes as I took notes.”
For us, no relinquishment paper could ever change that bond. Just as a child can grow up knowing and loving a step-mom and a mom in two different homes, as I did, so too can adopted children.
Because after all, more love around a child is never a bad thing, right?
Just Call Me Mother Goose
Mothering my birth daughter in my birth mother way looks more like a special aunt or mentor role. It looks like being here when she needs me and giving her space when she’s processing hard things. It looks like late night texting from hours apart about complicated adoption feels. It looks like doing as many things possible in the days she stays with us in the summer, experiencing new firsts together not just in the baby years, but in the teenage ones: our first beach trip, our first snowfall, our first hike.
Mothering her is noticing how we much we think, act, and look alike, while also celebrating the wonderful qualities she has gained from her adoptive family. It’s understanding her in a deep way because we are so similar and showing her she’s not alone. It’s being awkward at first when visits start before we find our groove again.
It’s learning to live with a hole in our hearts when we separate again.
“It’s learning to live with a hole in our hearts when we separate again.”
It’s loving her fully with all my being and yet respecting and honoring her mother, something I will always seek to do. She loves her mom and I do too. After all, I chose her mom to be a mother when I couldn’t. And yet, her mom still honors me back and gives me space in our daughter’s life so she can have both of us.
Mothering her is acknowledging that my decision was heartbreaking for me at 16 and that that it’s one that still affects us today. It’s living in the complexity of gratefulness and heartache together, but choosing to not live in the ‘what-ifs’ or in regret. It’s soaking up every text and moment that we have together, thankful that we have this relationship at all, one that gets better and better every year.
Mothering her is knowing she will likely never call me “Mom” and being okay with that. It’s in the soul-rising joy when she started calling me “Mother Goose,” joining in with her siblings who call me this goofy nickname with endearment.
Mothering as a birth mom looks far different for each adoption story.
But this is our version. And I’m proud of it.
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