Meeting Our Birth Mom

June 16, 2017

I hesitate to share this story, because the older Maya gets the more I want to protect her story since she isn’t even old enough to hear it herself yet. Many of the most precious details of meeting Maya’s birth mom for the first time, we will save for her when she is older. But I think some of the details of her story are important to tell, especially in order to dispel some fears about adoption that we didn’t even realize we had.

Adoption has been an enormous learning curve for us, despite the fact that we went all in from the start. But we’ve learned that just because we love adoption and have no fear about loving a baby we didn’t grow or give birth to ourselves doesn’t mean that there aren’t ongoing fears and wonders and worries associated with the process. Maya became our daughter the moment we laid eyes on her, but I don’t think either of us realized half of the emotions or thoughts we’d have as time goes on, and that they would involve more people than just one baby. I have been so surprised that there are parts of the process that just come like waves out of nowhere, triggered by holidays or comments from strangers.

I was talking to my mom the other day about all the thoughts and wonders and worries I have about Maya’s hair, of all things, which is, as you may know if you follow me on Instagram, curly as all get out. I was attempting to explain that none of what I think about Maya’s hair is in any way bad. It’s just surprising. I’m surprised I think about her hair so much. When we decided to adopt I thought only about loving a baby with all my heart. I just didn’t think about the fact that I’d have no idea what to do with her hair – or that we might not even know what ethnicity our child was and where she even got all that curly hair.

That leads me to the latest adventure on this adoption journey that Michael and I embarked upon last weekend: we looked for and found Maya’s birth mom for the first time. When we met Maya in the hospital when she was three days old, her birth mom had already relinquished her rights and left the hospital. For 20 months, I have been wondering about her and praying for her – what she looks like, where she’s from, whether Maya has her nose or her eyes, praying for her safety and for her heart to heal from the enormous loss of not knowing our sweet Maya and from whatever wounds that made placing her daughter for adoption her best option at that time.

On Mother’s Day this year, I felt really strongly for the first time that we needed to look for her. Oddly, I spent more of Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it thinking not about myself as a mother but about Maya’s birth mother. Honestly, I struggled with the idea that anyone could ever reject my sweet girl, or that we couldn’t protect her from something that happened before we arrived on the scene. It broke my heart for both of them and I started to think about what it would mean to find her – both for Michael and I now, and for Maya ten or fiftteen years from now.

Michael and I realized a month or so ago that no matter how amazing we are and continue to be as her parents, and how wonderful we can make Maya’s life, she will still have questions about where she came from or what her birth parents were like. And those questions will be a natural result of the situation of adoption, and of her adoption in particular.
We do not have an open adoption where we have regular contact with her birth mother, nor do we have a closed adoption, with zero information at all or a request from her birth mom not to be found. We had minimal information – a name and an address – and the most minimal information about the night Maya was born.

But overall, we had a hole. And over time we realized that future Maya’s future questions mean nothing about how we will have raised her; they shouldn’t be insulting or scary. They are a natural reaction to being grown by one woman and being loved and raised by two different people. They mean that she is going to need to fill that hole, that identity gap, somehow. And because we love her millions and trillions, as I tell her every night before bed, we wanted to help her fill that hole while we had the best chance of doing so.

Michael and I also realized that most likely, when Maya is old enough to start asking real questions about her birth mom and to start wanting to look for her, we’ll be living in Ireland. And because Maya’s mom was and is homeless, I knew that the odds of finding her were exponentially higher now than they will be a decade from now. Honestly, I really did not think we would be able to find her now, simply because a lot can happen in 20 months when your life is unstable.

We started our search with the only information we had about her whereabouts, an address for an abandoned lot in a neighborhood only fifteen minutes from our sweet little Houston apartment. I couldn’t believe it was so close, when, in my head for the better part of two years, it had been a million miles away and wholly unattainable.

We knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked for her by name, and were totally shocked to learn that she still lived in the same place, ten yards from where we were standing. It took several laps around the neighborhood and asking just about everyone we met if they knew her or where she was, but we eventually found her.

I’m not sure I have words for the feeling of seeing Maya’s birth mother walk through the gate. I honestly hadn’t prepared myself to meet her; I thought perhaps we’d meet a neighbor whom we knew was kind to her throughout her pregnancy, and we hoped to learn just a few simple facts about her. I just didn’t expect to be learning those facts from her. I had no idea what to say, so I babbled and pulled my phone out to show her photos and videos. She asked what we had named her, and I just couldn’t believe she didn’t know her name. But of course she didn’t know her name.

Michael stood stoically and protectively behind me while I struggled to find the words to express my gratitude for making me a mother, to the person who made me a mother. She and I were both overcome with the emotion of the enormity of the meeting, at one point crying and hugging. She loved the name Maya, and she remarked how beautiful and tiny our girl is.

She is tiny herself, with brown hair and smooth skin. She was gracious and kind, thanking us for taking such good care of her baby girl. She explained that she was born in Houston but her people were from Mexico, she gave us a piece of cultural identity that we can now definitively encourage in Maya as she grows.

Over the last several months, as I’ve explained to first Michael then my family and friends my desire to find Maya’s birth mother, I’ve said that my goal has simply been to find a sliver of information about her that I could pass along to Maya one day. I simply wanted to try to fill the identity gap that will naturally form in the absence of any details at all about the woman who knew her for nine months before we did. “You know, like does Maya have her eyes, or something like that,” I’d say.

Well, wouldn’t you know, Maya has her eyes. And one day, we can’t wait to share that with our sweet girl. Along with all the other slivers we picked up on that gift of a day.


  • Reply Elizabeth Jones June 16, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Your Godmother would have been so proud of you for finding that bit of genealogy for your dear girl. You are such a thoughtful, loving mom. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply Kim B. June 16, 2017 at 6:35 am

    oh Emily. Your care and loving and consideration for your daughter and for the woman who gave birth to her are truly immeasurable. If only the world could be filled with more people like you and Michael, we’d all be doing okay.

  • Reply Gerry June 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    A remarkable story, and one more leg of a wonderful journey of love.

  • Reply Raffaella June 17, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing, you can feel from this post that Maya is loved so much from so many people!

  • Reply Allison June 27, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Hi Emily, I’ve never commented and have been following your blog for some time after visiting Ireland and googling Irish bloggers to keep up a link after our wonderful visit. Anyway, fast forward a few years: I’m still following your blog and my husband and I moved to Hawaii (to be closer to my parents) where I work for an organization called EPIC ‘Ohana that works with foster youth. I’ve seen several adoptions and legal guardianships completed and I have to say I was so incredibly moved by your thoughtfulness to seek out Maya’s birth mother. What courage and compassion you have both for Maya and for her mother and what self-compassion it must have taken for yourself to be able to do this. You are such a brave, incredible woman. I’ve seen a lot of teenagers who were adopted who have asked the very questions that you sought out answers for. It is never easy for the adoptive parents – it takes a special sense of purpose and humility to do what you did. I will continue to follow your story and pray for peace, direction, and guidance as you move forward as the wonderful parents you are to Maya. God Bless.

  • Reply Isa July 9, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    You are a good person, Emily, and I think that needed to be said. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I can’t help but think everything you have written here since the beginning of your adoption journey will be tremendously important for your daughter one day. Sure, you will tell her all about it, but there is something so special about the fact she will be able to return to your words time and time again when she will need reassurance that she is and was, in fact, always loved all along. I can’t explain it but I find it really touching.

  • Reply Cris August 17, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    Thought it is beautiful and serendipitous that having some Mexican influences herself, you chose without knowing the name Maya…
    Your story is so brave and so beautiful!

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