There are a lot of labels that society likes to place upon birth mothers, labels that can be heavy with shame and hurt. I’ve been a birth mother for 14 years now, and I have seen these labels tear women down who should be built up. These women deserve the recognition that is important to every mother. We want the world to see these things too, so let’s set the record straight.
I Am More Than My Story
When I share my story with people, I sometimes get that pity look. You know, the one that says, “Oh, bless your heart” or, “Your life sucks.” The reality is that, yes, I got pregnant twice before 21, and, yes, I also chose not to parent. You don’t agree with it? Cool. You judge me? Thanks for your feedback. You think I am strong and selfless? Yes, I am. But regardless of your takeaway from my story, I am so much more than that. We all go through seasons, and I guarantee that you have some stuff in your past that you don’t want to be judged for. My kids are not dirty little secrets; I am proud of my story and the things it has taught me. I have grown tremendously, and I have seen the goodness of God throughout the years of transformation. I am so much more than the details of my story. I have always been enough, and I have always done the best with what I had. Just like me, birth mothers everywhere deserve the grace and decency to be met with kindness. You don’t have to agree with her decision or understand her pain, but you should be kind. Try meeting her where she is at and really hearing her out. Listen to her beyond her words and try to connect with her. She is a remarkable woman full of amazing qualities.
I Am Loved
Two kids think I am super important. They know that I made a really hard decision out of pure love for them, and they are grateful (yes, they’ve actually shared that with me). I get the honor to see them grow up, to know their personalities, to laugh with them, to cry with them, and to be present with them. The love that I have for them comes back to me tenfold because those kids have such an open relationship with me. They get to see through my actions that their placement was never about me not wanting to be their mom; it was purely because I thought it was best for their futures. Do I wish I could have parented them? All the time. But that wasn’t our reality. My kids get to have such a special relationship with me despite all of that, and it’s such a testament to the love shared between everyone involved. Not only do my kids love me, but I have also had such great support from my family, friends, and my kiddos’ parents. I am fortunate, and I don’t take that lightly. There are a lot of birth mothers who do not have such a bond or connection with their kids or their kids’ parents. But regardless of what a birth mother’s situation looks like, they are loved.
I Am Strong
Choosing to place a child for adoption was the hardest thing I have ever done. The anguish I felt when I signed relinquishment papers is not forgotten; the memory of it is like salt in a wound. It will never dull, and it will never heal. I would never go back and change it though because my grief is still worth the lives I’ve provided my kids. Birth mothers are some of the toughest humans that exist. They are fully aware of what lies ahead of them and how hard the grief will be after they part with their child, but they choose to move forward out of love for their child. They choose to do what they believe to be best in the situation. There are a lot of speculators who criticize the choice, but that woman knows she made it with the greatest strength.
I Am Grieving
While birth mothers are undeniably strong, they also face grief that ebbs and flows. Psychology Today featured a discussion about this strange kind of loss a birth mother experiences. “Pauline Boss (1999) has named this type of loss an Ambiguous Loss. She identifies two types. The first is when a person is physically present but psychologically absent, as in the dementias. The second type is when there is a physical absence but a psychological (emotional) presence.” Birth mothers who part with their child and are not guaranteed to know them physically from that moment on. Some birth mothers are fortunate enough to have an open or semi-open adoption with their child, but these agreements are not always upheld by adoptive parents. My agency always referred to semi-open and open adoption plans as an “agreement of the heart”. While the hope is that the agreement is upheld, more often than not, I meet birth mothers who are not even getting a fraction of what the adoptive parents agreed to. Due to the stigmas and misconceptions, I am sure your first thought might have been, “Well, the birth mother must have given them a valid reason to break their agreement.” While you could be correct, it’s highly unlikely. Most birth mothers who have shared this predicament with me experienced the agreement and contact with the adopting family slowly fade out over time. The main problem in all of this is that it adds to the emotional havoc the birth mother is already facing. She doesn’t need more things weighing her down and making her feel unworthy or undervalued. She gave life to her child and sacrificed everything for that child’s well-being; the least she deserves is to know her child through updates or visits.
I Am Resilient
Because birth mothers have gone through a lot, it’s important to point out their resilience. Birth mothers are tough, and, while it’s extremely difficult to move forward in life (not move on, just forward) after making a decision like we did, we do rise to the challenge. Something that I admire the most about birth mothers is their capacity to adapt to the emotional changes. We walk so frequently in both joy and pain, and it’s truly hard to navigate. There are days that we are hit with a brick wall of grief and nothing seems to help us except sitting in that pain. Then there are days where we are overwhelmed by the joy of our child and celebrate them. Even 14 years into birth motherhood, I can tell you that there aren’t any tricks or shortcuts to relieve the heaviness we face. You just learn over the years how to cope, gain support, and give grace to yourself. It’s not easy, but I am resilient because I do it anyway.
I Am Not Alone
My favorite thing about being a birth mother is that I find such support, love, and empowerment from the birth mother community. When I first placed my child for adoption, I had no idea that there was such a vast network of women who felt just like me. Who knew exactly what I had been through, and who got it. I didn’t realize what a huge resource they’d become to me someday. I quickly began to gain lifelong friends with other birth mothers through speaking on panels, sharing my story in adoption spaces, and going to birth parent events. Years later, I even founded an organization for birth parents with another birth mother, Lacy, called The Table DFW. The Table is the epitome of how important it is for birth mothers (or in our case birth parents) to connect. Finding that community is vital to a birth mother’s well-being. There is something so special about entering a space with another birth mother. You don’t have to speak, you don’t have to know each other’s stories, or even share similar interests; you are just worthy, valued, and seen by each of them. I cannot tell you how important my friendships with my fellow birth mothers are to me. I know that if I did not have them in my life, I would be lost. There are so many times when sharing pictures of my kids, not needing to explain my adoption story, or venting about my offense of misrepresentations of birth mothers on the internet has been beneficial. They are my closest friends, and they will forever know my most vulnerable self. That’s such a humbling and treasured thing to me.
I Am A Mother Worthy of Acknowledgement
The other day I was approached by a birth mother on social media who let me know that she did not find Birth Mother’s Day positive. Birth Mother’s Day is the Saturday before Mother’s Day and was created to give space for birth mothers to be honored and acknowledged. This birth mother shared with me that she felt this day further separated birth moms from being acknowledged as a mother. I have to be honest, I had never heard that perspective from a fellow birth mom before. So, I did what any wannabe Instafluencer would do, and I took the question to my stories for more perspective. Turns out about 50% of the birth mothers who engaged with the stories agreed that Birth Mother’s Day did not feel supportive to them. I had to really sit in this perspective because, I’ll admit, I do not feel the same way about it. I have always loved that birth mothers had a separate day because I have never felt acknowledged on Mother’s Day as a mother. It is the most complex and triggering weekend for me. I was recently told by an adoptive mom that she did not feel like Mother’s Day should be shared with birth mothers. While her feelings are valid, and she’s allowed to feel that way, it REALLY hurt that she said that to me. I have always thought that people felt exactly like her, but to hear it out loud made it feel so much more real. The harsh truth is that people do not acknowledge birth mothers as mothers. Regardless of whether a woman is parenting or not, she gave life to a baby. Not only that, she put herself aside and made a choice only a mother can make in hopes that she could give her child better than her situation could at the time. She is worthy of acknowledgment as a mother. She is worthy of sharing space with all of the other mothers on Mother’s Day if she wants an invite to that party. Birth mothers deserve to be valued and honored. Ever since the difference in perspectives on Birth Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day have arisen, I have really been unpacking what all of that means to me. I truly believe that birth mothers do not have to be parenting to be a mother. If a woman doesn’t want to celebrate Birth Mother’s Day, she doesn’t have to. If a birth mom wants to celebrate motherhood on Mother’s Day, she should — heck, she should take the entire weekend to process and feel what she needs to if she wants (I know that’s what I do every year). We all need different things, but we are all equally worthy of the title of mother. Support one another and honor that. I also think that it’s important to reach out to a birth mother this Mother’s Day and to tell her how remarkable she is. Or even send her a small treat like a Starbucks gift card or facemasks and bath bombs to help her treat herself. She deserves some self-care. I guarantee that she needs to hear your kind words and that your acknowledgment will go far. We just want to be seen, and we want people to give us grace. See us for the strong, resilient, worthy
birth mothers we are.