A Letter to Birthmothers on Mother’s Day

On a day like Mother’s Day I can’t help but think of all the women who have birthed a child, yet no longer longer hold them in their arms.  Perhaps this is most likely and because at least two of those children live in our home. Though they did not grow in my womb, they now call me “mom.”

This is a complicated letter to write because motherhood is such a personal journey. We may or may not be able to pick you birth moms out of a crowd, but I know you are here, or at least you were at one point. Your physical body may have long since left this earth, but either way you remain with us because there is a piece of you in the children that live in our homes.

Of course, I don’t know all the reasons you are not currently parenting your children. I’m guessing there are as many reasons as there are mothers — each one different and beautiful and complicated and tragic its own way. I’m not sure if you lie awake at night wondering what’s become of the babies you once held close, but if you do, I’m here to tell you those babies occupy space in our hearts, too.  It still astonishes me that God created a world where we could be in this together in some way.

I need you to know that I, for one, do not take your proper place for granted. Admittedly, I can’t pretend to know exactly how you feel. I have not endured the anguish of relinquishing my birth children into another’s care, but in some small way my heart is connected to yours.  Your flesh has now become part of my heart. We are forever connected. On paper you and I may be quite different, but in fundamental ways we are the same.  We are two beautifully flawed individuals trying to do the best that we can for the ones we love. Sometimes that means holding them close and sometimes that means letting them go.

 Meeting Kelel and Senait's birth mother was one of the most profound days of my life.   Due to HIV and extreme poverty, they no longer reside in her loving arms...
Meeting Kelel and Senait’s birth mother was one of the most profound days of my life.   Due to HIV and extreme poverty, they no longer reside in her loving arms…

Mother’s Day is a complicated holiday around our house as I’m guessing it is in yours. Layers of emotions often mix into a melting pot of confusion as adopted children wonder where their loyalty should lie on such an occasion.  Sometimes they want to share memories or perceived fantasies of you to the exclusion of me and other times they want to keep the memory of you buried so deep inside it won’t see the light of day.  Even if the feeling seems buried, however, it will come out — maybe in respectful, sophisticated ways and maybe not — but, rest assured, it will surface one way or another. And when it does, I channel every ounce of God’s love that I can possibly hold because the waves of emotion often overwhelm the lot of us.

Whether we set out an extra vase of flowers for you this year will be for our children to decide. I usually offer this gesture, but more often than not I hear the response, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about it…”

Either way, however, your spirit will be here because I am committed to you. Whether the children want to “go there” or not, I’m committed to honoring your memory in my prayers and in my heart.  And I know, without a shadow of the doubt there is a place in their hearts reserved only for you. As their adoptive mother, this creates a tension in my heart as well. We often engage in the delicate dance of wondering just how much of our hearts we can share with each other.  We are “all in” and yet — the reality of you often determines the level of intimacy in any given moment.

It is an honor to mother your babies.  It is not always easy, but it is very good. Granted, they are no longer babies, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the memory of them remains that way in your thoughts. What would you want to know about them if we had the chance to talk?   I can tell you they are growing and thriving and succeeding and faltering. They are beautifully human just like us, in need of grace and a Savior. And many days they are the ones showing unmerited grace to me.

Every day I continue to get to know them just as they continue to get to know me. This journey of parenting children that were not mine first is one that has radically changed my life, one that I hold closer to my heart than just about any other —  and for that I am forever grateful.

So much of you lives in these children. You may be gone, but you are not forgotten. May God continue to heal and mend our tender, broken, resilient, redeemed hearts.

 Day 1.... July 2011
Day 1…. July 2011

About 12 ” shorter and 50 pounds lighter…Not me — him!

 Last summer... 
Last summer… 

 Pretty much yesterday... 
Pretty much yesterday… 

Christina’s Take: 

This feels melancholy to me – and I think it’s because I am often melancholy about Mother’s Day – my filter laid on this affects how I read it, perhaps?

Because say what you will about Mother’s Day being a marketing executives dream, it is a day in which every child must…encounter…make sense of…what it means to have a mother and/or be a mother. 

I love what Anne Lamott says about moms:

“The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat.”

This chain of mothering has saved my life and I’m certain it has saved the lives of my children on more than one occasion.

And I can’t help but think it has something to do with what you write, Megan, about adoption. We are all one big motley group of kids trying to figure it all out. And my hope is that we work on doing it together more often than apart.

Beautiful post from such a lovely mother!

Holly’s Take:

First of all, I can’t believe how little Senait and Kelel look in those first pictures of you all together!  WOW.  Second, you are a thinker.  You have looked at Mother’s Day from everybody’s angle –  birth mothers, yours, and Senait and Kelel’s.  I seriously appreciate that about you.  You help me to remember that there are different angles and other thoughts, other than, “Are my kids old enough to make me breakfast in bed, yet, on Mother’s Day?  I really should take it a step or 10 further and consider more of the possible complexities surrounding this day.  Beautiful tribute.  

4 thoughts on “A Letter to Birthmothers on Mother’s Day

  1. Love this Megan! Your heart for your kids is incredible! I love that you have taken the time to think outside the box, I am inspired to not be so selfish on this day!


  2. Tears. This is so beautifully written, Megan. Thank you for sharing it. So deep and real and lovely and hard. I love you and your babies.


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