Parenting Another Woman’s Child

This week in Tuesday’s Trials I am going to discuss something that is always an underlying current running through my thoughts and actions as a mother. It’s the realization that I am not the first mother to love my children. There was another woman that loved them before I ever entered the picture. They originally were someone else’s child.

The thought that another woman gave me the blessing of these children is something that haunts me. It is a thought that at best is restrained to just the corners of my mind and at worst cloaks me in guilt when I fail my children. Someone else out there loves these children as much as I do. The refrain that runs through my mind is that in order to do justice to the gift I have received, I must be a perfect mother. I must meet every expectation that I can conjure up in my head of what I think Mama-A and Mama-D would want me to be.

When we first brought Turkey-man home the palpable grief of Mama-A was fresh. Every frustration of motherhood was met with the guilt that Mama-A is grieving the loss of her son. I needed to exude continuous gratitude for him. I had no right to complain.

This contributed greatly to the sense of isolation I had as a new mom. While other new moms could seek support for the stress of a newborn, I could not share in that encouragement. The guilt because I was struggling ate at me. I felt deeply ungrateful for the sacrifice that was made with any negative thought I had.

I can remember the nights where sleep was minimal and tears of exhaustion ran down my cheeks. In my head I repeatedly heard “You should be thankful for this!” Shame filled me as I felt inherently defective for not being appreciative of every aspect of motherhood.

I would love to tell you that almost four years later I have been able to put that thought to rest, but that would be a lie. Many times I feel remorse for simply engaging in conversation with other moms, commiserating about the more difficult aspects of motherhood. It always occurs to me that there is another woman who at times would give anything to be experiencing these struggles with these same children, to have the privilege of raising them.

I am haunted with the need to the perfect mother in order to make up for the pain that another woman had to go through so I could have the privilege of these children. It gets lonely sometimes trapped by these thoughts. Fortunately, I have found safety in my family and a few close friends. I can bounce thoughts off of them without worrying that they are judging me for struggling.

At times, I have to remind myself that I am the mother God wants for these children. Another woman may have loved them first, but I am their hands-on, day-to-day mother. I need to be free from my self-imposed prison of perfection in order to parent them effectively.

There is no purpose to aspire to reach the goal of perfection. It is also of little use for me to compare myself to the projections I have in my head of the type of mother I think Mama-A and Mama-D would want for their child. It does my children no good for me to have this extra layer of guilt above and beyond normal mommy guilt.

For now, I have to accept that motherhood is not easy. There are no clear-cut answers. It is okay to ask for help. The most I can do is to try each day to do the best that I can and extend myself the same grace I would to a friend when I am having a difficult day. I need to stop comparing myself to “A Better Mother” and start accepting myself as I am, freeing myself from the lurking thought that I am raising someone else’s child.

I am the mother God wants them to have. Otherwise, He’d have them elsewhere. I need to have faith in His wisdom in placing these children in my care. He sees me a capable and competent. If only I could get that refrain to repeat in my head instead!

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5 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. It’s certainly opened my eyes to how adoptive parents could feel. ALL of us mothers have guilt in some shape or form… and the guilt that we should be enjoying every aspect of motherhood is universal. As mothers, we understand what a huge privilege has been bestowed on us, whether it’s because someone else gave up her own children or because someone you know was never able to bear any and you could. Rest assured that it all lies within God’s wisdom and control. And just because we’re blessed so richly doesn’t mean it ain’t hard. 🙂

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  2. I hadn’t thought of it that way — that you may have an extra measure of guilt as you parent your kids. I know it’s not the same experience, but, as Velle says, most mothers are prone to feeling guilt: I worry about lack of domestic or organizational skills, school choices, bad personal examples, etcetera. The knowledge that God sovereignly gave my kids to me to parent is comforting at those times. As your blog’s title says, it’s not my plan but His.

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