As a mom through adoption, I can’t say that my journey to motherhood has been the same as friends who have grown their families through pregnancy but we all ended up in the same place, as moms. Real moms.
Around Mother’s Day every year I stop to think about how grateful I am to be considered my kids’ real mom and to share this sacred title with their first moms who, although not in the picture right now, are very much ‘real’ too. So when Baby Dove asked me to share some of my thoughts of being a ‘real mom’ this is what sprung to mind. Yes, I’ll choose being a present over perfect mom any day of the week but the word ‘real’ means so much more to adoptive moms.
Being a mom through adoption can sometimes make you feel on the outside of conversations about breastfeeding and birth and we often question our legitimacy as mothers because we haven’t carried our children in our bellies. I remember my first few days of parenting feeling like the babysitter who didn’t get to go home and didn’t get paid double time for working after midnight. It was really hard. Feeling like a real parent usually takes more than a quick minute. I can testify that growing attachment with your child takes time – hours, days, weeks or sometimes many months of give and take and this passage from the Velveteen Rabbit gets it just right:
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams Bianco,
I’ve found adoption to be both beautiful and messy, heartbreaking but at the same time life-giving. Desha Wood says about her place in the adoption triad of biological mom, adoptive mom and adoptee, “They are mine in a way that they will never be hers, yet they are hers in a way that they will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood.” The presence of another mom in my child’s story doesn’t threaten me, her existence doesn’t take anything away from me as a mom. And none of the hard takes away from the good either. It is what it is and it’s not about us at the end of the day, it’s about our kids.
I’ve spent some time preparing some adoption information for Ilan’s teacher to share with his class and as part of the preparation we’ve shown him his original birth certificate with his birth name and his first mom’s name as well as his updated birth certificate with his new family name and our names as his Mom and Dad. We did this to show him that his adoption is official and court ordained but also that both sides of his story are real and that he has first parents and forever parents that co-exist. I was so proud of his response to my question, ‘How many real moms do you have, my boy?’ and he said ‘I have two moms and two dads.’ Yes my child, that’s the truth.
Real moms take all shapes and forms and this Mother’s Day, we see you.
*This post was written in collaboration with Baby Dove SA, who are keen to see real moms trust their way this Mother’s Day.