My Real Mom

Sometimes I’m asked who I feel is my “real” mom. Like most things in adoption, it’s complicated to answer. (Side note, I realize many adoptees, first parents and adoptive parents don’t like the term “real” regarding adoption but I grew up hearing it and to me it’s valid to discuss it. To each their own.)

Real mom

Yes, I have one real mom.

I guess when some people hear me talk about my anger and negative feelings toward my adoptive mom, they may think it’s sort of a clear-cut situation where those feelings should lead to a definitive answer to that question, “which mom do you feel is your real mom?”

When I answer this question as a matter of fact, to me, my biological mom is my real mom. If I take a DNA test, the answer as to who my mother is, is a factual answer. I can say whatever I want – this person or that person is “like” a mom to me – but in reality, I only have one mother. The same as I can say I’m European and have red hair (maybe I even dye my hair red), but DNA doesn’t lie and the truth as to my real race is there.

But the emotional side is a bit more blurry.

My childhood memories are tied to my adoptive mother. It makes me angry. But then, I can’t hate some of the best moments of life. I can’t separate those things. My memories, my adoptive mom and I are all intertwined.

My first kiss with the love of my life happened while standing in the driveway of my childhood home.
My middle school friends and I grew up in and around my house. We caused trouble and laughed and cried in my home.
The memories of my first pets and a major source of happiness for me as a young child, center in my home.
My favorite Christmas memory happened while standing in the living room and being so happy my adoptive mom knew exactly what I wanted.

I can’t really ignore or separate these feelings and memories from that of my adoptive mom. She’s woven into the heart of them. Yet … that is the exact thing that intensifies my anger toward her. The fact that a person I despise and often feel sorry for, is at the center of so many tender moments really just pisses me off sometimes.

In everyday life, our childhood is referenced so much and I cringe almost every time. Even changing my password on some online account leads to 3 questions like: what is your mother’s maiden name, what was your first pet’s name, what street did you live on when you were five, etc. All of these questions are tied to memories that are directly related to my adoptive mom.  (Another side note: I have childhood memories tied to my biological mom also since I was raised in an open adoption – but that would be a post in and of itself!)

So like many adoptees, the answer to the original question is complicated. I have one real mom. But I also have so many connections, memories and emotions toward another woman who (even though I am very angry with her) is tied to the title of “mom.”

One real mom. Yet, another “mom.”
And yes, it’s complicated.

19 thoughts on “My Real Mom

  1. Chanell

    After reading your other posts and understanding more about your adoption situation, I can totally understand how you feel this way. I think in a typical adoption situation it is more common to feel like there are 2 real moms, a mother who gave birth and a mother who raised you. However, reading about your situation I can totally see why you would feel the way you do. Your adoptive parents were so extremely coercive that I find it hard to even use the word “adoption” to describe the way they were able to gain custody of you.

    I think it is great that you have this blog and this voice to bring awareness to situations like this that the majority of people are unaware exist. You must be a very strong woman to survive all that you have and to share your experiences with others. I admire your bravery to put your story out there.

    Reply
    1. Kat Post author

      I agree – most of the time, I read that other adoptees feel the way you described – having 2 real moms. I’m just so glad that we all can express our individual viewpoints and have it be okay. Not all of us feel the same about the different aspects of adoption. Thank you for the encouragement and thank you for taking time to read. I really appreciate being heard.

      Reply
      1. Chanell

        Absolutely! I don’t think there is any situation in life where people should have to feel the same or be the same. Every experience, situation, and person is unique, and NO ONE should be ever told how to feel.

        I have learned that people on all sides of of the adoption triad (if you will) are often told how they should feel, especially the adoptee, and I hate that. It would be nice if people would listen more and try to understand where someone may be coming from instead.

        Thanks for your reply.

        Reply
    2. Adopted one

      I think my adoption was pretty typical for the time. Complementary closed, and no questions allowed. There wasn’t much information given to my adoptive parents, so questions would be useless.

      I still feel that I have only one mother. I always did, no matter how typical everything was.

      Just like every other living human, just one mother and father. Other caregivers, no doubt, but parents, only 2.

      Reply
  2. Adopted one

    Yes, only we get to decide who is “real”. And no, we don’t think any of our parents are fake, or made of cardboard or any other ridiculous thing. Everyone knows what real parent means.

    To me, it’s the one who gave me life, the one who made me, the one whose ancestors I share. The other one was a caregiver. Never, ever my mother. I have only one mother also. I think we all do, just some don’t like to admit it.

    Reply
    1. Kat Post author

      I understand that not all adoptees feel the same regarding these matters, but I defintely understand where you’re coming from on this and completely relate. <3

      Reply
  3. Amy

    Yay! I always look forward to your posts 🙂

    As the daughter of an adoptee and a “birth”mom, the “real” issue gets so under my skin. My (birth)daughter’s amom told me and our daughter that SHE was the “real mom” when at the age of about 8, our daughter asked the age-old adoptee question…”who is my REAL mom?” Another adoptee told me that when that answer was given, it caused a loyalty “split” in my daughter right then and there. Adoptive moms define “real mom” as “the one who changes the dirty diapers, wipes runny noses, attends all the school functions, etc” and we beemoms use the DNA and “we gave birth” answer. BOTH are “right” and BOTH are “real.” It’s when one negates the other to the adopted child that the confusion and loyalty divide comes into play. However, if you ask my daughter NOW at the age of 31 (tomorrow actually 🙁 ) who her “real” mom is, she’d probably tell you that we’re both “real.” She’s come to that conclusion on her own, although it’s very clear who has the “mother role” and it isn’t me…obviously, but still sadly to me. But there is still my connection to her and her to me that can’t be removed, changed, or signed away in a legal document. Also, and I even wrote this to her amom finally, a REAL MOM puts her child’s best interests FIRST. A REAL mom would throw herself in front of a train to save her child if it came down to it. What was it that we did when we signed those relinquishment papers (even if we were coerced or forced into it)? We put our child’s best interests above our own by giving them up for adoption, which was basically throwing ourselves in front of the train and breaking our own hearts in order to give them what we thought we could not. That in and of itself earns us the title of REAL. And as the daughter of an adopted person who loved (past tense since they are both deceased) her adoptive grandparents dearly, when I log into ancestry.com to see my latest relative matches, none of THEIR relatives make the list. But still, they are my family. And I can and do claim BOTH as such. No “choosing” necessary.

    I’m sorry because I’m probably rambling, but I’m just a bit emotional tonight. Birthdays are tough…even after 31 years.

    (((Hugs to you, Kat!)))

    Reply
    1. Kat Post author

      Amy, Yep, I got the same lines from my Amom when I talked about kids on the playground asking about my real mom – “Who is taking care of you?” “Who is here providing food and sending you to school everyday?” She had those lines ready and waiting for me. Honestly to me, it didn’t really matter because I wasn’t going to be bullied by her into accepting that as the final word. And more than that, I needed some “real” answers because the kids on the playground didn’t care about who was providing the food. They were smart enough to know I had one mom and she wasn’t around. Additionally, my Adad called my bio mom my “real” mom. Maybe he just did it to annoy my Amom. Regardless, there were plenty of people to remind me of this fact of who my real mom was.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective as both a mom and as the child of an adoptee. I’m sending hugs today. I know that birthdays can be tremendously difficult. <3

      Reply
      1. Amy

        Thank you for the hugs. I needed them…still do. Once March 7th is over, it will be smoother sailing. March 6th (today) I stupidly walked out of the hospital leaving my crying baby behind. The 7th is when I signed the dreaded papers, knowing all along how wrong it was, but feeling I had no choice. ANYWAY, your comment about your Adad reminded me of something. When I met my daughter’s grandparents for the first (and last) time, her agrandfather said, “Oh! You’re (A’s) real mom!” right in front of amom…who didn’t react (at the time?). Makes me wonder if the older generation doesn’t like to sugar-coat the truth as much.

        Thank you again and (((hugs))) back!

        Reply
        1. Kat Post author

          Yeah, I guess either certain generations or certain people just don’t cover over it all. Maybe the Amom was accustomed to hearing them say that & that’s why she didn’t react.
          I hope you’re doing okay now that the 6th/7th have passed. Trigger dates are just the worst!

          Reply
  4. Marilynn

    It’s nice to see someone write on the matter as a matter of fact. I help people figure out who their family is and help them search and get in contact. I am more radical in my thoughts than anyone I’ve helped. People don’t have more than one mom and one dad. Some people’s parents don’t raise them. Sometimes people raise other people’s kids. Sometimes grandparents raise their grand kids and typically don’t have any need or desire to refer to themselves as their grandchild’s parents despite having assumed parental responsibilities. When we look at kinship guardianship we can see that it is not necessary to be referred to as someone’s parent in order to raise them just fine. I think it would be far more respectful to not have other people step in and claim the title parent just because they are doing the work of a parent. It seems to create all kinds of confusion and guilt. And besides adoption is not supposed to be a ‘path to parenthood’ getting kids for adults – it’s just supposed to get adults to help take care of kids. Just my opinion.

    Reply
    1. Kat Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Marilynn. I can only speak from my own point of view and I tend to go a little more matter of fact on this subject. We can *say* we are a lot of things, but DNA gives us a definitive answer. If we are one race and adopted by people of another race, does that make us the same race as those that adopted us? DNA gives us the truth. Same with identifying our parents.

      Reply
  5. Victoria Farner

    I will never forget the day I saw my second son at church when he was 14. He had invited me to church with his family. I hadn’t seen him in 13 years. When a couple came up to us and asked his adoptive mom if I was a friend of hers, her reply was, “yes. This it’s Jeremy’s mom.” I immediately felt accepted. We are both his mom. I see where you’re coming from though. Just wanted to share my story. I’m glad, with this adoption, there was no competition of who was real. We both just were.

    Reply
  6. Kelly

    Just found your blog – I absolutely love it. Please keep writing! 🙂 I am an adoptee from a completely closed adoption, but I can relate to everything you say here, especially this post about who my “real” mother is. I think people who insist that there are “real” mothers or “real” fathers or “forever” families are those who are desperate to legitimize adoption as just “another beautiful way to build a family!” Blah blah blah. But facts are facts. Just because my mother didn’t raise me doesn’t mean that she’s not my mother. As you said, DNA doesn’t lie. I am her daughter just the same as her other 2 children. And my children are her grandchildren the same as her other grandchildren. Those are the facts. Prettying it up to say that she’s not my “real” mother is not right and doesn’t help me live with the reality of it all. I actually think that I have two mothers.” But my “real” mother is certainly the one who gave birth to me, whether I like it or not.

    Reply
    1. Kat Post author

      Thank you for reading and especially for sharing your experience and perspective. I’m always so appreciative of adoptees who are willing to write about their feelings on being adopted because it can be difficult for many to do so. <3
      (Also, apologies for the late reply. My messages about comments keep ending up in my spam folder and I don't see them for a while.)

      Reply
  7. Lisa

    Just discovered your blog. First of all, thank you for being brave enough to write about open adotion from the adoptee’s perspective.

    I am an open adult adoptee in my 40s now. This post reminds me of how my best friend from high school would refer to my bio mom as my “real mom” and my adoptive mom as my “fake mom.” I may have referred to my first mom as my “real mom”, but I know for a fact that I never called my adoptive mom my fake mom. So why did my best friend say that? The answer, although I did not know it then, was that she was trying to validate MY FEELINGS. She was being a friend. She was being supportive of the complexity of the situation in a way that a 16-year-old could. She was acknowledging that there was a lot of pretending going on in this open adoption arrangement. One mother always pretending to be the real mother and the other mother always pretending not to be.

    Reply
    1. Kat Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Lisa. I relate to what you’re saying. It was often friends that just couldn’t go along with the pretending for me too. I’m sure it was difficult to reconcile what your friend was saying if you weren’t at the point of giving much consideration to all of the complexity at that age. It can be difficult to talk about at ANY age. I’m just glad you can talk about it now and that we have such a great online community where we can find others that experienced the same or similar to what we did. <3

      Reply

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