I have adopted eight children and am parenting 3 others long term. I had a mother and each of my children have me, but they also have their first mothers.
Mother’s Day is this weekend. While the intent of this holiday is lovely, the reality of honoring our mothers is a pretty difficult journey in my home. Many years, the emotional places that the kids travel to are pretty intense. And it is never a simple, straightforward feeling. Every single one of us feels love, anger, grief, worry and sometimes hope — all at the same time.
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There is a meme running around on Facebook that says something to the effect that I have children from another mother who also call me mom. The enormity of the tragedies that gave me this gift is not lost on me. I want to share pieces of what I know is love for each of my kids on this Mother’s Day weekend.
My own mother died nearly 5 years ago, suddenly, because of a brain bleed. I miss her a lot, as she was an amazing mom and grandma. She and Dad have given me many of the skills I now have to parent these children. I will love her for eternity. We ARE women of faith
My Alice, who came to me as a four-year-old, witnessed her first mother’s murder when she was two and a half years old. By all accounts, Alice’s first mom loved her dearly. I believe this to be true because Alice knows how to create attachments to others and how to be present with people. That happens with good bonding in infancy. Alice does not consciously remember her mom but has lived with the early love and early tragedy ever since.
Beatrice also came to me as a four-year-old. Her first mom was a child of a severe alcoholic and has significant issues related to being born with prenatal alcohol exposure. It caused significant brain damage
The neglect of Beatrice and her older brother was persistent in their early lives. However, we’d get messages from bio mom once in a while through extended family members while Beatrice was growing up ; these messages always spoke of love and hope. Beatrice liked that and I was always pleased with the connection for Beatrice’s sake. There was never an attempt to meet together after Beatrice’s first mom’s parental rights were terminated, but the messages seemed to be enough for Beatrice at the time.
Beatrice is now 24 years old. When she was established on social media as a teenager, her mom tried to connect with her on Facebook. Beatrice was wary and we settled on connecting through my Facebook first. Beatrice and I spent a lot of time talking about how to love and be loved by someone who wasn’t there for you when you were young. She dealt with anger at what happened and fear of letting herself get close again. Over the past couple of years, they have connected in person and it’s been a rough go. Beatrice’s first mom is still using drugs off and on and is fairly manipulative. They are currently not talking at all, per Beatrice’s decision for self-care. Beatrice has been clear with her… if you love me, you will not manipulate me or lie to me. She dearly wants her mom in her life but is demonstrating some wonderful, clear boundaries to protect herself. I’m proud of her!
Clara had no contact with her first mom the entire time she was growing up. She came to me as a 5-year-old and would ask questions once in a while, but I had very little to tell her. I know that drinking was a huge issue and that domestic violence between her bio parents (both parties equally abusive) was an ongoing issue. Bio mom’s parental rights were terminated when Clara was 5 and we spent years with no knowledge of her mom’s whereabouts. Clara is now 21 years old. About 3 years ago, Clara’s older biological siblings found their mother.
Clara was just finishing high school and was dealing with a lot of emotional growth of her own. She had no desire at all to meet her mom, telling me, “She was not there for me when I was little. I do not need to add those emotions to my plate right now.” Her siblings pressured her mercilessly to come with them to meet with their mom. They said that she was sick and was very desperate to see her “baby.” Clara is the youngest of 5 siblings. Clara held firm and told them all that she will when she is ready.
I was so proud of Clara for sticking to her own self knowledge. I did have one discussion with her about how she may feel when she is older if her mom dies and she did not meet with her. Clara told that she is fine with that. She will handle feelings as they come, but she is just not ready now.
Her mom died this past year. Clara has not verbalized any regrets, even when her siblings give her verbal jabs for “being selfish” and “holding grudges.” I just keep loving her and letting her know that she has done such a good job at honoring herself after so much trauma in her early life.
Freddy is my grandson/son and is the child of my first daughter, Alice. She became pregnant as a teen and Freddy has lived with me since he was born. Alice was still living with me at the time and upon finding out she was pregnant, broke off with the rough crowd she had gotten into, joined swim team again, was diligent with her exercise, work, and school. She graduated from high school and got a job after Freddy was born.
Unfortunately, because of Alice’s early trauma, she continues to be a vulnerable soul and is easily taken advantage of by a variety of people. Once she had graduated high school, she met a young man at a job and he pulled her away. He was VERY physically and verbally abusive and she was caught in his snare for almost two years. She knew, inside, that it was not good and chose to leave Freddy in my care instead of taking him with her (he was 2 at the time). I give her a lot of praise and love for having made that decision for her child!
Freddy is now 14, and lives on the autism spectrum. He has had a loving relationship with his mom and seems to understand on some level what her limitations are. He has not seen her in a while, though they talk on the phone a lot. With his autism, he is not very expressive emotionally, but he has great skill at letting me know what feels right and what does not (especially in terms of people who are in his life). He has nothing but desire to see her and talk to her when given the opportunity.
However, about 3 years ago, he made a very distinct switch from calling me Kiye’ (grandmother in his native language) to ‘mom.’ I asked him about it once I realized what he was saying and he said, “I know I have a mommy, but you are my mom.” And that was that. I was granted guardianship last summer (with Alice’s complete agreement), which is as close as we will get to adoption. Freddy has decided that that is good enough for him and he tells people he is adopted like everyone else in the house.
Henry is 2nd in the mix of 5 brothers. His momma was/is caught in
Henry’s mom knows how to find me on Facebook and once in a while, drops a note to ask how he is. I have asked him several times if he is interested in seeing her in a safe way, but he says no. He gets very anxious at the thought and I think he is worried he will lose me. He is 12-years-old
-Dixie, Eleanor, and Gavin’s Mom-
These three came to me when they were 12, 8 and 6-year-olds. They each have different memories and different feelings about their biological mom. It sounds like she was a good mom at first, with some struggles with teen pregnancy, poverty, and grief. She became addicted to heroin and everything fell apart.
Dixie remembers the good times, the laughter and
Eleanor has some memories of her mom and wants to reconnect. The most recent connection, though was from her mom behind my back and she made some promises to Eleanor and Gavin that were not plausible. Gavin fell apart and Eleanor is very angry at her mom right now.
And Gavin has some memories, but he was so young and life had begun to deteriorate for the family by the time he was 2 and 3 years old. He depended on his older sister, Dixie for much of his maternal connections, as their mom was absent so much. He is still very connected to Dixie, though voices thoughts about his mom.
-Inez, Joanna, and Katerina’s Mom-
The three youngest in my home are my granddaughters. They are also Alice’s children (and Freddy’s half-sisters). Alice is in prison since Inez was 2 and 1/2 years old and the twins, Joanna & Katerina were 6 months old. Alice had a deep post-partum depression after the twins were born and had a severe psychotic break one night when her husband was abusing her. Instead of treatment, she got sent to
Alice and Inez were especially bonded and Inez has deep grief and a lot of anger at the loss of her mommy. We are getting counseling with Inez and we are close (I hope) to having the therapist legally request visitation.
The Littles are now 6-years-old and 4-years-old, so renewing contact will start with getting to know their mommy all over again.
-Mother’s Day Love-
As I wrote this, I warmed up to all of these women all over again. Reading back, on the surface, it looks like mistakes and tragedy over and over again, with my children as the victims. But read between the lines. None of these Moms are bad people. They are hurt human beings who have been caught in their own pain and grief and drama. I would suggest that they, themselves were hurt as children and never received the right kind of help.
But each in their own way aches for their children and loves them deeply. How do I know this? Because I am also a mom to these children and I can’t imagine loving them more. Short of being psychopaths (which they are not), each of these mommies is capable of deep love and each has a gaping hole this Mother’s Day.
I will take all the kid love I can get this weekend, because I am a busy, tired, and at times overwhelmed mama. However, I plan to make sure they are each able to