06 Jul Dear Birth Mother
This is day 6 of 21 in the 200 Stars for Gideon series. If you want to be part of Gideon’s story, click HERE.
I had drawn a big circle around Mother’s Day back when we first started the adoption process in early February. Growing up, my family really didn’t celebrate Hallmark holidays, so Mother’s Day had always been low on my list. But we had joked (and I had this strange gut feeling) that we would have a referral before May 14, and sure enough, though the odds and current timelines were stacked against us, we had just said yes to Gideon. We announced him to our families during a surprise celebration the weekend before, so we were going into “real” Mother’s Day full of relief and joy.
We stayed with my in-laws the night before, and I woke up to a super sleepy (though super sweet) “Happy first Mother’s Day!” from Brian. But something way down inside me felt not quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but as I packed the beautiful leather bag Brian had given me (handmade by mothers in Mexico and Ethiopia, of course) for church, I couldn’t shake this feeling of deep…something.
The news about Gideon had already spread to our old church, so we were greeted by lots of happy people celebrating our new son and my new introduction to motherhood. We rejoiced with them, shared a (gluten-free) cookie with them, and then took our seats for worship, me still trying to rid myself of this nagging feeling of something that wouldn’t go away.
A few minutes later, out of nowhere, it hit me. Deep sadness, the overwhelming desire to cry. Tears welled in my eyes, and I knew I had just a few seconds before I lost it. I anxiously waited for a prayer to start, then I grabbed a pencil from the seat-back pocket and darted for the exit. I passed the new moms, bouncing tired newborns, and found a quiet corner in the atrium. I desperately looked for paper and found some brochures for new guests that were blank on the back (sorry, new guests).
With huge tears rolling down my face, I picked up my pencil, turned over the brochures, and I started something I never expected to write: A letter to Gideon’s birth mother.
I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but our adoption has been a learning process and I always want to remember that. So let me just tell you a confession I’m not proud of: When we initially started looking at adoption, one of the major reasons we chose international was because international adoptions were completely closed. Final. In our minds, less messy. We decided to always celebrate our child’s birth mother, but quite frankly, I was glad she would always be at arm’s length (or globe’s length). In fact, I had secretly kind of hoped we wouldn’t know who she was at all. It would be easier that way, I told myself.
So never in a hundred, a thousand, even a million years did I ever imagine I might feel something for her. I never expected to have this surreal, supernatural connection with her. And never, especially, did I expect to love her.
But as I sat in church that morning, the truth hit me like a ton of bricks. She was real, just like Gideon was real. She was a woman, a human not unlike me, and both of us had made very real decisions, very real sacrifices to get to this place, hers way more deep and numerous than mine. But here I was, being celebrated for a son I didn’t give birth to, when 7,000 miles away, there was a very good chance no one had ever celebrated her or what she had done for Gideon. Her son. My son. Our son.
The unfairness, the tragedy of that reality sunk into my soul, and I didn’t even try to stop the tears. I just wrote, my tears staining the words as I poured out my heart to a woman I may never meet. But a woman I now share my story with, my soul with, my son with.
I don’t know that I’ll ever get to give her the letter. I’m not sure the agency will let us leave personal notes to her via Gideon’s file. But in case they do, I want to keep most of that Mother’s Day letter, all the messy pages of it, just between the two of us. That said, I do want to share a few small pieces, because I want you to understand who she is. I want you to see her in our story. I want you to celebrate her. I want you to understand why sometimes I suddenly go quiet, thinking about where she is and what she’s doing. I want you to know why we will forever honor her and cherish her in our home, why from here on out, we’ve decided to call her Gideon’s “Korean mom” rather than his “birth mother.”
Dear J’s Forever Korean Mom,
It’s Mother’s Day here in America today. I don’t know if they celebrate Mother’s Day in Korea, but for us it is a celebration for all the moms in our country – for all the sacrifices they have made and the wonderful things they have done for each of us…
I wondered where you were today, and what you might be doing. I dreamed of you and tried to picture your face. I don’t know what you look like, but I know you must be beautiful because your son is the most handsome little boy in the whole world, and I imagine he must get that from you. And I don’t know you, but I know you are one of the strongest and most loving people I’ve ever known…
So I wondered today if anyone was celebrating you. I wondered if anyone had thanked you for giving J life, for loving him so much…Just in case, I wanted to say that to you… J will always know how brave and strong and wonderful you are. He will always know you gave him life, and you gave us such joy…And you will always be the mom who also made me a mother…
We pray that you know we celebrate you from afar, both today – on Mother’s Day – and every day.
Thank you for everything you are, from J’s Mommy to his Eomma.
It took me most of the sermon to finish writing, but eventually the tears dried up and my space to write on the back of the brochures ran out, so I prepared to head back into church. As I tucked that letter into my Bible, I wondered if Mother’s Day would always feel like this, a bittersweet mix of joy and loss. And I realized it probably would, because my gain was her loss. My joy was her pain. And foster mom, right in the middle, cared for him and loved him when neither of his other two moms could touch him, hold him, or make him smile.
Our son will forever have 3 mothers, and from this day forward, when the pastor asks for all the moms to stand up on Mother’s Day, I will be standing up for three women. Three brave, inexplicably connected women who all made the choice to love this little boy in their own way. I don’t take that responsibility lightly, and I hope you won’t either. I hope you’ll understand that for many adoptive mothers, birth mothers, and foster mothers, Mother’s Day is hard. It’s confusing. It’s draining. And if I seem less excitable than usual, it’s not you, I promise. It’s knowing that another mother saw his first breath, a second saw his first smile, and a third – me – will now get to see him every single day for the rest of my life.
Gideon will forever have 3 moms, and I am so proud to be one of them.