Adoption and Mother’s Day: An Adoptee’s Perspective
I have three moms. I have not seen one of them in 20 years. One of them has passed away. I talk to one of them via phone seven days a week. I love all of them. Each shaped who I would become.
I read a story recently from an adoptee who had written about the complexities of having multiple moms. I almost decided not to publish this because of it. ‘People won’t want to hear another adoptee’s story about an adoptee having multiple mothers,’ I told myself.
Even as an adult, even as a professional and academic in the field of adoption, part of me had still been conditioned to think there was little variation in particular types of adoption stories; that if I experienced the complex feelings of loss related to being separated from multiple mothers, there was less value in telling my story if another adoptee had a similar experience.
However, my story is no less valuable or less unique than any other adoptee’s story. Like neither of my moms is less valuable than another. My birth mom still guides me, her soft voice echoing in my head, telling me to be kind. My adoptive mother, ‘mama,’ the name I decided to use to differentiate her from my other adoptive mother, is with me in spirit every day, even if she cannot be with me on the physical earth. ‘Mom,’ my other adoptive mother, is still my rock after all these years. She is still helping me be the person I want to be, still showing her son how to be a strong, supportive adult.
Adoption starts with loss. The loss inherent in my separation from my birth parents, birth siblings, and birth grandparents were all things I experienced before I was ever adopted. When one of my adoptive mothers passed away when I was an adolescent, I experienced a type of loss I had never experienced before. It was painful. It still is. Painful though the losses are, I don’t know a life without my three moms. I would never want to. I’m so proud of them. All made a pact to love and protect me in their ways. Each decided that no one had dibs on my love.
When you are a child, you don’t know how the losses you have experienced affect you. I believe I am still learning, and I hope that process never stops. I also hope that adoptees know that it is OK to have complex feelings about your moms and about adoption. You can be proud and hurt. You can feel joy and sadness about your moms-even on Mother’s Day.
Written by Tony Hynes, MA, C.A.S.E. Training Specialist and author of The Son With Two Moms, Interracial adoptee with LGBTQ identifying adoptive parents, Ph.D. Student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, studying social connectedness among adult interracial adoptees.
An Open Letter to All Mothers for Mother’s Day
Mother as a noun is defined as a woman in relation to her child or children or as a verb: to bring up (a child) with care and affection.
For many current and former foster youth, family is a unique term and one that I believe we get to define for ourselves. Indeed, everyone does, but I’d argue that this is so much more true and more meaningful to those of us with child welfare experience. To that end, I write this open letter to all my mothers that have, in their own way, raised me and have made me their child.
First to my adoptive mother: When I think of Mother’s Day or my mom in general, you’re the first person that pops into my head. You chose me, you loved me, and you raised me as your own. From the day you saw me until your dying breath when I was 11 years old you were the only mom I’d ever known. My heart still hurts on Mother’s Day because I can’t celebrate with you in person anymore, but my heart rejoices that legally you are my mother and what a great one you were. I love you, mom.
Second to my stepmother: It is crazy to believe that you’ve known me even longer than my adoptive mother and have been in my life longer than she has been. You’ve loved me since you’ve known me and while some of that time was before you were my stepmother, I cannot think of someone better to carry the mantle of raising me after my mom, your best friend, passed away. Quite literally you helped put me and the rest of our family back together. While there were times we didn’t see eye-to-eye you loved me through it all and I can unequivocally say I am the man I am today because of the love you have for me. Though I may not always show it, I love you, mom.
Third to my Bonus Moms: You’ve given me the gift of your children as my best friends. And in doing so I gained more moms than I ever thought possible. You all call me your son and expect me to show up for all family functions. We’ve talked about issues and involved me in family decisions and traditions. The guidance you’ve given me and continue to give has guided me in more ways than I can say. Looking back on it all now, I cannot imagine my life without you and thankfully I don’t think I’ll ever have to. I want you to know, I love you, mom.
Fourth to my Drama Mama: You saw my talent for performance and pushed me to become the best I can be both on and off the stage. You shared your passion, time, and love for me and despite living on opposite ends of the globe, you make me feel loved every time we connect. Though I started as your student, you made me a son, and if it is unclear, I love you, mom.
Fifth to my Work Moms: You saw a young man wanting so much to succeed and you believed in him even when he didn’t. When I was unsure of my career you gave me the confidence to try a bunch of different things until I found what I wanted to do. Your unwavering belief in me to succeed and live the life I want means more to me than you can imagine. I hope to make you proud in all that I do, no matter what that is. I really want you to know, I love you, mom.