What We Owe A Birthmother: Open Adoption Through The Eyes Of A Lesbian Couple

This guest post is by Heather Fitz, a hopeful adoptive mother.

For my partner, April, and I, the month of May has been fraught with emotion. There was Mother’s Day, a holiday that held new meaning for us not because we’ve already adopted, but because we are approved to adopt whenever we match with a birthmother.

For the first time, we weren’t just thinking about our own mothers and how much they mean to us. We also took the time to consider what kind of mothers we want to be. The very idea we could be celebrating next year’s Mother’s Day holiday as moms ourselves made us giddy and propelled us down memory lane.

Childhood memories

April remembered the countless hours that her own mom, Ginny, spent throwing a baseball with her in the front yard after coming home exhausted from a long work day. As a single mom, Ginny worked diligently to pay bills and make sure April and her sister, Teri, had copious amounts of love to make up for the material things neither girl even knew they lacked until they hit their teen years.

There was a jar, where Ginny threw all her spare change, which eventually paid for April’s tennis lessons. There were hugs; permission to play every sport, including April’s stint as a high school football player and, when the time came, a gentle push to leave the nest and attend college away from the comfort of home.

For me, childhood memories with my own mother, Jan, are just as special. My brother, Brett, and I were raised by my parents to be independent and strong-willed, yet the value of family was firmly etched in our minds. Dinner time meant sitting around a table, every night, talking about our days and “fine” was never an acceptable answer to the question, “How was your day?”

Every weeknight, the dinner table morphed into a homework table where mom and dad checked every answer and made us do it again if it was wrong. Saturdays were meant for friends, Sundays for family – no exception. The four of us hiked, rafted, snow and water skied, hit up bowling alleys. We did it all, and we did it together.

Recognizing a birth mother’s loss

Bundling our childhood memories with our own vision of the mothers we hope to become was only part of the emotion we felt around Mother’s Day. There was another mother to consider, our future child’s birth mother, his or her tummy mommy.

Our joyous thoughts of impending motherhood turned to the woman who would celebrate a very different kind of Mother’s Day after placing her child with us. Recognizing the grief and loss a birth mother endures made us hurt for her and reaffirmed our commitment to open adoption.

We very much want to include our child’s tummy mommy in our lives, if she’s comfortable with it – not just on Mother’s Day, but on an ongoing basis. The love, guts and iron will it takes to place a child is not lost on us and we will forever be grateful to the woman who grants us the greatest gift we can imagine, mommyhood.

Mother’s Day wasn’t our only emotional day in May – for April and I, and for countless other same-sex couples living in the United States, May 9th brought validation. For the first time in our nation’s history, a sitting President acknowledged support for same sex marriage. It’s true, legally speaking, nothing has changed since President Obama made his announcement. But emotionally and socially, there has been a huge shift.

For a lesbian couple living in a state — Virginia — where we can’t marry, share benefits, file joint taxes or both adopt our child, hearing President Obama say, “I recognize and value your family” was a huge step in the right direction.

We can’t wait to be mothers

So many times, April and I have heard someone say, “I don’t agree with your relationship or with the notion that you should be able to get married, but I see you love each other and I know a child would be lucky to have you.” It’s painful to hear and sounds to us like someone is saying, “Sure, you can sit on the bus, just ride in the back.”

It hurts and it makes us crazy, but we refuse to let it make us less in the eyes of the child we know will be joining our family. Our child will be loved from the top of his/her head all the way down to the tips of the toes.

Each leg roll will be squeezed, each laugh cherished and every tear wiped away. Our child will have rules, be taught to respect others – even those who may not understand same sex families and be encouraged to see life through a lens of equality and love, not fear and uncertainly of that which is different from them.

We can’t wait to be mothers, to experience the world through our child’s eyes. To hear “momma” for the first time, slip our child into snow skis or just cuddle on the couch for movie night.

April and I promise that every day will be a day we give motherhood our all. Not just because we owe it to our child, but because we owe it to the woman who chose us to parent. Our best is the least we can do.

Heather Fitz and her partner, April Dillow, are hopeful adoptive parents living in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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