Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day When You Have No Mother

I've been feeling under the weather for the past few days, which has limited my ability to write new blog posts. I thought I would re-post an article from Mother's Day 2010 and then return to bed to recuperate. I've updated a few dates for the purposes of today's blog. Enjoy!:

Mark and I exercised a lapse in judgement six years ago this weekend when we decided to go to church with the boy. The parental rights were recently terminated between D'Angelo and his birth parents. He was still our foster child and we were gradually working towards adopting him. It didn't occur to either of us that we should avoid church on Mother's Day weekend. In retrospect, that should have been a big "Duh".

The kids were all called to the front of the sanctuary for the weekly "time with the children" moment. The children messager started out by reading a sappy Mother's Day story for kids and relaying fond memories of her life with her mother. She then asked each of the kids to share their Mother's Day plans for that day. It wasn't until she asked a shell shocked D'Angelo to start off the discussion that she remembered what was going on in his life. To be honest, if I were in her shoes, I don't know how I would've reacted if I'd realized that I'd asked a freshly TPR'ed kid about what special things he was going to do with his mom. The woman panicked a bit. She began to babble and awkwardly tried shifting the discussion to past Mother's Day experiences, which didn't help. D' just shut down. She could tell. We could tell. Everyone in the room could tell. It was very sad and uncomfortable. Mark ended up leaving in the middle of church service with D' so that he could privately grieve.

Later in the day, Mark and I decided that we would stay away from church every Mother's Day weekend from that day forward. It is unrealistic to ask our church family to refrain from acknowledging the role that motherhood has played in their lives, but it's also not fair to D'Angelo to force him to celebrate something that still reminds him of loss and grief.

Adoption can be a marvelous thing. It creates families for those who have none. But most adoptive parents intuitively realize that our gain comes from others' loss. We couldn't adopt our boys without them first losing their birth parents. We can never erase their past, nor should we want to, of their birth family. D' will always wonder about his birth parents. Are they safe? Are they alive? Do they think about him? What would life be like if he had stayed with them?

Mark and I have often told D' that we cannot (and will not) ever replace his birth parents. They will always be with him, in one form or another. We are his parents, but so are they. He want him to be able to talk about them, to remember them, and to keep them alive in his memories. We will not force him to make them into his dirty secret.

Anyway, we decided six years ago that we will create our own Mother's Day ritual. We sleep in. We call the grandmothers. We go to IHOP for brunch. We see a movie. And we invite D' to share stories of his mom if and when the moment strikes him. And those moments will come at his beckoning and on his terms. And that's a good thing.

Updated for 2013: A few years after adopting our son, we were contacted by his birth father. The birth father wanted the chance to reconnect with D'Angelo. After some consideration, we agreed and D'Angelo met his birth father for the first time in many years. There have been some complications, but this reunification has been fairly positive. It led to D' learning more about his extended birth family. It led to him reconnecting -- though much less often -- with his mom. These connections have helped settle some of those unsettled questions. Are they safe? Are they alive? Do they think about him? What would life be like if he had stayed with them?

But we still stay away from church of Mother's Day.

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