Mark Stibbe is the author of A Book in Time and is adopted. Here he talks about the need to celebrate all sorts of mums this Mother’s Day.
As an adopted child, I believe Mother’s Day needs to include motherhood in all its forms. While I’m grateful for my birth mother for giving me life, I am even more grateful to my adoptive mother for doing all the heavy lifting during my childhood, adolescence, and young adult life. I’m also grateful for those older women in my life who have added an even more diverse experience of a motherlike love, especially after my adoptive mother’s death. Today, we accept that there are many different expressions of fatherhood – biological dads, adoptive dads, foster dads, stepdads, stand-in dads, etc. We should be equally inclusive when it comes to motherhood.
It’s been a weird time in many ways. In 2020, I completed a novel called A Book in Time. This is a story about an old, magical book of poems. It’s born to a woman called Emily when she’s 87. It’s her only book, and she cherishes and holds it like an only child. After she dies, it passes through many different hands, but all the while it longs to be reunited with the mother who conceived, carried, delivered, and held it. The novel is the book’s love story, told from the book’s perspective.
When I had completed it, I became aware that my twin sister Claire (who lives in the States), was conducting a search for our birth mother. We were born to a woman called Maureen in 1960. She was unable to look after us, so we were left in a home in Hackney, only to be adopted in 1961 and given a new family. Claire and I had not heard from her since that day. We were now 60 (as of 2020), and Maureen 80.
In 2021, Claire and I had our first and last (separate) Zoom calls with Maureen. Our birth mother died shortly afterwards.
It’s hard for me to put into words how I feel about this extraordinary convergence of events. Is it just random chance that I finished a book about reuniting with a birth mother one year, and then – through no efforts of my own – found myself reunited with my birth mother the next? Is that coincidence or providence?
The odd thing is that the actual reunion underwhelmed me in many ways. It was no more than a casual conversation, and I’m fine with that. What overwhelmed me far more was the synchronicity between my novel and my experience.
Maybe this was art imitating life. Maybe it was life imitating art. Maybe both!
All I do know is that every human being, if they haven’t already, will one day lose their mother. When that happens, even if the relationship was almost non-existent, the yearning for her never really leaves. It is one of the most potent longings of all. As Robert Browning once said, “Motherhood. All love begins and ends there.”