Please Don’t Thank My Birthmother

January 16th marks my anniversary as a true, Midwestern Minnesota girl. It’s a day that will always hold a special place in my family’s heart.

It’s my “gotch-ya day.”

This “gotch-ya day” is recognized as the arrival of the child following an adoption, or sometimes when the process is finalized. My family and I acknowledge it as the day I was placed into the arms of my parents, fresh off a Delta flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis at just five weeks old. It took well into my adult life to even hear the term “gotch-ya day,” and I’m not exactly sure how crazy I am on the term. Personally, I feel as if it’s like you’ve been snatched up out of someone’s arms? This is completely my opinion, but has been known to cause some ruckus within the adoption community. Aside from this term, families may also recognize this special day as an anniversary (in which we do), family day, or adoption day.

As a child, my family recognized January 16th as an anniversary filled with hugs, kisses and sometimes a small treat in the form of a Bundt cake (mom, why don’t you make those anymore?), a new Cabbage Patch Doll, or fresh flowers. It didn’t mirror a birthday celebration, but it embraced a special day that served its very own significant purpose of how we became a family. While I did not know this when I was young, my mom has since described this day as one where she would silently say a little prayer and thank the woman who gave birth to me.

In February 2015, we were reunited and I continue to hold a very close and special relationship with Cynthia, my birthmother. As days, weeks, and months went by, we were able to learn more and more about my birth story, her decision, and the feelings she endured with the adoption placement decision. In no shape or form does she hold regret, but she did mention one thing to me that has really stuck.

And that is, please don’t thank my birthmother.

The first day we met Cynthia in person, there were many hugs, tears, and quiet conversations during those intimate moments between her, and my family and friends. Later, I learned many of my family and friends were thanking Cynthia, thanking her for choosing life, thanking her for choosing my family, and thanking her for the ultimate sacrifice of adoption in order for January 16th to resonate with my family in such a beautiful way. My aunt shared, “she doesn’t like to be thanked,” and at first I just brushed it off. I didn’t really have time to think of the fact that you aren’t thanking someone for holding the door open or helping you out at work. You’re thanking them for a loss they had to experience. She doesn’t want to be thanked for that.

Today, we both know and understand this. We are grateful for the beauty of our relationship and the opportunity to gain that trust and truth.

Although my adoption experience is a positive one for both my childhood and my family, I believe there is a lot of sadness that will always hang over someone’s head and in their heart during this process.

In no way does my birthmother feel like she deserves an award.
In no way does my birthmother feel like she did anyone a favor.
In no way does my birthmother want to a thank you.
With the growth of a family through adoption, there will be a great loss for someone else. And with any successful adoption story or process, there will likely be a sadness and a grieving period involved for years to come. Does Cynthia deserve a thank you? Yes, we think so, but now we know how to show that appreciation in a much deeper way; revealed through hugs, phone calls, well wishes, visits and I love you’s.
What she did was provide. My birth mother provided out of the purest of love in hopes that her daughter would feel that love from another family to call hers, forever. And I did. So, on January 16th, rather than taking in this day all about me with a Bundt cake and flowers, I’m going to wake up and say a little prayer… just as my mother has done all along.

 

Original post published February 2016

 

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A lover, not a cooker. Six years ago, Leah's college bartender asked for her phone number and she figured it would be appropriate to marry him 5 years later, especially since he's an excellent cook. After years spent in their college town, Josh's career brought them to Lakeville in June 2014 with their five year old son, Vance. Leah survives on the daily with her two die-hard Minnesota sports fans and most weekends, you'll find her cheering on her son in his latest sport endeavor. It's safe to say, the last thing she ever saw herself as in her mid-twenties was a soccer mom. But most will agree, it fits her oh so well. Leah works from home as a Marketing Director for 4 locally owned restaurants in Mankato. With education in social media and a newly found passion of sharing the raw, real life details, a blog based on transracial adoption and parenting today was formed towards the efforts of locating her biological mother {and others}. You can learn more about Leah's colorful family, mommy-things and more on her blog {https://leahpihlaja.wordpress.com} or like You're Holding Your Pencil Wrong on Facebook.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate your insight. As another mother of adoption loss I don’t want to be thanked either. Losing my daughter 35 yrs ago was not something I would want to be thanked for. I didn’t give anyone a gift. I did what I had to at the time. For most of us, then and now, surrendering to adoption was an act of desperation, not generosity. I’m so glad you are reunited with your mother as I am with my daughter. Many blessings for you and your family.

    • Thanks for sharing! It’ll be a whole year since we’ve reunited and Cynthia is part of our family as if she always has been.. Such a wonderful bond given. Glad you’ve been able to have your story come in full circle.. Blessings to you, as well!

  2. Absolutely. Desperation, not generosity. In my last year or two of finally connecting with other birth moms; I still can’t understand the few who genuinely “chose” adoption. Most of the stories are similar to mine; desperation. Something I find being thanked for quite patronizing.

  3. Thank you for this article and everyone’s honest comments. My mother is a birthmother and this is the first time I have heard an articulate, respectful, honest example of the birthmother.

  4. I’m so glad I came across this. I am an adoptive mom myself and I reached out to my daughters birth mom right after the adoption was final and though I have never said “Thank you ” I have told her many times that I would be forever grateful to her for giving my daughter life. I never seen it this way until now. We communicate through email and I share pictures with her often but now I will be a little more careful with my words. I also teach foster care classes and I plan to share this with my next class. I’m so happy you found your birth mom! Sounds like you have amazing parents all the way around. God Bless

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