The Day My Son Said His Birth Mother’s Name

This kid, my son. He’s always had a “bigger than life” way about him. From the very day when we left the orphanage in Russia, I knew that my Vitya was made for incredible things.

Vitya’s caretakers told me how he was known as the “pacifier thief” within the orphanage baby room where he spent the first year of his life. He’d pluck the pacifiers out of the mouths of other babies and stuff them into his own. It was common to see my boy, on any given day, contently sucking on three pacifiers at one time. He’s always been a bold boy. And, we’ve always had a special bond.

Over the course of the last twelve years, my son has taught me so much about life; about living. He’s taught me to be present in the moment and to live out loud. He’s taught me to laugh and to imagine. He’s taught me to let loose, to get messy, and to be okay with that. He’s taught me that nothing is impossible if you believe. This boy, my Vitya — my Ian — means more to me than I could ever possibly put down in words.

So, this afternoon, when he looked at me and said, “What is my birth mom’s name?” … I stopped everything to be in that moment with him. Ian is thirteen years old now. Over the course of our years together, since bringing him home at 11-months of age, he has not wanted to talk much about his adoption. He’s known that we have an open-door policy about adoption conversation and that all questions and curiosities are welcome. I have told him several times, over the years: “I have some information for you, Ian, so it’s here when and if you desire…but I want that to be your decision, not mine.”

The normal reply was always, “I’m okay, Mom.” Yet, as an adoptee myself, I knew that Ian was processing many things inside of his young heart. Recently, I have sensed a shift in his need to know. And, so when he asked, “What is my birth mom’s name?”… I parked the car and looked him directly in the eyes.

“I love you, son. I’m going to tell you what I know, okay? Your birth mother’s name is Maria.” Ian looked at me. He was quiet and holding back tears. I continued, “I think it might be a good idea for you to say her name, son. I want you to know that it’s okay. You won’t hurt me. I love your birth mom. She’s a part of you and so she’s a part of me. Give yourself the gift of saying her name, out loud.”

I closed my eyes and heard Ian whisper, “Maria.” I opened my eyes and looked at my son as he then said his birth mom’s name, again. This time, a little louder… “Maria.” We both took deep breaths, and then we smiled. “Mom, do you know my birth dad’s name?” I explained to Ian that we had never been given information on his birth father, and that I only had his birth mother’s name and date of birth. I also knew that she was from the country of Azerbaijan and that his father was Russian. “Do you think I have any siblings in Russia or Azerbaijan?” I replied that this is always a possibility; something that Ian is aware of since he’s witnessed the unfolding of my own adoption journey and the discovery of a brother — his Uncle Andre — some six years ago.

“Ian, it’s important for you to know the information that we have for you. It’s yours to own! It’s important for you to claim the earliest parts of your story and to speak it. It’s important for you to say your birth mom’s name, out loud. I’m so happy that you did.”

Somehow, Ian looked lighter in that moment. I felt that a bit of his burden had been lifted. He expressed interest in wanting to meet his birth parents someday. I told Ian that we would help him if he chose that journey. I reminded him to trust God in the prayer of reunion.

I hugged my son, and years — like mini movies — flashed by in my mind. The joy, the tears, every smile, every look — every single, precious moment.

As much as I’d love to hold on to the little boy, I know that my son is becoming a young man. A man needs to know his foundation so that he can grow strong. This moment was Ian’s rite of passage into manhood. This mama will support him every step of the way. And, I hold his birth mom so very close. She’s always only a thought away:

Maria, wherever you are as I write these words, please know that your son has spoken your name. Know that the speaking of your name has brought a healing to his heart. Please also know that I will always share your story with love and respect. You gave birth to my boy and he is one of the greatest treasures in my life.

Thank you. I love you. I’m sorry that you do not have the gift of watching Ian grow. I pray that somewhere within your spirit you know our boy is well. Safe. Sound. Loved. So very deeply and completely loved.

And, today, sweet Maria, he said your name…


Michelle Madrid-Branch is an author, speaker, international adoptee, and global advocate for women and children; specializing in the areas of adoption, foster care, abandonment recovery, and identity reconciliation. She is the author of Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, Mascara Moments: Embracing the Woman in the Mirror, and the children’s book, The Tummy Mummy. Michelle’s mission is to ensure that the adoption community is heard, seen, valued, respected, and understood. To learn more about Michelle, visit: