By Susanna Filippi.
When my husband and I first discussed adoption, I knew that my preference would be to pursue an open adoption. I’d learned about how much it helps a child incorporate adoption into their identity in a healthy way when they know the story from where they came.
When we met our son’s birth mom, my hope was that we could be great friends. I imagined all of us together cheering him on at baseball games and watching him at school plays. I figured that conversations about adoption would come more naturally if we had relationship with his birth family, and he would simply have more people to love him.
Shortly after we took our son home from the hospital, his birth mother came for a visit. I remember how intimidated I felt at those first few visits. I wanted her to see that we loved and cared for him well; that she had made a good choice in placing him with us. I felt insecure in my new role as a mom and I worried she would see that.
She seemed so comfortable with him as she scooped him up and cooed at him. She commented on his eyes and his hair and his fat little legs. He was so content all curled up with her. They fit together.
I sat there watching as they shared these precious moments, wanting to document them in my mind for my son. I wanted him to know how much his first mom loved him. What she had sacrificed for him. The thought brought tears to my eyes.
Then I heard her coo, “Mommy loves you!” In that moment I felt my heart leap in my chest and the air escape from my lungs. I hadn’t heard her refer to herself as “Mommy” before.
My mind scrambled, searching for a thing to say. “Mommy” was mine! But it was hers too. My heart and my head battled. I acknowledged that she was his first mom, but hearing her say it, I felt this growing roar rising up inside of me. This protective battle cry to defend my place and say something.
In that moment, I chose to stay quiet. Everything about motherhood and adoption and navigating relationships with his birth family was new to me; and I hadn’t slept much either. I didn’t trust my feelings to navigate the situation well.
As I thought about that moment over the next several weeks, I determined that if I truly wanted for him to understand her place in his life, I needed to be okay with her as his first mom. As hard as it was to hear, I needed to fight the urge to correct her and silence the mama bear within. She’s his first mom and she always will be. She is a part of him. I want him to know that I’m okay with that.