Yes, I’m a real mom too. I never experienced the beauty and pitfalls of carrying him within me and the joys and agony of giving birth. I haven’t been in his life since the start and yes genetically we are not linked. But he’s still my son and I am still his mother.

Mother’s Day isn’t always a weird holiday for me. The majority of the time I don’t feel weird about it and I don’t have second thoughts of my legitimacy as a mother. But, there are moments were I read poems, articles and comments that don’t reflect my experiences as a mother.

I didn’t give birth to him. Growing up I never questioned this as being a requirement to being a mom because I’m adopted. My mom is my mom and my birth mother is my birth mother. When I was young I described the process of adoption as only meaning my parents weren’t there when God made me. I knew at my core that my mom is 100% my mom and it would make me so mad when people would ask about me “real mommy”. She is my real mom; there’s nothing fake about the love and devotion she has given me from before day 1. So taking on the role as a full time stepmom, particularly with our situation, doesn’t innately lead me to question my validity as my little guy’s mom.

This doesn’t mean that everyone feels the same. I get moments where people’s true beliefs come out (thankfully these moments are brief and infrequent but they do occur). It seems like for some I’m less of a mom because he never was within me and I didn’t go through the pain and suffering and awe that is childbirth. I’m less of a mom because the first few years of his life we hadn’t met yet. I’m less of a mom because legally I have fewer rights. And I’m less of a mom because his “real” mom exists (somewhere).

And for those who want to claim her legitimacy as his “real” mom, let me clarify. That “right” was revoked from her the moment she chose to harm him and refused to provide him with the care and safety he needed and everyone deserves. She is not his mother when she chooses herself over him, in every situation for the past 9 plus years. She doesn’t help him when he’s scared, rush him to the hospital when he’s hurt, take him to the doctor every 2 months so he can get the medication he needs, bandage his boo boos when he falls down, give him reassurance after bad dreams. She doesn’t hold him when he’s upset and help him use his coping skills when his brain can’t emotionally regulate. She doesn’t cook, clean, pick him up from school, take him to the movies for mommy son dates, dance around to music, play in the pool or garden with him. She doesn’t stay awake at night wondering how to pay for all the extra curricular activities, toys, trips and excursions that enrich his life and are fun. She isn’t the one worrying about and handling a child with extra needs. She doesn’t have to explain why life is more difficult for him than others; why it’s harder to learn and speak for him; explain that difference don’t make him less than and point out all the amazing things that make him who he is and bring joy to my life. She gave up the right to be him mom when she made the choice not to act like his mom.

Sure my life is more complex now that I’m a mom, but it’s also more amazing. I get the most heart-filled hugs and sweetest cuddles. I get to watch his excitement Christmas and Easter mornings when I’ve stayed up so late the night before arranging all the things I’ve been collecting over the previous months that I know will bring him joy. I get to watch the light turn on as he learns something new and I get to be one of the people that teach him about life and the world. I get to laugh with him and cry for him and worry about being enough for him.

Sure, he did not originate from my womb. But he thrives from my love and devotion. As strange as it may sound, the most motherly thing his birth mother could do is to continue to stay away. Maybe not forever, but at least until he’s mature enough, emotionally competent enough to handle it. He doesn’t know his many cognitive, emotional, academic, and physical struggles stem from her drinking while pregnant and her throwing him against a wall as an infant. He doesn’t know that over the years she’s consistently refused to take steps to have any contact. He only knows that thinking about her makes him sad, mad and confused.

And before someone gets offended, let me clarify. I’m not saying that all women who make bad parenting choices have the mom title revoked automatically. But in our situation, yup. She lost that right to the title when she refused to accept it. Being a mom is more than pregnancy and birth, it’s more than genetics, it’s more than legal definitions. It’s waking up everyday knowing that my life, my choices, my existence belong to a little boy down the hall (yes, there is more to my life and I haven’t lost my identity) but he lives in my heart and I in his.

I am his mom and he is my son.