What No One Told Me About Being an Adoptive Mom

What no one told me about being an adoptive mom was this: I will always, always carry my daughter’s birthmother in my heart.

I don’t think about my sister’s birthmother in China.  We know nothing about her.  We will probably never meet her.  I’ve never even thought much about her.  I am embarrassed by that, but it’s the truth.

But in a domestic adoption, everything is different.

I met Zoe’s birthmother.  I propped Zoe’s birthmother up with pillows in the hospital.  Our tears mingled as I hugged her goodbye and walked out carrying the baby we both loved.

I can’t forget her.

I can’t pretend not to think about her.

She is forever in my heart.

We opted for a semi-open adoption, which means that Zoe’s birthmother doesn’t know our full names or where we live, but we update her with pictures and letters at regular intervals through a special website designed for birthparents and adoptive parents to connect.  We have opted to receive letters from her if she wants to send them, and our agency has given us a few updates on her adjustment and grief process.

The night before we met her for the first time, I spent hours Googling “what to say when meeting a birthmother for the first time,” “nervous about meeting birthmom,” “questions to ask and not to ask,” etc.  I remember reading a poignant blog post by a birthmother about statements to avoid.

One was:  “I’m sure you did what was best for you.”

She wrote,

“Someone actually said this to me and I wanted to hurt them. Does anyone really, truly believe that I chose adoption for my sake? It wasn’t best for me. What was best for me was keeping and parenting the daughter I loved so very much. Placing her was hell for me, certainly not best for me…I did what was best for [my daughter.] Period.”  

I think about our birthmother.  She wanted to keep Zoe.  She loved Zoe.

She loved her too much to keep her.  She wanted Zoe to have more than the life that she could give her.

As we sat in the hospital with her, she held Zoe and talked to her through tears about the opportunities, the clothes, the love, the stability that we would give her.  She told Zoe her reasons, trying to help her understand why she was doing this.  In response, Zoe slept, cried, ate, smiled.  She didn’t understand.

But some day, I hope she does.

Some day, I hope she understands that she has two women who love her.  Two women who came together in partnership to give her the best life possible.  Two women who correspond about her.  A woman who uploads pictures every three months of a beautiful growing girl, and a woman who looks at them 11 times in 24 hours (or so the website tells me.)  A woman who carried her for nine months with love and care, and a woman who carries her and tucks her into bed at night with love and care.

Tonight, Zoe needed a little extra attention at bed time.  I put her to sleep, but a few minutes later she was crying again.  She wanted to be held, rocked, loved just a little more.

I was tired—Sundays are a long day for this ministry wife.

But I thought of her birthmother, and my promise to her to give her daughter all of me.  I thought of the privilege I have to watch this little girl grow up—a privilege her birthmother would give anything for.  Something that she and God together chose ME for, though I have done nothing to merit such an unfathomable blessing.

And I picked her up and sang to her and rocked her to sleep again.

“We love you, Zoe,” I whispered.


17 thoughts on “What No One Told Me About Being an Adoptive Mom

  1. Sarah…you are amazing. We, Chad and I, love you all so much. And love and pray for you all, including the birthmother. Thank you for sharing such a personal and intimate feeling. We will see you Monday, March 18 to celebrate. Blessings my sister. Sam

    1. Thanks so much, Sam!! We so appreciate your prayers for all involved. Our birthmom is definitely in my thoughts and prayers every day. I’m so glad you and Chad are coming…we cannot wait for that special day. We are blessed to have you two in our lives! XOXO

    1. Thanks Marcia! It has been so much fun connecting with you on Facebook and now here. You are a great example of a wonderful, loving, supportive mom and I’m grateful to know you. I will never forget how encouraging you were to me when I was struggling in college. Your note made me feel less alone in my struggle and made me feel like someone understood. I don’t know if I ever told you how much I appreciated it, so in case I didn’t, I’m telling you now!

  2. Oh Sarah! What a beautiful entry–I was so moved and I am not sure when my tears will stop. Zoe is a very lucky little girl to have two moms who are so committed to her happiness and well being and who love her with all of their hearts.

  3. My friend placed her daughter for adoption almost three (four?) years ago. Since that time, I haven’t been able to look at adoption the same. I know that for every family that is made whole with this new life, I know there is a mother who is heart-broken after making the most selfless decision of her life.

    I am glad you pray for her – she certainly needs it in this delicate time.

    Love you. You are amazing. Let’s pray together when I come visit.

  4. thank you for this. as a birthmother who placed, and now a biological and foster mom, i appreciate this post on every level.

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