I have an essay in the April/May issue of Fit Pregnancy magazine that I wrote in tandem with a gorgeous photograph of a grandma, mom, and toddler. The essay is just 500 words—a musing on how becoming a mother helps you come to terms with your own mom. (ETA: Fit Pregnancy closed in 2015, merging its content with Parents.)
I received a letter, dated April 12, 2010, from an angry reader of the magazine, upset by the essay, who lives in the Bronx.
Here’s what she wrote:
I was enjoying the April/May 2010 issue of Fit Pregnancy until I reached your article ‘A Mother is Born.’ I cannot understand how someone like yourself can be so insensitive to adoptive mothers, as you were in your article. I quote, “…your mom rushed back to work after you were born—like mine did—…and you were secretly sure you were adopted.”
How dare you insinuate adoptive mothers are “relieved” to go back to work and leave their babies. It is obvious you were scarred by the fact that your biological mother left you and went back to work. This does not give you the right to insult adoptive mothers and children.
As an adoptive mother of four children, I take the offense personally. Adoptive and biological parents do the best they can for their children alike. To make a statement like you did is purely offensive and hurtful. I believe you owe all adoptive mothers a sincere public apology, however, this may not alleviate the harm you have already done. Young pregnant girls who are considering adoption could have been reading your article and influenced by your statement.
I am also very upset at Fit Pregnancy for publishing this article with this statement. I hope they will screen their articles in the future, and, as a respected and educated person who writes publishes [sic] in varied venues, I hope you will choose you [sic] words more carefully in the future. I guess neither one of you thought someone who wasn’t pregnant (an adoptive mother) would be reading your article. Shame on you both.
The essay I wrote clearly hit a nerve.
I feel sad that the essay made her so upset and that she felt so offended reading it. And sorry, too, that this is such an emotional issue for her and that she felt the magazine (and me in particular) is insensitive to adoptive mothers.
It’s probably worth noting that the editor-in-chief of the magazine, Peg Moline, is herself adopted and had nothing but sympathy for adoptive mothers and adopted children.
But that may be beside the point. Here’s my explanation about the essay: I did wish I were adopted when I was a small child. I fantasized about having a different mother out there somewhere—a mother who paid attention to me and cared for me. I wanted to be adopted, not because I understood anything about adoption but because that would help, in my very young mind anyway, explain why my mother was so distant and distracted. In a lot of ways, I had a very painful childhood.
My mother, whom I adore and admire, was mostly absent. She was busy with her biology and her life. I was a latchkey kid and my brother and I almost always came home to an empty house. We had nannies who cared for us growing up, as well as a loving and involved father. As a child, I idealized young mothers who spent time with their children. I used to fantasize that my preschool teacher, the one with the long brown hair and the glasses, was my real mom.
That desire to be adopted came from a place of pain about my own mother, not from any negative associations with adoptive parents. I am truly sorry that I hurt this reader’s feelings. I think adopting children is one of the kindest, most selfless, and most important things a person can do. I have always wanted to adopt and I hope someday to have the privilege of doing so. I didn’t mean to insinuate anything bad about adoptive mothers, or about working mothers for that matter. I just meant to share the pain of my childhood with other readers.
So, to the reader in the Bronx who was so upset by my story: Please accept my most sincere apology. It was not my intention to hurt an adoptive mother’s feelings. I’m sorry I offended you.
Published: May 12, 2010
Updated: January 20, 2020