I Became Mama at Her Pain: Thoughts on Adoption, Love, Sacrifice, and Tragedy

Though my son's adoption embodies goodness and graciousness, it is also a reminder this world is not as it should be.

Natalie Brenner December 28, 2017
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The weight of love was overwhelming. Witnessing with our eyes and feeling with our souls we experienced the weight of sacrificial love. The room’s air bled tragic love.


How could someone’s tragic loss be our unfathomable gain? How would I ever fully understand this paradox?


This is the boy we had been praying eight months for. He was the child our village rallied to support. We had waited for this moment. The seemingly long days and nights, wondering if a mom might trust us with her beloved child, especially since we too were pregnant. Suddenly, it was more than worth it.


My heart wrapped itself around his mother and her child. Nothing in this world could undo my fierce love for them. How could I not embrace and cherish the one who chose life for our son? How could I love my son, but not the people who gave him life, and placed him in our family? My great and unexplainable joy was intrinsically encased with her indescribable loss. My understanding of adoption deepened. Our world is so broken and often, so backwards too.


Weakness in my legs forced me to remain sitting on her hospital bed, as I sifted through the realization of how much she loved her boy. As I witnessed her watching him, tending and caring for her baby, I also saw how she observed us alongside her child. I craved open communication with her. How could we deny her knowing him? Why would we deny him the opportunity to know her, his biological, birth mom? I knew she chose us, after saying no to countless others, but I had no feelings of entitlement to him; and yet I loved him upon meeting him. Seeded into my heart was assurance to be his. Simultaneously, I had peace acknowledging she still had the opportunity to parent, to not sign relinquishment papers.


Feelings of love and humility ran over me. I was not mama. I was potentially mama. I clung to the unexpected calm accompanying this reality.


I sensed the sacredness in these hospital moments. I did my best to be fully present, to take note of every single detail. I wanted to store these moments in my mind as memories forever and ever, accessing them as needed, sharing them with our son.


I didn’t want to say goodbye to her. I wanted to spend hours, even days, together. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about her to share with our shared child. What kind of work had she done? What were her dreams? What was her favorite color, type of music, and food? What did she crave while she was pregnant? What was her story? But it was time to give her some space with her son. We returned to the waiting room after thanking her for everything. She picked up a pen, placed it upon the paperwork, and selflessly signed away her rights to her son. She placed him into our family, permanently. But I wouldn’t dare cut her out of our life.


Deep inside, I knew she had brought forth her child with unconditional love. Then, made the painful decision of placing her child into another woman’s arms. I became mama at her pain.


Then and there, in the sacred space of a hospital room, our shared son became a mark of His goodness and grace. God’s faithfulness to our longing. This baby was the answer to so many prayers and served as a reminder of another mama’s strength. Our son was a gift we would learn to celebrate and unravel for the rest of our lives. His story proves adoption can truly be beautiful.


But with tears in my eyes as I write, I must acknowledge that though his adoption embodies goodness and graciousness, it is also a reminder this world is not as it should be. Brokenness permeates our world. Sure, beauty is born from ashes, but the ashes don’t just magically disappear. Suffering and all that is wrong in this world still exists. This side of heaven, tragedy remains and the moments of her son becoming ours is a representation of joy and suffering deeply intertwined. Our son, the living proof that love is what makes a family, reminds us that adoption is born out of undeniable loss. Irrevocable loss of wholeness, of what was meant to be.


To only acknowledge the beauty without giving voice to the tragedy, is to detract from adoption. In diminishing the tragedy of adoption, I decrease my son’s story, along with others a part of the adoption circle. I would be choosing to ignore a massive portion of who he is. Ignoring pieces of my son’s identity unintentionally will drive him to feeling shame. Pretending tragedy doesn’t exist in his story implicitly shouts that part of who he is is shameful, embarrassing, and isn’t worth talking about. Ignoring something speaks that it should remain hidden.


Anytime we pretend tragedy doesn’t exist, we implicitly believe it is not worth a voice. Then, I think of Jesus. He set aside His comfort, desires, and physical body. He accepted the crucifixion, denied life, so we instead could have it. Until He endured the depths of Hell, the depravity of this world, we were not given an opportunity to truly live. Our son’s birth mother resembles Jesus. Withholding her from our son is to suppress a necessary picture of Jesus from him. That is a tragedy on many levels.


This is an excerpt out of This Undeserved Life: Uncovering the Gifts of Grief and the Fullness of Life. You can buy it on Amazon or a signed and personalized copy on Natalie Brenner Writes.

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Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty and believes grief is the avenue to wholeness. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a lover of fall. Connect with her at NatalieBrennerWrites.com and join her email community.

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