Two Different Kinds of Love?

A birth mother highlights the similarities and differences between birth mothers and adoptive mothers.

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Before we are adoptive mothers or birth mothers, we are women. We are both someone’s daughter, someone’s best friend. We were both once little girls with big dreams.

We both struggle, or have struggled with self-image and self-love. Both adoptive mothers and birth mothers may have fallen head over heels with a handsome young man. We’ve both had our hearts broken.

We both want the best for our children.

An adoptive mother will work hard to provide a loving, stable home for her child. A birth mother will place her child in the arms and heart of another, so that her child may have a better life. Though our walk is not the same, the road we tread leads to the same destination: the best life possible for our child.

We both love, pray for, think of, and worry over our children.

An adoptive mother may pray over her children as they head off to school; a birth mother may pray for her child as she, herself, heads off to school. An adoptive mother worries if her child will be safe at the park with his friends; a birth mother may worry if her child is well taken care of. An adoptive mother remembers the time her child gave her a special gummy smile; a birth mother remembers the times when her child squirmed inside of her as if to say, “I’m here and I’m growing!”

We both have a season of waiting.

Many adoptive mothers wait as they go through numerous fertility treatments, only to realize they are yet again, not pregnant. An adoptive mother waits for the adoption agency to call, informing her that she is “expecting” her first child. She waits on edge at the hospital while the potential birth mother makes her final decision. Maybe she will wait for years in fear, afraid her child will choose his birth mother over her. Possibly, she will wait for a long overdue letter from her daughter’s birth mother, who backed out of the open adoption years ago.

A birth mother waits between letters and visits to be informed of the well-being of the child she placed for adoption. Many birth mothers wait years or decades before they receive any news of the child they placed.

Some may not believe we truly are mothers—a birth mother and an adoptive mother have both cringed as someone implied that we are not a “real mother.” An adoptive mother may hear, “So, aren’t you afraid her ‘real mother’ will come looking for her?”

A birth mother may hear, “A ‘real mother’ changes diapers . . . ”

It is not the act of birthing a child that makes me a mother, nor the act of signing an adoption decree that makes you a mother—it is love. Only love.

Becoming a mother is not an event; it is a commitment.

We both know loss.

An adoptive mother knows loss, for she has lost the dream of pregnancy, and the birth to a biological child that possesses a reflection of her husband and herself. She had to face the truth that her body would not do what many female bodies do—even the bodies of those who do not even wish to be pregnant. Each friend’s child’s birthday party is a reminder; each trip past the infant section at the mall is a reminder; each time she hears the news that another friend or family member is pregnant is a reminder of what was lost.

A birth mother knows loss, for she has lost the dream of parenting her child. She knows what is best for her child, and is willing to lose everything for that child’s gain. She had to face her pregnancy, accept it, and choose a painful path. Each friend’s child’s birthday party is a reminder; each trip past the infant section at the mall is a reminder; each time she hears the news that another friend or family member is pregnant is a reminder of what was lost.

We both are at the mercy of others.

Sitting in an adoption agency, surrounded by photos of happy families built through adoption, an adoptive mother hands over the ‘Dear Birth Mother’ letter she and her husband wrote. An adoptive mother waits for an expecting mother to select her and her husband. An adoptive mother receives the news that her eighteen-year-old daughter found her birth mother and her birth mother will be flying in for a reunion.

Sitting in an adoption agency, surrounded by photos of happy families built through adoption, a birth mother hands over the papers bearing her signature—papers that legally sever her from her child. A birth mother runs to the mailbox each month, just hoping that finally the adoptive parents sent the pictures they agreed to send. A birth mother looks longingly out the window, wondering when or if her child will search for her.

Two different kinds of love?

I loved my daughter enough to let go, and her mother loved her enough to hold on. As she expressed to me once, “I am glad you let go so that I could hold on, but I am not holding on so tight where there is no room for you.”

Two different kinds of love? No, just two different women, both loving one precious child.