"Two Degrees of August's Birth Mother"

Our youngest son's relationship with his birth mother is a great gift in his life. We didn't anticipate the gift she'd be to his older brothers.

Three brothers have a relationship with one's birth mother.

My youngest son, August, will not have to file away his queries for decades and be sated with “maybes” and “I-don’t-knows.” He will never have to wonder why, because he can ask his birth mother, and she will tell him. Of all the gifts a parent can give a child, the peace and security that come with an open adoption have to be among the most profound.

August sees his birth mother four times a year, at meetings scheduled far in advance. As a four-year-old, he understands the purpose of the visits and looks forward to them. Tell him we’re going to see his birth mother and he beams. His feet do a little tap, and his body wiggles in a way that is nothing short of infectious.

My two older sons’ adoptions are closed. Oscar and Edgar do not have the benefit of a relationship with their birth mother. We fervently wish that they will one day, but, for now, they do not have the same opportunities as their younger brother.

And yet, they do. August’s birth mother had the wisdom, selflessness, and foresight to remain involved in her birth son’s life, and, by so doing, has given Oscar and Edgar a great gift.

An Unforeseen Benefit

Nine-year-old Oscar has begun asking if he can come along on the next visit with August’s birth mother. His entreaties are so earnest that we are considering it, gauging whether it is in his best interest to meet her or to hear about her through the filter we can provide. Oscar is astute and forming perceptions every day about a host of situations and, yes, people. I feel very protective of August’s birth mother, and I believe the right time to bring everyone together will present itself.

Until then, Oscar and Edgar reap benefits from the contact we have. When they wonder why their birth parents chose adoption, I can share what August’s birth mother has told him. If they wonder whether their birth parents think of them, I can point to things she has said or done to let him know that he’s often on her mind.

During our September 2012 visit, August met his birth sibling for the first time. The photographs are touching, and, when I returned home, sharing them with Oscar and Edgar was my first order of business. They loved the photos of August kissing the baby, but later, Oscar said he wished he could have pictures of himself with his birth family. I showed him the pictures again and asked him what he saw. He said, “My brother, the baby, and my brother’s birth mother.” I nudged him again and he said he saw “love.” I explained that, though we may not have such photos of him (or Edgar), he can trust that his birth mother loves him as well. Oscar’s birth mother can’t be a physical presence in his life; her circumstances are different, but the love is the same.

Along for the Ups and Downs

My older boys also have front-row seats to complications that can arise in open adoption. August’s birth mother had to cancel our last visit because she had just begun a new job and felt she could not yet ask for time off.

Oscar overheard me telling August that his birth mother would not be able to meet that day, and he asked me what would cause me to cancel a visit if I were able to see him only four times a year. My first thought, of course, was a resounding nothing! But that is not the right answer. My life is void of the complications with which August’s birth mother contends. So I said to him what I have always known. “So much depends upon so much….” It’s not an answer per se, but it is an explanation, and it opens the door for Oscar to think about people’s realities. He’s beginning to learn that hard times force hard decisions; when you have your health and the security of a job and a home, you are free to operate in a different way.

Of course, August’s birth mother’s story is not every birth mother’s story. We have explained to Oscar and Edgar that their respective birth parents had different reasons, different rationales, different ways of responding to the very different events of their lives. She is not their birth mother, but she is a birth mother, and her presence brings something profound for all of us.


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