I can’t answer whether I’m a good birth mom to my 19-year-old son, and I’m not sure anyone is qualified to answer that question. I’m not sure I know what a birth mom is in the first place. A lonely and sad mother. A mother who lives a different life, far from where her child is real, and growing. A mother who can never heal, because her child truly lives and yet has died for her. There is no Hallmark card for that.
I’m adopted too. Unlike my son’s, mine was a closed adoption. I know what my birth mom is like. She is too little, too late. She is an open wound, hidden behind thick walls, and whatever comfort she has she finds in God. She now says she remembers my birth as “a book she read a long time ago.”
She tried once to reach me. I have evidence from the letters she wrote me when we first met 16 years ago. She wrote me that she used to call me her “little wildflower” during all those terrible years when she did not know where I was. But it was too hard for her to feel so much, and she has let go now. We know each other, but we pretend not to feel anything. She is there, but impenetrable.
I have vowed to be different. To be strong enough for my son and for me. I have promised myself that I won’t let go, I will feel it all – pain, loneliness, loss, and along with it, immeasurable love. But I wonder. What does all of this mean to him? How do I risk so much to enter his world with all the love I have for him, so that he may feel it… and yet be careful not to intrude or make a mistake?
It all feels very important, and perhaps I can see why my birth mom has moved on. She has other concerns now, and this is really hard stuff. But I know too well what it’s like to live with a sort of built-in loneliness, to feel adrift and separate from the world, like a ghost. He did not arrive out of thin air, he came out of me, and it’s important for a child to know this. He is loved and connected. I am a part of his connection to the world.
It comes down to this: you must hold on and let go at the same time. It reminds me of a Buddhist saying: “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” Some kind of impossible riddle.
What I think it means is that I am a bridge for him, holding on to both sides of a vast expanse that I created in him when I gave him away. The best I can do for him now is to be that bridge, allowing him to move back and forth freely. Moving through me in order to be born and re-born, as he did once before. When he is ready, I will be here.