“Are you his real mom?” I remember looking around thinking, “who is this person talking to?” I continue changing my little man’s diaper in the restaurant bathroom. I talk to him as he is giggling and rolling from one side to another. I hear it again; “Are you his real mom?” A bit confused, I turn around to see a young girl probably around 7 or 8. She looks very confused as she sees me talking to this little boy and asking him to say mama as I tickle his round tummy. I look at her and gently say “Yes sweetie. I’m his real mom.” She replies with a confused “Oh” and walks out the door. For her, I’m sure this site was overly confusing. A Caucasian woman standing in a bathroom with her very brown African American son, changing his diaper and asking him to say “mama.” In her sweet innocent little mind I’m sure she was extremely confused.
“Are you his real mom?” is a question I have gotten more times than I can count. What do you mean? Of course I’m his real mom! At times it still makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck, especially when the tone is harsh. Others, however, really are confused as to how to address an obviously adoptive mother when she has her children with her. Simply put? We are mom.
When our oldest daughter was adopted I was simply “mom.” When my husband and I took in a foster kiddo who was learning the natural roles of a family at the age of three, I was simply “mom.” When we took in a teenager who had never had a stable mother figure in his life, I was simply “mom.” My mother, God bless her, is the mother of 9 children and grandmother to numerous grandbabies (the number seems to increase yearly). To me and my siblings, she is simply “mom.” Mothers are all different and we look different to everyone.
When we met our son’s birth mom for the first time, I remember looking at her with so much joy, admiration, love and more than anything, gratitude. My son heard her voice first and looked in her eyes first. She gave him his first bottle, first diaper change, and first bath. She, his mother, held him first. I’m often asked how I am ok with sharing that title with someone else. I easily respond, “how could I not be ok with it?!” If I can grow in my life to be half as strong of a woman as she is I would be so happy! She is AMAZING!! She placed a child’s needs, wants and her desires for that child before her own feelings; that is the most selfless thing anyone can ever do, and I know right now, I’m not strong enough to do that.
I look at the other children in our home: our daughter who was adopted from the foster care system at the age of 5 and the numerous other children that have been in and out of our home over the last past several years. I look at them and think to myself, “Am I a better mother than the mothers they have? Am I more qualified to be a mom then they are? Am I a “real mom?”” I have seen and even met a few of the foster kiddos’ birth mothers, but I have never met our daughter’s birth mother or father. Throughout all of our placements we hear statements that make these women out to be sinners and me out to be a complete and total saint. Ladies and gentleman, I am NOTHING special. The ONLY reason I have the option of having these children in my home is because when I was born, I was born with a fighting chance. I was born with a strong foundation underneath me. I was born with a family that supported me, parents that loved me, siblings that played with me and a faith that I felt at times could move mountains. Did these women have those same luxuries? Perhaps. Perhaps they made choices that would affect them for a lifetime, perhaps they made choices that would make things difficult for a few months, but all that aside, they are still mothers. REAL mothers.
When I see these mamas, whether in close proximity, through a computer screen, or just through their voice over the phone, I feel a mix of complete and utter pain for them and violent protection of their children now in our home. I won’t lie and say there isn’t another side to my feelings. I wouldn’t say it’s a side of rivalry or competition, but possibly a side of fear. I often look at them and think, “am I one decision away from being just like them? From being forced to hand my children over to someone and miss all of the things these women are longing to see? Would one bad decision snowball into something so much more devastating?”
I know these women’s children in ways they never will, and they know them in ways I never can. When I hear them call for mom when they fall and scrape their knee or elbow, or they wake up from a bad dream and yell mommy, my heart twinges a bit thinking that’s me-they need me-and yet there is another mother. Then I remember, I am that other mother, but so is she. Both of us are real moms. But are both of us the moms we want to become? I’m far from the mom I want to become, but actively trying to be the best mom I can be to every child in our home. I know that I am no more of a real mom than any other mom. To every child that walks into our home, sleeps in our beds, eats our food, cuddles with me on the couch, hugs me in the morning and waves goodbye to me as I drop them off at school, I am simply Mom.
Note: Please use caution if you are sensitive to pictures of babies who have been delivered too early. This post contains such photos. Three years ago, this May, I experienced a second trimester loss of my monoamniotic (MoMo) twin sons. Before this, simply contemplating that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends