We recently celebrated Mother’s Day and as always, my thoughts are focused on the joy of being a mom and gratitude for the woman who made me a Mama when she chose me to parent her son. Mother’s Day can be both a day of great joy and a day filled with complex feelings for many women. There are those who have challenging relationships with their mothers and those whose mothers have died. There are those who have had children die, had miscarriages, and those who had to face the tough decision to end a pregnancy. There are those who struggle with infertility and those who have placed their children for adoption. When my first Mother’s Day came, I was deeply aware of the incredible gift another woman offered me when she chose me to parent her child. I was also deeply aware that we both loved this little boy and she grieved his loss while I found joy in being his Mama. I told her then that she was one of the most courageous women I knew. I was and continue to be so deeply honored that she trusted me to raise her son.
I am a faith-filled person, and on that first Mother’s Day, I said a prayer at church for my son’s birth mother specifically but also birth moms in general as that path is not always easy and their courage inspires me daily. The path of a birth mother can be filled with incredible beauty, love for a child, and a peace in picking that child’s forever family. But it can also be filled with grief and loss for the child you love and placed in the arms of another family. In an ideal world, this choice would be met with honor and respect for the courageous act it is. It would honor the heartbreaking choice some women have to make to assure their child has the life they dream for them. But the world we live in is not always kind and birth mothers can face shame, ridicule, and disrespect for making an adoption plan for their child.
That first Mother’s Day, I was faced with this reality immediately after church when an older woman came up to me in tears to thank me for praying for birth mothers as she was one and no one had ever acknowledged her for that. My heart broke for her. While my son’s adoption was open and his birth mother could be comforted by photos and updates, this woman’s experience was so very different. She shared about how her daughter was 40 years old before she knew anything about her and eventually met her. Her tears shared her heartache. I saw healing as this woman shared her story with others and a congregation full of people honored her pain and her story. It made me realize the silent pain so many birth families go through in fear of being judged for something that was a thoughtful plan for making sure their child’s needs were cared for.
For all those women out there who have placed a child for adoption, I want you to know that you are seen. I want you to know that whatever anyone tries to tell you, being a birth mother is honorable and something that should be valued and respected. I respect you. I value your choice and your commitment to the child you birthed and picked a forever family for. I honor the pain you felt as you placed that child in another’s arm and left the hospital with empty arms. I honor your commitment to your values and self-awareness of what you could and could not provide for your child. I honor the complex grief of loving a child you do not get to parent. I honor the feelings that you walk through as you grieve for your child at the same time being grateful they have a forever family that can provide for them in the ways that you wanted. I honor the pain you feel when you are judged and told you are a “no good mom” for making an adoption plan when they do not know your story and the depth of love you had for your child in order to make that plan. I want you to know that you are an amazing mom. A mother who put the needs of her child ahead of her own in order to discern what she believed was best. I want you to know that your pain also brings an incredible joy to the adoptive parents when their dream of having a child to love comes true. I want you to know that I defend you when people talk negatively about birth families. I tell them how amazing and courageous you are. I share about what it means to make an adoption plan and how it is a thoughtful, loving process, not “giving a child up” which I hear so often.
To all the birthmother’s out there, I want you to know that while not everyone understands the path you chose, there are many who do. I know I am not alone as an adoptive mom who spends her time officially and unofficially educating others to see the beauty when someone makes an adoption plan. I hope and pray that one day everyone will see you the way that I do - for the courageous and loving women you are. I wish you all a Happy Belated Mother’s Day.
Written by Tara McAvoy, adoption caseworker for the George J. & Mary S. Mitchell Adoption Unit.