From time to time, Kirsh & Kirsh, P.C., will publish essays written by others. Over the next 3 weeks, we will share three such essays. They were written by an adoptive mom about the adoption of her son and his meeting his birth mom 18 years later. The birth mom wrote the third essay. All are well written, moving, and a tribute to the love and devotion two mothers share for their child.
A Carnival of Pain, Uncertainty, and Hope
By Mia Hinkle
I made a promise over 18 years ago. A promise to become mother to a child not of my genes, nor of my womb. A promise to love and support this child with everything in me …from warm baby blankets and formula, to safety and education, to building character and integrity in someone now on the verge of manhood. A promise to recognize and embrace the divergent forces of heredity and environment in my own home. My promise was to do things that were “good” for my child.
One of those “good things” was to provide an accurate and loving view of my son’s birth mother through open conversation and positive stories. And ultimately to one day provide an avenue for a meeting should he desire one.
Family life – indeed perhaps all of life – is best described as a carnival of pain and uncertainty and hope. Some of its magic and some of its tragic, as the songwriter sings.
You see … for every ecstatic adoptive mother holding for the first time, a newborn baby suddenly hers, there is a birth mother reeling under a stabbing pain like none other. The circle of emotion is large. It is immense. And it is balanced. The unbounded joy and hope the adoptive mother feels is precisely counterbalanced by the pain and despair lodged in the birth mother’s heart. And right in the middle is the newborn … a blank slate … a vessel of uncertainty.
The birth mother is uncertain if she made the right choice; uncertain if she will ever see him again; uncertain if given a little time and a few breaks maybe she could make it as a parent after all; uncertain how people might judge her if they only knew — labeling her as an abandoner or as a hero, neither of which is even close. And she hopes beyond hope that he will have the kind of life she dreams for him.
The adoptive mother gazes into the baby’s eyes, uncertain what he will look like all grown-up; uncertain what his aptitudes will be; uncertain what his talents are; and uncertain how his adoptive status will affect him at ages 5, 11, 18, and 40. And yet, she is nearly blinded by the hope and promise she sees in his eyes.
And so the carnival begins. A wild spiral of pain and uncertainty and hope and joy. And before you know it, 18 years have passed and the pages fall open to a new chapter.
My son’s two families recently met, and I know you are wondering how I feel about it all.
Let me begin with how I DO NOT feel.
I do not feel threatened. It never occurred to me that my son would feel a new loyalty to his birth mother, replacing his love for me. One well-meaning friend tried to comfort him with these words (incidentally I don’t think he was aware that he needed comforting). She said, “I remember the day your parents picked you up at the hospital. You must understand how freaked out your mom would be about this whole birth mother thing.” Insinuating that he was once mine and now he is hers and I am in misery over it. This could not be further from the truth.
I don’t feel territorial. After I gave my sister the news we had been contacted about possibly meeting my son’s birth mother, she told me had felt just yucky, hung up the phone, and cried. Fear of the unknown. Fear that our family dynamics might change. Fear that he would now somehow be “less ours.” My other sister even said, “Oh my gosh! I totally forgot!” Insinuating, “I totally forgot … he wasn’t ours!” It took these precious words for me to realize that I no longer see him as a possession to be “ours” or “hers.”
I do not feel loss. In fact, I feel a greater connection with my son because I was able to be there at this pivotal moment in his life.
I do not feel defensive, like I have to post guards at my property line. When he was a baby, I did feel I had to keep our names and address from her. But not now. It even seems kind of silly now. I do not feel unsafe knowing that she has our identifying information.
So how DO I feel? I feel excited. I feel grateful. I feel connected. And I feel open.
Excited for the opportunity to get to know my son’s first family. Excited to learn more about his hard wiring and what makes him tick.
Grateful that she and her family are delightful people and that she is on the same page with me in terms of putting his wishes before hers or mine.
Connection, new and hard to put into words, with my son.
And open. Open to the risk of what the future may bring. Open to expanding our family. Open to conversations with my son about the implications of it all. Open to conversations with his birth mother about her thoughts, views, and experiences before and after her decision 18 years ago.
The following poem was given to us at his baby shower and it still hangs above his desk in his deep purple bedroom. An unknown author penned these words giving honor and insight to both kinds of mothers.
Legacy of An Adopted Child
Once there were two women
Who never knew each other;
One you do not remember,
The other you call “Mother.”
Two different lives
Shaped to make you one;
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.
The first one gave you life,
And the second taught you to live it;
The first gave you the need for love,
The second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality,
The other gave you a name;
One gave you talent,
The other gave you aim.
One gave you emotions,
The other calmed your fears;
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.
One sought for you a home
That she could not provide;
The other prayed for a child
And her hope was not denied.
And now you ask me
Through your tears …
The age old question,
Through the years.
Heredity or environment …
Which are you a product of?
Neither … my darling … neither,
Just two different kinds of love!
~ Author Unknown ~