“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood.” -Desha Wood
A mother’s love is one of the strongest bonds forged by the heart. In adoption, that doesn’t change. Whether she is a birth mother or an adoptive mother, her world is made beautifully brighter by loving a child. The relationship between these two types of mothers is incredibly unique. Each is a mother to the same child. Each has hopes and dreams of a fulfilling future for her son or daughter. We often hear about the relationship between adoptees and their birth parents or about adoptees and the parents who raised them, but we don’t hear enough about the lifelong bond that can be formed by two women brought together by chance (or perhaps by destiny).
Differences Make Us Unique, Similarities Bring Us Together
Upon first glance, it may be difficult to see how adoptive moms and birth moms are the same at all. Often, they lead incredibly different lifestyles. They may not live in similar communities. They may have different life goals and experiences. Perhaps they come from different age groups. They may even have different racial and cultural backgrounds. There is an obvious difference in that one who feels unprepared to become a parent while the other feels strongly about growing her family. Just as no two people are alike, no two birth mothers or adoptive mothers are alike either. Both groups are represented by women of all ages, races, educational backgrounds, and lifestyles. Differences make us special and unique.
Despite this contrast, there are many areas where birth moms and adoptive moms are the same. Their common goal is to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing home for a child. They both have the best interests of children at heart. Even if they come from wildly different backgrounds, they are brought together by the unconditional love they each give to their child(ren).
We Can’t Always Choose Our Family, But Sometimes, We Can
One of the cool things about open adoption is that the birth mother typically has a choice in who will raise her birth child. The agency provides profiles of many hopeful adoptive parents, and the birth mother has an opportunity to choose the family that she feels the most positive about. By learning about a family’s lifestyle, career choices, personality, and hobbies, she will get a sense of what her birth child’s future life may be like. If faith is important to her, she may choose a family who regularly attends religious services. If travel sounds exciting to her, she may choose a couple who enjoys taking yearly vacations. Often, one of the most touching parts of these profiles are the “Dear Birth Mother” letters. These share the hopeful adoptive parents’ reasons for choosing adoption. They also offer encouragement and praise for the strength and selflessness of the woman who may be carrying their child. Being able to choose her child’s parents can bring a sense of comfort and familiarity to what can be a time of great uncertainty. Being chosen by a birth family can bring a sense of honor and pride to an adoptive family. In many cases, the parties involved feel that their families were joined by divine intervention. Hopefully, upon meeting, a lifelong bond and a healthy relationship will begin to form.
An Adoptive Mother’s Love for a Birth Mother
“A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” -Jody Landers
The adoption process is rarely a quick one. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort. Some women spend years waiting and wondering when their chance at motherhood will find them. When that time finally comes, it is an amazing blessing. Many adoptive moms find that they feel a great deal of gratitude towards the courageous woman who is giving them one of life’s most precious gifts. In cases where the adoptive mother has struggled with infertility or miscarriage, she may have a deeper understanding of what it’s like to lose a child. In this way, she is empathetic to the sacrifice a birth mother is making and the sense of loss she may be feeling. Many adoptive moms hold their child’s birth mother in a place of honor in their hearts.
A Birth Mother’s Love for an Adoptive Mother
Even when life’s circumstances prevent a woman from raising a child on her own, the love for her child is still incredibly strong. It is a birth mother’s hope that the woman parenting her child will provide the same love and care that she would if she were able. Many birth mothers feel a strong sense of respect and appreciation for their child’s adoptive parents. Even in the heartache that comes with letting a child go, a birth mother may feel a sense of joy in knowing that she has blessed another family with a child that they have longed for.
Even Roses Have Thorns
Even with mutual love and respect, there are times that the connection may be difficult. Just like any other relationship people experience in life, there will be ups and downs. There may be an underlying sense of resentment if the adoptive mother struggles with the lack of a biological connection with her child. Sometimes, the thought of remaining in contact with the birth family can feel intimidating and threatening. There may also be some resentment for a birth mother who is struggling with the fact that another woman is able to raise her child while she cannot. There may also be disagreements about the amount of contact and about setting healthy boundaries. When complicated situations arise, these and other emotions are normal. What’s important is that the needs of the child always come first. It’s also very important to seek counseling to deal with any underlying emotional issues. Keeping this relationship intact is worth the effort. With honesty, open communication, and respect, most issues can be effectively worked out with everyone’s best interests in mind.
There is a verse in the Bible that reads, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” -Ecclesiastes 4:12. When applied to the relationship between an adoptive mother, a birth mother, and their child, this verse reaffirms the strength that is found in this unique bond. They are stronger together. By forging a healthy relationship, each party can benefit immensely. There will be fewer unanswered questions. There will be a stronger sense of security and identity. The child will grow up knowing that he is surrounded by love.
Ways to Show You Care
There are many ways to show your gratitude for the other mother in your child’s life. Exchanging letters, thoughtful cards, and photos is always a great idea. Sending a gift that suits her personality is another. Remember her birthday and send her well wishes. Find a song that reminds you of her—or of your bond through adoption—and share it with her. If your adoption is wide open, perhaps you can arrange a girl’s day out once a year where you celebrate each other and spend time talking and laughing. If you pray, keep her in your prayers. Most of all, let her know that you think of her often and that you are thankful to have her in your life.
My Birth Son’s Adoptive Mom
While I can’t speak for everyone’s adoptive/birth mom relationship, I can share my personal experience. When I was 14, I was forced to grow up very quickly. Facing an unplanned pregnancy had flipped my entire life upside down. I had a strong sense of responsibility to my unborn child even though I wasn’t capable of raising him myself. My love was unwavering, and I knew that it was important to find the right parents for the baby I was carrying.
Looking through the profiles of hopeful adoptive parents was intimidating. What if I made the wrong choice? This was not a decision to be taken lightly! I wanted to find a couple who were kind, stable, and had a strong desire to become parents. I also wanted to find a couple who had beliefs and values similar to my own. One couple stood out above them all. They had all the qualities I was looking for, and in my heart, I hoped that I had found my son’s forever parents. My mind was set at ease upon meeting Chris and Vickie for the first time. Especially Vickie. The first time we met, there were tears and hugs. She wanted so badly to become a mother. She had experienced three devastating miscarriages, and she and her husband were hopeful to build their family through adoption. Vickie had dedicated her life to helping others as a social worker. Her big heart was one of the things that drew me to her instantly. As it turned out, my birth son’s due date was on her birthday! It felt like a sign to me. While I was still facing a great deal of emotion and sadness regarding placing my son for adoption, Vickie helped to ease my mind. I knew that my son would be well taken care of. I knew that her heart was so genuine and caring that she would always be the mother that he deserved.
At the hospital, Vickie and I were both a bundle of nerves. Even so, she did her best to comfort me and to offer her help in any way she could. The first time she held our son, a visible awe washed over her. It was as if they were the only two people in the world. The way she gently held him and rocked him, I knew that he would be safe in her arms. I knew that she would not take motherhood for granted because she had waited so patiently for this moment to come. I could sense the gratitude she had for me as well. By making a decision of love, I had helped her family to become complete.
While my adoption was only semi-open, I received cards and photos frequently, and Vickie’s love was always apparent. Her words were kind. She would inform me of my birth son’s latest accomplishments, and she would always make sure to tell me that I was in her heart and in her prayers. I always felt reassured after reading her words. We lifted each other up and encouraged each other often.
Even on my most difficult days, I knew that Vickie was providing the unconditional love that my son deserved. I have always considered her a part of my extended family. That will never change. Unfortunately, Vickie passed away from cancer a few years ago. While death may have robbed the world of her presence, the light within her will shine on forever. Nothing can steal the memories we made and the bond that we formed. I have no doubt in my mind that she was the mother my birth son was meant to have. I am proud to know that many of her best qualities will live on through him. While the loss was immensely painful for so many, I have strong faith that she is still with us in spirit. The bond we had—mothers of the same child—is still there. The love we share for our son and the admiration we have for each other will last throughout eternity. The time we had together was a gift that I will always cherish.
In the final conversation I had with Vickie, I thanked her for the love and support she had shown me over the years. She replied, “Even when I forget to tell you, you need to always know you have it. Love you.”
I know I do, Vickie, and I thank you for everything.