Mother’s Day for Me, a Non-Birthing Woman

 

I don’t know anything about the origins of Mother’s Day, or when it was established. I’m not going to research it either. All those details will make me lose the thread. I just want to say some things.

I don’t think I’m much of a mother in the June Cleaver tradition of the role. Out of necessity and then noticing an emerging aptitude, I went the route of career. But then, after I’d been left heartbroken by a guy named Mike, I did a stupid thing and got married. It was brief. It was to a man fifteen years my senior who had a few kids, the oldest closer in age to me than I was to my husband. Just before the wedding, the second child set several small fires in one of the local parks, stood there and watched the engines arrive and the fire fighters battle the flames into submission, and then (or so it was described) eagerly put his hands out for the cuffs. I’ll never forget sitting in the juvenile detention center the day of, taking the presumptive role of mother bear, giving him a stern look and asking, “Did you do it?”

I knew damned well he did. He’d been breaking into houses in the neighborhood and running scams at the local arcade.

“Yeah,” he muttered.

“What’d you do that for?”

Shoulder shrug.

I married his father anyway. Yes, stupid me.

The child was sentenced to four months in a youth facility, ended up serving nine for bad behavior, and cost me a pretty penny in restitution payments. I also had to do the nasty job of getting his county-appointed therapist replaced; the guy was no match for the boy. I knew. At least I thought I did. He often did crazy things like grab a butcher knife from the kitchen, run into the bathroom, lock the door, and then start screaming bloody murder while I stood outside the door knocking, listening, knocking, listening, and periodically telling him to knock it off. I figured he was testing my commitment. Later on, after the arrest, he was diagnosed as borderline sociopathic. So, I guess it wasn’t a test after all.

You may be wondering where his parents were in all of this. Well, I figure that’s why I was there.

After his release, I helped him get some things together. When I left the marriage, I sold the boy my car for a dollar, and then moved to the east coast. He called me a few years later, just before his 18th birthday. He needed to tell someone that he was having some trouble; trouble that he didn’t feel he could tell anyone else. From 3000 miles away, there wasn’t much I could do, but I tried, and was told it was too late. He was too near the age of adulthood.

I wasn’t much of a mother to him. But I think a smidgen of good may have come out of our short time together.

Years later, when I left the East Coast and returned to the area, I married the right man. His family was big and local with lots of traditions and expectations, including many about a woman’s role. Mostly from my mother-in-law. Still mostly from my mother-in-law. He was the oldest of 14 cousins, the majority of whom were still in high school, or just out of, when I came into the picture. So, given I had married the oldest, there seemed to be an expectation that we would be the first to have kids.

I couldn’t have kids. I didn’t know it, but it became obvious, and then confirmed by the doctor who called me at home and nonchalantly told me, a young thirty-something woman, that I was entering menopause. I didn’t know what the hell that meant. I only knew that I had a daughter on the way. I’d even chosen her name. So it didn’t make sense to me. And it took a year for me to get over it.

In the meantime, I went to a few Christian women’s retreats and got a taste of what it would be like for me to try and fit in with the “traditionals.” Do you know how horrible it feels to be in the company of women who extra-often discuss and compare birthing experiences? Not fun. I started feeling like a substandard woman.

A year later, we began looking into adoption. We began working with an agency. It was interesting. First, I don’t like being “handled” by someone. Second, I don’t like being told that being honest “isn’t the way we do things round here.” The social worker … Rona … wow. Anyway, the “profile” to be shown to the birth mothers wasn’t really about us; it was what the agency dictated would be presented. They also required that we attend a group session with other adoptive-parent candidates. Let’s just say, there was an awful lot of weeping going on … around us. I’d had no idea how deep the anguish ran with so many women. My husband and I didn’t attend any other meetings; neither of us is the publicly-emoting type.

There were other things too, but I don’t want to get too off track.

Once all was finished, we waited. I prayed. A lot. I found myself returning to the story of Abraham and Sarah over and over. After a year had passed with no word from the agency, I got a call from Rona, the social worker. She told me we would need to change our criteria because “We just don’t get babies like that.” This meant that they just don’t get babies from birth mothers free of mental illness, alcohol issues, or drug use.

“No, we’ll wait,” I said.

Two months later, Rona called again.

“Your daughter is here,” she said.

We were to go to the hospital the next morning to visit her; she’d been born six weeks early and would need to remain hospitalized in the NICU. That night I poured through names (forgetting I had already picked one), and quickly stumbled upon the one. Of course, it was the same name I had picked out years before, per the worn and tattered business card I found months later with her blurred name written in runny blue ink on the back.

When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, they said we could take her home. Turned out she’d been born full-term; the birth mother had lied, which is a whole other story. I didn’t care.

The nurses had taken possession of our newborn, telling me that she’d emerged from the womb angry, and that they’d named her Madison. Then they mocked me because I was obviously nervous about picking her up.

“You’re not going to break her!”

“Thanks for the tip. And by the way, her name is Rose,” I said.

When Rose was almost two years old and I was working part-time with a nanny’s help on those days when I went to the office, we learned from a neighbor that the nanny had been doing some things that were endangering Rose’s safety. We fired the nanny, and realized that one of us would need to stay home to take care of Rose. The plan was put in place; my husband quit his job thinking it would only be until Rose started school, and I went back to a full-time schedule.

My work schedule became overwhelming. And my time with Rose wasn’t nearly enough. When we did have time, she didn’t say much. She just stared at me.

When Rose was almost 4 years old, she asked if she could have a baby brother or sister. The kids in the neighborhood were all older than she was, and she was tired of being the littlest.

I can’t say that my husband and I had any lengthy or thoughtful discussions about it. We simply moved forward, eventually finding ourselves working with a small and unorganized agency headed up by a woman who wore muumuus. I really liked her. She matched us with a young couple, both of them 19 years of age, and we invited them for dinner. One of the mothers came with them. They left that night and for weeks we heard nothing from our muumuu wearing director.

Not able to wait any longer, I called her one day to find out the verdict. She answered the phone. She was in her car. I could hear someone in the background speaking in Spanish, whimpering now and then. She said that the couple had said no; that they were placing the baby with family friends. And that she would have to call me back. She was helping a young woman, a very pregnant young woman, find a safe place to stay. And that she needed to find an interpreter as soon as possible.

Something about that call stayed with me.

My husband called me at work a couple of weeks later. Our muumuu-wearing agency director had contacted him about a newborn, a baby who had some issues … and she wanted permission to show our profile to the birth mother.

“Yes,” I said.

“I agree. I think God is telling me that He’s going to give us what we need to care for her,” my husband said.

On the drive home that night, I thought of one name for the baby.

We met the birth mother the next day, and during that meeting, we learned that she was the same woman in the car a few weeks before. We also learned that the name that had popped into my mind the night before was the same as the one put on the birth certificate. (She was named by an adoptive couple who had backed out once the baby was born).

So there was that.

We made our way to the hospital to meet her.

I’m going to stop at this point. Suffice it to say that the details of that day changed the entire trajectory of our lives, and I will certainly lose the thread if I try to tell more.

There’s just one thing. When we adopted our second daughter, the length of my husband’s time as Mr. Mom became open-ended, and ultimately stretched into a decades-long mission. And I slowly and completely lost my place in the family. I just wasn’t there; certainly not mentally. A chasm developed, and eventually the routine at home didn’t include me. I’m ashamed to say that I was too preoccupied and exhausted to fight for my place.

My relationship with Rose became nearly non-existent. And my relationship with my youngest; well, that was different. Not what you think. We weren’t “close” necessarily, but she brought something extraordinary to our lives. To my life. Something that would eventually break the spell I had fallen under; the one that deceived me with empty promises of success, wealth, and opportunity.

As we edged closer to the ten-year mark of my husband’s career as Mr. Mom, my desires had dramatically changed. Not that I’d been beaten down (and I had been!), but I came to realize how fleeting our ideas are about what’s important and what’s not. And how we mistake glitzy roles as more important than those that truly are. The idea of a long-term career no longer held any allure.

One night during dinner at the local Italian restaurant, I asked my family, mostly Rose, if it would be okay if I quit working and came home. Her eyes lit up.

Thankfully, by that time it was easy. I only had to finish out my contracts, and let my employees leave when they were ready. We very quickly dismantled our life from something big and expensive to something small and frugal.

I was finally home. The timing was … perfect? Rose had been struggling for years, unbeknownst to anyone else. Maybe if I’d been home, I would have seen it. So, when I finally got there, we started navigating what had become a very complicated relationship. She hated me. But she also needed me … the mom.

We could debate the perfection of the timing.

The last four years have been hell. Multiple hospitalizations, auto accidents, physical altercations, psychotic outbursts … you get the picture. It was as if God was allowing all of the hidden things to become visible so that they could be dealt with … by and through His strength. Those words sound trite, but when you’re down in the hole, in the dark, and you feel like the devil himself has come and taken up residence in your home, there is only one Person to go to.

Here is what I’ve learned:

Love heals. And love stands outside of time. It is always as strong as it might have ever been. What I mean is this: God’s love and desire to make us whole cannot be hindered by what we consider to be lost time. Or inadequate investment. Should I have lost some degree of love’s power during the years I stood as a bystander to my family’s daily life? To my way of thinking, yes.

But that’s not how things are with Him.

His love is always full, faithful, and able, no matter the height of the mountain in front of us, or how scrappy and squandered the road behind.

So, no, there’s been no physical birthing. I’m no longer sad about that.

The spiritual re-births have more than made up for whatever that physical experience may have been for me. And I’m just as much a mom.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 18 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Blessings in so many ways. Always available from Him, when we open ourselves to the opportunity.  How lovely, How lucky, How Blessed. 

    • #1
  2. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    God-Loving Woman: And I’m just as much a mom.

    Gosh darn right. 

    A mother is someone who raises kids, and builds adults. 

    There are no asterisks. 

    • #2
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    God-Loving Woman: I don’t think I’m much of a mother in the June Cleaver tradition of the role.

    Neither was June Cleaver.

    • #3
  4. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    Blessings in so many ways. Always available from Him, when we open ourselves to the opportunity. How lovely, How lucky, How Blessed.

    Yes. He overwhelms me, and shuts me up. Which is probably good!

    • #4
  5. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    God-Loving Woman: I don’t think I’m much of a mother in the June Cleaver tradition of the role.

    Neither was June Cleaver.

    Right! I’ve not done her justice. 

    • #5
  6. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    I remember when my daughter was pregnant with her second. She was worried that because she loved her fist so much, she wouldn’t have enough love to do justice to the second. Having no patience for nonsense, I told her straight out that was the silliest thing I had ever heard. As if love were a zero sum game.

    We cannot begin to understand the depth of God’s love for us until we accept that everything, everything in our lives is a gift from Him, designed to bring us home to Him. And we can reflect that love by doing our best, with what we know at the time, for those He has put in our path.

    • #6
  7. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Juliana (View Comment):

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    I remember when my daughter was pregnant with her second. She was worried that because she loved her fist so much, she wouldn’t have enough love to do justice to the second. Having no patience for nonsense, I told her straight out that was the silliest thing I had ever heard. As if love were a zero sum game.

    We cannot begin to understand the depth of God’s love for us until we accept that everything, everything in our lives is a gift from Him, designed to bring us home to Him. And we can reflect that love by doing our best, with what we know at the time, for those He has put in our path.

    And now Im in tears. Juliana, you share beauty. Thank you from my heart. 

    • #7
  8. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    Thank you for posting this, @GodLovingWoman, and I hope it gets promoted to the Main Feed.

    • #8
  9. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Thank you for posting this, @ GodLovingWoman, and I hope it gets promoted to the Main Feed.

    Thank you for taking time to read it. Happy Mother’s Day

    • #9
  10. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    I am sorry that you had such a bad experience with the adoption agency.  We had a false start with one agency and after a really heartbreaking experience and some time, we worked successfully with another agency.  I don’t even know if there are many adoption agencies any more.  Ours was one of the largest and best known but shifted to more of a social service agency with classes, etc.  More private adoptions happen now with lawyers, I guess. 

    There is a lot of pain involved in adoption…for mothers, fathers, birthmothers, adoptees.  But I really don’t think it is all that different than the challenges that others experience with their children, just different timing. 

     

     

    • #10
  11. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    I am sorry that you had such a bad experience with the adoption agency. We had a false start with one agency and after a really heartbreaking experience and some time, we worked successfully with another agency. I don’t even know if there are many adoption agencies any more. Ours was one of the largest and best known but shifted to more of a social service agency with classes, etc. More private adoptions happen now with lawyers, I guess.

    There is a lot of pain involved in adoption…for mothers, fathers, birthmothers, adoptees. But I really don’t think it is all that different than the challenges that others experience with their children, just different timing.

     

     

    I agree. I think you are right about the challenges being the same. 

    • #11
  12. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    I enjoyed Yer post.

    Happy Mother’s Day.

    • #12
  13. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    I enjoyed Yer post.

    Happy Mother’s Day.

    Thank you Jimmy Carter!

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’ve just written a post that actually seems to frame your own journey. The path we follow is often not predictable or obvious, but once we get clear and “connected,” we can find our way. Clearly, you have found yours. And it’s wonderful.

    • #14
  15. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I’ve just written a post that actually seems to frame your own journey. The path we follow is often not predictable or obvious, but once we get clear and “connected,” we can find our way. Clearly, you have found yours. And it’s wonderful.

    Well said. From glory to glory. 

    • #15
  16. JoshuaFinch Coolidge
    JoshuaFinch
    @JoshuaFinch

    We need more people who identify as God-loving. Thank you for being one of them. And you inspire others to explore what it would be like to identify as such.

    • #16
  17. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    JoshuaFinch (View Comment):

    We need more people who identify as God-loving. Thank you for being one of them. And you inspire others to explore what it would be like to identify as such.

    Oh! What does a person say except that your comment took my breath away.  He has greatly encouraged me through your words. Thank you

    • #17
  18. God-Loving Woman Coolidge
    God-Loving Woman
    @GodLovingWoman

    To the Ricochet editor: thanks for correcting my spelling of muumuu!

    • #18
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.