Real Mothers

“My son had a distended belly from not eating proper, and he was close to slipping into a coma."

I used two words and made a fat mistake. I guess that’s progress. Usually, it only takes me one word.

Anyway, I wrote about an adopted girl. I referred to her mother as an “adoptive mother.”

Poor choice of words. Mothers who adopt are REAL mothers. Those who give children up for adoption are “birth-mothers.”

Adoptive mothers don’t exist.

Sometimes I have the IQ of a room-temperature Budweiser.

That day, I received forty-two messages from parents of adopted children, and step-parents. They all had adoption stories. These were kindhearted letters from people with so much sweetness they make pound cake look bland.

I read each message aloud to my wife. It took me an afternoon to read through them—it was one of the finest afternoons I’ve had in a while.

Here’s why:

One woman wrote: “I was working as a waitress. This girl who washed dishes was pregnant and told me in passing that she was going to abort her baby because her boyfriend had landed in jail…

“I didn’t sleep all night. The next day I just went right up to her, my hands were trembling, and asked if she’d let me and my boyfriend adopt.

“It’s been a long road, but the bottom line is, my son is my pride and joy. I’ve never looked back. I just wanted you to know that I fully consider myself his real mother.”

As you should, ma’am.

Another friend writes: “When I heard I couldn’t have kids it made me feel like I was a broken washing machine or something.

“The day we first held our baby girl my husband said I smiled so big… He says I looked like an unused coloring book who was finally getting colored in—I don’t know if that makes sense.”

It does.

Someone else: “My son was born in a bad part of town… People were doing meth, trading drugs for sex. Later, we found out his birth-mother was wasn’t only an addict, she was a kind of local prostitute.

“My son had a distended belly from not eating proper, and he was close to slipping into a coma.

“Someone dropped him off at the hospital anonymously. We got him through our pastor… I used to stay awake praying over him while he slept. We were so relieved when we found out he didn’t have AIDS.

“You should see how healthy he is today. He’s not even the same kid.”

There’s a selfish hatred running loose in the streets. I don’t know what you call it, but it’s everywhere. And it’s gutting families from the inside out. Even so, I’m not afraid of it.

Not anymore.

You shouldn’t be either. Because there are people who are fighting against it and winning.

They’re called real mothers.

I’m sorry I ever called them anything else.


  1. Calista - January 7, 2017 7:38 am


  2. Judy - January 7, 2017 2:21 pm

    Don’t beat yourself up about it. Those terms are used to distinguish which mother we are referring to. Birth mother, Foster mother, Adoptive mother–all a very real mother to the child.

  3. Elaine - January 7, 2017 5:04 pm

    You know, when I read ‘adoptive mother’ it did occur to me that it sounded odd (not that I could put my finger on anything in particular, just that it was a modifier that seemed clunky.) But I didn’t think you had any unkind intentions, and I hope you didn’t encounter harsh outrage. Your column today was grace itself….and that’s all any of us can hope for!

  4. Charaleen Wright - March 20, 2019 5:13 am


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