For those of you that don’t know, a birth mom is a mother that has placed her child for adoption.
Many of us never hear her side of the story. We see closed adoptions, or adoptions from places like Africa or China, where the mother may be dead or simply never seen or heard from. Maybe she couldn’t care for her baby and her child was left at an orphanage, or she could have been in any number of situations and we don’t know because many birth mothers are not given the opportunity to tell us.
It’s a part of the story that’s often considered shameful, tragic, or too heartbreaking for the mother to openly share.
It’s something that people don’t want to talk about, or don’t know how to talk about. It’s something that, when mentioned, people often just respond with an “I’m sorry,” or “That must be so hard,” or simply a pitying look. Sometimes with judgement, depending on the circumstances surrounding the decision.
But I think that the shame needs to go away. I think that the tragedy is real, but that being a birth mother needs to also be celebrated. This is a woman who courageously chose life for the tiny human inside of her while surrounded by a society that would quite quickly say, “Just kill it.”
I am a birth mother. I won’t lie, Mothers’ Day is a hard day for me. Somebody asked me this Mothers’ Day, “What is it like for you?” And I wanted to say so many things. But all I said what that it is bittersweet. And up until recently, mostly just bitter.
I wanted to say that I’ve spent the past three Mothers’ Days alone, sobbing, staring at pictures of the now-four-year-old little boy that I sent home in someone else’s arms on December 27th, 2009, three days after his birth. Normally they discharge you from the hospital after 24 hours if everything goes as planned and only keep you longer if there are complications. I did not have a complicated labor or delivery, but I chose to stay in the hospital for the maximum three days because I needed to hold him for as long as I could before letting him go where I couldn’t ever follow. I couldn’t face the thought of going home without my baby, sending him off in another woman’s arms, calling someone else mommy. I didn’t want to think about not being able to catch him when he fell, not being the one to dry his tears, not being there when he took his first steps, or said his first words.
But I was sixteen. I found out that I was pregnant in my high school bathroom with a pregnancy test that a friend had kept in her locker. “Just in case,” she’d said.
An unplanned pregnancy in your sophomore year of high school isn’t the kind of thing that anybody thinks will happen to them. It’s the sort of thing that happens to those girls. The girls who sleep around, the ones who would just have an abortion and move on, the girls who wear too much makeup, the girls who are insecure and lost their virginity when they were twelve. Those girls. You know that ones I’m talking about. We’ve all judged them at one point in our lives.
But I wasn’t one of those girls.
I’d had one boyfriend before my baby’s father. Before my baby’s father, I’d only kissed a boy and held his hand when I was fifteen. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. I’d never been to a party. I loved (still love) books, and quiet solitude, and only had two very close friends. I was not one of those girls.
But it happened to me. It happened to the quiet bookworm with straight A’s.
And I was terrified.
Nobody wanted to help me, except my parents. My school wouldn’t work with me, I lost many of the people who used to openly associate with me, and I was the outcast at youth group. The quiet one who kept good grades and read books voraciously, the one who didn’t care about partying or even, really, about sex, was suddenly a bad influence.
And then I began hearing the word over, and over, and over: abortion. “Have you considered abortion?”
But, somewhere deep inside of me, God was moving. And I heard another word: adoption.
I knew, deep in my heart, that to parent my baby would not be a good decision, but I didn’t know what adoption was or how it worked. See, we have this misconception that adopting a baby or placing a baby for adoption is as simple as dropping the baby on a doorstep with a note, or like adopting a dog.
It’s nothing like that.
It calls up more tears than you knew your body could produce.
It draws stares and glares and glances and condescension.
It gets people to look at your left hand, searching for a ring that doesn’t exist.
And when people ask your age, and you respond with a number below 20, you can see the judgement in their eyes.
Not only toward you, but toward your entire family. Especially your parents.
How could they let this happen? Why didn’t you use protection? Did you do it on purpose? Don’t you know that having a baby is hard? You can’t take care of a baby, you’re just a baby.
But the truth is that at that point in my life, I was looking for something much deeper and more intimate than a physical connection with a teenage boy who could never repair the damage done to my heart, or fill the void I felt. I was looking for something to save me from all the things I felt were wrong with me. I was looking for a Savior, for unconditional love and affection, for somebody to love me for me, for someone who would understand and appreciate me. Someone who would sacrifice for me.
But He was already there. And He used my terrifying predicament to lead me straight to Him.
He caused my broken, crooked path to lead me into His arms.
He used a little boy named Christian, born on the eve of the day that we all celebrate His Son’s birthday, to give me new life as a Christian. And he used the image of that same little boy’s adoption to show me His adoption of me, as His daughter.
Never in my life have I felt closer to Him than in those moments before I even realized that I knew Him. When I was eight months pregnant, and had doctors comment on my age. When I was in the hospital in labor and certain nurses saw my birth date and were suddenly callous and rude and short-tempered. When they called CPS on my mother because her sixteen-year-old was giving birth at Northwest Hospital on Christmas Eve.
We don’t hear many birth mother stories, despite the fact that adoption is becoming a more popular subject, especially among the church. And I love that it’s becoming more popular. But I think that it’s time to hear from the other side as well, to hear from the mothers who have a baby that they may not even have the privilege to watch grow, as I have. I was lucky enough to have adoptive parents who were okay with an open adoption. But many birth mothers either don’t want that, or they are stuck in a situation where it’s not an option. I want to hear stories from the mothers who don’t have one or more of their babies on Mothers’ Day, not necessarily due to death or some other tragedy, but because of the tragic beauty of their adoption story.
I want to stop the judgement.
I want birth mothers to be celebrated on Mothers’ Day. As mothers.
I want their stories to be cherished, especially by people within the church.
There are many children living in homes with parents they were not born to. And that is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing thing, that there are people in the world who care so deeply for orphans that they would make them their own. It’s also a wonderful picture of the Gospel. But we should also care for the mothers of those orphans.
And those of us in the church should be the first ones to step forward, because just as my story led to redemption, someone else’s could too, and God may be calling us to help guide them there.
Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).