Sunday, May 10, 2009
A Word About Mother's Day
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.