We are so very different, you and I. In a different world, I don’t know that our paths would have ever crossed – much less that we would be ever have been friends. When we met for the first time, I was a 15-year-old, homeless, 5 months pregnant, high school dropout who was praying for a miracle. You were a 30-year old, married, Christian middle school teacher who was praying for God to grow your family. So much has happened in both of our lives since we met almost 15 years ago; there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you and the little girl we both love (I’ll call her B going forward for privacy reasons). As we approach Mother’s Day this year and are all confined to our homes, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the bond we’ve shared over the years and I realize how much I’ve left unsaid – before another year goes by, I wanted to tell you these things:
- I was afraid of you. I was sitting in an office at a church in Athens, waiting to meet you and your husband for the first time. Just a week before, I’d chosen you two as the family to adopt B, who was growing rapidly in my womb. I was already almost 6 months pregnant, and I was terrified that I’d waited too long to make this decision. I had a notepad in my lap with questions I had written to ask you, things I wanted to tell you about me, and things I wanted to know about you before B was born. I remember wondering what you’d think of me and if you’d even want to adopt a child born to a woman like me. I remember being afraid that you’d think I was just some teenage floosy or a drug addict, or both. It only took a few minutes of talking with you two for that fear to be completely forgotten. When I met you, I felt like I’d known you both for years. I ended up not even asking most of my questions and I left that meeting feeling more peace and hope than I’d felt in months. I even joked with a friend that I wished you two could adopt me too!
- I’ve never regretted choosing you. I’ve never been in your shoes. I’ll never know the heartbreak involved in infertility, a decade of trying to conceive, multiple miscarriages, or how much it must have shattered you to be told you’d been chosen by a birth mother before me who ultimately changed her mind. I’ll never know the weight of the cross you bore to get to where you are; but I do know that you were chosen by our Creator to be B’s mother. I have never once doubted or regretted my decision. I remember sitting with my adoption case worker at a restaurant, surrounded by a stack of what felt like thousands (but was probably more like hundreds… you know how teenagers exaggerate) of profiles from prospective adoptive families. Stack upon stack of families all desperately praying and waiting with empty longing arms for a child. I was overwhelmed even looking at how many there were and felt wholly unqualified to choose one over the others – how does one decide which family ‘gets’ a baby? The weight of the decision spread across the table before me made it feel like there wasn’t quite enough air in the room. I took a deep breath and then, in a mostly facetious move, I just stuck my hand into the middle of one of the many binders and said, ‘This one!’. That was your profile. I looked at every single other profile, I weighed each and every single one of them, but still kept coming back to yours. It wasn’t the cute plaid ribbons you’d woven through the spine of the folder, it wasn’t the loving and heartfelt letter from your mother-in-law to me that was included, it wasn’t the pictures of the beautiful home or the obvious love with which you’ve put it together; it wasn’t the fact that you were a special needs teacher who has a close relationship with her mother and loves to sew, it wasn’t the fact that your husband teaches at the same school and coaches soccer. It wasn’t any one thing I can put my finger on. I’ve spoken to prospective couples seeking advice before and they’ve asked me what they could do with their profiles to emulate yours and I don’t have an answer because it wasn’t just about your profile. God chose you, and the minute I saw your profile, I knew you were it. You were B’s mother. Not once in the almost 15 years since I made that decision have I regretted it.
- You are selfless. Whenever I tell my story or share that I’m a birthmother, people often tell me that I am selfless. But when I look back, I see your selflessness so much more than my own; and it feels almost unfair that more people don’t talk about the selfless love adoptive mothers have for both their children and their child’s birthmother. You loved me. You genuinely loved me. Not as someone who could maybe give you a baby or as just a vessel for the child you had been praying for – you loved me as a person. You loved me as a young girl still growing up. You cared for me. Your heart hurt for things that hurt mine. You celebrated my successes and mourned my losses with me. You’ve shared your life with me as we’ve kept in touch via email and letters over the years. You’ve shared updates about B and your family, the decision to leave your job teaching to stay home with B, the joy when you adopted B’s brother; you’ve given me sound advice and loving support as I was going back to high school, getting my driver’s license, looking at colleges, choosing career paths, starting my own family, and stepping into my career. You have been a beautiful and supportive friend to me and you didn’t have to be; you owed me nothing and yet you opened your heart to me and given me small glimpses into B’s life that I have treasured. I cannot imagine the myriad of things you must have felt after meeting me or throughout our journey together so far; but you’ve loved me so selflessly and I’m so humbled by it.
- You are courageous. When I went into labor, the baby was breech and before they were going to let me start pushing, they tried to turn her. While they were turning the baby, something went wrong and they began immediately preparing me for an emergency C-section. I was absolutely terrified; and absolutely alone. I remember as they’d gotten me onto the operating table and I was surrounded by a frightening bustle of activity and medical jargon, doctors and nurses all working hard to save our baby – silent tears were streaming down my face when a woman came into the room, spoke in hushed whispers with the doctor, and then crouched over me and said, “the mother is here, are you okay if she comes in?”. The relief I felt was profound. I managed a nod and within minutes you were standing beside me holding my hand, stroking my face, praying over me, and speaking words of comfort to me while our daughter was born. I’ll never be able to fathom the courage it took to even come to the hospital when you were told I was in labor. You and your husband had been chosen before, you’d held a baby in your arms, gave him a name, and welcomed him into your family once before… only to have to say goodbye. I can’t imagine the grief of that; I also can’t imagine how much courage it took you to come to the hospital and worry that you’d be sent home empty handed, to witness B’s birth, to hear her first cries of life, to be the first person to hold her – all while battling the fear that you might not get to keep her, that you might fall deeply in love with her only to have her stripped from your arms. You chose love instead of fear.
- God is into details. Less than two months passed from the time you found out that there was a pregnant teenager in north Georgia who’d chosen your family to when she was making her dramatic and joyous (and EARLY) arrival. I have no idea what you were doing or had on your schedule the day you got the call telling you I was at the hospital being prepared for delivery; I can’t imagine what it cost you to be in that room with me or what happened outside of it to make it possible, but I am so very thankful that you were there. I often say that God is into details and I treasure that He saw fit to make sure that B came into the world in a room where both of her mothers were there to welcome her.
I remember one Sunday morning, about two years after B was born, sitting in a Mother’s Day service when the pastor asked all of the mothers to stand up so the congregation could recognize them. With a heavy heart, I stayed seated with my head bowed; I didn’t know if I ‘counted’ or could be included in the Motherhood Club because I was ‘just’ a birth mother. I didn’t think I deserved the recognition the ‘other’ moms did because all I did was carry and deliver B. I never stayed up all night comforting her cries, I wasn’t the one who stood at her bedside after her surgery when she was 3 months old, I never changed her diapers or kissed her boo-boo’s, I didn’t help her take her first steps. I’m not her ‘mom’. I’m her birth mother.
I know there have been times when mom friends of yours would share birth and pregnancy stories and you likely felt excluded; like you didn’t ‘count’ as much as a mom because you didn’t enter motherhood the same way they did. You never felt the first flutters of B’s life stir in your womb, you didn’t spend the first 3 months of her in-utero life with your head in the toilet, you never experienced the wonder of tapping a melody on your stomach and feeling her swift kicks in response, or having your entire belly shake every 4 seconds when she had the hiccups (which was *all* the time).
We’ve both experienced motherhood in a way that’s unique to us, but the way we became mothers does not make us less than any other ‘type’ of mother. We both count. You and I will always share a bond of motherhood that can’t be severed. B is mine in ways that I can’t give to you; and she is yours in ways that I could never take. Thank you for being her mother. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for sharing this unique bond of motherhood with me. If I could choose again, I’d still choose you.
Happy Mother’s Day, from one mom to another