By Peggie Arvidson
Let’s Celebrate all the Moms this Year!
I have a number of conversations about mothers and motherhood. I’m a step-mom who didn’t have children of my “own.” I’m an adoptee who really questions the definition of what having children of your “own” means. I’m involved in a number of adoptee communities where the word “Mom” and the idea of Mother’s Day can send people into pits of despair as easily as it brings others to tears of euphoria. Like most things in life, it’s a mixed bag.
We can all agree that none of us would be here without a mother. And there’s the rub. Until Artificial Intelligence makes a few more leaps in its development, we’re all in need of a mother to give us life.
This begs the question of whether or not giving birth alone defines you as a Mom. In my mind Mom is a word much like love. I know it when I feel it, but I don’t have a particularly good definition that works for everyone.
Some people who have mixed feelings about the word mother, seem to get a raw deal, by being taken from the only mother they had known for 9 months and being handed to another mother. That can take a toll on a small human. We forget that even at a day old a child has already bonded with their mother. They know her voice and recognize her smell and her rhythms. They get 9 months to build up that trust and connection. So, no matter the well-meaning reason, taking that baby and putting it into a strange environment is traumatic. Just think about it – we don’t let people adopt puppies who are younger than 8 weeks.
As an adoptee, recently reunited with my birth people, I am keenly aware how different my life is than it may have been. (Notice I didn’t say “better,” because that’s just not a realistic comparison. Am I better because I had more material stuff? Am I better off because I didn’t move around the country as a kid? Am I better off because I didn’t have a huge family? I don’t know. No one knows. We only know what we’ve experienced and anything else is just conjecture.)
I do know that a number of seemingly small machinations had to happen for me to be exactly where I am right now. To me, that’s the miracle. I have the miracle of having two moms. I have a birth mother who carried me for 9 months and named me before signing papers to let me go. Was she selfless? I’m not sure about that. I think she would have liked to have figured out how to keep me, but the times being what they were, that just wasn’t an option for her. Her family was tough and bringing a baby into it would have been tougher on her and likely me. I’m certain she thought that a Mom and a Dad would make my life easier and I’d agree. My life has been easy and I’ve felt guilty about that for a long time. I carried the sense that I somehow let my birth mother down by abandoning her to the easy life. However, it’s all I know so who am I to say that I’d be here on earth doing the work I’m meant to do if my life had been different?
My Mom is the woman who raised me. She’s the one who, pardon the cliché, checked my forehead for fevers and listened when I cried about being left out at school. She’s also the one who washed my mouth out with soap and taught me about right and wrong. My Mom showed me the ropes, sometimes by being nothing like me and letting me run to my room in tears because I was so distraught I didn’t have the words to describe what I was feeling.
My Mom is the one who always supported me when I wanted to search for my biological family. My Mom is the one who does her best to keep track of all my half-siblings and aunts and uncles now that I’ve found them. My Mom celebrates and commiserates with me about my wins and losses in life. I never would have had these experiences with my Mom if it weren’t for the woman who gave birth to me. So, while Mother’s Day is a complicated day for me (and many thousands of people like me) it’s a day that reminds me to be grateful to all the women who do the work of mothering in all their many ways.
This month I’m celebrating Mother’s Day by celebrating families in all their forms, from families with 2 dads to 2 moms, to single parents doing the work of two. I’m celebrating my friends who mother each other with deep friendship. I’m celebrating my friends and family who have lost their mothers and I’m celebrating each of us for the potential of loving and mothering ourselves. I hope you do the same.