I Double-Dog Dare You, Brother and Sister Arnell

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I have a friend, a newly formed first mother who is still in the tender, fragile first year of post-relinquishment. Over on her blog “My Story”,  an uber-helpful man in her life, “Brother Arnell,”  has posted several comments to which I simply had to respond. I really should be writing my dissertation, but this just keeps getting stuck in my brain and I am afraid if I don’t write about it, it will continue to block my progress on what I should be doing. So here is the comment that I have had a hard time digesting:

I didn’t realize that as a man, husband and father of six I might be so clueless about parenthood as some of the respondents seem to think, so I asked my wife who has (among all our children) 52 years of 24/7, one-on-one, day-and-night mothering experience (not to mention pregnancy, labor, delivery and miscarriages) and who, for what it’s worth, knows something of the heartache of broken families. Her response: “Conception, nine months of pregnancy and 3-36 hours of labor do not a mother make – motherhood requires a lifetime of service.” (Brother Arnell, Feb 21, 2011;emphasis mine)

I would like to issue a challenge to Brother Arnell and his wife: I challenge them to look into the eyes of the mother of a child that was stillborn, the mother of a child who died in early infancy, the mother of a child lost to a miscarriage and I DARE them to tell that woman she is NOT a mother because she did not serve her child for a lifetime. I challenge them to look at that mother in the eyes and speak those same words they just said to Kara: “Conception, nine months of pregnancy, and 3-36 hours of labor do not a mother make – motherhood requires a lifetime of service. In fact, I issue this challenge to ANY PERSON who thinks the ONLY requirement for motherhood is serving a child for a lifetime.

I challenge them to look into the eyes of Abby’s mother and tell her she is NOT a mother because Abby passed within hours of being born. (Be prepare and have lots of Kleenex on hand if you follow that link….). I challenge them to look into the eyes of my friend here on base, who lost her lovely 9-month old daughter to a tragic illness two years ago this month. I DARE them to tell her she does not qualify to be called MOTHER because she did not serve her sweet daughter for a lifetime. I challenge them to send Curtis’s mother an email telling her that since she did not spend a lifetime serving him as he was stillborn at 40 weeks gestation, that she is NOT a mother. I dare them to look into my sister-in-law’s eyes and tell her that because my sweet nephew, her only son, died at 5 months gestation and she did not get the chance to serve him “for a lifetime” that she is NOT his mother. (Just do not do it while my brother is around or they might end up in a headlock with 190 lbs of angry on top of them).

I think you would agree that treating these mothers of loss this way would be absurd and I doubt you would find one single person who would take me up on that challenge (but maybe Brother Arnell would like to try it anyway?).

So why is it that mothers of loss (to adoption) are treated soooooooooooooo differently? Why is it the public assumes that we do not grieve, that we do not suffer, that we do not ache to hold our lost child just one more time as much as these women? Why is it that my friend, even two years later, is still having people bring her meals around the anniversary of her daughter’s passing and people still stop and hug her at the mailboxes and wipe her tears away? Why is she afforded that but I am not? Why am I told I should just get over you? I know it has been longer than two years for us, but I highly doubt that in 16 more years, my friend is going to have anyone say to her, “It was so long ago, just forget about her and move on already, will you? You have other children – stop crying about the one you lost.”

One of the things I find the most perplexing in this whole adoption transaction is that it is presumably  based on the deep and abiding love a birth mother has for her child. We (I) love our child so much that we gave her (you)  “more.” However, once the adoption is final, that deep and abiding love that moved us to make such a “selfless choice” no longer matters and some people feel that it no longer  (or should not) even exist.

And then you get people like Brother Arnell and his lovely wife who state that because I did not spend a lifetime serving you, I am neither a mother nor do I deserve the status of “motherhood” decreed up on me.

So if I am not a mother, then what am I Brother and Sister Arnell?

Much love,

M.

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