My journey into motherhood started with a case of “the flu” that just wouldn’t go away. I didn’t really ever plan on having children, and then 7 months later I couldn’t imagine my life as anything but a mother. From juggling a full-time doctoral program to becoming the mother of a special needs child, I found my role as a mother constantly being challenged and changed. The challenges and changes only continued with divorce, dating, and eventually remarriage. My growth (and mistakes) continued with becoming the mother of two--the mother of a son and the mother of a child on the autism spectrum.
I expect my role as a mother to continue to evolve with each new stage of my children’s development. I even expect there to be things that I’m not prepared for or aspects that I don’t particularly enjoy. When we made the decision last summer to adopt, I knew that journey would also come with a new definition of whom and what I was as a mother--the mother of an internationally adopted child, the mother of three.
As I start to think, though, about traveling this summer to pick up my adorable little boy, I am faced with the knowledge that I am about to become a part of the history of his mothers. I am struck by the enormity of the privilege and responsibility that I am about to have. I am no longer acting on behalf of simply myself, but I will be representing the triad of his mothers. I have an obligation to convey my honor of his birth mother and what an emotional process it must have been for her to give up her child, either due to familial or societal pressures or maybe it was because she didn’t have access to the resources necessary to provide for his medical needs and knew that leaving him was the best thing she could do for him. I will never be able to let her know how much I love him or how hard I will work to fulfill the hopes and dreams that I’m sure she had for him. My responsibility doesn’t end there, though. There is his foster mother who he has spent the last year or more with. She has given him a place in her family and her heart with the full knowledge and commitment that she would one day hand him over to government officials who would in turn give him to his forever mom. She has watched him learn to sit up, crawl, and take his first steps. She has given him countless bottles and soothed him after bad dreams. I’m sure she has thought of his future and wondered and worried if his forever mom would figure out the little things that comfort him, his favorite foods, and what his fears are.
I can’t promise his mothers that I won’t make mistakes or even that I will learn from my mistakes on the first try. I can’t promise that I will do mothering the way that they would have if he could have stayed with either of them. I can’t even promise that I will always have the answers to the hard questions that he will inevitably ask. I can, however, promise that I will love him with all of my heart, and I will learn how to be the person that he needs me to be. I can promise that I will always speak with honor and respect when he asks those questions about his mothers. I can even promise to keep looking for answers for him although I know they don’t exist. I will always have an open heart and arms for comforting him when inevitably tears fall in grief or anger when he too realizes that no answers exist. I promise not to turn away nor hide my own tears the day that he rages against me for taking him away from his mothers and those answers. I promise that he and I will get through all of this, and we will both be stronger because of it. I promise to be there in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, and in the middle of the night even when I need to stay in the shadows because he thinks he is old enough not to need me anymore. I promise to be there when he realizes that you are never too old to need your mother.
And maybe the most important promise that I can make to his other mothers is that I will always love him to the moon and back.