Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
I’m Not Your Mama
I’m sorry, but I’m not your mom.
I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth.
I’m not saying this to hurt you, trust me. I would never intentionally cause you any pain.
But I need you to understand this.
When I found out I was pregnant with you at age sixteen, I wasn’t prepared to be a mother. I did the best I could and made what I’d hoped was the best decision in giving birth to you and then placing you with a stable family who could care for you, in all the ways I couldn’t.
Now, twenty-five years later, I’m still not prepared to be a mother. Not to you; not to anyone. This is a decision I’ve decided on for my own life, and I have my own reasons. I was never meant to be a parent.
I know that you are disappointed and upset. I know you wanted our relationship to suddenly change. I know you wanted me to instantly step in and become “Mama.” I know you wanted us to abruptly go from seeing each other once or twice a year to monthly visits; to start weekly phone calls and daily texts; to calling me “Mama” instead of by my first name. I know you wanted the world to know all about you and who you are, and who you are to me.
But truthfully, you are still my secret to some. I know you wanted this, but I didn’t. I don’t, and I can’t. I’m sorry that my situation isn’t what you were hoping for. It’s something I am not qualified to handle and become, especially this suddenly. Being “Mama” is not a title I was ever meant to have.
I’m sorry that mental illness inhibits you from understanding all of this. I hope you understand that hurting you breaks my heart, but I cannot be something I’m not. That’s not fair to anyone. Not to you, me, or the people who raised you.
You were given a good, happy life, with two parents who love you so much, an extended family, even a sibling. You never had to worry about money, or where you would live, or hostility and abuse in your home. You didn’t have to grow up and contend with constant fear for your safety, uncertainty, terror, sadness, and anxiety.
You had the joy of being raised by your loving parents, not having to relinquish your own childhood to raise and care for incompetent parents.
That was the only gift I had to give to you. I couldn’t bring you into the life that I lived. Things may not have turned out exactly how you had hoped in your life, but no one’s life is perfect, and that’s something we must all contend with. Considering the circumstances, and the alternative, I feel like you did extremely well.
I know you were hoping that you, your birthfather and I would all come together and become one happy family. I’m sorry that isn’t possible. I don’t know where he is. I’m sorry that it hurts you that he’s been absent in your life this entire time and you’ve felt that void. I know that hurts you, and it hurts and angers me as well.
But I can’t change him, and I can’t change those circumstances. Please believe me when I tell you that his is not really the family you think you want anyway.
Please don’t think that you aren’t important to me. But I am desperate for you to understand – being a mother is not who I am. And yes, you and others are right – I should’ve thought about this when I was sixteen, before I got pregnant. I shouldn’t have “gotten myself into that situation.”
I did the best I could at the time, considering all circumstances. A part of me has been irrevocably broken since the day you were born and I handed you into the arms of another. I’m so grateful for the gift of adoption. It allowed me to give you the best chance at life possible. However, that chance at life was never, and will never be, with me as your mama.
Even now, so many years later, when my life is stable and I am so very happily married, I never once yearned for parenting. I purposefully married a man who also did not want children. The idea of children terrifies me. If you could only see that. If you could only see that the fact that I didn’t raise you was a gift from me to you. That it was the best possible thing I could ever do for you; for both of us. The idea of being a mother is frightening, terrifying, and something I am not capable of doing. I was never meant to be a parent.
Please don’t ask me to start being your mother suddenly when you are a young adult. That is not who I was ever meant to be, and certainly not something that I am able to do.
I’m sorry, but I’m not your mom.
Your mom is the woman who changed your diapers, who cleaned up after you when you were sick, who took you to doctor’s appointments and soccer practice and family parties. The woman who baked your first birthday cake from scratch, who read to you every night, who you fought with and screamed at and who dried your tears, both as a child and as an adult.
I’m sorry and sad that your desire for me to be your mama has caused a divide between your mother and me. This woman, who I once considered a close friend, who I love and will always love and be dearly grateful to, is now estranged from me because of this. Please understand that she is your mother, not me. Even if you came from my body, I was only the vessel. She is the person who was, and is, meant to be your mother.
I am not that person. I never will be. It doesn’t mean that I will ever stop loving you and thinking about you. I hope someday that you understand that.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter