July 29, 2008


Posted in Adventures o' K at 12:56 pm by Erin

J and I recently made the conscious decision to stop calling K’s firstmom his “birthmom”.  J didn’t like the term in general, due to the negative connotation that it tends to have here in the U.S.; I also felt like it doesn’t accurately reflect her role in his life.  I’ll call K’s firstmom T.  T did not just give her child life, an amazing gift in and of itself, but birthmom felt like a term that would relegate her role to that level.  She is a woman who raised her son for almost a year, most of that as a single parent after K’s firstdad passed away.  She is a woman who was very obviously grieving very hard when we met her–grief transcends language.  She is a woman who made an incredibly hard decision for her little boy, one she will have to live with for the rest of her life, in a culture that absolutely loves children.  “Birthmom” didn’t seem like it could even come close to demonstrating her role in his life.

Recently, I was reading a blog (not one of my usual ones) written by an adoptive mom about her child.  She was going on about how much she felt she had missed, how sad she was that her child was not with her for several months before bringing the child home.  It was obviously written with love and desire to have spent more time with her child.  And it made me wonder if most adoptive parents feel that way.

I don’t feel that way.  I don’t wish that I’d had K since he was born.  I’m sad that he spent 4 months in the care center, though it was inevitable, but I don’t remotely feel sad that I missed his first year.  And the major reason I don’t feel particularly sad about it is that he spent that time with T, part of it also with his firstdad, and the rest of it with T’s large family. 

I wonder about that year–what was it like when he was born, when did he first smile, what did he do all day while T was making bread from enset (false banana).  I wish he hadn’t spent much of that time hungry.  I wish that he hadn’t spent some of that time with untreated ear infections that left scars on his eardrums and affected his hearing.  But I cannot wish that he hadn’t had that time with his first family, and they with him.  I can’t do that. 

It would probably be different it he’d been abandoned, because he wouldn’t have had that one-on-one love of his family.  I would probably regret not having been able to bring him home sooner in that case.  But that’s not the case for K.  The whole time we waited for a referral, I prayed that my son was with his first family for as long as possible.  We got K’s referral only 2 weeks after he was brought to the orphanage in Hosanna.

While we were at my sister’s wedding, I referred to T as K’s firstmom.  Some people asked for clarification, “Do you mean his biological mother?”, to which I would say that T is K’s mother.  She remains his mother, no matter what the governments in question say about relinquishment meaning that there can be “no ongoing interest in the child.”  You can’t tell me that T doesn’t think about K every day, that a piece of her heart isn’t walking around with the son that we share, 8000 miles away.

Being K’s second mother or adoptive mother doesn’t make me any less his mother.  It just makes me different from his firstmom.  But we both love him and always will.



  1. sky girl said,

    This made me want to cry.

  2. My Reality said,

    Beautifully said, Erin.

  3. Emily said,

    This was so beautiful and so honest. You are a strong woman to believe this.

  4. Rebel said,

    Awww you are just awesome!!
    Hugs sweetie, I think you have the right idea!!

  5. Jesspond said,

    Great post!!
    I feel similarly. I don’t want Rachel not to be Ava’s Mom and we use the term for both she and I, though we also use birthmom and Mommy Rachel. I didn’t give birth to her, RACHEL did. I’m not insecure about that and I don’t need to be.

  6. Samantha said,

    It’s a hard concept for people to understand, that your son has two and will always have two mothers. You post explains it so well.

  7. beagle said,

    It’s very hard to find words to describe and label something this complex and important.
    I think finding what feels meanignful to you is the best any of us can do but then explaining it to the rest of the world is still a challenge, isn’t it?

  8. DD said,

    I think this was perfectly said, and even more perfectly thought.

  9. Courtney said,

    Beautiful! Made my heart lift up and strikes me as a very excellent example of what it is to really LOVE. Thank you for being so beautifully you and for sharing this post.

  10. Jitters/Enat said,

    It is amazing how I never thought of this until we entered into adoption. Now I think about it daily, even while waiting for a referral.
    Well said, dear friend, well said.

  11. Betty M said,

    A beautiful post to reflect a beautiful sentiment.

  12. Melody said,

    I think a successful adoption takes this kind of honesty and reflection. K’s a blessed little boy to be loved so much by two women.

  13. Amanda said,

    This? Was such a fabulous post. You know much of our story…S was with her first-family for the first five days of her life, and then spent the following nine months in the SWI. I would never wish away that first week (ever!)…but I do wish that I could have been there for the following nine months.
    We call her parents first mom/dad, too. Because they were. And they still are just that..her parents.
    Sending much love to you. Am thrilled that you are writing again.

  14. Dana said,

    I have the perfect poem for you reflecting your thoughts…
    Once there were two women who never knew each other.
    One you do not remember, the other you call mother.
    Two different lives shaped to make you one.
    One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.
    The first one gave you life; and the second taught you to live it.
    The first one gave you a need for love; the second was there to give it.
    One gave you a nationality. The other gave you a name.
    One gave you a talent. The other gave you aim.
    One gave you emotions. The other calmed your fears.
    One saw your first sweet smile. The other dried your tears.
    One sought for you a home that she could not provide.
    The other prayed for a child and her hope was not denied.
    And now you ask me, through your tears, the age-old question unanswered through the years-
    Heredity or environment, which are you a product of?
    Neither, my darling, neither. Just two different kinds of love.
    Unknown author

  15. Erin O' said,

    I just wrote a post about the time before the care center and the adoption regarding my older son. I don’t wish he hadn’t spent that time with his first family.
    I think my issue is that it’s hard for me to meet him where he is now. Much harder than for his younger brother, who was more of a baby when he arrived home with us. It’s difficult to attach to someone who doesn’t want to attach to you. It’s hard to feel good about painful things that happened to your child before he was relinquished.
    I’m searching for ways to help myself to understand him, and I am super-conscious of the fact that indeed, I am not his first mother. He may never consider me to be his mother — adoptive, second, or otherwise. That’s something I need to accept and learn to not feel badly about.

  16. Me said,

    Coming over from bridges. This is an AMAZINGLY compassionate and empathetic post. You must be an amazing person.

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