Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Word About Mother's Day

(Pictured left to right: My mom; me, 8 months pregnant with my son, and my grandmother)

Finally becoming a mother myself at age 36 helped me to better understand how much my mom has loved and cared for me ever since she received me from the adoption agency when I was three weeks old. I never understood, until I had my own child, the bonding that goes on between a mother and her baby during all those hours of holding, wiping spit-up, changing diapers, rocking, strolling, and nursing or bottle feeding. Doing all those things with my infant son birthed a new relationship between my mom and me.

So, Mom, Happy Mother's Day. I love you.

Then there's the birthmother issue. 2001 was the first year I had the opportunity to wish both my mothers (my mom and my birthmom) a Happy Mother's day. I had found my birthmother, Carol, and had exchanged emails, phone calls, letters and photographs with her, but I had not yet met her. I was elated that my birthmom was finally in my life: I could actually wish her a Happy Mother's Day, and it made me feel more whole to have access to her and the part of my personal history that accompanies her.

We have since met each other, visited on numerous occasions, and we have become a part of one another's lives. But to live in reunion is to navigate uncharted territory; we don't know who we are to each other. She is my mother, but she was unable to mother me; I am her daughter, but I am a stranger to her. When I reunited with Carol, I felt as if I had finally arrived at a place I had long yearned to be, but when I got there, I didn't know where I was. I'm curious to know whether other adoptees in reunion feel this way.

So now, when I go to the stationery store to select Mother's Day cards for my mom and my birthmom, I get a little stymied trying to find an appropriate one to send Carol. Mostly the cards wax poetic (albeit Hallmarkily) about all the things the mother has done for the child--all the boo-boos kissed, dinners cooked, long talks enjoyed in the middle of the night while snuggled up tight in bed. None of them, of course, says "Thanks for relinquishing me, I know it was an excruciating decision; Happy Mother's Day." I mean, really.

I usually end up making a card, or buying a card with no salutation inside and writing in my own sentiments. But my own sentiments are conflicted, so even doing that is difficult. I want to acknowledge Carol, to let her know she's important to me. I want to forgive her for giving me away, I want to absolve her of all the guilt she feels. I want to wipe it all away. I want her to be the person she would have grown up to be, had she not become an unwed teenaged mother in a society that condemned her. I wish all these things for her. And I also wish that my feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and confusion related to being adopted could be wiped clean. Finding Carol and building a relationship with her has helped to repair some of these wounds, but it has also opened up others. Becoming a mother myself has also helped bridge some gaps. But it's an ongoing process, a lifelong one, I suspect.

With that in mind, I wish a Happy Mother's Day to Sharon and Carol, and to all the brave adoptive- and birth-mothers in this confusing, wonderful world. Love to you all.


JBH said...

Thanks for this post. Although I have not made contact with my birth mother yet, I think that Mother's Day is still hard for me (similar to how my birthday can be challenging).

My mother has done a lot for me - she loves me and cares for me. Yet, after our Mother's Day dinner tonight, we ended in a very tense moment. A fight, almost. It's the closest thing we've come to a fight in years. I hope that it was due to the fact that she was tired.

But I can't help wondering if it is also due to the fact that Mother's Day (ever since Woodrow Wilson made it official in 1914) is to "honor" mothers. And I don't have access to the other mother (my birth mother) to honor. And even if I did, would I feel like honoring her?

It is a confusing holiday for the adopted constellation.

I think I'll choose to celebrate the day as Julia Ward Howe intended: Mother's Day of Peace...and focus on being at peace with myself and others.

Andrea said...

Yes, Julia Ward Howe's intentions were right on the money. Peace to you and yours, JBH, and to all of the rest of us who live with the confusion of the adoption constellation.