A First and Second Mom First Down with Sam

Sam: What are you looking at?

Me: Oh. Nothing, I was just thinking about moving to somewhere warm one day.

Sam: (while tossing the Nerf football to me) To Africa?

Me: Is that where you want to go?

Sam: Yes. They have lots more brown skinned people there.

Me: Yes there are. But there are places to move that are much closer too-with lots more brown skinned people. Like…

Sam: Where my first mom lives. We can move there. We can move down the street.

Me: (fumbling the ball).  Would that be where you’d like to live?

Sam: Then I could just walk to her house whenever I wanted to see her. She’d always be there.

Me: That would be nice wouldn’t it? If we lived near to her?

Sam: Yes. Then she’d have four kids. Why did she not want to have four? Why did she want you to have me?

Me: It was such a hard choice for her to make Sam. Her  youngest was just a baby. She was all by herself. So, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to give you all the love, attention, time, care, and other things that you needed to grow up as healthy and happy as possible…

Sam: And that is when she called you?

Me: Kind of. She didn’t call me. She read about me in a story I wrote about how much I wanted to be a mommy. She liked the pictures, seeing the water, where we lived. She liked the mommy I was going to be. That’s when she picked me, and that’s when I became your mommy.

Sam: No. You became my other mommy. She is my first mommy. But, I still don’t know why she made that decision. I think she really wants me to be living with her now.

Me: Does it feel that way?

Sam: (beaming that ball at me with the force of an NFL quarterback.) Can we stop talking about this now?

Me: Sure. Can I say one last thing?

Sam: Yes.

Me. I love it when you bring up your first mom, and all of your thinking and wondering about her. You can ask me, or tell me anything that you want to.

Sam: I know mom.


A new book I was told about, that I haven’t read yet; Talking to Young Children About Adoption. My dear friend who told me about the book said; “you don’t even need this.” Well as nice a thought as that is, I am sure I’ll find comfort and new information in it no matter how much practice l we have over here. I will say this, my feelings about being “second mom” and not the “only” mom have gone through a dramatic shift of late. I imagine being inside his head and heart and I just want to make it as easy and open as possible. The “it” being the conversations and the relationship with his first mom.

Addendum: After reading this post, another friend emailed me to say how hard this must be for me. I was very quick to reply to her that it isn’t hard, because I have known nothing else. I went on to explain that this is our relationship-all of it.  It’s not as if this was sprung on me one day-that he had a birth mom.

It’s not like finding out your partner is having an affair. We exist as a triad and beyond. Another friend applauded my not feeling “threatened”.  Again I responded, threatened by what?  No one is taking him away from me. The threat as I see it, is in the not talking about it. It is in that place that I stand to lose something. That something being the opportunity for my son to express and explore all layers of his emerging identity with help and support from me. Consider the alternative.  Talking to a five year old, is much easier I imagine than watching a fourteen year old shut me out because he is in so much pain with feelings he is afraid to share with me, or anyone else.  And knowing how hard he can throw a football now, I need to have these talks while I can sustain the impact!

For another great discussion of the topic check out Adoption Mosaic’s recent post on adoption language.


  1. Love this story. You’re amazing. It takes a strong, confident “second mama” to keep this kind of perspective. Those are some lucky kids you have!

    You guys can come visit Africa to check out the option before you decide the warm place you’re going to move. 🙂

  2. Wow, well maybe not, “wow”…how does one type that feeling you get in your heart when you are so moved by something/someone? I’m tempted to add the book you mention to my ever growing list of books to read. I’m thoroughly intrigued by the ins and outs of adoptive parenting. I do however know about the shut-the-door-in-your-face-heartbreak of raising pubescent/young adult children, and all of the subsequent shifts in perspective as I navigate my way through this very new phase of parenting.

  3. “Another friend applauded my not feeling “threatened”. Again I responded, threatened by what?”

    Many people believe adoptees can only have one mother.

    • Thank you for joining in here Mei-Ling. In my experience, the mental/emotional negating of the “first mother” was born of fear of not being enough of a mother to “compete” with his biological mother. After years of mothering my son, I came to believe in that act as it’s own event. This has created so much space for his first mother, his increasingly important biological mother to assume her omni-present role in his life. Many children have a mother and a father for example. My son can have a first mother, and a second mother. Do you think that is an accurate comparison? What is your experience?

      • [In my experience, the mental/emotional negating of the “first mother” was born of fear of not being enough of a mother to “compete” with his biological mother.]

        I think that is a very good factor into the usage of the term “mother” – prefix or not.

  4. I plan to adopt one day.

    Conversations like this don’t even make you a little bit hurt? My mom and my dad broke up when I was pretty young, and I mostly stayed with my mom. Whenever I was with my dad, I’d scream and scream, “I want my mommy. I want my mommy.” Looking back, I can’t imagine that not having stinging a bit.

    I don’t know; the idea of being not enough makes me scared. I already have enough insecurity issues as it is! I guess those are things you have to get past when it comes time to be a parent?

    • Courtney-I feel them yes. But, it isn’t “hurt” it is awareness that he has two life paths that he is navigating. Yes, I feel them, but really they serve to deepen our relationship. I didn’t always feels this way–it has been work-don’t get me wrong! I am thrilled to see you back here–and love that adoption is in your future!

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