Before I get into this post I want to say a couple of things. First I want to say to one person in particular who may be reading this: Nothing you are about to read is aimed at you. You have never been anything but kind and thoughtful. You have been loving and supportive and more wonderful than I can ever tell you. Please do not think for a moment that I believe you minimize me or trivialize my feelings or importance. I have been lucky in the extreme. Our's is the example all others should follow. There would never be another bad experience if everyone took the time you have.

Second: I want to say that I acknowledge and understand the very real pain, frustration and depression that parents trying to adopt go through. I have seen it in the eyes of women I know. I am not trying to downplay that. I am not trying to minimialize that. That is not what I want to talk about right now.

Recently I overheard a slice of conversation. It is not the first such slice of conversation I have heard and I do not kid myself by thinking it will be the last. Two women were discussing a family member who had recently had an adoption fall through. One of them fairly hissed the word "birthmother" like it was dirty in her mouth. They spoke about the woman who had changed her mind as if she were vile and loathsome, full of evil, cunning and hate. It made my stomach roil. I actually felt as if I were about to vomit.

Because I understood the pain they were feeling on behalf of their loved one I kept my mouth shut. On the inside I was screaming. Crying out on behalf of the woman they were scorning so casually. They were talking about her as if she had no right to the child she gave birth to. As if by simply considering adoption she had lost all rights to call that child her own. I wanted to lash out.

Any of you who read here regularly will know that I have placed three children for adoption in my lifetime. One at the age of nineteen and two in the last two years. None of the adoptions were easy for me and I have in my possesion journals filled with page after page of anger, self loathing, jealousy, hatred, self doubt, self pity, bitterness, depression and venom soaked words aimed at a world I could not understand. All the pages are dotted by my own tears.

The thing I wanted most to tell these women was that simply because a woman considers or even goes through with an adoption does not make her any less a mother. What makes a woman a mother isn't a piece of legal documentation. You can't snatch up a baby, holler, "Mine!" like it was a baby doll on a playground and run off expecting that the other person, the one who gave birth to the child, will have no further feelings. And yet I see it over and over again. I see adoptive families that talk about birthparents like an afterthought. They talk about them like they did some huge favor and, "Oh wasn't that nice of them...but their gone now." I don't know that it's intentional, which is why I never say anything, but it's insulting, to say the least.

I'm sure that someone will point out to me that there are situations where the birthmothers don't care. That some children are taken from their natural parents. That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about women like me. Women who, for one reason or another know that we can not provide the best home for our children. For me it was knowing that without access to consistent medical care for my Bipolar Disorder the stress of having three children under age three in the house would likely push me into a state where I would end up dead or permenantly hospitalized. I had to weigh the welfare of not just the two infants, but the two already at home.

When I signed those papers, I didn't stop loving my children. I stopped being their parent, but I will never stop being their mother. That never stops. That love never goes away. Every day I think about them. Every day I wonder how they are. Every day I thank God for finding a safe and loving home for them. Signing those papers took away my legal right to have a say in how they are raised and to obtain information about them. It didn't take away my right to love them.

When a woman who has said she will place a child for adoption changes her mind it is often because she can not face that very thing. There is a terror there. How can I be sure? If I don't have the legal right to know that these people are treating my child well, that my child is safe and healthy, how do I know? What will I do if I find out later that something happened? What if they turn out to be abusive? What happens if they die and my child ends up with someone I don't even know? Can you even imagine that terror? Or the guilt that goes with it?

Its hard enough trying to find the words to explain to this precious little life why you couldn't keep it. Why you gave it to someone else to love, protect, cherish and watch grow. How do you find those words? Where do you even begin to look for them? For some women, there are no words and trying to contemplate finding them hurts so badly, they simply stop the process. It becomes easier to deal with the unwanted pregnancy than to deal with the aftermath of placing a child.

The after effect of placing a child for adoption is just like losing a child to death. You go through the same grief process.

Yet when a woman changes her mind she is viewed as a hideous monster. Lower than low. How could she hurt someone that way? How could she cause such pain and torment?

Who cries for her? Who heals her broken heart? No one.

As birthmothers we sign a piece of paper and we leave the hospital and that is that. We are expected to walk away from a living breathing child and never look back. There is no counseling offered, no support. Even what is called "open adoption" isn't really open. Most often it amounts to a letter and some pictures once or twice a year. We are cut out of the childs life forever. We have no place in that world.

The next time you read a story or hear about a birthmother who has changed her mind, think about this story before you judge her harshly. Think about your own feelings as a parent and what you would do if someone asked you to simply walk away from one or all of your children without looking back. How easy would it be for you?


ian said...

I couldn't do it. Ever. I'd sell everything I owned, lie, cheat, and steal to keep my kids.

You have reserves of strength that nobody could possibly match.


Suzanne said...

I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who can put the needs of her child first, although it is obviously the hardest thing to do in the world. And I completely understand why someone might change her mind. It just upsets me when birth mothers change their minds years later. That type of disruption serves no one. But that wasn't your example, anyway.