Motherhood is one of the most important things that we celebrate as a society. Even if not all of us get to experience it, most of us are familiar with how challenging it is to take on the role of a mom and pour out our love and care into nurturing a child. However, in an adopted child’s life, the role of motherhood is quite complex, because there are two women who play a significant role in their life—their adoptive mom and biological mom.
This is what we call the ‘Adoption Triad’: found side by side are the two mother figures, and in between is the adopted child. This not just symbolizes their relationships with each other, but also acknowledges how one cannot be without the other.
In the US, this term is frequently used because of the open adoptions. There, biological families tend to still be part of their child’s life. This is not very common in the Philippines, especially for formal legalized adoptions, but still, the concept of an Adoption Triad is important because it’s meant to acknowledge and honor both mothers of the child.
In the life of an adopted child, the adoptive mom is the one who’s chosen to actively parent a child’s life. She’s taken the responsibility to be involved in raising, caring, nurturing, and providing for this child.
On the other hand, the biological mom typically is the one who’s responsible for bringing that child into the world. She was the person who had enough courage to surrender that child for adoption, in hopes of giving that child a life different from what she thought she could give her child. Some of them fail to take responsibility for their child, but there are those who feel like adoption is the best thing they can do for their child.
Given that there are two important mother figures in an adopted child's life, what are the ways we celebrate both of them?
Honoring the Biological Mom
While it may be hard to hear for some adoptive parents, even if the birth mom doesn’t take on that role of parenting, she’s still the biological mom—and that will never change. It can be easy to pretend that they don’t exist because they are no longer in the child’s life, but that woman will always be a part of our child’s identity. At some point, adoptive children will know that biologically, they came from somewhere, and so we need to face the truth that we need to talk about her.
The practical ways that we can honor the biological mom are:
1. Appreciating their desire to give their child a better life
Part of an adoptive parent’s responsibility is to honor the biological mom in the way we speak about them. We don’t minimize the pain that children went through before we adopted them, but we select the things we say to still recognize the role that the biological mom played to bring our children into this world.
It’s understandable to feel some discomfort because we can hear a lot of stories about the mothers abandoning their children or abusing them, but the mere fact that our child is alive and with us right now can be enough reason to honor their biological mothers.
Another reason to honor them is because the words we speak also reflect who our children are. Oftentimes, when we feel insecure, we can be quick to slip out words like “pinamigay ka” (they gave you away) or “iniwan ka” (they left you), but instead of painting a bad light towards the biological mom, we actually degrade the worth of our adopted children. We need to be very careful because the identities of our children are very much tied to their biological mom, and we don’t want them to have the impression that they were worth leaving or worth abandoning.
2. Appreciating the traits that our children have inherited from them
In line with being mindful of the way we speak about the biological mom, we can also honor them by praising the biological attributes of our children. Sometimes, our children can feel negatively compared whenever their biological attributes are talked about because they feel different, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Generations—Home’s Managing Director Chrina Henson shares how she honors the birth mother of her child. “Honor and praise the biological attributes of your child, because the physical traits help them see that they’re beautiful even though they may not be the same as yours. So when I tell Chloe, “You have beautiful eyes’, that’s honoring her biology—that’s honoring her physical traits.”
By simple remarks, we get to honor not just the birth mother, but find what’s beautiful in our child as well. Just letting them know that the way they are physically is beautiful can do so much.
Honoring the Adoptive Mom
When it comes to adoptive moms, it may seem easy to honor them because they’re considered generous or charitable, but there can be times when adoptive moms also tend to doubt themselves as well. This is why remembering to honor them is important.
The practical ways that we can honor the adoptive mom are:
1. Appreciating their courage to take responsibility for their child
One of the noises in an adoptive mom’s head includes the fear of being compared to the biological mother. Even if nobody is saying it, they could wonder whether or not they would be chosen by their children if they met their biological mom. To counter this insecurity, it’s always good to appreciate them for doing their best in taking responsibility for their adoptive child. Even if they may not have the same biological traits or the same DNA, their love for their child is just like any other mother’s.
It’s also good to acknowledge them as the real mom, especially if they are playing an active role in that child’s life. Since they’re the ones nurturing and those who have accepted the role of a real parent, it’s worthy to honor them.
2. Appreciating the way they’ve raised their children
More often than not, we don’t give enough credit to adoptive parents for the investment and growth that they’ve given their children. We’ve talked about appreciating the traits that the biological family has given our child, but it can be easy to forget that the nurturing that a child gets from their adoptive parents can also contribute to their development.
Chrina also shares how their family honors the investment they’ve given their child. “It’s funny because Chloe is so smart, and we go ‘Oh, we’re not that smart’, so we sometimes tell her, “Oh, you’re so good at math, you’re like your lolo!’ because it’s something that a grandfather can pass down, whether biologically or not.”
It shows that even in the little things, we can find traits from the adoptive family—especially from moms—that we can still appreciate about our children. When we compliment our children’s other attributes like “you’re so kind, you’re so compassionate, you’re so caring”, we can also acknowledge that it’s a combination of both the biological traits and the pouring into of love that builds up our children’s character.
Motherhood can find people in different ways
These are just some ways we can honor biological and adoptive mothers, but in general, their motherhood is worthy to be celebrated. While it may be challenging to find balance in how we honor these two figures, we can aim for a mutual appreciation for them because of the impact that they’ve made in an adopted child’s life. Through all the sacrifice, the love, the effort, they’ve helped a child to become who they are right now. To all the moms out there, we see you. We give thanks. We honor you.