The Mother Who’s Hard to Honor

file0001435534139My son is adopted.

He spent all but two weeks of his first 21 months in a Russian orphanage.

After more than 10 years at home with us, we still spend time in therapy each week. Most often, we’re trying to work through the issues of abandonment and rejection by his birth mother. My husband and I have tried to portray a woman we don’t know in the most positive light. To assume the best, if you will. We’ve even tried to ascribe some nobility to her actions: “She loved you enough to know she couldn’t take care of you.”

And that may well be true. I don’t really know, I suppose. This week my son articulated a feeling I often tuck hidden away in my own heart as well: I’m not supposed to be mad at her.

But he is.

And so am I.

Every day I watch my son try to sift through the rubble she left in his heart. It’s not an intentional search; he’s not even conscious of what he seeks. But he’s looking… looking for confirmation of his worth, his preciousness, his value. His anguish seeps out in both frustrating and heartbreaking ways.

We’ve told him how treasured he is. And we won’t stop. But her choice left a mark on him… a question mark: “Wasn’t I good enough for you to keep?” Our decade of affection for him doesn’t seem to erase that mark.

I walk with him through the rubble. I don’t have the answers. I can’t tie this up with a pretty bow for him or me, or for a blog post. Platitudes can’t satisfy a hurting heart.

As we approach Mother’s Day this angry-ache feels stronger; the “celebration” paints a stark contrast. I represent her; she represents me. We share this role in his life, whether we want to or not. I want to be able to honor her from afar, as a way to honor my son. In a country where the abortion rate outpaces the rate of live births, I’m so thankful my son is alive. But I don’t know how to honor her… not when we live in the wake of her destruction.

I find myself at the crossroads of faith and circumstance. This intersection where, mercifully, the current reality isn’t the eternal reality. I return to the two things I do know:

  1. God is sovereign. All that has passed — even the worst of it — has been permitted.
  2. God is good. His redemptive plan renders all things beneficial.

In the face of difficult teaching, many followers deserted Jesus (John 6:60-71). This life I live with my son is difficult teaching. Yet, like the disciple John, I have nowhere else to go (John 6:68). Maybe you struggle to love and honor your own mother. Maybe it’s someone else you find difficult to love and honor because of your history together. Maybe you’re angry at God over (or at least confused by) what He has permitted to occur in your life. I pray you’ll press into Him and find the same truth I am trying to take take hold of myself:

The only way I can honor my son’s other mother is through my faith in my Father.

Love and Honor


Please know I have the greatest respect for the many mothers who make the difficult choice to relinquish their child for his or her best chance at life. I share my feelings with candor today in hopes that I give voice to the struggle many other adoptive parents face day in and day out. By His daily grace we usher our children toward the truth of their preciousness in God’s sight as they wage battle against their past. I trust you will handle these emotions with care.

Please share!
    • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10205725844219804/ Michelle Cole via Facebook

      Beautifully said, Kirsten. Thanks for sharing.

    • Susan Cates

      Kirsten your adoptive mom story is so different from my adoptive mom story. Thank you for expressing the other side of adoption with grace and love. God knew what He was doing when he chose you to be your son’s mother. Love you sweet sister!

      • http://www.eighttwentyeight.org Kirsten Holmberg

        Susan, I am SO GLAD your story is different. I’m thankful there are stories like yours… especially for your kiddo. Thanks for being supportive of those of us who walk the other road.

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    • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10152909610711733/ Anne Swierenga Nabors via Facebook

      Perhaps now that he is getting older he might like to write a letter to her for Mother’s Day. It might be a new way of honoring her with his thoughts and questions. Maybe you could write one too?

    • Tara Ulrich

      As a woman praying about adoption and adopting. I truly appreciate your candor today.

      • http://www.eighttwentyeight.org Kirsten Holmberg

        Tara, I am SUCH an advocate of adoption. But I feel candor is exactly what is necessary in advance of making such a huge decision. Let’s keep the dialog open!

    • Steph

      You are an amazing mom and woman! Miss you terribly

      • http://www.eighttwentyeight.org Kirsten Holmberg

        Thanks, Steph. I appreciate the encouragement!

    • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10152771928466345/ Cindy Leoni via Facebook

      Kirsten I love you for your raw, hard honesty….. I can’t even imagine how broken your heart is at times, no platitudes just big mom to mom hugs!

    • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10154050729700193/ Daria Olson Carter via Facebook

      Great post – and I’m impressed at you for putting this out there. It’s tough stuff. But you are tougher.

    • Jenn

      Thank you for sharing your heart. Powerful stuff that needs to be said. Blessing you today in my thoughts and prayers… XOJ