Every year around this time I start to wonder, are people wishing you a happy Mother’s Day?
To be honest, in the two years since we adopted your daughter, I haven’t thought about you very much. I haven’t wondered where you are, if you’re okay, if you’re in touch with your other three children. I believe that the choices you made, the people you chose to associate with and the photos you post on Facebook tell me all I need to know.
As you probably guessed, I’m not very sympathetic. I know you didn’t have a lot of positive influences in your life and that you’re caught up in a cycle of poverty and abuse that almost no one ever escapes. Perhaps you have a mental illness. But every time I go down that road in my mind, something pulls me back and reminds me that everyone has choices. Why keep having kids when you couldn’t look after them? Why fight to keep the ones left in your care when you weren’t interested in motherhood? How could you not only fail to cherish and protect your babies, but actively neglect them?
These are my thoughts most days. But every year around this time, I start to soften. I wonder if you thought about our daughter on her April birthday and whether Mother’s Day makes you sad.
I know that there are things beyond my understanding, and I realize I’m judging you through my upper-middle class lens, which isn’t fair. I’ve never struggled like you struggled, I’ve never felt what it’s like to have no support or to seek love and comfort in terrible places. And yet, I can’t let you off the hook that easily because the legacy you’ve left for our daughter makes me angry. Furious, actually.
And this anger is a funny thing because on the one hand, your choices gave me the chance to raise a smart, beautiful, funny, loving and spunky as hell little girl. This beautiful creature with the big eyes, the infectious giggle and the GIANT attitude wouldn’t be my daughter if you’d been able to raise her, if you’d been a good mother.
So this is my dilemma: If things were different and our daughter had stayed with you, she wouldn’t cry for her brother every night; she wouldn’t wonder who you are, who her birth father is and why you “gave her away.” She wouldn’t fall asleep cradling her baby picture and she wouldn’t ask me to read the letter from her birth dad over and over again.
I know she loves us and I’m proud to tell you that she has everything a six-year old could ever want: a loving and stable family, a pool and trampoline in her backyard, a great school, friends, swimming and gymnastics lessons and pretty dresses to wear. But what does adoption do to a child’s psyche? How can they not grow up wondering what’s wrong with them, why mom and dad didn’t look after them?
So that’s the trade off. I get to raise your beautiful girl but I also get to try and explain your behavior for the rest of my life. I get to love her and snuggle her every night and I get to console her when she acts out and can’t control her anger. I get to watch her bloom and grow one day and struggle with the weight of her past the next.
To be honest, I love her so much that I would give up being her mom if meant she never had to suffer the consequences of your neglect, if she never had to feel that she was unloved or unwanted even for a minute.
I don’t know what goes through your mind when people say “Happy Mother’s Day”, but that’s what goes through mine.
*Not her real name.