How making a hard decision became/becomes the mother in me.

I believe that we are mothered by many in this lifetime.  One of my many mamas is this lake.  I have been coming there since I was around seven if my memory serves me. I just spent my first 24 hours alone there in 7 years. I would swim out to that float, and meditate. This is the very place I made my decision to begin the adoption process. It is where I filled out the first series of applications seven years ago. On a whim last week I wrote to the owner  and asked if the cabin was open from noon to noon the next day.  She wrote back; “It’s yours. No charge. Enjoy.”

Marc and the boys had a magnificent adventure together for one day. Not even a little trouble getting to bed, I learned the next morning.  Sam had fallen asleep in my bed next to a picture of the two of us. Marcel joined him in the early morning.

I was alone with myself.  I was kept company by one loon, several small schools of fish around my dangling-off-the-dock toes, and the deafening silence at dusk embracing my breath. It was magnificent. It was odd. Who am I without them? I found my center quickly because I love that little cabin and that lake so very much. The simplicity, the ease, the focus on nothing but a glass of ice water and a book was pure and simple. When troubling thoughts came up, about the trip, or what has been going on- I was able to just sit with them as need be and then let them go.


I came home deeply rested, reset, reminded of who I am and certain that I made the right choice last week to postpone our trip. I can say with confidence now that I listened very carefully to my son’s needs above all else.  The journey that we needed to make, we did. The figurative journey to Sam’s birth mother, was a deepening of our shared understanding of his anger and grief. From this point, I sense that we are in a much better place to begin wondering about what the actual journey will look like, and when. We made our way closer to her, to ourselves, and to each other by staying here in our collective present.

For me a shift occurred over the last few weeks.  A shift that may be as obvious as the keys on your laptop to you. The shift is simple, and complex: I am Sam’s mom. It took me almost seven years to understand that there is a difference between knowing myself as an adoptive mom, and knowing that I am his mom.  In a different world, they would not both exist. Sam did not choose to have an adoptive mom. After 36 hours he lost all that was familiar, safe, known.  He lost all his little infant heart and brain knew of the world. Then I scooped him up, drew his beautiful, sweet, giant body to me and took over with all my heart and very little knowing.

 I was not instantly his mom then. I instantly became his adoptive mom. I didn’t feel like anything yet. I was in shock. I had been traveling for almost as long as he had been alive. I was there. I wanted deeply to be there. I was looking for a social worker. It was Christmas Eve. I was signing things. I was saying no to pictures in stockings. I was trying to create relationship, and facilitate a meaningful transition with his first mom.  His brain was reorganizing as fast as it could. So was mine. So was hers.

He was angry about it then. I remember the third day vividly. I took him to the ER because I thought something was very, very wrong. Fluid in his lungs? No, unmitigated grief and confusion? Perhaps more like it.

He was angry about it last week too. And there is one person in the world that could hold that anger. Who could become, to use his words, a horrible monster. There was one person who would follow him to the ends of his world, through parking lots, while he accused her of monsterous things. There was one person who not let him take one step more. There was one person, who could be that monster, and put an end to this trip, until we were all ready. There was one person who had to take all that responsibility for that very abrupt change in plans and did. That person was his mom. Me.

Maybe it will not come to you as a surprise that while disappointed at first, Sam changed gears very quickly. His relief was palpable. His energy shift was by degrees as each hour passed.  As I write this I realize he’s had a lot of experience there too. He was and has been uncharacteristically affectionate in a very on going way. He is easy with everyone. He is very attentive. He checked to see if I could un-do the un-doing. When I said no, that this trip was off for now, off until at least next summer, he did not react in the big way  I anticipated. He hugged me again, and told me he loved me. That monster was gone. He had his mom back.

Life is not a sprint, one dear friend, an adoptee wrote to me last week.  It is a marathon and you can take your time getting where you are going. She just met her birth mom a year ago, in her 30’s. We all get there when we are meant to. Instead of meeting his first mom next week, Sam is going to be on a lake, in the very cabin, where I first imagined holding him in my arms. I will get to share with one of my favorite people in the world, where it is that the idea of them in my life, was first born. I will make sure the other sleeps in a life vest.


post script: Certainly we could have all hoped everything would have turned out well for all of us had we gone.  And, we could have discovered that he was indeed ready to be there, and begin to connect on a deeper level with everyone in his biological family-his first family. However, the possibility for something quiet other to have happened in the almost pre-verbal way that he was experiencing it now, was far to great a risk for everyone involved.  We stood to lose much more than we stood to gain at this moment. There was no reason to rush this. That it was I told his first mom too. Her response was one of disappointment for all the kids particularly and of understanding, to a degree, of my choice. I couldn’t ask for more under the circumstances. I plan to write her a letter, and find my words there.


  1. I’m full of sad and warm and hope and love…. you’re just filling me up. Your experience, or rather Sam’s experience, is such a reminder to me of what lays under the surface: so damn much. We see plenty of challenges, but none that come out labeled: I’m angry and hurt that they didn’t keep me. But, I am reminded, it’s there, it’s there, it’s there… so be careful and be ready to be the monster if you have to.

    As someone who loves Sam, I say, thank you Mama for being the the biggest, furriest, huggingest, all-envelopingest Mama Bear you could be. And thank you for giving yourself some time.

    Love to you.

  2. This is a very inspiring and beautifully honest piece of writing. I have been a mother for 4.5 years and yet most of the time I feel like the nanny waiting for the real, adult parent to show up. Then she does show up and it completely surprises me because, well, it’s me.

    Your sons are very fortunate to have a mom who can look inside herself, inside her children and find exactly what they need.

  3. Wow. You nailed it. I think I’m still an adoptive mom … not sure when my shift will occur. That said, I’ve said many times, you did what was right for your family at this time. Now THAT cabin sounds like paradise. *sigh*

  4. What a beautiful opportunity to meditate. We ALL need to do that at times. I agree with the previous commenter that you really nailed the experience of an adoptive mom – I am still there. I wonder when my moment of being “just” mom will happen? Thank you for sharing yours…

  5. Thanks for sharing these experiences with us. Interestingly, just as you were making your decision about whether to go through with the visit to Sam’s birth family, we were preparing for a visit to our home by my son’s birth family. I’ve just started blogging a bit about it now that they’ve left. But I wanted to let you know I really appreciated your reflections about becoming a mom. Not an adoptive mom, but a mom. Until I read this post, I hadn’t quite realized that this transformation is happening for me too, perhaps ironically even more so through having close contact with my kid’s birth family.

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