Coming to Life: Philosophies of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mothering

By Sarah Lachance Adams; Caroline R. Lundquist | Go to book overview

6
Birthmothers and Maternal Identity
The Terms of Relinquishment

DOROTHY ROGERS

Much is made of the nature of motherhood, particularly of the ways in which maternal identity is derived in and through our children, making our life choices, and at times even our sense of self, contingent upon them. The women I know through my daughter’s friends are almost always first “Morena’s mom,” “Jonah’s mom,” and “Lien’s mom.” Only after a time do they become “Diana,” “Rachel,” and “Mei-Xing.” We laugh about it, of course. So much of our time is spent managing our children’s lives and attending to their needs that deriving our identity from them in this way is just “more of the same.” But we also take this transformation of our identity—from self-directed women with responsibilities primarily to ourselves to an identity formed in and through the role of “mother”—seriously. We recognize and accept our parental obligations to our children, their need for us to provide for them, for their security, and their well-being.

In some sense, everyone’s identity is derived from and contingent upon our relationships, perhaps most profoundly so within our families. Parenthood is so thoroughly life-changing that the ways in which our identity is derived from our role as mothers, rather than intentionally formed by our own actions and choices, are perhaps not really more pronounced; they just come more readily to our awareness.

What happens when a woman is just “Someone’s” mom? When motherhood is deferred? What does a woman do when her maternal identity is derived from a child who is not present in her life? As Lorraine Dusky has put it, she is “a mother without a child.”1

-120-

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