As a first time coordinator for the Birth Mothers’ Day Gathering, I knew I would be responsible for shaping an event that meant a great deal for many women and families. I am somewhat new to Spence-Chapin, and adore working for the organization, so it was an honor to be able to delve into the project. It wasn’t just an opportunity for event-planning, but an opportunity to be involved with a ritual that stands against the societal stigmas applied to birth mothers and adoption, to educate an outside community that a child is never “given up” and Birth Mothers never give up the love they feel for their children.
On the surface, the event was certainly beautiful, but the real evening occurred somewhere else, somewhere more private and more unique. Each woman – some with friends, family, their children, some alone – came with a different story. As an observer, it was an honor to see the strength and power that made up the room. It made me want to be a better person, to find the same grace and humility many of the Birth Mothers showed in the face of extreme sorrow.
That evening, many women bravely shared their stories and brought the room to tears and laughter. One of those women came up to the front of the room toward the end of the evening and shared the following words with us. They served as a reminder to every person in the room; being a birth mother means being a mother from afar, of finding the inner strength to love patiently, to protect oneself while unthinkably vulnerable, and to always remember; whatever our path, we are all just human and must cope with all that life offers – good, bad, and everything in between.
– Lisa Marie Basile, Spence-Chapin Administrative Assistant
Birth Mothers’ Day Reflection
I had the good fortune to go to South Africa last October. It’s a country I love, partly because it has taught me there is always hope in the face of unrelenting adversity, and the people live that conviction with pride in what they have overcome and they joyfully embrace life in the midst of challenges that could bring us to our knees. At the end of this last trip, I reveled in the spectacular view of the gorgeous Western Cape all the way down the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope. And this time, unlike other occasions where I simply assumed I’d be returning, I wondered if I would go back again. It made it all the more precious for me as I savored every detail of the landscape.
When I thought about sharing tonight, I thought about that image of my taking off from Cape Town, and about not taking things for granted. You see, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer exactly one year ago. I’ve only shared this with a few people, and don’t choose to broadcast it or to have it define me. But we’re sisters. I’m not keeping secrets and I have things to say.
Right now I’m well. My treatment is not debilitating, and I hope I will still have some good years ahead of me. So, while I do visit some dark spaces, I choose to have this great opportunity to experience how exquisite life really is every minute without taking it or any of my relationships for granted.
And that brings me to today. I’m obviously at a critical juncture in my life. Of course we all are all the time without knowing it, or paying it much heed. But I know in my bones, literally, that life is lived day by day, from present moment to present moment. That’s a good thing.
When my son found me, I woke up to grace, to learning by following his lead, walking on many eggshells to be sure, but respecting his handling of his various mothers and extended family, watching him mature in his marriage and parenting of his children, and I grew more patient, putting him first always, allowing time to guide us, a virtue that doesn’t come easily to me. And I learned gratitude, for a young man and his family who welcomed me into their lives.
With nineteen years of relationship now, and my new life journey, things are deepening. Love is less tentative. We can sign off with “I love you” without feeling awkward, and I’ve seen my incredible son just show up in so many ways where words are optional. And that generosity extends to the parents who treasure him, as it was never more apparent for me than when his dad searched all over the house to gather boyhood pictures of his son to make an album for me at Christmas. In a funny way, I couldn’t be happier in my life now that I don’t take a minute of it for granted.
I do know I’m particularly fortunate to have this relationship — that things aren’t always so rosy. But, regardless, as I’ve been learning to focus more closely on what is important and what isn’t, I see that we all have choices all the time about how to respond to the good and the hurts in our lives, whether they be trivial or profound — whether people exceed our expectations or disappoint us. We have the choice to see who we really are, to make something of ourselves, to love and ask for forgiveness, to forgive ourselves and others like there IS no tomorrow, to not waste time sweating the small stuff or even the not so small stuff, to choose to heal and abandon anger and regret, to choose to search if we want to, to do our emotional homework to handle possible outcomes, to be someone we respect and our children can respect even when there is no contact, to do so much more than just survive.
All of us, birth moms, first moms, those of us pushed to relinquish, or those having more choice but nevertheless feeling there was no other way out, those in closed, semi-closed, or open adoptions, those in reunion, those who aren’t or can’t be — all of us, in the words of The Song of Bernadette, “torn by what we’ve done and can’t undo,” — know we are mothers, mothers of children we couldn’t parent, but mothers always, who celebrate the birth of our children. We know we have been unbearably strong. We may need to whisper it first to ourselves, but then we can proclaim it to the universe and know we are heard. Just don’t take anyone or time itself for granted.