|Photo courtesy of my sister-in-law, Tawney|
Birth mother number one: Megan's birth mom. Mother to four siblings older than Megan and two siblings younger than Megan... But Megan was the one she couldn't care for. For a lot of complicated (and private) reasons, when Megan was almost 3 months old, her birth mother chose to give Megan the care and life she couldn't give right then. With love and sadness in her heart, she signed some papers and put Megan on a plane with a complete stranger who flew her into my arms. (We got to meet a year later and celebrate Megan's first birthday together, and continue to have contact.)
Birth mother number two: I actually don't call her that. Sometimes Joie calls her that in an attempt to explain her complicated life to others. But to all of us, she is still (and forever will be), Joie's mom. Ruth. My sister. One of our many angels in heaven. I'm another mom. She calls me mom, and also says, "my mom" when she's talking to me about her mom. No need to differentiate. Most people who know her just know based on context which mom she's talking about.
Birth mother number three: It's actually birth mother then step-mom, then foster mom number one, then almost adoptive mom number one, then foster mom number two, then me. Foster mom number two loved (and loves) Gabby very much. She stays in touch. We love her too for the gift of love she gave to Gabby when she most needed it. It was with foster mom number two that she finally found peace. I'm mom number six to Gabby (that's if you don't count orphanage caregivers, who she also called "mom"). As far as we know, her birth mother is dead. I imagine her birth mother loved her. I imagine (because of circumstances Gabby describes), their life together was difficult, but not lacking in love from the mother who gave her life. I imagine a day when her birth mother and I will meet in heaven and embrace over a shared love of the same amazing, beautiful girl.
Being a birth mother can't be easy. It is one of the greatest sacrifices a loving mother could make, and yet so frequently people who don't understand remark, "How could they give up a child?" (And just for the record, I hate the term give up. It's all part of recognizing the importance of the language we use when discussing adoption.) It isn't wrong to wonder what lead a person to that very difficult decision. It is wrong to judge that decision. The decision-making process for birth mothers is highly personal, and highly individual. Again: They are the ones who loved my children first, and planted the seed of love in their hearts before they came to me.
But what about the birth mothers who lose custody of their children through abuse or neglect? What about the moms who are strung out on every type of drug imaginable, and are clueless to the harm they've inflicted on their children through their own selfish addictive behaviors? Love? Seeds of love?
I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes.
Not everyone will agree with me, but love is not exclusive to those who know how to parent. Struggling to parent is universal. Sadly, that struggle sometimes leads to addiction or abuse. Sadly, people who become parents struggle with their own demons, some more burdensome than others. Some people struggle through those demons and raise incredible families. Some don't. Sadly, children suffer when parents struggle.
They are some of the children I see in therapy. These same children talk about loving their birth parents, and are conflicted when they try to make sense of those feelings in the context of abusive and addictive behaviors from birth parents who were so misguided they could no longer be given the privilege of parenting. To heal, these children need to integrate identity, to develop a healthy sense of self. These children need to know that the love in their stories isn't any less real because of their confusing history. They have to know that love and anger can exist in the same relationship. They need to know it's ok to love more than one set of parents, because they do have more than one set of parents. There is no limit to the amount of love in the life of a child.
Allowing all that love (no matter how imperfect) to be felt and expressed is one of the greatest gifts an adoptive parent can give...
From a birth parent who could give roots, but not wings...whatever the reason.
In a forrest, it is not only the trees with perfect roots that survive, and grow tall and majestic. All kinds of trees with tangled, gnarled, twisted roots grow...
And grow, and grow, and grow, until their branches touch the sun.
Without roots, trees (and children) don't grow.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there who gave roots...and to the moms who help the tops of those amazing branches to touch the sun.
If you know a mom who has give the gift of loving roots to a child, please, please, please don't let her be forgotten this Mother's Day.
A favorite link about the loving feelings of a birthmother (button is also on my sidebar).
More of the pre-Mother's Day "mom series"
Link to Tawny Campbell's photography website (photo above).