Giving thanks for my children’s birth mothers, and wondering if the feeling is mutual

Let me say this about November: it’s not all pumpkins and relish. Even in Florida, it sneaks up cold and hard, or at least occasionally chilly and hard, and I can’t yet be lured into the joy of the season. I don’t mind the season, exactly – it makes coffee taste better and hot showers feel so good. But it reeks of a reckoning, the kind of spiritual reconciliation we face whenever another end-of-year approaches.

Case in point: November is National Adoption Month. I forgive you if it escaped your notice. It’s also National Fun with Fondue Month, National Peanut Butter Lovers Month, Historic Bridge Awareness Month, and National Impotency Month, so we are all (trying to be?) very busy.

Every month is National Adoption Month for this clan. I think each day about how our family came to be – the waiting, the anxiety, the joyful acclimation to parenthood. I remember the heartache – my own, of course, because me. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking of my children’s birth mothers.

Recently I joined a Facebook group called Adoption: Facing Realities. Many of the women who post are either birth mothers who gave their children up for adoption or lost them to social service organizations, or adult adopted children searching for their biological roots. For the most part, the posters are virulently anti-adoption, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to read of their pain.

At the turn of this current century, when we brought home our kids, the idea of “open adoption” – when an adoptive family maintains a relationship with the birth mother or birth family – was on the cusp of becoming more commonplace. But I couldn’t imagine it. My kids’ mother is me, I thought. I didn’t want to share that moniker. Back then, adoption seemed a like a project to get done. I still cringe when people use present tense to refer to my children’s adoption status – for example, saying they are adopted, as opposed to saying they were adopted. “It’s not a chronic condition, like diabetes,” I’ve said.

I might be wrong. Maybe being any part of the adoption triad (birth mother, adoptive parent, adopted child)  is a chronic condition – not like diabetes, but more like…..vitamin deficiency? Something that requires you to continually take stock of who you are, how you’re living your life, and whether you have filled the residual void carved from your being some time ago.

I don’t know. These are just thoughts. But through perusing the Facebook site, I was referred to two websites. The first, called Adoption Surveys, is run by two women, one a birth mother and the other an adoptive mother, both of them involved in open adoptions. They’ve begun conducting informal, nonscientific surveys on topics and issues important to them and women like them. There’s nothing binding in the results – they don’t follow any kind of research protocol. Respondents voluntarily answer questions and offer comments. But man, is it jarring. The most recent survey explored the opinions, well-being, and mental health of birth mothers whose children were in closed adoptions. A sample comment, unedited: “It affected my entire life,nothing felt worth doing,ever.I gave my son away I will never forgive myself.”

The second website belongs to the Donaldson Adoption Institute, an advocacy group dedicated to enabling research and programming that benefit anyone touched by adoption. It recently published its annual report on the state of adoption: Let’s Adopt Reform Report: Adoption in America Today. A few of its findings: a human rights framework is needed; adoption is not a one-time transaction; market forces create a variety of concerns.

Market forces! Yes – because there is of course an economic engine that powers the adoption process, and automatically puts a price tag on infants. That fact alone makes the case for reform.

All of this research refers to adoption in America, and my children were born in other countries. But I suspect the major difference is that no one is asking foreign birth mothers how they feel. It pains me to say so – but I think I might already have an idea.

10 responses to Giving thanks for my children’s birth mothers, and wondering if the feeling is mutual

  1. Margaret Booker says:

    Preach! On point as usual, Tricia. Love you and your family so much!
    Parallel journeys…..xxxooo yoa (your ole auntie, natch!)

    • tricia says:

      Thanks, Margaret….sorry to have missed you this weekend. Yes, parallel journeys for sure. xoxo

    • tricia says:

      Oh, this article broke my heart. Yes, money corrupts, for sure, as does societal pressure to do what’s “normal.” Thanks for reading, my friend. xoxo

  2. Sheila says:

    Thank you for this. J. and I spoke again today, as we do many days, of his birth mother and father. He grieves them both more often than not and his grief can be overwhelming for us all. He longs for someone with his DNA and that is something I cannot provide. Today we touched on using sorrow to make us better, stronger, but if I as a 58yo woman struggle with making sense of my sorrows, how much harder for a 17yo man-child? We ended with a genuine hug and for that I am thankful.

    • tricia says:

      You are a wonderful mama for understanding what he needs. Thank you for sharing your story. xoxox

  3. Amy says:

    Beautifully written as always. My mother in law was adopted into a loving family. Her birth mother did not have the same wonderful life. Her choice caused her great pain and her life was not a happy one. However in retrospect if she had not made that choice they both most likely would have had very bad lives. She gave her child an amazing home and family and more importantly a chance. That in my opinion makes her a bit of a badass, giving up her happiness for someone else’s. She ended up having three boys who do not describe a happy childhood. They were not given the same chance.

    • tricia says:

      Such a hard journey. Thanks, Amy, for reading, and for sharing. xoxo

  4. Morgan says:

    Such a beautiful post. My husband and I have often thought about adopting in the future. I’ve had some of the same struggles as you shared here. However, you also opened my eyes to how adoption also affects the birth mother and the pain she goes through. So, thank you for that!

    • tricia says:

      Your comment made me weep a little. It matters to me that my writing matters to other people. Glad to have found a new fellow mama writer. Can’t wait to check out your site.

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