Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Shadow mothers

True story: I never expected that my kids would forget their birth mothers. That's just not reasonable, especially given that they were 6, 3, and 3 1/2 when they came to live here. I have always known those women would always be a very real and important presence in their lives.

What I did not realize is that I would spend so much time thinking about their birth mothers too.  So much so that it is not really a stretch to say that I feel like I too have a relationship with them, even if we have never met and are unlikely ever to do so.

My feelings about my son's birth mother are complicated. We know absolutely nothing about his first two years, except that they weren't good. To be perfectly honest, I sometimes get pretty angry with her.  I get that she couldn't keep him.  But did things have to get so bad that he became scared –nearly to death– of forming relationships with other humans, especially those of us daring to call ourselves "mom"? Seconds after the anger surfaces, though, it melts. I am in no position to judge and the truth is, no one knows what happened. My son's cells and deep brain probably know more than we think, but they're not sharing (believe me, we've tried).

I am not sure that my connection to my daughters' birth mother is any simpler, but at least I know some of the back story. Without going into details that are not mine to share, I have good reason to believe that she did the best she could under the circumstances. My daughters clearly know what it is to love and be loved.

I spend a lot of time sending thoughts and prayers through the universe, hoping that somehow my children's birth mothers will catch them and know that our kids are growing up healthy and strong. And once in a while, my thoughts seem to reach their intended destination, for I sometimes feel what I can only define as a presence. The strongest manifestation of this happened recently, just after I dropped off my eldest for an overnight stay at a prospective college. We had just learned that she had received a full scholarship, and that as long as her grades were good, she would keep this money all four years.  It was an answer to many a prayer, and just as with any time my kids hit a major milestone, I sent a thought out to her birth mother.

About halfway home, I no longer felt alone in the car. Somehow, I felt like my daughter's birth mother was trying to tell me that we'd done it. Our girl was going to make it. That was all, but it was enough to make me cry. I turned off the radio to see if there was more. There wasn't.

"Shadow mothers" probably sounds ominous or sad, and maybe it is, but really, it's just how I've come to think of the women who brought my children into this world. They are here, with all of us, as much a part of our family as the members I can touch and see.


Author's note: While searching Google Images to find the images that accompany this post, I learned of a book entitled Shadow Mothers. This post was developed independently of and well before that discovery, and in fact is about another topic entirely.  Also, I want to give credit where credit is due, but can find no attribution for the first image, which appears on numerous sites, as does the second, which I believe was taken by Ruth Malhotra. Whoever they may be, thanks to the photographers for their excellent work.

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