There have been some excellent posts written lately about the subject of "real" mothers. You know, that question that adoptive parents sometimes get from clue less strangers when you least expect it. (i.e. you are tired, your child is ill, you are stressed, etc) "Oh, excuse me, are you his/her real mother?" In the world of first parents, we are not. And it took a long time for me to come to terms with this. I suspect I am a slow learner. But I can only come to a situation from my own experience and this is not as a first parent.
I used to be really angry when I was asked this. Maybe part of me felt my abilities as a parent were being questioned in the early days. Later I just got angry because frankly, if I am in ER because my daughter had a traumatic injury caused by jumping off ourcouch, I do not expect to be asked such a question or the follow-up winner of insensitivity--"Oh by the way, where did you get her?" Really? You went to med school and managed to come out with that? (for those who care, I wrote a letter to the editor of our newspaper regarding that tidbit of insensitivity.)
But I am rambling. Nowadays, this does not bother me. Because my answer is that I am one of their real mothers. I am not their first mother. I did not experience that miracle of birth. But for a myriad of private reasons, none of my children would not have been safe and would not have thrived in their first families. For their sakes, I wish that was different. But cycles of addiction and abuse and the toll of mental illness take a long time to break. But I also don't believe we risk children while on the altar of family preservation. They are too precious and too easily harmed. Harmed in ways we see and ways that are harder to know. So in a nutshell I think my kids are safer in our home. Are they happier? Not necessarily. This does not mean they are unhappy, but I know that being here, even being loved with every fiber of my being, does not negate the loss that is the yin to adoptions yang.
In one of my favorite books, The Velveteen Rabbit a stuffed rabbit became real when he was loved. I became a real mother through loving. That's real enough for me.