I’m not a big fan of those TV specials where the adopted son or daughter (statistically, it’s usually the daughter) goes on that epic quest to find their birth mother.
Inevitably, there’s a journey, filled with unexpected twists and turns, followed by a tear-filled reunion at an airport somewhere. The two long lost souls embrace and sob, then laugh and hold each other’s faces, staring at the uncanny physical resemblence.
Those specials always have us rooting for the birth mother. They do the back story on her and tell us why she had to give up the child in the first place. She is usually the hero of the story, and her daughter (or son) is finally going to be back in the arms of the one who gave birth to them. It’s a 3-hanky happy ending.
The sub text is that this is where they all belong. And that their separation was somehow unjust or unfair or would’ve never happened in a perfect world.
And all the while this child is looking for their “real family,” I always see a beleaguered, exhausted woman, standing in the shadows, cheering them on, wiping tears from her eyes, secretly wishing they longed for her as much as they long for someone they’ve never seen.
She’s never the hero of the story. She doesn’t get the screen time. We’re never rooting for her. She’s a supporting player in the movie.
But she was the one who stepped up and took the child in, in the middle of whatever drama was playing out. She also had odds against her. She also had issues in her life. She also had reasons not to raise a child. But she shunned all of that and brought the child home anyway.
She warmed bottles and lost sleep and healed boo boos. She read stories and researched pediatricians and child-proofed the living room. She rocked to sleep and changed diapers and worried over rashes and fought the school boards and advocated for a tutor and listed herself as the “next of kin” and raised her hand in a courtroom, to take an an oath…a lifetime oath.
She’s the adoptive mom.
And while the world may not hold her in as high esteem as the birth mom, I sure do. I’m married to one. And let me tell you, her love for her children is every bit as fierce as the one who shares their blood.
Don’t get me wrong. The act of giving your child to someone else, who you know will take care of them in a way that you cannot, is one of the most incredible steps of courage anyone will ever take. I, too, revere any woman who can do that. I revere the two women who did that in my own family’s case. They hold places of honor in our home. They were both incredibly courageous and selfless. And we hope we’ve done right by them.
They will always have a place in their hearts for that child they gave away, and it will never leave them.
But then, mommy steps in and does all the actual mommy stuff. And it’s beautiful. And it’s serious. And it’s no less “real” than it is for someone who shares a hairline or a nose or any type of genetic trait.
I’ve talked to many adoptees. Since adopting my children, I’ve been very interested in the points of view of someone who is adopted. And they might talk about the trauma or maybe no trauma at all. Or maybe they’ve always wondered about their birth parents. Ot some of them don’t.
My own son doesn’t seem to think about it too much…until he does. And then we have as honest a conversation as we can about it. It can be heartbreaking.
Studies show that ALL (yes, I’m using the word “ALL”) adopted people have higher heart rates and attachment issues of some kind. Like, one hundred percent of them.
It’s a real thing and not to be brushed aside. There’s real, life-long trauma associated with being ripped from your mother’s arms and placed somewhere else.
But here’s the thing …
Studies also show that adopted people often register higher IQ’s and are more accomplished in certain areas than non-adopted people. They are often even world changers. Some studies show that they do better in school and are highly prone to above average life success. You might be shocked at some of the names on that list: Steve Jobs, Faith Hill, Nelson Mandela, Ray Liotta and Dave Thomas (just to name a few).
Why would that be?
Maybe (and this is just my opinion) it’s because their adoptive parents want to be there, one hundred and ten percent. They may have been seen as some sort of “accident” to the birth parents. But they are seen as a divine gift to the adoptive parents.
Adoptive parents (especially mothers) have no little, “good natured” jokes in the house about how “I had these big dreams until you kids came along …”
Nope. That was not the case in those houses.
The adoptive mom WANTED those kids. She fought for them. She filled out paper work for them. She went in protecting them from the jump.
If you are adopted, just know that you were chosen. You are the most special life on earth to someone and they went far above and beyond what they probably should’ve had to, to bring you home.
And if you have a bad relationship with your adoptive parents, it’s only because they were there to have a relationship with in the first place.
Plenty of non-adopted people have bad relationships with their parents, too.
Plenty non-adopted people also don’t feel like they belong.
I couldn’t look any more like a combination of my two parents if you drew us up in a computer. And yet, I have felt estranged from them and a million miles away from them, plenty of times in my life. That feeling isn’t reserved for adopted people. Much of it is the natural push and pull of parent and child.
It may not have one thing to do with blood or genetics or any of the things we attribute it to. It might just have to do with the circle of life.
Regardless, at the end of that TV special, I’m always rooting for the woman in the shadows, who helped raise such a curious, intelligent, capable person, who has the self-awareness to want to know more about their genetics.
And while they may be finding their “birth mother” …that woman in the shadows, is mom. And as an adoptive father, sometimes I would just like to see everyone acknowledge her in that process.
My wife never gave birth. But she is the fighter who is turning my children into lovely people. She’s the one picking out the clothes and buying the new shoes. She’s the one laughing and crying with them. She bears the scars of all their heartbreaks and cheers with joy in all their successes.
Today, we celebrate those who gave birth to us. As we should. It’s a miracle and the person who brought you into the world should be respected and honored.
I celebrate the woman who gave birth to me…who also happened to raise me. I love you, mom.
But I hold a special place in my heart for those mothers who ran into the chaos and calmed it by deciding to be mom. They are true heroes, only bound to all of the toils of raising a child…by choice.
I know. Because I’m married to one.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers. And a special wink and a smile to the mothers in that airport scene, with their hearts soaring and breaking all at the same time.
I see you.
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