-there should be a manual-
(from the perspective of a mother reunited with her grown up baby girl.)
I never had a clue what it was actually like to be a birth mother. The fact that I was one for 40 years was mostly a secret, rarely spoken of and held so close to my heart. I felt like I might not ever get to meet my baby girl again this side of heaven, but also felt like I did not deserve to miss her. I thought it was not my place to contact her. At 40 years old she bravely looked for me, carefully and so thoughtful, but with no expectations.
More than half my life I have been Mom. It has brought purpose and maturity to my life. Being a mother has brought me so much joy. It is who I am. All of a sudden I became faced with the fact that yes, I am also a birth mother! There were many things I had no idea I would feel. There were so many expectations and opinions from others on how I should handle this new relationship and how I should have handled the past. I do not personally know any other mothers who relinquished their child at birth for adoption. I am trying my best to maneuver through this unknown territory with feelings of shame, guilt, resentment, doubt and fear and a tremendous weight of grief-feelings I thought I had dealt with or at least buried for good. All the while I also have these feelings of great joy, of healing, of thankfulness, hope and so much love. I recognize the miracle God is doing in my life.
I initially faced some struggles. I did not know what my boundaries were. I was afraid of loving too much, of crossing a line, stepping on toes, of being possessive and I had fear of losing her again. I felt myself wanting to prove I was a good mother, a good person, because of fear of judgement for not just getting pregnant as a teen but that she was placed for adoption. Even as I read blogs on adoption, birth mothers, adoption “triad”, and adoptees, I became more aware of what struggles adoptees have to overcome. My mom guilt was at an all time high. I soon realized God was teaching me again, my guilt was at the cross.
I had difficulty at first with the title “birth mom”. In my mind it meant “not good enough to be a mom”. It meant failure, it meant sin, it meant shame. Maybe because it was in the 70’s, maybe because of how the adoption agency treated the situation of teen pregnancy, I always thought I would be an embarrassment to the precious baby I gave birth to. But I was so wrong. God reminded me of Psalm 127:3-4, a passage I know by heart because God truly blessed me with every baby. This verse became our family verse in the days of babies and toddlers. I thought in the case of my first baby girl that she was a blessing for someone else-and she certainly was. And I even realized all along that she was blessing me, even at the young age of 16. I was falling in love like I had never known I could. I knew she was depending on me for her very life as I felt her kick and move inside me. I often wondered where my path would have gone at this time in my life without her, but struggled with the why I wasn’t “good enough” to be her mother. When God showed me that verse again recently, I saw something more. She could not simply be the result of huge mistake. My daughter was not a consequence. God had a plan for her life. I do not know why He didn’t just put her in the womb of her adopted mom. He could have. He could have waited to to put her in my womb until I was married. But He didn’t choose to do that, either. I do not know why He chose me, while still a girl trying to figure out life, to give birth to this precious child.
And if I’m going to ask the really tough questions, I do not know if adoption was the right choice or not. But even in those doubts of a decision made at a time in my life where I did not see another option, I have to trust that God already knew; God already made a provision. I can see how He has answered the prayers of that scared and confused teenager, as I poured my heart out to Him. There are definitely consequences of my sin and heart places of brokenness caused by the choice of adoption that God is showing me. I am trying to be open to all God is teaching me and it may take a while.
What I do know is that God loves me. His plans are good. He is a sovereign God. His character never changes and His word is truth-all the time. And as we trust Him, as we give our lives to Christ, His grace is all we need. He makes us righteous and grows our faith, knowing we will still sin and we will still fall short. My faith as a teen was still very immature. I still lived my life controlled more by my fears instead of trusting Him. My legalistic views held me to standards I could not achieve in my own strength. I failed, and yet He was still faithful. He never left me and I could ever feel His presence. He continued to grow my faith as I grew up, got married and had six more babies to love. He taught me so much as I learned to trust Him with my marriage and with my children, those I raised and the one I knew nothing about. I prayed for her and missed her, but kept it all inside. God knew my heart even when I did not. In His perfect timing He gave me what I needed and also what my daughter needed. He gave us each other.
My faith was stretched like never before as I started this new path. I didn’t know if I could be a birth mom. I really just wanted to be her mom for always, but I had to realize where God had placed me now was where I needed to be. I committed to being whatever kind of mom He was calling me to be and so very grateful for the opportunity. He reminded me that my shame is at the cross, already dealt with. No longer did I need to feel guilty about the past. I’m still very much in the middle of learning what it means to be a mom to my first born.
There are a few things I have learned already:
1. There is no limit on how much you can love your baby.
2. You may grieve. You may grieve the loss, you may grieve what could have been, you may grieve the normal, you may grieve what you missed.
3. Allow yourself to feel the feelings. You don’t have to feel guilty about grieving. It doesn’t mean you are not thankful for the family you have. Sorrow and joy can coexist. Work through the feelings and learn from them. Share with those who will encourage you and walk along side of you. God is doing a work.
4. Be patient with the healing. There will be some hard days and sometimes it feels like you can’t get past the difficulty of it all. Forgive those who may have hurt you in the past. Ask for forgiveness as you are prompted by the Holy Spirit. Know that He is sufficient. Stay in His word. Replace lies with His truth.
5. Have no expectations. As a mother, it’s our job to let the child (even when they are grown ups) set the pace for the relationship. Be willing to make sacrifices and be willing to take chances. Do not take things personally if they need a break to process. You need to realize that there will be boundaries. These boundaries are ever changing and different for everyone. Be mindful of them but not afraid of them. Talk them over. Respect their space and the life they have without you. They had no choice in adoption, so it should be their choice on what kind of relationship they want now.
6. Be honest. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your child, be honest with those closest to you. Communication is important even when it’s about your feelings. Be honest but sensitive to the feelings of those around you. It’s not all about you!
7. Take a break from reality once in a while. Go to the park, exercise, love your hobbies. Sometimes our heads and our hearts just need a break to refuel.
8. Be present. It’s so hard sometimes not to be sad that you can’t have all of your babies together all of the time, and maybe never at the same time. It’s hard sometimes not to feel guilty or afraid someone will get their feelings hurt. Be ever mindful but enjoy the time wherever you are and whoever you are with.
9. Be thankful for the blessings and through the trials and struggles. God promises to make everything to work for good, if we just trust Him. He heals the broken-hearted and He takes away our guilt and shame. We have an opportunity to let Him grow our faith and give Him glory. “…to the praise of the glory of His grace” Ephesians 1:6 has been a wonderful focus verse to me for 30+ years.
10. Know that God has a purpose. There will be consequences of sin in our lives that often reach down into the lives of those we love the most. We have to be aware of those things and ask forgiveness. God has already provided the atonement for all our sin. He is a good Father who made a way even knowing we would fail, sin against Him and follow our own rebellious hearts. He gave us His only Son, as a perfect sacrifice for our redemption. What an example He has shown us. His is sufficient to cover any shame or guilt. If we surrender our lives to Him, all our past and all our future, He is faithful to save us and to guide us. He is a good, good Father. His plans are for our good and for His glory.
I wish I could say I remember all of this every day, but some days I still struggle with shame, doubt and fear. I still have to remember that my baby had a purpose before she grew inside me. God already had a plan that cannot be thwarted by me. I still have memories that make me cry, but I’m trying to work through them knowing God can even use memories for healing, for teaching, for growing my faith, and to give me empathy for others. I sometimes fear rejection but all God has shown me is the miracle of restoration. I am learning every day to trust Him more.
One thing for sure is I am so thankful my daughter took the chance to find me. She was so very brave! She risked being disappointed and even rejection, but she wanted me to know that she was okay. She imagined as a mother that I would want to know that. And once that door was open, wow. I am so blessed to be able to pray for her by name. I am so honored to be able to be in her life in any aspect and yet she has allowed me to not only be a friend, but also every once in awhile, be the mommy I didn’t get to be when she was little. I never dreamed I would get to hug her or kiss her forehead, but here I am loving her as the mother God is calling me to be for her in a way I never dared dream or ask for. He knew how we would need each other and gave us more than either one of us could imagine.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,”
By KP Jan 2020