Thursday, July 7, 2011

"I never had kids."

I met a wonderful, sweet lady from Italy yesterday who told me that. I was a mite bit confused, since she had been telling me earlier about her 6 year old grand-daughter. She told me that the little girl was so funny, recounting a story about how "lippy" she had been one day and how funny it was. Then, in the next breath she said "We adopted a girl when we lived in Arizona."

I thought it sounded funny, but didn't pursue it. Not until she said it again later. "I never had kids," she said again. This time, I opened my fat mouth. "Yes you did," I told her. "You have your daughter and you are a mom, just as much as anybody else."

Years and years ago, infertility was a source of shame. Adoption was a taboo. People hid an adoption, from the kids, the family, the community, and secretly this was how they felt. "I was never *really* a mom," they told themselves, all while keeping up the facade. If anyone else noticed that the mom in question hadn't looked to be "in a family way", they talked about it behind her back but never to her face. Birth mothers slinked away into the shadows, to deny they had ever given birth and pretend it had all been a sad dream. Grandparents pretended not to know. Paperwork was forged, documents were redone, everyone's time and energy went into making sure the secret was kept.

That was then, this is now. Adoption is not a dirty word. Infertility is not a shameful condition. They have a name for women who adopt. It's mom.

Until adoptive moms stop slinking, hiding, and feeling ashamed then adoption will continue to sound like a byline. Something people only do if they have no other options or are nutty or perhaps in it for the money.

I fervently hope that this woman's words reflect a sentiment that is expiring from our society. I wish that women who adopt can believe that they are mom. That they don't feel the need to explain away their children, making it sound as if they are just glorified babysitters. I'm writing this because I fear that she is not one random person, but that a lot of moms walk around feeling this way, even if only in secret. The definition of mother is simple, in my mind. If someone calls you "mom", then you had children. End of story.

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