Where is the (M)?

My children’s birth mothers inform my “othering” every day.  As an adoptive mother, I am always and all the time looking for the (M) … under beds where mismatched socks wait to be found, in wet laundry gone stank because I forgot, in report cards needing to be signed and my pen hovers. In kisses at night when they are asleep. 

I find the (M) in pictures my husband takes of us, in their smiles when they shine, and I connect the smiles to a signing up for football or riding lessons to choices to things given / up. In their shining, I understand the significance of holding and offering choices, and I step into the (M)….

My children’s birth mothers are beautiful. They are (M); I am ‘O’: other …  But I bet if I asked them, they could tell stories about othering.

Their grief, their choice, defines and embodies what I know to be love.  And so, because of their love, I cannot always find my feet. I stumble around, looking for the (M) I promised them I’d step into.

For most of my career, I have worked with women leaving the sex trade. “I did not give my child up,” one woman told me. “Lose the give up. Give. I gave my child.” I stumbled in reverence.

In my writing-work, I teach that we are transformed by the words we put on the page, even words conceived in grace and intention, words birthed in a bloody mess and cleaned up and offered as gifts to the world. Mothering is bloody and messy; to me mothering is being present to the risk inherent in creating, in the birthing moment. And staying regardless.

Who is mother? Does it matter?

My daughter’s birth mother swam in the mornings after my husband and I took her baby home, leaking breast milk into chlorine so no one would see her cry.  My son’s birth mother and I pushed his carriage over snow ruts to the books store where the owner attended to us as if we were a couple, and the two of us loved her for that. These women gave and relinquished.

Relinquishing is an unexpected and devastating aspect of mothering. For both biological and adoptive mothers. For our children to shine we must relinquish. I glimpse the (M) in this experience: I have learned loving even when it is messy is a choice that changes everything. A costly, lifegiving choice. Relinquishing and loving results in an othering that is entirely transformative. 

I am still working it out: (M) othering.

I am lifted by my choices and those of my children’s birth mothers.