Unlike last week, I’m not surprised that it’s Thursday “all ready.” It’s been a very long week in our household. I would really rather it was Friday so that I could get a break. Alas, one more day! Since it is Thursday, it’s time for another installment of thirteen things about adoption.
Last week I talked about some comments that I’m “cool with” when it comes to adoption. You know what that means for this week, right? Yeah. Those little comments that dig. That sting. That hurt in ways that I won’t adequately be able to explain with words. Obviously, my list will be somewhat personal but other first parents have similar lists.
1. “That’s awfully nice/big/giving of them to let you know about her.” This is said in response to the fact that I have an open adoption and a great relationship, complete with visits, with my daughter’s family. I normally want to reply with, “It was awfully nice/big/giving of me to “give them” my child, no?” But I usually just nod and try to determine if they’re “worth” educating. For those that seem open to it, I will usually say something like, “They’re amazing parents who recognize that I have a lot to offer the Munchkin by way of a relationship.” Or something less wordy like, “Yeah.” It just depends!
2. “I’d never give up my baby.” Or any variation thereof. Really? This just makes me say, “Ugh.” It contributes to the negative feelings I have about myself regarding the placement. It makes me feel as if I am somehow morally flawed, unable to recognize the importance of the mother-child bond. Logically, I know that’s not the case but when this comment rolls off of someone’s tongue, it’s hard to remember that I’m a good person who made a hard decision.
3. “Why didn’t you want her?” Oooh, another “ugh” kind of statement. Of course, this one is a bit easier to stomach because, again, I logically know that the general public doesn’t understand relinquishment. I have gotten better at my reply to this question. The truth remains. I wanted my daughter with every ounce of my being. It just didn’t work out that way.
4. “Do you know who the father is?” My snarky side wants to say something like, “Your Dad” but that’s usually not appropriate. This question is most annoying because it brings up the fact that the general public views birth mothers as promiscuous, fallen women. Truth is, I’m much too boring for any Maury-type paternity testing issues. Yes, there was only one option for the father but thanks for calling me a floozy in a roundabout way!
5. Any variation of “My cousin’s uncle’s next-door-neighbor’s best friend’s dad’s sister’s fiance was adopted and (insert feelings about adoption here).” Now, don’t misunderstand me. I learn a lot from adoptees. Read that sentence again. I learn a lot from adoptees. Not from someone who is seven times removed from said adoptee. If I want to know about an adoptee’s experience regarding adoption from any angle, I’m going straight to an adoptee (via blogging, forums or face-to-face conversation) and I’m going to learn direct from the source. Second-hand (or seventh-hand!) information always gets skewed. I do take the time to read a lot about what adoptees have to say because I think it’s vastly important for me, as a birth mother who already has a relationship with her relinquished child, to learn and digest. While our situation will be unique, I need to know certain things. But unless you’ve got the first hand experience, I’m not going to learn it from you. Point me in the direction of your cousin’s uncle’s next-door-neighbor’s best friend’s dad’s sister’s fiance and I’ll talk to that adoptee about the experience. Okay?
6. Any variation of “My cousin’s uncle’s next-door-neighbor’s best friend’s dad’s brother’s fiance is a birth mother and (insert adoption experience and/or feelings here).” Again, I have learned so very much from the birth mothers that have come before me. Without a few of those ladies, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have in my healing. More people than realize it have a connection to a birth mother or biological father. However, I’m not going to take your word for it that you know exactly how that birth mother feels about her experience. I’m going to go straight to the source and learn from her. Beyond that, this statement is usually made with the underlying meaning that my experience or feelings are somehow wrong. I cannot stress enough that every birth parents’ experiences are different! Allow me that room, okay?
7. “What a gift to give an infertile couple!” Seriously? This one usually makes me want to vomit. Then I get all riled up. This is a touchy one for me. First of all, my daughter was not a “gift” to “give”. She was not an inanimate object to be handed off from one to another. No wrapping paper. No bow. She’s a human. Secondly, not all adoptive parents are infertile. Third! Just a general ick factor to this statement in general.
8. Any Lifetime-movie type comments that hint at whether or not I’m going to steal the child back during a visit, stalk the adoptive family or just generally go psycho-birthmom on everyone. I don’t think this deserves much more of a reply than, “Give me a break.”
9. “So, are you gonna give them more babies?” Granted, now that I’m an everyday Mom, I don’t really face this question or any variations all that often. When i was pregnant with my older son, the first to arrive after the Munchkin, I was asked on more than three separate occasions whether or not I was giving my daughter’s parents another (read: this) child. I’m sorry. I’m not a baby machine. I don’t breed for others’ benefit! This just speaks as to the general misconception of who birth mothers are in general. I’m glad that this question has fallen by the wayside because, man, did it ever make me angry!
10. “Adoption is eeeeeeeeeevil.” Okay. I want adoption reform. I have anger for my unethical agency. And I have my own regrets. But I refuse to get swept up in totally anti-adoption rhetoric. I just can’t. I don’t hate all adoptive parents. I don’t want children to be left in abusive situations just because some people think that children should be with their biological families no matter what. And yes, I want reform. I want adoptees to have complete access to their original birth certificates and identifying information from their first families. I think open adoptions should be legally binding. I think agencies need to offer non-biased, third party counseling for expectant parents and potential adoptive parents. But I refuse to be made to feel bad because I didn’t know these things ahead of time and because I refuse to stop loving my daughter’s parents. Our situation, though somewhat rare, works. I won’t be made to feel guilty for it. I’ll promote change while working on our relationship. I can do both.
11. “And they let you have more children?” Yes. I’ve heard this. And it hurt. A lot. Relinquishing a child did not make me a bad parent. Yet there are some that assume that because I placed one child that I should never, ever be able to have another child. Being a first mother has labeled me as forever dysfunction and unfit in the eyes of some people. That is outrageously frustrating. I am an amazing mother to my children. I will fight, tooth and nail, anyone who tries to say otherwise.
12. “Well, you shouldn’t be sad. You chose this.” Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. With a side of “shut up” on the side. First of all, people can be sad about choices. That is allowed. Beyond that, until agencies are even remotely explaining the grief and loss associated with placement, this comment is basically null and void. I was told that it would “hurt at first” but that I would “get over it.” I’m still waiting for that to happen. Those who have come before me say that it doesn’t happen. Choice doesn’t erase sadness.
13. “Well, you have an open adoption so you shouldn’t be sad.” Please don’t dismiss my grief and loss. Yes, I have a relationship with my daughter and her amazing parents. I know for a fact that she is well loved, well kept and totally awesome all around. She knows me and loves me. But open adoption, as it has been said so many times before, is “not a band-aid for pain.” It still exists. She is still missing on holidays. She is still missing from family photographs. She is still absent on a daily basis. I miss her presence. I miss her laughter. And I miss everything about her. I know I’m lucky. You don’t need to remind me. I am reminded of it each time her Mom sends me a picture of her beautiful, smiling face. But don’t tell me that this doesn’t hurt. It hurts to the core of my being.
There are other things as well that didn’t make the list. And, truth be told, I’m learning to deal with some of these a little bit better than in the past as well. But they still sting. Some of these will always sting. That’s just part of the reality I live as a birth mother.
If you’re dealing with a first mother in your life and you’re wondering, “Is this offensive,” simply ask. It’s much easier to say, “Yeah, that really doesn’t feel good when you say that but I know what you’re trying to say so let me explain,” than to try to figure out the intent of an ill-asked question or statement.
For more Thursday Thirteen here on the birth/first parent blog, read these posts.