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A Letter To My Son's Birth Mother

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Merrin Donahue
Merrin Donahue

This is the tenth post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption.

A Letter to My Son's Birth Mother
Written by Merrin Donahue for Portrait of an Adoption

I wrote the following letter the week before my son's second birthday. Now 3-and-a-half, Jack is starting to become more aware of his birth story. I wish I had known, really known, in the beginning just how important this woman would be to us. I wish I could rewind seven years and tell my newly paper-pregnant self that a Birth Mother isn't a threat to my own motherhood (intellectually I knew, but I still felt shadows of doubt in my heart and I'm not proud of that). I wish she could see how his smile lights up a room and how his laugh reaches the rafters. I wish he could have us both. I wish....

*****

Dear Sister,

I don’t know your name, where you live or even what you look like. I don’t know what your voice sounds like or how tall you are and I don’t know what your favorite food is. You and I are, however, as intimately connected as any two women can be. I don’t know those things about you, but I do know that our son has your infectious laugh and killer smile. I suspect he inherited his adorable cheeks from you, too. Maybe his incredible sense of curiosity came from you, and his bravery from his other father. His spark of intelligence and stubborn streak, although mirrored perfectly in both his Daddy AND me, came from you too.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot this week as my precious boy approaches his second birthday, especially since it’s quite possible that in truth that milestone has already passed. The orphanage assigned his birthday as the 26th, but only you know the exact minute that this little miracle came into the world. I know there is so much you want to know about your baby, and I would give everything to be able to tell you all about what a special boy he is. I know your heart is breaking right now on these days surrounding the memories you have of his birth and your decision to give him a chance at something different. My heart is breaking because he will never get a chance to know who he got his “lucky earlobes” from, or who the first person to cuddle and soothe him was.

If I could talk to you, I would tell you that he always chooses the orange circle first when sorting shapes, and he leaves the red heart for last, that he can’t make it through a meal without at least three kisses on the head, that he can’t get enough tomatoes or guacamole but doesn’t like spinach, that he’s learning to count on his fingers, that he loves his dog, he’s learning to sing, he’s ticklish behind his knees, that he’s already worn out one copy of “Goodnight Moon” because we read it every night, and his favorite place on earth is a toss-up between the beach and Mommy and Daddy’s great big bed. He is loved with not only your whole heart, but mine as well.

I would try to tell you, too, how incredibly grateful I am for the chance to be this amazing child’s mother, and how unbelievably humbled I am to have received the gifts of not only your son, but of this capacity for love that I never knew I had. There are no words for that kind of gratitude, though, and it sounds hollow to me even as I write it. My gratitude is a tangible, breathing thing.

I can almost see it shining in waves every time I look at our son. I desperately want you to know that he is safe and healthy and happy. It is not the life you hoped for or imagined for him (of that I’m certain), but my promise to you is that I am doing the very best I can to give him the best opportunities for happiness and success. I promise, too, to honor your memory every chance I get. One day in the not-too-distant future he’ll ask about you, and while I won’t be able to tell him anything of significance, I do know that there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t think about him.

You and I will always be connected: the mother that carried him and gave him life and loves him from so far away, and the mother that has been blessed with the unimaginable gift of being called “Mommy” and being here to kiss the boo-boos and chase away the bad dreams. You are my sister, and although I will never meet you, I have more love for you than you will ever know.

On Saturday when we light the candles on his cake, we’ll light one for you, too, sending up a prayer as we blow it out and send the smoke sailing across the seas. I hope with everything in me that you hear it when the wind whispers past bringing my good wishes and a gratitude so huge that I feel like I could collapse under the weight of the joy it brings. I hope the wind carries away some of your grief and leaves you with a bit of peace.

Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year's series, please email it to her at portraitofanadoption@gmail.com.

Find the Portrait of an Adoption community on Facebook. Follow Carrie Goldman on Twitter.

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