There is no question that identity matters. I believe that one of the reasons this particular question is so important is that it points to identity. Yes, we want to be loved, even to be “mothered” (nurtured, swaddled, held, nursed, comforted, encouraged, taught, protected…) These and many other essentials are held in the idea of motherhood. The “first cause” if you will of motherhood is to bring us into the world.
When the baby bird asks, “Are you my mother?” she is asking, “Do I come from you? Do I belong to and with you? Does my identity derive (at least in part) from you?” I have not personally had the ‘adopted child searching for his mother’ conversation with anyone, so I can’t speak first hand. My hunch is, though, that in this risky and difficult venture people are seeking identity as much as anything else. Some say they want to know why – “Why did you give me up? Why did you leave me?” I get that, I think, though I can’t imagine how it actually feels. Perhaps this is also a question of identity, at least partly. “Who am I, and who are you, therefore who are we, that you would do this thing? If you would do that, what does this say about me?” I don’t know, but I wonder if these aren’t some subconscious questions being asked. My mom died when I was 27 and my sister was 32. At the memorial service, as people walked out and greeted us, my mother-in-law (I adore both my in-laws) walked up and gave me a hug. Sobbing, I asked her, “Will you be my mommy now?” I felt like I was 5 years old. I felt like the baby bird. Who will do all those mothering things for me? I needed to know. It was also a question of identity – “Can I belong to you? Will you claim me in this way?” The answer was a tender and quiet and confident “Yes, of course.” What of all those around us who lack a relationship of this kind? Where are the mothers who will step forward and fill the gap? Who will respond to the cry of children and adults who lack a mother’s nurture, love and care? And who will carry this banner? Who will hold this vision of hope and community so that others might be inspired and moved to action?