‘My 19-year-old boyfriend was the first person to ever recognize me as a mother.’: Birthmother pleas for recognition of ALL moms on Mother’s Day

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Early Motherhood

“I vaguely remember the first Mother’s Day I experienced post placement. While the moment to moment details are a bit out of focus, the emotions I carried are crystal clear. 

Hollow. I felt hollow.

My daughter would have been just about a month away from turning one, which meant I hadn’t seen her or had an update for 11 months. 

My postpartum body was unfamiliar. I had stretchmarks that were a daily reminder of my empty arms, and yet, even if I hadn’t gained one silvery stripe, my body would have still felt the heightened pangs of grief as I watched women around me celebrate their motherhood.

Young woman holds up shirt to reveal stretch marks.
Courtesy Raquel McCloud

To acknowledge me as a mother would have validated the reality of my experience and it seemed to be a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Fourteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to be pregnant. Fifteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to birth babies. Sixteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to be birthmothers. 

But… I was pregnant at fourteen.

I had birthed a child at fifteen. 

I was a birthmother at sixteen.

Young pregnant teenager takes photo showing her bump.
Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

And it was Mother’s Day. But adoption is uncomfortable and discomfort often breeds silence, so no one said a word.

Two years later, after swearing off the idea of ever being with another man, I was in a new relationship. We were still so young, so tender, but he was different, so very different. We hadn’t been together long, but long enough for him to know certain occasions sent me into depressive episodes that could last days, or sometimes weeks. I didn’t communicate that Mother’s Day would be a trigger for my grief, but somehow he knew… this 19-year-old boy knew.

He walked in the door with some flowers and one of those obnoxiously big cards, the kind you can’t help but laugh about.

‘What’s this?’ I asked as he handed it to me. ‘Just open it,’ he said with a shy grin spreading across his face.

I lifted the flap and pulled out a card that read, ‘Just thought you deserved the biggest, best Mother’s Day card around.’ His note on the inside was even sweeter.

My 19-year-old boyfriend was the first person to ever recognize me as a mother and validate those feelings in a tangible way.

Life-Changing Relationship

I married that boy. Him and I just celebrated 14 years of marriage. We’ve moved more times than I can count, sold our house, and committed to a nomadic lifestyle in a 39’ travel trailer. But even after donating more than 75% of our belongings, guess what I still have? …That card.

Wife kisses husband holding giant mother's day card for her.
Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

His thoughtfulness didn’t eradicate my heartache, but it certainly didn’t make matters worse either. Metaphorically, it felt like someone rubbing balm on an open wound. Soothing.

Birthmothers need a community unafraid to step into discomfort for the sake of love. That’s exactly what Casey chose to do without any knowledge, experience, or expertise. He saw a need and met it without knowing how it would be received, without being asked or told. He was just willing to put his work boots on because I guess he realized loving someone well wasn’t always an easy job.

Husband wearing baseball cap puts arm around wife smiling back.
Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

Now, as a grown woman who is both a birthmother and adoptive mother, I know there are a host of emotions that go into celebrating this day. Despite now having a beautiful, open-relationship with my first-born, I can still feel grief around this day. It’s still a reminder of the years and moments I missed in her life. Time (and a thriving relationship) has certainly been a soothing balm to this hurting heart, but the heartache is still there… just not so raw these days. As an adoptee, adoptive mom, and an advocate within this community, I’m no stranger to the pangs of jealousy that threaten a mother’s heart when asked to share this day with another woman. Try to remember, it’s not a competition. Just like a mother’s heart is capable of fiercely loving more than one child, a child’s heart is capable of loving more than one parent. 

Send the card.”

Wife wraps arms around husband's neck and they smile at the camera.
Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud. Follow her family journey on Instagram hereSubmit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read Raquel’s backstory here:

‘I was 14 and pregnant. ‘Can we meet?’ 9 years after she was born, my birth daughter’s family encouraged her to hug me. I didn’t want to let go.’: Woman shares perspective as an adopted child, birth mom, and adoptive mom

Read more from Raquel here:

‘We deserve honest and direct answers about our biology.’: Adoptee advises adoptive parents on creating healthy foundations for their children

‘We will not ask our daughter to celebrate when she feels the pangs of grief, nor will we tell her to grieve when she feels like dancing.’: Adoptive mom talks giving kids choice to celebrate adoption anniversaries

‘He heard I was a birthmother before I ever got the chance to share. He didn’t assume or judge, he offered empathy.’: Teen birth mom shares appreciation for husband’s compassion

‘How many kids do you have?’ For years, this question was a trigger. Like lemon juice in a fresh wound, it stung.’: Birthmother shares adoption grief, making peace with others’ opinions

‘Your birth daughter would like to meet you.’ I stood in disbelief. I was terrified she wouldn’t love me.’: Woman overcomes fear, ‘I wasted too many sleepless nights’

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