I have a lot of empathy for birth mothers. I wasn’t angry about being adopted. I didn’t feel abandoned or rejected. I put an “I don’t know” label on my adoption. For me it was always: I don’t know why I am adopted, but someday I will find out.
I was curious.
As a child, my adoption came in handy. On a day when my parents were driving me particularly nuts, I could imagine my birth mom was a fairy princess in a faraway land who could come and find me. I could pretend she was someone famous. In my rebellious teenage angst, I could use my separate genes to disconnect a little bit from my parents when it was convenient.
With it being Mother’s Day, moms of all types are being celebrated. Moms who are no longer with us are being remembered. I want to make sure birth moms are not forgotten.
From my own experience of finding and reuniting with my birth mom, and talking to other birth mothers and adoptees, I have learned many things. I often wish I could speak to birth mothers directly to share those things. Here’s a little bit of what I would say.
Too much time is lost on pain and guilt. I think you are incredibly selfless for enduring a nine month pregnancy knowing your arms would be empty at the end. Don’t lose time simmering in guilt and regret, and transition your mind to the lives you have blessed. You made the ultimate sacrifice and gave the ultimate gift.
You aren’t forgotten. Every adoptee looks in the mirror and sees a part of you, or goes out into the universe and does something you do. You aren’t forgotten; you are multiplied. I spent my first 26 years apart from my birth mom and yet we are profoundly alike. My mom (who raised me) even thought of you. She especially thought of you on my Birthdays. She had tears in her eyes as she wondered if you were okay.
You can talk about it. Silence doesn’t make pain disappear. Silence can’t erase the past or comfort you. The only way to get beyond pain of any type is to go through it. Don’t bury it; talk about it. Once you begin to talk, you will soon discover that you are not alone and you can heal.
Use an “I don’t know” label. If you are hoping the child you put up for adoption searches for you some day, I suggest using an “I don’t know” label if time goes by and you aren’t found. It doesn’t mean the baby you brought into the world doesn’t think of you or wonder about you. Many adoptees don’t search out of fear of appearing disloyal to the parents who raised them. Other adoptees think you don’t want to be found, and are fearful to hear you don’t want to meet them. Some think it’s easier to deal with the unknown than to discover it. Don’t think it’s about you, because it probably isn’t.
There’s enough love to go around. Any parent knows that love for one child doesn’t use up all of the love; there is still plenty of love for other children. Love is always in abundance. It’s the same way for adoptees. We can love our parents who raised us, and we can love you, one doesn’t negate, prevent or interfere with the other.
You have a right. I have met a few birth moms who told me they feel like they don’t have the right to search because they relinquished their rights long ago. If you didn’t have rights, there wouldn’t be national registries where you can sign up to be connected with your (birth) son or daughter. I love registries because they mean both parties want to be found. You don’t have to wait to be found (out of some type of self-punishment), you can reach out too.
Forgive yourself. I know birth moms who carry deep wounds. (In fact, it’s the reason I am writing this blog.) While most of those wounds are caused from the loss of a child, the lifetime heavy burden of self-torment is optional. There is no conspiracy against you. You could have a child out there who wonders about you, wants to know you, or is curious about what kind of person you are. No adoptees I have met wish you ill will; many, like me, aren’t angry or resentful. Tell yourself a different story, one about how you turned a childless couple into a family—because you did.
Happy Mother’s Day.