Are You My Mother? & A Little Bit of Everything

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved Theodor Geisel (aka: Dr. Seuss), although there was one book that I attempted to repress to never think about again. Of course, this was impossible and the book’s contents became permanently imprinted upon my mind.

The story is about a little bird (I have a thing for little birds…), who’s mother goes off to search for food. While she is off searching for food, the little bird hatches out of his egg, and, not seeing his mother anywhere, goes in search for her. The little bird asks a variety of animals “are you my mother?” each replying with some variation of ‘no, I am not your mother.’ Still clinging onto hope, the little bird continues his search.

The little bird becomes so desperate that he asks a boat, a plane, and an earth mover if they are his mother, which of course, they aren’t. At this point, feeling discouraged and out of hope, the little bird cries out “Where am I? I want to go home! I want my mother!”

Luckily for the bird, at this point the earth mover drops him back in his nest and he’s safely back at home. Shortly after, his mother flies back to the nest and the two are reunited.

Is it any wonder why this book has stayed with me? Unfortunately, despite its happy ending, this story has found ways to haunt me for years. Whenever I’m around large groups of people, regardless of race and ethnicity, I find my inner voice crying out “are you my mother?” much like the little bird asked the plane and car. This is exacerbated when I’m around individuals of the same ethnicity, which is one of the reasons why this experience was so difficult, and one of the reasons why I’m dreading actually going to South Korea. Everywhere I walk I’m going to be wondering are YOU my mother? For approximately 208 hours (based on a generous, but doubtful 8 hours of sleep per night), I’m going to be living out this dreaded story, in real life, non-stop.

Let’s be real though: this is already happening.

Throughout the day I find myself desperately crying out (in my mind, of course), I want my mommy! and becoming instantly paralyzed with longing and sadness.

I can’t get away from the phrase.
Wherever I go, it goes with me.
It’s the first thing I think when I wake up and the reason I often cry myself to sleep.
Even during my happiest moments, it’s there waiting, waiting to remind me you have no one to share this with.

While trying to unravel what the phrase means, I found the following:

“I want my mommy!” means…

  • I want someone to share things with– the exciting, the bad, the mundane…all of it. I want to be able to call someone and be able to say nothing, to not have a point, yet still feel okay about calling, like I’m not wasting time or being a burden; someone who will just sit with me and let me be.
  • I want someone I can learn from. Yesterday I ran into a friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in years. She told me that she thought about me the day before while restocking the tampon aisle, then asked how things were with my mom (things have always been tenuous). I told her that we were basically done for now, and she said “I’ve always been sad about that. Restocking the tampon aisle made me think about when we were in high school on a trip, and, how on that trip you had a bathroom full of girls explaining to you how to use a tampon and recounting their ‘first time’ stories to make you feel better. That was when I understood how much you needed your mom, because a mom teaches you that, not strangers.” My friend was right on target and it made me realize that I’ve missed out on all of the mother-daughter conversations and experiences that most take for granted– those bonding moments that are often masked in some embarrassing and awkward form. These are all lost and even though I can’t get them back, I still wish had this person. (Thanks, internet, for becoming my mother in this regard.)
  • I want someone who will wash the snot out of my clothes and assure me that everything will be okay. (That should speak for itself.)
  • I want someone who I can be “goofy” and take “silly” pictures with (both words hold negative connotations for me), someone I can have fun with. Growing up, there were times where I would do things like run around in the rain and experiment with being a kid, just to be reprimanded. In high school I would return from camp with a camera full of silly pictures (people making silly faces, in a pyramid formation, etc.) and my adoptive mom would tell me that they were stupid and a waste of film. Then she would lament as to why I didn’t have many “good” pictures. It wasn’t until recently that I learned other peoples’ parents loved all of their pictures, even their goofy and silly ones. All of this turned me into a pretty serious person, especially around my adoptive mom. I’ve been able to loosen up a lot, but I’m still pretty reserved and can have a really difficult time doing silly things.
  • I want someone I can feel okay and adequate with– someone who accepts me at my best and worst; someone I don’t feel like I need to “be” a certain way with.
  • I want someone who understands me, or at least attempts to, and responds accordingly. Someone who listens and cares about what is important to me, even if it’s not important to them. For example, a response to my non-materialistic and ‘hippie’ lifestyle would be to not purchase me things which were probably manufactured in a way that not only harmed the environment, but harmed people.
  • I want someone to get a tattoo with. (I actually don’t want a tattoo, and probably never will.) My co-worker and her mom have tattoos that carry a special, inside meaning for them. They have inside jokes that no one else gets. They have memories that they’ll never forget. I think that is so cool.
  • I could probably go on for quite some time digging deeper into what that phrase means, but in short, I want someone who will love me, unconditionally. I once described what unconditional love meant to me in the following way: unconditional love is just that: unconditional. It’s a deep connection between individuals that can be felt within your soul, one that says I see to the depths of who you are, faults and everything, and love you even more because of them; now, forever and always. At its best it leaves each individual striving to be a better person, and consequently, the world a better place; at it’s worst (for example, unconditional love that is one sided) it leaves you with a better understanding of people and furthers your capacity for compassion and empathy.

Rereading this, I realize that I want an awful lot, but then I recount all of the relationships occurring around me and can’t help but think that it’s not too much to ask.

I’m doing everything I can to find this. I’m desperate. I even submitted an entry to Huffington Post’s What Do You Want To Do Before You Die competition. Given the legal issues regarding what I want (to find my birth parents and be able to reunite with them, even if its anonymously through a letter, email or some other mediator), I know that it’s something that will quickly be passed up.

In reality, I would actually be horrified if I was chosen as a finalist, given my desire for anonymity, but figured that at best another person can learn about how inhumane the closed adoption system is.

But of course there’s a tiny bit of me that hopes that something can happen with it, because if anyone in our world has the means and power to make things happen, it’s a big media outlet, right?

I long for the day when I can finally read Are You My Mother? and not be filled with questions and sadness, but unfortunately, this day will probably never come. Since hearing the news that my birth mother sternly requested that the adoption agency never contact her again, I’ve been doing my best to block out the magnitude of what it means because there’s still hope for finding and reuniting with my father.

At least there’s hope until the adoption agency closes that door as well.
I can only hope that when and if that door closes, and the magnitude of everything hits me, that I’ll be able to find the strength to make sense of it all and move forward.

If my life were a video game, I’d feel a lot like Mario here– paused in the middle of a big-jump, wondering if I was going to clear the gaping whole and land safely on solid ground, or fall to unknown depths.

(I was never good at video games.)


4 thoughts on “Are You My Mother? & A Little Bit of Everything

  1. I am so completely touched by your story. I am an adopted child from another country to the U.S. I have struggled with the same questions and the wondering of why I wasn’t worth keeping for years. I found my biological family last year (I am 42 now). Unfortunately, my biological mother had passed away a mere 9 months earlier. Thank you for being so completely open about your feelings here. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in the feelings.

    • Thank you for your nice words. I am so happy that you were able to find your biological family, and am deeply sorry to hear that your biological mother had already passed away. I hope that you were able to learn a lot about her.

      Have you reconnected with your birth father and/or any siblings/relatives from either side?

  2. I like that you have listed out the things that you are looking for or feel that you missed. I think that it gives you a roadmap for what you are looking for. I know that you tend to feel like it is hopeless and that what you are missing can only be fulfilled by your birth parents, but I disagree. Even people who are raised by their biological parents are often missing some of these things. Imagine if your adoptive mother was your birth mother. You’d still be missing out. I believe that It is possible to fill in the gaps that were missing from our own childhood with healthy relationships in adulthood. I know it’s not exactly the same so, in part, you have to mourn the fact that you can’t get these things from a true parent figure in your life. But, leave room to celebrate the fact that you can find people to fill in these gaps. I think it’s great that you had those girlfriends in high school who helped coach you through Tampon 101. I’m sorry that you didn’t get the help you needed from either your “first mom” or your second, but what a gift that you had friends to step in when you needed them. Of course, they were there for you because you are a very special person, kind and compassionate, and a true friend to others. That’s why I always feel so confident that you can succeed in life. I know that you can find the good, healthy relationships that you need to feel whole.

    • I know, but finding these things in either my first or second set of parents is so essential for me and I can’t get beyond that. Outside of family or a significant other, there’s no other way to find the things that I so desperately want. I can only get close with other relationships.

      The relationship I have with you guys is the closest I feel like I can ever get to it. This isn’t to say that it isn’t great, because it is. Every day I’m so grateful to have your family here to support and encourage me and to act as a family, but it’s still different. Some day I won’t be around, our lives will get busy, and the adhesive that keeps families together across distances and through business will wear away. Sure, we could still be close, but it probably wouldn’t *feel* as deep and forever-feeling as it usually feels now, even though it would be…if that makes any sense. I guess I’m getting stuck on feeling versus thinking.

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