Being a birthmother, the mother of a five year-old son who's been adopted, is one of the strangest and most complex relationships I have ever dealt with. The deep connection and love I have for him is always there and sometimes pierces the mundane experiences of my life like a hot sword- right to the heart.

Often these poignant moments are connected to the rituals of holidays and birthdays, times I often hear his voice and talk with his parents over the phone. The first time I ever heard his voice, my legs almost went out from under me. It was like hearing a bird cry over a frozen lake, echoing through an ancient wood, unexplainable and deep. Similarly, the first time his adoptive parents said, "You are part of our family. We love you." And have always treated me this way.
Honestly, besides being moved by the stories of others and seeing the changes in the culture, the COVID pandemic has not had a profound effect on my life. The one close friend who was infected, responded with courage and recovered well. My partner and I are quiet and at home a lot, living pretty simply. I go to work regularly at our farm, an essential, wholesome workplace. One of the first times I noticed a direct effect of COVID-19 was when I started longing for a visit with my son. The impossibility of it happening felt binding. It had been three years since he and his adoptive mother had visited me and I longed to see the many changes in him. I tingled with the desire to hug him or hold his hand.
The trauma around my son's birth had caused me to move to a different town and to lose many close friends. I already knew that loss and the longing to be with people I loved from far away.  With the distance from my son, I began exploring a new question, that is, "how can I love someone far away?
I found solace and intimacy in holding my son close by imagining him in my mind and seeing and feeling him with me. Sometimes there would be feelings of heartbreak or loss but I found I could sit with that, let it be. It became part of my ability to grow my loving.  Sometimes, when I am hugging my partner, I feel my son is there, all of us hugging each other. Giving the love we have, all around. 
I know my son's adoptive parents well enough to trust they are considering me and my feelings. We will have a visit when the time is right. Until then I get to remember that the future is big and wide and none of us know what it will hold. And to practice a certain trust in its mysteriousness. When I have love in my heart, lots or a little, I try to remember to send some of it to my boy and that maybe, with his floppy hair and eyes big as an otter's, he is like a sponge soaking it up. And that maybe nothing of love is lost.
Pearl Chen


Where Birthmothers Flourish Through Individual and Community Support