Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers, Plural: Mothers, None

I gave birth to one daughter and it altered my body, my heart, and my life forever. I am also raising a daughter that I didn't give birth to, and she is equally imprinted on my heart and life though it is someone else's features and traits that are imprinted in her DNA. The mother who brought me into the world left the hospital with stretch marks and empty arms but never stopped being my mother. Some people say that it is raising a child, not birthing one, that makes one a parent. Others claim the opposite is true. For me, it will always be both. I have one mother who is my mother because she gave birth to me and another who is my mother even though she didn't. Or to put it another way, I have one mother who is my mother because she raised me and another who remained my mother even though she didn't get to do so.

Those nine months in the womb matter. Birth matters. DNA matters. Changing diapers, cooking meals, reading at bedtime, and driving to and from afterschool activities matter, too. Love. Nature. Nurture. All of it. As a daughter and a mother, my life is lived in the rich, full space of both/and.

And yet, in a way, the people who say that giving birth does not make a mother are also correct. Giving birth was only the first step. My mother remained my mother by holding me in her heart through the years of our separation, and she became my mother in a new way when she embraced me in reunion and through her actions in the years that followed. Similarly, my other mother became my mother, in a sense, by signing some papers, but is that really what made her my mother? No, she became my mother by mothering. "Mother" is both a noun and a verb. 

There is so much pain in adoption, and on this Mother's Day I am well aware that the holiday is a difficult one for many in the adoption community. Among my friends, for example, are adoptees who have ended up in no-man's-land, rejected by and separated from two families, rather than embraced and held by both. Today, I honor my mothers while also holding the unmothered (and others for whom this day is difficult) in my heart.
No matter what your point of pain or challenge today, I want you to know that you are not the only one. Somewhere over a silly Mother’s Day breakfast, there is a woman faking a smile who feels just like you do. Somewhere in a very silent house with no one to call, there is a woman who is tending the ache of her loss, just like you. Somewhere standing in a shower there is a woman who is feeling it all and letting the tears come, just like you. -- Notes from a Hopeful World
Images courtesy of arztsamui /


  1. Such a beautiful post. I love the concept of living in the "rich, full space of both/and"

    Enjoy your day ~

  2. Just reading this now and smiling about the noun/verb explanation as I used it as well in my Facebook post yesterday. Great minds think alike :)