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Many Mothers

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Since this has come up on the forum recently, I thought I would open a thread on the topic of "many mothers." I wanted to share our experience raising a child who identifies as having four mothers: the mother who gave birth to her, the mother who fostered her, and the two who are raising her.  It's hard for me to convey how seamless this is in her consciousness and in our family life, although perhaps it seems odd to others.  And she is absolutely not confused.  "My mother" can refer to any of the three of us (not her foster mom so much) and if she needs to clarify which, she adds a first name.  She's clear that on a practical day to day basis, my partner and her are her mothers, but she will say that her birthmother is "first in my heart because I knew her first."  All of our pictures are posted on her bedroom wall.  I am not any less her mother because I share my title with three other women.


I have held her in my arms while she cries and says, "I miss my mother!" (meaning her first mother) and you know what?  She does, and it's ok.  That doesn't make me any less her mother either.


Every day, I look at my beautiful girl and think about all of the daily happiness and joy that her first mother is not able to experience with her.  I think of the generosity of her foster mother, taking her in and then, when the time came, letting her go.  My daughter is not my possession; she does not belong to me.  "Mother" is a big word, and my daughter has a big heart.  There's room for everyone.

post #2 of 15

We had a similar situation with one of our ffd's.  She was with my family from birth to 10mo and then went back to her biological mother for 10mo--during which we kept in contact.  It was clear that Cookie was slightly confused as a small child, and yet, didn't want to be without either of us.  They moved out of state and 7 weeks later, mom fell off the wagon and she was removed again--and couldn't be transferred back to me due to legalities of the states.  Enter mama #3.  We got involved in the legal battle and saw her regularly--as did her birth mother.


Cookie was almost 3yo when the legalities were resolved.  She still very much identifies each of us as a mother to her.  In fact, we have weaned our visits off because they were really stressing her out to be moving from one mama to the other.  She never wanted any of us to leave, and that's just not how you live--ya know?  And because we got legally involved (not looking to take her back--just looking to give and receive information because mom went AWOL and we had the child's history... and loved her!) birthmom was uncomfortable with our having a relationship with any of the rest of them.


She has actually never called any of us mama although we have all encouraged the use of "mama" with her birthmother--which she now does.  But it came naturally for her to call me and her other fm "mama" because there were older kids in the house (who were permanently there--bio or adoptive) calling us "mama".


It's a long, strange trip this life, huh?


Cookie is doing very well now.  We get pictures and updates and video and voice messages back and forth.  She's almost 4yo, and has a lot of loving "mommies".

post #3 of 15

Thank you, Diane B., for this beautiful, beautiful post. 

post #4 of 15

Our daughter has had four mothers.  Five if you count the nanny at the orphanage, and all of them before she was 10 months.  All of them were with her for a significant amount of time.  I think that's had an effect on her, honestly.  It's been difficult for her.  We only knew her through two of those transitions (once between two foster mothers, then once between a foster mother and us), and both times her reactions were extreme.  Grief, fear, and all the attachment warning signs the books talk about.  I couldn't believe how much a baby could be affected.


Before adopting, I had a really hard time with the idea of calling another woman my child's mother.  I think there's probably a post about it four or so years ago.  I couldn't imagine being comfortable sharing that title.  It really, really bothered me.  Adoptive moms in this forum said I'd get more comfortable with it over time (aja-belly, I think I remember your post!), but I didn't really believe it would happen.


Now it's completely natural.  It would be hard to describe, but we can talk openly about dd's Mom, meaning her birthmother, and it's not confusing. It's not awkward.  It's wonderful, actually.  The freedom and normality feel great.


More important than how we feel is how dd seems to feel.  For the past year she's been asking more and more about relationships.  She's three and I know she's only going to seek more information over time.  Being open and able to talk comfortably about her experience, about her mothers, has meant a lot.  You can see her relax (visibly!) when we start  discussing her time with each foster family, or how she looks like her (bio) mom, or any of the particulars of the women who helped raise her.  You can see she has a yearning to talk about these things, and that by talking about them something is relieved, something is soothed. 


We've had her lifebook for just over a year now, and I can't tell you what a difference it's made in how she processes her story.  Part of that is her increasing age, I know, but I also think it's because it's made her in control of her own story.  She can see it all mapped out right there, and from what she says it makes her feel special.  She likes her story.  She likes the details and the differences.  I'm so glad.  She's the only adopted child in a family of bio-born children, and I worried that somehow focusing on her uniqueness would make her feel isolated or different.  It hasn't seemed to. 


Her mothers come up often in our conversations (with dd or without), and dd brings them up whenever she wants.  It all feels so healthy and right.  We all played a role in getting dd to where she is now, and dd seems to shine when we acknowledge that.  This may be reading into the reactions of a 3-year old, but I have a pretty good sense for her by now....I don't know how else to put it, but that she seems to feel whole.


post #5 of 15

Wow, Diane B: that's awesome. Thank you for posting. flowersforyou.gif

post #6 of 15

Diane, Red Oak and others, thank you for this thread. I'm in transition now with this perspective and appreciate the pull in your direction. I've spoken with others who fly the flag of open adoption and have thought, well, our first (a. 7) is different since she was from a country where we only have info (quite a bit, actually) on paper. I've gone through the paces of opening conversations with her and responding to her very rare comments or questions (in part due to language delays early on), but my heart is always cloaked. I think a part of me is grieving that I was not there from the start and feel selfish. It's good to be honest with myself and very much appreciate the rosier perspectives presented above. I've also wrestled with how to present her birth mother's very sad past since that is all we have on paper. The social workers didn't ever write stuff like, "Has a beaurtiful smile" or "Is good with numbers and helps her elderly neighbors". We have a few books for children on this, including one about a Chinese born girl adopted by a white woman that is written in a poetic style about having two moms, but I can't say that I've truly felt from the depths of my soul true appreciation for her birth mom. Your eloquent posts give me pause and I shall keep them in mind as we continue to pave this path with each other.

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post

Our daughter has had four mothers.  Five if you count the nanny at the orphanage, and all of them before she was 10 months.  All of them were with her for a significant amount of time.  I think that's had an effect on her, honestly.  It's been difficult for her.  We only knew her through two of those transitions (once between two foster mothers, then once between a foster mother and us), and both times her reactions were extreme.  Grief, fear, and all the attachment warning signs the books talk about.  I couldn't believe how much a baby could be affected.

Thanks for adding this, ROM.  I didn't mean my post to imply that having multiple caregivers in early life was necessarily positive for my daughter either - quite the contrary, in fact.  She has really struggled with loss and grief, and she has a super hard time with transitions, anything (I mean anything) coming to an end, etc.  But acknowledging this - and them - has only been helpful on the journey.


post #8 of 15

I didn't write that because of anything in your post. :)  It's just dd's background.  I thought you post was great.

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

ROM - I know, but I'm very glad you wrote it!

post #10 of 15

thank you for this thread! beautiful posts!


we adopted my daughter as a newborn and have an open adoption. we live across the country from her birthfamily, but she calls her birth mother "my birthmom", "my mom melaya" or "my other mom". in just the past 6mos - 1yr she has seemed to understand so much more about it than she used to.  i have no issue with sharing the word "mom".

post #11 of 15

Thank you so much for posting this Diane :)

post #12 of 15

I happened upon this thread and wanted to throw in our story, too.

Our girls are still young (2 and 3) but have no problem with the idea that they have three moms. They have their Mommy and Momma (myself and my partner) and their birthmother...this is just how it is. Any confusion about that comes from the outside (usually adults)...

For the girls, they have three moms, just like some have a mom and a dad, some have a dad only, some don't have a mom or a dad, etc., etc., etc.....


post #13 of 15


 i have no issue with sharing the word "mom"


I totally agree, aja-belly. I was very moved by this post. And am so glad to have found this community of adoptive moms to share with.

post #14 of 15

Wow.  What a really neat post.  I have not adopted yet, but hope to in the next year or so.  And already, I feel like I could get defensive/possessive over the title of MOM.  I hope to come back to what you wrote time and again, because it really is such a generous and mature response to the environment of adoption.

post #15 of 15

Our daughter, now 8, calls me and her birthmom both mommy.  It's funny (now) when her birthmom, who is my sister, comes to visit and our eldest goes "mommy?"  We both say "yes?"  While I'm ok with it now that our adoption is actually going through, it was much harder for me when our roles were still very much in flux.  For a while we referred to ourselves as "everyday mom and dad" as opposed to "birth mom and dad."  That seemed to really click for her.  It took a full year though for her to begin calling me mommy, and even then it was very tentative. Of course she knew me first as her aunt so that was an awkward transition in many ways.


I still get a little possessive of titles when my sister, the birthmom, talks with my daughter about what to cal everyone.  She tends to do less listening and more talking, and will assign titles to herself and to me without consulting me or our daughter (her daughter... my daughter... it's still awkward language here).  So she'll say "well why don't you call your everyday mom "mom" and call me "mommy."  Which makes me feel all kinds of bad but mostly as a result of my own limitations and grief. 


Lastly, I was touched by a PP's image of holding her daughter while she cries for her mommy, meaning her birthmom.  We frequently have that experience as well.  It's still a little hard for me, but I do think it's super important for me to recognize that that's my issues, not hers, and that the last thing I want to do is to compound my daughter's grief over not living with her birthmom.  So I just set my own issues aside and hold her and empathize.  Then I make a note to discuss with my therapist ;-)  I'm realizing in my heart, more and more, as opposed to just my head, that of course she wants her birthmom again.  Of course she wants things back to the way they were, in her mind a happier time.  And I'm learning that that doesn't take away any of what we have together.  And slowly slowly I'm starting to let it sink in that my sister here is actually the one with the sadness because while I get to raise my daughter on a daily basis, she only gets to see her every 3 weeks.  Of course rationally all that stuff hit me long ago, it's the emotional piece that's harder to reconcile.  


Hope any of that made any sense!

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