I know the Real Mom meme means to be uplifting, exposing how moms in reality are nothing like the ideal mother. Yet any sentence beginning with the words “real moms” is bound to exclude someone. It is true one hundredfold for women involved in adoptions. For many of us, few phrases can trigger more pain, anger, or fear. Realness is murky. If "real" motherhood were only a matter of legal rights or wiping noses, adoptive moms would never feel threatened. If it were only a matter of genetic connection or birthing a child, first moms (birth moms) would never be marginalized.
Soon after our son was born, we held a small, private ceremony along with his first parents to affirm our commitment to one another and, most importantly, to our shared child. During that time, a dear friend spoke a blessing over all of us which continues to challenge me. She prayed that the image of open hands would become a metaphor for our interactions with one another. Not just open hands giving or receiving the child being transferred from the care of one family to another, but open hands throughout our lives. Open hands providing and accepting support. Open hands allowing our child to grow into his own person, the expression of both nature and nurture. Open hands to honor the unique connection each of us would have with him. Open hands to embrace the other real parents in our child’s life.
As I have tried to live that out, I have learned: a real mom opens her hands.
A real mom opens her hands to let go. She lets go of her expectations so her child can have independence. She lets go of the idea that she alone can meet all her child’s needs in order to give room for others' love. She lets go of the desire to control what her child thinks of her.
A real mom opens her hands to receive. She accepts help, because no child can be raised by just one person. She is open to learning from others, including her child. She welcomes validation however it comes. She receives so she can give in turn.
Whether she became a mom by birth or by marriage, by adoption or by surrogacy, a real mom’s hands are open. My son's first mom's hand are open. So are mine.