by Rachel Dueker

Three and a half years ago, the greatest event happened to me and my partner. I had my child. A healthy, sassy, 16 year old child. In our adoption journey, we had found Mike and our world was never the same. From the first photo to the devastating, partially withheld, 300 page file of neglect, abuse and self destruction; we loved him. There was a force pulling us to him. He was birthed by another woman. Abandoned by her but he found his way to our world and I believe that God had a hand in that. You would think adopting child stuck in foster care for years would have been easy, it was not. It was a journey of red tape, fear, heartache, joy and stamina.

I get and I am sure lots of us adoptive moms get questions about his “real mother” Last time I checked,  I was not a unicorn nor a drug induced manifestation, I am real. Birthing a child does not make you a real mother, raising and loving that child does.

One of the most painful conversations I have ever had was with a family member when my partner began gender transition. Not because of the transition conversation but the arrow shot out at me as she lashed out wrestling with her own stuff. I was told that I was a great mom but because I did not carry Mike in me, I could never know the pain a real mother goes through. No I thought! Because you carried this child your love for them should be unconditional and you should be able to put their needs first. Bonding with my abused son made me put aside my own ego, become calmer to weather his fears and stand in the truth that my child was part of me but not of me.

Look, I will shout out to moms who have birthed their kids! Seen many births and damn ladies, you rock. Its not something that is easy, the pregnancy or the birth You are awesome mamas. You do not however have anything more over adopted moms. The challenges and struggles are different but just as “real”. I guarantee you all adoptive moms also go through fear, cravings, questions, nesting, nightmares and bodily distress in waiting for our kids. My child was not carried inside me but there were days my body was a punching bag from inside out when waiting on red tape, trying to soothe my kid over Skype and trying to bring him home. Our labor is that fight for our children and our birth the day we put them in the car and take them from a foster home or hospital forever. Your club and mine are the same, the birth story just has different pages.

Moms are the ones who are there unconditionally, even when they do not understand their children. They support the good and healthy in them and they also RALLY when their kid slides or fails in life. They help them heal. They worry more about what pain their child feels than what others might think or their own issues. I love my son more than my life and have empowered him to make healthy choices and support him in learning it’s OK to fail and try something else as long as the long term goal is movement from your true self. If you did not know me, you would not know I did not birth my son because for me how he was birthed is inconsequential in my role of supporting his whole life and loving him through that.

I grew up with many folks who had moms in the word but not the actions. They birthed them but never protected or supported them. Some friends had step moms or aunts or sisters who filled that void either from necessity or death. Birth is an action. Being mom is a privilege not a right. Real moms are the ones who stay the duration and don’t turn their back or regress into their own stuff when their child’s life gets tough. Real moms are born, they just do not always birth. So here is my shout out to all
REAL moms, the bio moms, the adopted or foster mom, the step moms , the aunts , grams or siblings that may or may not have carried that child in their body but do in their heart. So this mother’s day whether you are a REAL mother or love a Real mother in whatever form they came to love you : know the memories we carry of love are not of DNA but actions and memories of love and safety. For all of us who have or give that, have a wonderful mothers day and may we love and pray that those lost without someday find that love.

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