Happy Mother’s Day – to Both my Moms!
They say that we don’t stop growing until the day we shut our eyes, and that includes fortitude and courage. My birth mother is a prime example. She put me up for adoption in 1960, a time when young unwed mothers had few choices. Raised in an abusive foster care home from the time she was four, she had, indisputably, a miserable life. When she found herself pregnant, her foster care mother told her “you give up this baby, or you get out.” So she did what she had to do.
She married and went on to have three more children but suffered from acute depression. When I first got to meet her at the age of 30, she told me she was in and out of hospitals for shock treatments and tried to commit suicide twice. It was devastating to hear. The sadness of her life broke my heart in two. Her ability to survive amazed me.
When I reached my mid-40’s she agreed to see me again, and we began the slow and painful task of trying to build a relationship from the ashes of the shame and guilt she lived with for having given me up. It was difficult for me too. There was no making up for all those years, but at least new memories could be made.
Waiting in the wings always was my mom. All her life she wanted a chance to thank my birth mother for giving the greatest gift she could ever have received: a child. But my birth mother could not bring herself to do it.
Years passed. When my birth mother turned 80 years old, she finally gained the courage. I was in awe of her strength.
When the day finally came, my birth mom was fearful and cautious. She would not let my mom get too physically close. But my mom worked her mom magic, showering my birth mom with kindness, compassion and love, the same she showered me with my entire life. By the end of the night, my birth mother grabbed my mom and squeezed her tight. She held on to her for quite a while.
“God bless you,” my birth mother whispered in my mom’s ear.
“I got to thank her,” my mom told me after, wiping the tears from her eyes. “You have no idea how much respect I have for this woman…and my gratitude for her, well…being able to tell her so, I can’t even go there. It was I who should have said to her God bless you…”
“You both gave each other a beautiful gift,” I told her.
“I…love your mother…what a wonderful lady,” my birth mother said by phone the next day, “and she gave you the life I always dreamed of having.”
My admiration was enormous.
My heart was bursting.
On Mother’s Day, I get to celebrate my two incredible mothers. One’s loss might have necessitated the other’s gain, but now our hearts can grow together.
Happy Mother’s Day to both my beautiful mothers!
Stephanie J. Spiegel is a freelance writer. She is the mother of three grown children and resides in New York. She has self-published a memoir on her adoption story and an essay in Purple Clover. Stephanie volunteers at a home for abused and neglected children where she takes care of children that were like her birth mother once upon a time.