May 13th, 2012
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Back in the 1990’s I spent some time in Guatemala. Completely surrounded by a foreign culture and a foreign language (both of which became second nature to me while I was living there a while), I was a long way away from home and away from that wonderful lady who gave birth to me and raised me- my mother. I know the 90’s don’t seem like that long ago, but technologically it sure was. Email hadn’t yet become popular, so our main form of correspondence was by snail mail. And when you’re that far away it took about 2 weeks for a letter to travel from one to the other, then 2 more weeks for a reply. International calling still cost us an arm and a leg back then (or as the Guatemalans say, un brazo y una pierna), so it was rare that I was able to pick up Alexander Graham Bell’s invention and hear her sweet voice. That voice is just what I think of when I think of the tenderness of my mother, though. I called her one day, having been about 6 months since I’d last talked to her and all I needed to say was hello before she recognized my voice and said, “Is that my boy?”

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I’m hardly a “boy” now, being literally twice her size and now a father, myself. Still, I will always be “her boy.” My mother was the kind of person who would split her piece of pumpkin pie with me even though I’d already eaten my piece. She sat cheering in the stands for every pitch I threw from the pitcher’s mound all growing up. She was the tender voice that guided me to reason when I was confused and even calm whenever I messed up. She was always there.
I left home when I was 17 to go to college and I’m now 34, so I’ve lived away from my mom just as long as I lived with her. Times change. My mom doesn’t play the same role in my life that they did when I was learning to walk or learning to throw a baseball. She doesn’t even play the same role she played back when I was single. I’ve moved on, and in so doing my concept of motherhood has changed.
In a big way, I guess the majority of us are take a gamble on each other when it comes to parenting. I mean, I knew that the beautiful girl I proposed marriage to was good to me and she made me a better person, but she wasn’t a mother when we were dating and I didn’t know how good of a mother she would be. So, I put my silver dollar in the coin slot and pulled the lever to my life’s slot machine to see how things would turn out and… what do ya know!? I hit the jackpot! Jammie is not only the most amazing wife, but my gamble paid off and she’s the most amazing mother to my children.
Our children came to us through the miracle of open adoption. So, not only am I given the chance to watch my wife excel in her role as a mother, but I’m also able to watch our relationship grow with the birth mothers of our children. They are such amazing women. They add a piece to the puzzle that is our home, supporting us and loving us. The fact that my wife and I haven’t been able to have our own children biologically doesn’t mean that we have missed out on blessings. Learning to love these beautiful birth mothers has taught us a whole new type of love- a love that we couldn’t experience anywhere else in life.
My life is truly blessed by the wonderful women that surround me. They may not carry that Y chromosome that I have, but they all have helped shape and mold me into the man that I am. I shudder to think what my life would be like without them! I love you birth moms, Mom, and especially my wife, Jammie. Happy Mother’s Day.

Russell Elkins, author of Open Adoption, Open Heart

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