The first time my eldest son, Jaren and I went to visit my youngest son, Noah, six years after his birth, there were unanswered questions. One was about my role and title.
Noah always knew he was adopted. He knew that I gave birth to him and that I am his biological mother. But he was wrestling about how all that tied into our relationship and the titles we should give to each other. Who was I to him? And who was he to me?
Prior to our visit, I was “Karen” to Noah when we talked on the phone and his parents referred to me as, “your birthmom, Karen”.
At five years old, Noah walked over, stood in front of me and said, “What should I call you?”
That’s a powerful question that deserved a thoughtful response; especially to an impressionable five year old.
Noah had already talked to his parents about his quandary.
I told Noah he could call me whatever he liked. I didn’t want to seem presumptuous. I also didn’t want to dictate or control his choice. And I surely didn’t want to disrespect his mother. I wanted Noah to find the right title for me. So after a short pause, he decided to call me Birthmom. Over the next few days, he was so cute in his greetings. He would walk up to me, flash a big smile and say, “Hi Birthmom!”
The “mom thing” is one of the hardest parts in open adoption. I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged my role the way that Noah needed. But it is a balance. I didn’t want to hurt Noah, or his mom, or his dad by my title. I would wonder how to appropriately write my closing salutation on greeting cards; Karen, your birthmom, your other mom, your Texas mom? This is something that could impact Noah’s emotional growth positively or negatively.
Then a couple years later, Noah’s family came to Texas for Thanksgiving. We were still getting to know each other. Although we talked on the phone throughout the year and exchanged emails, we didn’t get to spend time with each other face to face.
This time, Noah wanted to call me Mom. Many different thoughts and emotions began to flash forward. I was surprised, not even certain if he was referring to me or his mom. Then I felt somewhat undeserving of this title. I think his mother sensed this so she quickly whispered over to me, “He asked me if he could you Mom.” She wanted to reassure me that she was okay with this.
I was so deeply touched not just by Noah for his willingness to include me in this worthy title but I was astonished by the grace by which his mother was willing to share that title with me. Not only that, but that Noah was confident enough and comfortable enough to go to his mom and ask her a question like this. And then his mom, understanding her son’s needs to do this.
The last few years, I have been mostly Karen. And I am good with that as long as Noah is good with that.
A couple years ago, when Jaren and I visited Noah and his family, I was greatly honored by his mother once again. As we were walking out of the church service to greet the minister, Noah’s mom introduced me as “Noah’s mom”. I was deeply touched. I am sure the minister was a little confused. As we made our way to the café area, she introduced me a couple more times as “Noah’s mom”. Uneasy about my title, I smiled and said, “Noah’s other mom.” I don’t know why I felt the need to say that. It was out of sheer humbleness. I knew deep within that all these people knew who Noah’s everyday Mom was. I just wanted them to know that I knew that also.
I’ve read many stories about adoption. I’ve read derogatory comments about what a birthmom is or isn’t. The general American society can be very harsh in their uneducated perception. I had no idea what my journey would be when I said good-bye to Noah and his new family, or if I would ever see my son again in our lifetime.
I’ve learned that adoption is not about replacing someone. Noah loves his mother. A biological parent can never be erased. My mother lives on in me, I live on in my two sons (parent to one, birth mother to the other). In the end, love has no boundaries.
So today, I honor Noah’s mom for her love and generosity.
Happy Mother’s Day, Noah’s Mom! I love you dearly.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.