Why My Mom Is A Real Mom — Even Though She Didn’t Give Birth To Me

What makes a mother?

photo of author and mom Courtesy of the Author

Is it the woman who carried you in her womb for 9 months and brought you into the world?

The one who spent her days feeding, changing, and soothing your cries when you were a baby?

The one who made one of the hardest decisions of her life when she gave you up for adoption so you could have a better life? 

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Or is it the woman who worked two jobs to give you that better life?


The one who read to you at night before you went to sleep and baked you cupcakes on your birthdays?

The one who reprimanded you when you made a mistake and was proud when you accomplished your goals

The one who comforted you after your first heartbreak and told you again and again that you'd be OK and you could get through anything? 

For me, it's both.

I met my birth mother just last year, coincidentally enough, on Mother's Day weekend. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. I had pictured the scenario in my head many times over the years: Would I cry? Would she cry? What would we say to each other?


Would I show my resentment or would forgiveness win?

Well, she cried ... I didn't. I didn't cry because I felt relief like a burden had finally been lifted from my shoulders. Instead, I was all smiles when I met the family that I never got the opportunity to know. 

And finally, after years of wondering why my parents gave me up, I learned the truth.

After five children, it was out of necessity. They only had a year with me before they let me go to a new family.

The woman who I came to call my mom is honestly the best mom I could ask for.

We didn't spend many Mother's Days together when I was growing up because she worked overseas throughout my childhood. My grandmother was my temporary parent, until I finally joined my parents as a teenager. But she spent those years away from me to give me the best life possible. 


I didn't know that my mom wasn't the one who birthed me until I was 14.

When my mom and dad finally told me I cried, but a part of me had always suspected. Not because I was made to feel different, but because of small observations that always tugged at my soul. I didn't look like anyone else in my family and couldn't find pictures of myself as an infant, no matter how hard I tried.

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But that revelation didn't change my relationship with my mom. She still baked me cupcakes (well, now, I'm, the one who bakes her cupcakes), encouraged my love of books, and reminded me of the importance of education. We still argued about what was best for me — and in the end (of course) — she was right.


She was (and still is) a mom. My mom. 

She used to ask me what I would do if my real mom wanted me back.

My answer to that question never wavered: Mom, you are my real mom.

And so is she.

To my birth mom: You carried me for 9 months, gave birth to me, and cared for me in the short time that I was with you. And even if I wasn't growing up beside you, you continued to love me and wish for my happiness. 

You gave me up because you knew that that was the best thing for me. Thank you for being my mom — my real mom. 


To my mom: You never made me feel any less of a daughter even though you did not give birth to me. I never once felt like anything was missing in terms of a mother's love because you gave me all of it and all of you. And yes, even though we argued a little about my choice of a college major and eventual profession, you continued to support me and cheer me on while I fulfilled my dreams.

And for that, thank you for being my mom — my real mom.

And I feel incredibly lucky to be the daughter of two wonderful women who I know will always love me, no matter what.

They always have. 

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Caithlin Pena is an editor for YourTango who enjoys books, movies, and writes about astrology and lifestyle topics.