Friday, May 6, 2016

Brave Love

The sun is streaming through my smudgy front windows, the tree is in hot pink bloom beyond them, and later today we'll drive the roads I know by heart, down to Ohio, to my mom.

Mother's Day is one of those special days that feels near-tangible to me. There are no required decorations, no boundless expectations. But usually, Spring is smiling hard on us. Usually the red-bud is blooming and the peonies are tight fists of what's to come.

There's the simple fact that my mom always makes things better, somehow. There's the fact that I'm a mother myself. I have caught the tears and folded the laundry and negotiated bedtimes, Kindle time, and consequences. I know who eats what and which one would eat peanut butter and honey for every meal until the end of time. I know I'm a mother because my twenty-two year old called me from work at 10:30 last night and when I answered he screamed, "Mommyyyyy!" into the phone, something I found both entirely ridiculous and completely endearing.

Then there's the other side of it all, four birth moms who created the reasons I am a mom. Two of them I have only imagined in my mind. We know basic details, written somewhere on a page, rendered into an image that is surely off target. We make assumptions, black hair, brown eyes. If I scan every Asian face I meet, wondering, "Does she look like that?" my sons do the same, or will one day.

I've seen a grainy, digitized photo of Robert's birth mom, and I see traces of him. He doesn't like to talk about her much, and I remain curious.

A few weeks ago, we sat around our table with Ruby's birth mom, her sweet, growing family, and her parents. Our relationship over the past nine years has been a tender thing, a flash of green poking through soil. We've tread carefully around it, risking inevitable awkwardness for the chance to make good on our shared solidarity - we did this together, and we'll see it through. Over frozen pizzas and hummus, I wished for the thousandth time that they lived close, rather than across the continent. There wasn't a shred of tension or doubt. It was easy. We'd found our groove, and no, nine years wasn't too long.

Later that night, after the paper plates had all been trashed and bedtime loomed, one of my sons wept. "It's not fair."

I couldn't argue.

There will be pans of chicken enchiladas this weekend, and pancakes in the morning. There will be garden talks and wooded walks and with any luck, a little time in the hammock. I'll honor my mom and be honored myself, hopefully with something handmade and wonky.

But at least half of my heart will be quietly honoring the four of them, who I will only ever know as stunning. Motherhood is a strong and fragile thing. Sometimes, it asks impossible things of us. Sometimes, we have the guts to say yes.

The Brave Love campaign created a video honoring birth mamas, and it pulled every string inside me. It's heartfelt and beautiful. It might make you cry. But can't we say that about many of the loveliest things? I hope you'll watch. I hope you'll share it.

I hope, this Sunday, you'll say a prayer for the mamas whose day might pulse with sadness, loss, longing, or even regret. So many among us carry burdens we cannot imagine. If you know a mother whose story might be complicated or hard, let's do what we can to lighten her load. We're sisters. We were made for this.

Happy Mother's Day, to each of you.

BraveLove is a movement dedicated to changing the perception of adoption through honest, informative, and hopeful communication that conveys the heroism and bravery a birth mother displays when she places her child with a loving family through adoption. (un)Wanted is their new campaign that addresses how adoption is a loving decision in which birth parents want the best for their child. BraveLove seeks to change the conversation surrounding adoption and provide a safe place for people to explore adoption.  


  1. What a sweet reminder of how lucky I am to be a Mom! My two teen daughters are growing way to fast for me and one day, in a blink of an eye to me, I hope they will be blessed with babies too. Whether they give birth to them, or adopt, I can't wait to see them love on their babies. Happy Mother's Day!

  2. Happy Mother's Day Shannan, and everyone else :) Beautiful blog about being the adoptive mother- and I love that you honor the pain and "unfairness" of your children when they are feeling that. I wish my adoptive mother had been so insightful, but that was not how it was done 57 years ago.
    "I hope, this Sunday, you'll say a prayer for the mamas whose day might pulse with sadness, loss, longing, or even regret. So many among us carry burdens we cannot imagine."- Yes- a thousand times yes. I did not give my child up for adoption, but have lost him nonetheless to a world of drugs, lies, and pain. One child will celebrate and tell me I am wonderful, and I will laugh and love with her, while my heart is ragged and bleeding for the failure that I can't help but claim for the other.
    Hardest. Job. In. The. World.

  3. Happy Mother's day!!! This really shook my heart, In a good way. My mother is adopted. Her adoptive parents were incredible people. She could not have asked for a better match. But still, as a child I was always pushing her to find her birth parents. Because I was so curious! It was much harder to do that back then and extremely expensive so she choose not to. But she did say that she did have one thing to tell them, "Thank you"and that "it was best thing that they could have done".

  4. This is a sweet tribute to birth moms and your dear family.

  5. Happy Mother's Day, sweet thing! I'm so excited to see how God is growing your ministry. He will have His way in us! Hugs to you. <3

  6. These words are beautiful and healing. Thank you.

  7. As an adoptive mom, I relate on every level. Did you watch the just-ended series, Long Lost Family? It was an amazing series on TLC and I bawled on every episode. It brought all of the emotions, from both adopted child and biological parents, to the forefront. I'm so glad my daughter was able to meet her birth family years ago, and even though she chose not to pursue a relationship, it made her circle of life complete. Now that she is a mother, she may well choose to pursue that relationship after all, and I'm perfectly fine with that, if that is the case. I believe that every child deserves to know where and who they came from. I hope one day all of your youngsters will get that privilege, if it's humanly possible.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  8. The artist must continue to look for a new reference. Every day, every performance, every take.

  9. Here was my Mother's Day prayer for myself. No matter how women came by the title of "mom" I am guessing most all moms have lots of these feelings. Shannan, maybe you would need to add something in there about chips and salsa, but I think it is still pretty universal. I typed it out on Sunday and I keep going back to re-read it. You are welcome to do the same.

    Dear Lord,
    Thank you for blessing me with three healthy children. Please help me lovingly guide them through life so they will grow up to be amazing, loving, respectful, happy people. Please help me see that a misstep on their part does not mean I am a failure as a mother but rather part of them growing up and figuring things out for themselves. Please help me show myself the same grace I would offer to other moms when they talk about how hard it is to be a good mom. Please help me not second guess every decision I make. I pray I will always take time out for fun things while not letting any of the "to do" things fall through the cracks. I hope my children always know they can always come to me to talk about anything. Most of all I pray they will always know my love for them has no limits and it never fades. Also, please help me find a bra that comfortably fits and help me stay on top of the laundry. I know both things will help me be a better mom.