Dads.  They’re a special group of people, without a doubt.  They’re much more than simply fathers…dads are the men kids count on for love, kindness, and understanding.  Men who cheer them on through good times and bad.  Men who set boundaries then guide their kids as they grow through and beyond them.

Dads are pretty freaking awesome, and our kids have one of the best around.  That doesn’t keep the birthfather thing from rearing its ugly head occasionally, though, and T-man’s had his share of struggles with this.  We’re dealing with it.

But what makes a mom?

Frankly, moms in adoption can be a much trickier thing.

Motherhood is inextricably linked to pregnancy, labor, and childbirth.  As adults we realize that there are lots of ways to become a mom, but kids live in a world that’s much more black and white.  Late childhood relies primarily on concrete thinking, and T-man’s just beginning to develop and refine more abstract thinking and logic.

So no matter what conversations we might have about the roles of motherhood, somewhere in the recesses of their minds is the deeply ingrained definition of a mother as a woman who has a baby.

And they would be right.

Both Bear and T-man have another mother.  They go by several names – some call them birthmothers, some biological mothers, and some use the term first mother.  Any way you put it, both of my children had a woman who loved them enough to carry them through nine months of pregnancy and then bring them into the world.

One of my kids also briefly had a foster mom.  These women (who I personally believe qualify for the FastPass into heaven) open their hearts and homes over the years, providing love and shelter while children wait for their forever families.  The men and women who foster kids, sometimes for years at a stretch, are a precious part of the system that protects our youth.  They are the safety net.  The ones who protect babies in transition between families and help older children learn to trust the adults around them.

There are surrogate moms, women who help others realize their dream of having a family. Whatever the reason – spiritual, financial, altruistic – surrogate mothers bring babies into the world that might not otherwise exist, and that’s a beautiful thing.

And then there are adoptive moms.

We’re the mothers who claim this title through love alone.  Without proof of physical “motherhood” – no ultrasounds, no baby bump photos, no morning sickness or weird cravings – we try to explain to our children how real this love is.  We tell them that they were born in our hearts, a longing we felt before we even learned of their existence, and they are every bit our children.  That it wasn’t pregnancy that made us moms.  It’s love.  Pure, unconditional love.

What makes a mom?  Love, in all its shapes and forms.