Motherhood is not something that can be described easily. Every step, from pregnancy through newborn, toddler, school-age and adolescence is a unique experience for every mom. Each has their own story, their own narrative. In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a less conventional way of becoming a mother: adoption.
Most people who know me know that I was adopted as an infant from the Philippines. However, this story is not going to be about my adoption. This is about my mother raising an adopted daughter. Yes, my father has a very equal and integral part in all of this, but since it’s Mother’s Day we’ll just focus on mama for now. Now they say “you can’t choose your parents, and they can’t choose you”…but she did. She knew my story, knew that she wasn’t getting a brand new baby and knew that I had already lived 10 months without her. She knew she was getting a child, born prematurely from a very impoverished background in a culture that was relatively unfamiliar to folks from middle class New England. But despite it all, still she chose me.
My childhood was pretty normal, which to some is a luxury. My mom stayed home to take care of my brother (Mike, who was also adopted from the Philippines) and me until we went off to kindergarten. We were two of the few minorities in the school, and being a schoolteacher herself, she anticipated that other kids would be curious and ask questions like, “Why don’t you look like your mother”, or “Why is your skin so brown?” So being the proactive mom, she made a point to come into both our classrooms at the beginning of the school year from kindergarten to second grade to give a presentation about our ethnic background. She taught them about the Philippines, and how cool it was to be from another country. The best part is that she never felt compelled to explain why I was adopted to anyone. What was important for them to know was that she was my mother, in spite of any lack of physical resemblance.
Of course I was always asked the nosy questions about my biological mother, and even to this day, people are inquisitive. These are questions that can be really personal and invasive, but most of the time, those asking don’t even realize how their inquires are received. Instead of telling them to mind their own business, I’ve always used it as a teachable moment for something that they would otherwise know nothing about. “Do you know your real mom?” “Do you want to know your real mom” “Do you feel a void not knowing her?” The woman that I have been describing this entire post is my “real” mom. A biological connection to the woman who birthed you does not make them your real mother. The emotional connection and the relationship fostered over the years is what makes a mother real. Calling her anything but real completely discredits everything she has done as a mother. I have no animosity towards my biological mother, mostly because I know nothing of her. Yes, I do sometimes have the desire to meet her, but only to extend my gratitude. I would want to thank her for making the hardest decision of her life, and that it was the best decision for my life. Giving up your child for their chance at a better future is one of the most selfless things you can possibly do.
There are many mothers who acquired their role in non-traditional ways, via adoption, surrogate, fostering, guardianship etc. On Mother’s Day we honor them all.