A Moment In The Life Of One Adoptive Mother
Written by
Lanita Andrews
November 2010
Written by
Lanita Andrews
November 2010
Following Jodi McIsaac Marten's lead, I am sharing a little about being an Adoptive-Mother. Here is a story about the first time I used the term First-Mother with my daughter - We’re sitting on the loveseat, my youngest daughter and I. The mini-sofa, wrapped in beige chenille, sits perpendicular to the television, and it is my three-year-old’s favorite spot in the house. Even when the T.V is not playing, she sits sideways, facing it, as though Mickey Mouse Clubhouse might begin at any second. She’s on my lap, my legs crossed Indian style, with her back facing me, as we read “Happy Adoption Day”. It’s actually a song with illustrations, but since I can’t read music, we make up our own silly tune to the words. Since bringing home a mixed terrier puppy from Pet Smart a few months earlier, one whom my youngest both chose and named, my daughter has become increasingly fascinated with the concept of adoption; asking questions about Punch’s mommy, and why the rest of his family doesn’t live with us too. This morning, the conversation becomes more in-depth than usual when my older daughter, an entire year wiser than her little sister, begins asking questions. Oldest is taking the lead in this discussion, and I am excited to follow. We talk about how sometimes babies are born to one family but become part of another. I am careful in my word choice, so as not to imply adoption replaces the family of origin, but is an addition to it. “We adopted Punch. That means we are now his family too. Isn’t that wonderful?” Oldest agrees, but not without adding (with as much somberness as a preschooler can muster up) “I bet Punchy misses his Mommy.” Bittersweet; she doesn’t know that word yet, but she definitely gets the concept. Of course, the conversation evolves from Punch’s adoption to my younger daughter’s. We’ve talked about it many times before, and I say it again here, that Big-Sister grew in Mommy’s tummy, and Little-Sis grew in Auntie’s tummy. What’s different this time around, is that oldest seems to be making the connection between baby-in-tummy and Mommy. Uh-oh. I was not expecting this. I knew the time would come when I would have to explain that my sister is my younger daughter’s biological mother, but not now, not yet. Yes yet. It’s time to go there, and though I’ve practiced the explanations in my head more times than I can count, and rolled the words around on my tongue until they feel at home there, those monologues were pieced together with older versions of my daughters in mind. I don’t know what I’m about to tell them, but one thing is for certain; “Biological Mother” is not a term I am ready to define. I have to stay true to the story though, and the sooner my daughter begins to understand the truth of her beginning, I firmly believe, the easier it will be for her to accept. I have to tell her that my sister was her mother before I was. I try to vocalize it; First –Mother, but the only thing coming out are tears. I try again to speak, but only output a squeaky whisper. It’s just words; two words, three syllables, nothing more. But words are seldom only words – especially in adoption. Crying evolves into a quiet panic, as all of the worries I’ve held since before her birth come tumbling down on top of me. It’s not as though I think this one conversation will be her undoing, but I can’t help the fear that it may be the beginning. Will she feel ungrounded; plucked from her foundation to float without a sense of roots? Will she feel the untying of binds we’ve wrapped around each other in love? I can’t bear the thought of it – that my beautiful, innocent daughter might ever question for one second of her life, that she one-hundred percent belongs. But. I can’t bear the thought, that in my fear, my daughter might sense that there is something wrong with the way she came to be a part of our family. To not honor my daughter’s origins is to give them shame, and I love her too much to do that. She turns back to look at me, sensing I have something to say. I take all of the hopes I have for her – a feeling of wholeness, a strong sense of self, pride in her own authenticity – I look at that grand possibility in her future, one that I am ushering her into, and I tell her, with all the splendor it warrants; “Did you know that Auntie was your First-Mother?” I am released. The words can never be taken back, and regardless of my fears, her existence in my family, in the world, is something to celebrate, and I am finally free to do so completely. She is fascinated, and I continue with a simple explanation, not getting into reasons, about how she came to be my daughter, and always will be. When she asks about my tears, the few I can’t rein in, I awkwardly fumble through an explanation on the inner-workings of a mother’s heart. I’m sure I’m only confusing her, until I realize she is no longer listening. There is another book beside her, and she is ready to move on… for now.

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  • Lanita Andrews

    Thanks ladies for reading and commenting!
    Rathi - I had worried quite a bit about how difficult it would be to discuss it with my daughter, and had debated with myself, over and ovder again, what I'd be willing to share with her, but I've found that when those moments come, all it takes is to look into her eyes to put things into perspective. Honesty and openess really are my only options, and I am continually suprised by the sense of release I experience as I reveal more and more to her. I know it's not like that for all adoptive parents, and it's probably easier for me since her birthmother happens to be one of the most important people in my life, but I'll hope the same will be true for you.

  • Kelly Allardyce

    Wow, this story really moved me.

  • Lanita Andrews

    Thanks for the kind words ladies!

  • Debra Gagnon

    Very poignant Lanita. Written with a true Mother's heart. Thank you.

  • Vica Miller

    what a beautiful story. thank you for sharing