Some birthmothers and adoptive families observe the second Saturday in May as Birthmother’s Day. I find myself thinking about our birthmother on this day, although I still haven’t figured out what I’ll say to my daughters about it. Some adoptive families light candles or toast the birthmothers; probably I’ll just pray for their birthmother and foster mothers at our family bedtime prayer.
While I comfortably wrote about my daughter having Three Mothers— her birthmother, her foster mother, and me—in practice, I have to admit that talking about it with my daughters is less comfortable. In short, I sometimes have trouble practicing what I preach: namely, that although my husband and I are my daughters’ sole parents, they have had three mothers who have loved them and nurtured them.
I enthusiastically tell others how grateful I am to these two other women, yet with my daughters I found myself hesitating to use the word “birthmother”, let alone “first mother” or “other mother”, as some children’s books refer to them. Instead I spoke of her as “the lady whose tummy you grew in”. We are fortunate to know her first name, as that makes it easier to talk about her without struggling for a title word. In practice, we refer to our daughters’ birthmother by first name, to their foster mothers by the Korean word for mommy, (as older babies, they used this term for her themselves prior to adoption) and to me as Mommy or Mom.
Many people have open adoptions in which they get together which their children’s birthparents. I have learned much from reading their stories. I would also be interested in hearing from any readers of this blog who would be willing to share their own stories of open adoption.
For myself, I have a sheet of background information including name and province, age, education level, occupation, religion, family members. I was asked to write the birthmother and send pictures one month after each girl’s arrival in my home. I have sent one or two brief updates since; I tell myself I ought to send more. These were put into the Korean adoption agency file in case the birthmother inquired. I do not know if she has ever come back to ask or not.
Out of wedlock motherhood is still such a stigma in Korea that many women do not tell their future husbands about having borne a child. In fact our agency now gives out even less identifying information than we had, because some birthmothers were so devastated at being found by their birth children. Nevertheless, many Korean adoptees do find their birthparents.
I have always assumed that when our girls our older, they will meet their birthmother too. I imagine myself hugging their birthmother and thanking her. I imagine her with my daughters’ beautiful eyes. Nonetheless part of me is glad that we don’t have to deal with it on an ongoing basis while the girls are young.
I know (because we adopted her second child) that our birthmother suffered greatly after relinquishing her first baby. Having thoroughly researched countries and cases to make sure there were reasons other than financial that our children could not be well raised by their birth families, I do not feel guilty. I know that my happiness is not the cause of her sorrow.
But her sorrow is the cause of my happiness, and that is a sobering thought.
Sometimes I wonder if it is a little bit (just a little bit) like being an organ transplant recipient. Some recipients greatly desire to meet the donor’s family and thank them. Some pray every day for the donor and his/her family. Nonetheless I imagine it would be difficult to live one’s life if one allowed oneself to constantly think about the donor.
I try to pray frequently for my children’s birthmother. Nevertheless sometimes birthdays and Mother’s Days go by without thinking of her. It seems almost surreal to think of other parents, because although my head tells the story frequently, my heart can no longer remember a time when these children were not my daughters.
So I guess what my heart wants to say to our birthmother and any birthmother is: first, thank you.
And second: can you possibly understand that I love, honor and pray for you, but I just can’t stand to think about you too much?
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