To all you moms out there, Happy Mother's Day! And a special shout-out to my own mom, who never gets to spend Mother's Day with her kids, but is always on our minds . . .
Every year on Mother's Day, I think about my journey to motherhood-- how I got where I am. When Jason and I first began our quest for children, I just assumed we'd be pregnant within 3 months, become of a family of 3 within the year. Not so. And as the months dragged by and we took stock of our goals, we quickly realized that our goal wasn't pregnancy, it was family! And fortunately for me, I have a rational husband who shared my sense that family isn't about biology, and off our first adoption adventure we began.
When we first contemplated open adoption, we were skeptical. Who isn't really? What with all those crazy-scary Lifetime movies about birth families changing their minds and taking back their children, it would seem that adoption can be a scary and risky venture. And it can be. I mean, here in California, for instance, biological parents have up to 3 months (90 days!) to change their minds and rescind the adoption. Adoptive parents then have to return the child (the child they've been caring for!). But my guess is that the statistics on this are more rare than Lifetime would like us to think. (Admittedly, for those to whom this has happened, the statistics don't mean anything because the pain of it all is so hard to bear.)
In any case, we thought open adoption was a great idea. The notion that we could know our child's birth family-- his ongoing medical history (which of course changes over time as relatives age). The idea that if he had a question about his biological mother, he could just ask her. The notion that he would always know adoption was a decision borne of love and not of passivity or lacking concern. And if I were to do it again, I'd choose an open adoption again in a heartbeat. I wouldn't do it any other way-- we've gained so much from the relationship with Casey's extended family. And so has he. More aunts and uncles to love him. More grandparents to spoil him. More cousins to play with. And even a big brother and big sister to mentor him and teach him to play ball and to cherish him. There is no lack of love in Casey's world. Open adoption has not been co-parenting-- there is no question who makes the decisions about Casey. Open adoption has been about Casey knowing who he is and where he came from and how ended up as part of our family. It works a little differently for everyone, but putting Casey's interests first means honoring who he is. And that means where he comes from, too.
Last week The Washington Post did an article on open adoption (thanks for e-mailing it to me, Alison), and what I love about the article is how it features the child's birthmother. Because today, on Mother's Day, that article speaks to me especially vividly. I think about how Casey's birthmom would have had the joy and the pain of watching him grow up, grateful that he was healthy and well-adjusted and loved, and sorrowful for all the times she had to say good-bye. Birthmothers-- or first mothers-- they make real sacrifice. And that makes them mothers. So today, on Mother's Day, I want to say Happy Mother's Day to birthmothers, biological moms, first mothers out there. It's so easy to be forgotten. We focus so heavily on how "real" moms do the parenting (and we do!). But that doesn't mean birthmothers aren't real moms, too.
As an adoptive mom of two, I am so very grateful for the gift my kids' biological mothers gave them-- and me. If Casey's birthmom had lived, he would have always known who she was. And she would have always known how well he was doing. But it would have been painful, too. To see him and not be with him. Marcie's birthmom won't have that benefit. If they celebrated Mother's Day in China, I wonder what she would be doing today. I imagine she wonders about Marcie every day. I imagine she prays that Marcie ended up in a good home with a family who loves her and takes good care of her (she did!). I imagine the pain of not knowing is sometimes unbearable. And that would make Mother's Day even more difficult for her.
We have made a commitment to our children-- that they will grow up knowing their roots. I hope that it means not only knowing extended family (for Casey) and learning about China (for Marcie). I hope it also means they will grow up honoring their first mothers for the sacrifice they made-- not selfishly, but lovingly.
I know there is a holiday here in the U.S.-- Birthmother's Day-- celebrated the day before Mother's Day. I think it's intended to honor those women who give birth but do not parent those children. And it's a cool idea. In theory. But I don't think it needs to be a separate day. First mothers, Long-time mothers-- we're all mothers just the same. And today is a day to honor all moms, near and far.