Love Poetry: Mother-Mother

August 24th, 2010

Last week, I inaugurated a Tuesday series on my favorite topic, love. I started with a poem. So I will continue to write or find snippets or poems or meditations on the many different kinds of love in my world. I’ll call the series “Love Poetry.”


*written December 2008*

She haunts me more and more as we move further into our adoption process. She is beautiful, I’m sure of it. I dream of her. She’s the other woman, the one I don’t know. The one I may never know.

She is the mother of the baby we will adopt. But how do you say it? I can’t think of anything that won’t offend me, or her, or someone. Birthmother sounds like she only has one function–to give birth. I especially don’t like the custom of the greeting on “Dear Birthmother” letters. As if she has already made her final decision. As if she doesn’t have the right to change her mind. As if “birthmother” is her one identifying function in regard to us. I know customs are customs and most people repeat them unthinkingly. But I loved and appreciated one sample letter our agency director showed us; it started:

To Someone Special

I liked that. On ours, we wrote Dear Expectant Parents. Because we have this thing about fathers always being left out of the picture. And yet. That seems cold and distant, not quite right.

Another thing I saw at our adoption agency: a birth announcement that called her first mother. I liked it for a while. But does that make me second mother, with all the frailties of the one who isn’t first? Does that make her the one who came BEFORE, but who no longer exists?

Then we have natural mother & biological mother. Same problems. So am I unnatural? And who wants to be known as the biological mother? This reminds me of genetic code, and anatomy charts. Also cellular walls and mitochondria. I’m not into it.

Words have power. And they strike each of us in different ways. I’ve met mothers who placed children for adoption who were perfectly fine with the term “birthmother.” And another who rages against the word. I understand both. But what will my child call her? The one who first loved her?

The one who grieves?

I don’t know. I’d prefer just Mother. She’s mother and I’m mother. Mother-Mother. But I know that’s not practical–because the way we think of things, a child wouldn’t understand that. I don’t think, at least. Maybe she’ll go by her first name in our family. I know people who do that. But like everything else, it doesn’t seem quite right.

Is all this linguistic waffling a sign of guilt? A sign I haven’t begun to work out even the basics of adoptive parenting? Yes, and yes again. Also a sign that I love this woman I don’t know. I don’t know how I love her or why. But I do.