First Mother

Keeping it easy this 4th of July week with a repost from 2012.  This came from the bottom of my heart, about the struggle knowing your child came from someone else’s womb.

When Caroline laughs deeply, I sometimes hear faint echoes of my grandmother’s laugh. Someday, we will pull out old VHS tapes and introduce Caroline to the sweet woman whose melodic joy lives on through her great-granddaughter.

And then there is Amelia.

Amelia, whose nose crinkles when she smiles silly. Whose sing-song voice can reach operatic octaves. Whose eyelashes reach her eyebrows, and whose pinky toenails grow folded so she points to them and laughs. Sometime, somewhere where on this spinning globe lived others with crumpled noses and toenails, with stunning voices and eyelashes. People who passed bits of their own flesh and traits to a womb, to the pair of cells that would rapidly divide and grow and become Amelia.

Somewhere in Africa, there is a first mother whose existence cocooned and nurtured the beginnings of this baby I call mine.

I am occasionally jealous of Amelia’s first mother. Her right to claim Amelia is etched deeply into the strands of her DNA. What I would give for even the stray cells left on my toothbrush to testify that Amelia is mine.

Instead, I have papers made by man and notarized in court.
I have a mother’s heart beating love.
I have fifteen months of memories,
the hope of a future,
and the sound of my girl calling, “Mama!”

I can tell you that Amelia hates eggs and loves books. I can predict her exact mood based on the hour of the day. I can make her laugh and tell you she’ll count to thirteen, skipping six every time.

But never, never can I explain from whom she inherited hair that grows quickly and strong. I can’t explain who before her was as affectionate and cuddly as she is. Why she is so delicate, so feminine, so tall.


Every now and then, I buy into the subtle lie that my claim to her is forged. I grieve for the history I cannot explain to my child. >Will she cry the day she understands adoption’s beauty is watered with tears and grown from ashes? Will she ache for a woman named Grace who birthed her, then carefully left her in a place known for its Christian love?

My jealousy for Amelia’s first mother is waning. Love replaces rivalry. Gratitude brings me to tears. How can a perfect stranger knit together a part of your soul? She tore materials from her own body and built up our family – surely leaving a gaping hole in her own heart. Can she imagine all she has given her daughter?  Given us?

The deeper I dive into the adoption world, the more I fear drowning. I feel the brokenness that created our joy. The pain that led to our blessing. No, I no longer envy Amelia’s first mother. My cells don’t hold my baby’s DNA, but my mismatched hand holds hers.  My eyes cry gratitude.  Grace’s eyes, perhaps, simply cry.

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  1. Elizabeth Hudson

    This is the most tender and beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  2. Lee Hoagland

    Rachel, this should have come with a warning to keep Kleenex handy! Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your family’s story.

  3. Beth

    This is beautiful, Rachel. I’ve loved receiving your posts! Thanks for always sharing in such an honest and transparent way. ☺️

  4. Katie

    I love this! We have a son adopted from Ukraine. Daily I wonder who his mom was, the mom who drank while he was in inuterio! I too wonder often what his genetic background is. My heart breaks daily for him with his fetal alcohol syndrome, and I pray for his birth mom in Ukraine and pray that my little boy will love his biological mom regardless of her mistakes and one day will understand that she probably did what she thought best for him to drop him off at 6 weeks old at a hospital in Ukraine! God has blessed us with our forever children, and daily we can try and mold them as our own even if our dna’s don’t match.

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