Dear Birth Mother,
Every adoption story is unique. There’s not another story just like yours. Or like mine. My child asked me this interesting question the other day. I wanted to tell you about it because I never want you to believe for a second that your love isn’t a real presence in the heart of your child.
Jenny Eldredge, Adoption Option Council of Minnesota
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Not so long ago, my daughter swiveled her body around in her ballet-slipper-pink captains chair, turning away from the work in progress on her desk and meeting me face to face with this question: Is it OK if I love my birth mother?
At our house, we are big fans of birth mothers. My sister is a birth mother. My nonprofit work centers on adoption awareness and birth mother support. But I suspect this question was rooted a bit deeper than our normal, casual conversation about adoption. She’s asked a lot of questions about adoption. But not this one. I wonder if she thought I’d be jealous if she loved both me and her birth mother. Do I seem like I’d be jealous about something like that? I hope not, but who knows? Maybe making that Mother’s Day cup at school triggered this question.
From the heart of a big-thinking little girl, what does a birth mother represent? In her case, it represents the creator of a plan. A huge plan. The plan for the girl’s life. This woman had grown her in her tummy, carefully chosen a family for her, and watched as we gave this sweet baby her first bottle at the hospital. Her plan had begun.
The big plan, frankly, didn’t mean all that much to the girl. It was simply life as she knew it. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Parents (birth, adopted, step, etc.) make a thousand decisions, big and small, to make a happy childhood appear effortless to the child. Her every physical, mental, spiritual and emotional need is met — all the time. And she is really good at being a kid: mischievous, bright, respectful, curious, strong and on and on. The plan is working.
In fact, while perhaps adoption is dinner table conversation at our house more than others, I wouldn’t call it a defining feature of our lives or family. We just “are” – cosmically put together, from the beginning of time, to be what we are: family. Of course. Pass the ketchup, please.
Sometimes classmates giggle with big secrets like “did you know she’s adopted?!” or “I wonder if she’s ever even met her real mother.” We encourage her to shake it off — social graces take time to develop. Those kids probably won’t turn out all that bad, despite their early experimentation with mean-spiritedly tossing the word adoption around like a hot potato. Not everyone understands.
We don’t have abandonment issues, identity concerns or the other conditions some assume go with hand-in-hand with adoption. But we do have the side effects of recess gossip. The prescription? Work for a more enlightened next generation, I guess.
And yet, my amazing daughter feels this butterfly flutter of emotions in regard to her birth mother. She doesn’t know quite what to do with that or what to call it.
How does any parent respond to a question of this emotional weight? It makes my heart happy that this young person has such mature capacity for recognizing, processing and expressing her emotions.
It hits on something so dear to me: birth mothers, present in our daily lives or not, are so very worthy of our love. They are experts of love. They love beyond themselves in a way most are never called upon to consider.
And, by the way, birth mothers have their own version of recess. It’s the co-worker who says “Oh, I could never give up my baby like that.” Or the aunt who says “How much did you get paid for the baby?” Or the minister who calls upon all women to stand for a blessing on Mother’s Day, forgetting — or not getting — the blender of emotions that sets off in the chest of a birth mother.
To answer her question: YES! It’s OK to love your birth mother. That’s what you are uniquely, beautifully called to do – to love beyond households and cities and last names and titles. She is sewn into your heart. You need to love her, like she loves you. That’s the plan! Love.