Thursday, January 13, 2011

Birth Mothers

I'll be honest, when I first became acquainted with Twitter, I didn't get the point.  At all.  Why on earth would I care what a bunch of strangers (or even a bunch of friends) have to say in 140 characters or less?  I don't care if people are in the bathroom, or on the bus, or sitting in the doctor's office.  I certainly have better things to do than to keep up with the mindless updates from people as they go about their day to day business... right?

Well, apparently not.  It happened. 

I got hooked.

This has been some time ago, now.  I started with an account that was designed to help me communicate with other Alaskans.  My user name there leaves me pretty anonymous.  Creating that account has led to the formation of friendships with locals that I never would have crossed paths with, if not for Twitter.  And for the most part, I believe that one's life is generally enriched by interacting with people outside one's own circles.  I've developed a genuine interest in how people are doing.  When they don't "tweet" (aka post to Twitter) for a few days, I begin to wonder if all is well in their world.  I was once invited to meet a group of them at a party being held at one of their homes.  (However, it was right after Aidan was born; suffice it to say I had other priorities.) 

Then, I started this blog.  I didn't necessarily want ALL the friends I'd made, who were local folks and could probably figure out my identity fairly easily if they put a little work into it, knowing about my infertility and all the other things I post about here.  So, I created a second Twitter account specifically to be used with my blog and my friends here.  For some reason, I was a little surprised to find that I formed similar friendships - closer friendships - with my blog friends.  Some of us don't post to our blogs as much as we'd like to for time reasons, but it's easy to tap out a 140-character "hello" now and then.  And voila, my life was enriched even further.

I think one of the most surprising outcomes of my Twitter experience, with my blog account at least, is having 'met' several birth mothers along the way.  I can think of at least three right off the top of my head who are regular posters and whose tweets I have come to appreciate immensely.  As an adoptive mother, I place a high value on the perspective of a birth mother, especially on things adoption-related.  It's interesting to read these lovely ladies' tweets and get a feel for what they've been through, and continue to go through, as a result of their decision to place their beloved babies for adoption.

I have an image of myself as being - perhaps - more sensitive to birth mothers and their feelings than many other adoptive parents are.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm just generally a very empathetic person, or because we've come to know THREE birth mothers through our adoption journey and I've felt an inexplicable connection to each one.  I'm not sure.  At any rate, I'm quite in awe of women who are able to make (and stick to) the decision to place a child for adoption.  In my mind, they are selfless, courageous, strong, noble, incredible human beings.  Regardless of the reasons for the decision, it's the hardest one they'll ever make, and I believe they deserve immense amounts of credit for doing it.

In light of that, imagine my dismay when I saw a tweet today from one of my favorite birth mothers about how some adoptive families are insensitive to the grief a birth mother goes through.  One of the replies to that tweet was something to the effect of, "they figure we made the decision, what is there to grieve about?"  True, it is a birth mother's decision to place her child for adoption.  But since when did making a difficult decision negate one's entitlement to hate that it had to be made?!

This not only makes me incredibly sad, it also makes me angry.  How dare these adoptive families be so insensitive.  Anyone who can't - to some small extent, at least - place themselves in a birth mother's shoes long enough to see that she experiences a tremendous loss... well, they just have no business adopting in the first place.  That is no way to treat another human being, let alone someone who is entrusting you with the life of their child

Though no less wrong, I could almost make sense of it if comments or mindsets like this were coming from people in the periphery of the adoption scenario.  There were well-meaning people in our lives, people who love us very much and who now love Aidan more than the world, who said things to us that made no sense to us.  Things that made us want to shake them, and scream, "Are you kidding?!  Listen to yourself!  This woman is not a robot, she's a human being, with all the same thoughts and feelings and emotions, not to mention hormones, that you had when you were pregnant!"  One person in particular, when we told them about the difficult living situation that Aidan's birth mother was in (prior to his birth) said, "Well, she'd be foolish not to put him up for adoption. Why would you raise a child in that kind of environment?"


Why are some people so quick to assume that unfortunate circumstances overrule thoughts, feelings, and instincts when it comes to a mother who wants nothing more than to parent her child?!  Guess what, folks?  The vast majority of birth mothers face utter devastation when they realize that they can't give their child the life that he or she deserves.  A birth mother may understand that adoption is best for her child, but this realization has absolutely no impact on the fact that the child is still growing in her womb; that she will still give birth to that child; and that she will love him just as much as she would love him if he were going home from the hospital with her.

I would think that infertile women - who I assume represent a sizeable portion of adoptive mothers - would understand this better than anyone.  When you want nothing more than to be a mother, when you feel like you were born to be a mother, and yet circumstances prevent you from doing so, does that diminish your wish for it to happen?!  No way.  In fact, I would say that the urge intensifies in the face of the terrible odds.  Why would a birth parent be any different?  No mother wants to admit she's not able to care for a child the way she feels she should be able to.  So why on earth would there not be an incredible grieving process when she chooses to overrule those instincts and feelings in order to do the best thing for her child?

But birth mothers do that.  They do the best they possibly can.  They make the conscious decision to put themselves through the emotional ringer in order to give their babies the best life possible.  They take on what is, for some, a lifetime of mourning, perhaps regret, and intense pain, all for their babies.  And do you know why?  Because at the end of the day, they are mothers first.  They look beyond themselves and they put the welfare of their babies ahead of their own feelings and wishes. 

Because that's what great mothers do.


Debbie said...

I love you Amber. You get it. Thank you. There will forever be grief, but inside that grief is the promise every birthmom makes to their child. A promise that their tiny life comes before any wants we could ever have. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for standing up for us.

Radiant Readhead said...

WOW!! This was a powerful post! GO YOU! lol.....interestingly enough, they say that the mourning of a mother who gave her baby up for adoption (especially closed adoptions) is very much the same as women like me who's babies die. In a sense there is a "death" that takes place, the death of the mother child relationship that they will never get to experience together and the death of her chance to be a mother to that child. It IS one of the most selfless things a mother can do! I am so glad that you posted this! My hubby and I are debating adoption. He wants to do complete closed, and I want to do semi-open (where the first year is for us and the baby, and after that, the mom can have visits) he doesn't understand that I could never be the culprit for a woman feeling anything closes to the pain I have felt for the past 9 months! You are a true inspiration!

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journal said...

I don't understand adoptive couples who don't empathize with their birth mothers. Que and I grieved right along with her. There were many days when I sat and held Liam and cried for her loss. It was excruciating for ME, I know it must have been unbearable for her.

Even those (like our birth mom) who have an incredibly open adoption, grieve the loss as though it were a death.

We love her so much, it is very difficult for me to not want to just yell at everyone who says something unflattering and judgmental about our birth mom. But I have learned (although I have also yelled, haha)to just use that as an opportunity to teach that person about adoption, and that it truly is all about love.

Great post!

Amy said...

well put! can I post a link to this post?

I have a hard time explaining it with words to our friends and family...but I know we are doing the right thing for all of us involved in our little boys life by doing visits, emails, and texts(because that's how she prefers to communicate)!

harriet glynn said...

I'm the same as you. I'm pretty sensitive by nature and I feel a lot for birthmothers. A birthmom who placed her child over 20 years ago in an open adoption has followed me since the beginning and she told me that even though she did it for all the right reasons and would not have her life any other way, that placing her baby was like a death. I find that reality very hard to handle sometimes. I follow a lot of birthmoms and blog quite a bit about my feelings around birthmoms. I too am in awe of them and I stand committed to honouring and standing up for them in all situations.

Kakunaa said...

This is a wonderful post. And I am amazed at the strength involved in putting a child you have conceived, carried, and grown to know for 9 months up for adoption. It is so difficult! There is grief and sorrow all around in this process, and compassion is so important. Thanks for putting it out there, Amber.