Moving Beyond Biological Children: A Mother’s Day Tale

A dear friend texted me today, “I want to tell you happy Mother’s Day.  I know all too well how hard this day can be.  You WILL be an AMAZING mom!!!”

I have to agree, I will be an amazing mom.  Not because I’ve read tens of parenting books (I haven’t, but I probably should).  Not because I have some special way with children (I don’t).  Not because I have an incredible husband who empowers and encourages me (I do, and that definitely doesn’t hurt).  Not because I’ve been yearning to be a mother for years now and I have so much love to give (although that’s true).

It’s because I have an AMAZING mom.

This photo, from my wedding day, is one of my favorite photos of us ever.  It reminds me of every ballet recital she prepared me for and every homecoming or prom she did my hair just the way I wanted.  As I stare at the photo, I can remember so many moments with her standing behind me, helping me along.

In settling into foster care preparations, I’ve nearly forgotten the heartbreak our infertility caused me.  So much so, that when my friend sent me that text this morning, I was almost caught off guard remembering how awful this day could have been.  Ian and I talked during our dating days about being foster parents, and as this situation continues to unravel, it feels so clearly like we were meant for this.  But I also realize we probably wouldn’t have made it to foster care without infertility.  And I’m okay with that.  But I might not have been if not for a simple conversation with my mom…

A couple months ago, I told her Ian and I were moving forward with foster care.  She had come to visit and we were driving to see my little sister coach a volleyball game.  She started talking about how me, Shannon, and Jessi (my sisters) are so different.  Simply because she bore us didn’t make us clones of her or give her some telepathic connection to us.  Sure, we shared some physical traits, but other than that we were our own people.  The character traits I have resembling my mom aren’t because she gave birth to me.  I have them because she raised me.  And something about that conversation was so healing for me.

That conversation answered the nagging, devastating question of “What if Ian and I never get to see what our biological children look like?”  I don’t think the root cause behind that question really had to do with aesthetics, I think it had to do with connection.  Can I innately, immediately understand what a child needs without being it’s biological mother?  No, I can’t. But that’s ok, because as it turns out that’s a learned skill for all moms alike.  There wasn’t some telepathic connection that told my mom I was hungry when I was a newborn, she learned through trial and error of going through the checklist of things to pacify a crying baby.  There wasn’t some telepathic connection that told my mom I skinned my knee by falling off my bike, she learned because I’d come crying and limping back home with blood trickling down my leg.  A telepathic connection didn’t tell my mom I was struggling to get dressed for college graduation because I was sobbing, devastated by a recent breakup—I did, when I called her and told her, somewhat unintelligibly through sobs, that I couldn’t get my sweater on.

And even without these superhuman powers, she still manages to be superhuman.  Over three decades after my birth, she still champions me and the desires of my heart.

Mom, thanks for being the best mom ever (not biased or anything).  I’m sorry I can’t give you the gift of gleefully telling all your friends that you’re going to be a grandma (again) in the traditional sense of the word, but somehow I feel like that doesn’t bother you.  I know you’re striving to understand your role as a foster grandma and how best to support Ian and I and our future children in this, but rest assured you continuing to stand behind us and cheerlead this journey is all the support we need.

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