In 1985 I was branded. I was branded a slut, a whore, an unwed mother, an unfit mother, a stupid girl, an unacceptable mother, a sinner, a fallen catholic girl, a girl whose mother had not taught her to keep her legs closed and a girl that was not marriage material.
In 1986 I was branded again. This time I was branded a birthmother. Not a mother, rather "just the birthmother". Later labels included barfmother, only-the-birthmother, barfmuggle, beemommy, biological mother and worse. The branding was so necessary that my name had to be removed from my own child's birth certificate.
A few days ago I re-branded myself.
I branded myself with the logo of ehbabes.com, the site and support group I founded to help reunite and support all mothers and children separated by the baby brokering Kurtz network of agencies.
I branded myself in the name of all love and support and goodness that has come out of that group of amazing mothers and adopted adults.
I branded myself in honor of the native American symbol the logo is based on, The Man in the Maze.
A common interpretation of the man in the maze is that the maze represents the usual difficult journey toward finding a deeper meaning in life. This 'maze' is actually a labyrinth; it has no branches or dead end paths as a maze does.
At ehbabes.com, we enter the maze (adoption) at surrender or birth. We enter this stage entranced. As mothers, we believe what society tells us about adoption. Adopted children are told to assimilate into a new clan and forget that the original one ever existed. As mothers, we attempt to (because we are told to) forget our children. We desperately try to navigate life as a mother who is not a mother or a child who has two mothers but it only permitted to acknowledge one. We follow the maze of adoption "life" and encounter many twists, turns and changes.
As the journey continues, we find pain and suffering, joy and pleasure, all the while hoping to acquire knowledge, strength, and understanding and in the case of mothers like me, forgiveness.
Nearing the end of the maze, we retreat to a small corner of the pattern before reaching the center – representing a new beginning, a conclusion, an epiphany. For many this is reunion, for others it is finding their missing child or mother resting in a shallow grave. For all, some sort of conclusion.
Those who have surrendered their children are lead to believe they have made the right choice. They often don't know for sure until they get to hold their child again. At ehbabes.com, we hope that all separated by Kurtz get to meet their lost loved ones – or find peace in their adoption by finding their way to the end of the maze.
The tattoo was not supposed to be as large it is turned out. When I visited with my artist and told him where I wanted it and what size, he refused to do it as it was not enough space. He feared the lines would blur and the quality would be poor.
After some discussion and some work with a copy machine, we settled on a size and location, "between my strong shoulders" as an Easter House mother and dear friend remarked later. While at first a tad freaked at the size, I am pleased with it. The artist did a great job. It is a symbol I have long associated myself with.
It represents branding that I chose for myself.
I define me.
No one else does.