*I’m doing a short series to highlight and process things I’ve learned in our adoption process–and since. I’m calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I’m SO not a professional, I’m not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I’m even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again! I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption or are in process, but anyone is welcome to read and comment. (Please be gracious!)*
My last post was mostly about what I have learned from adoptees. To summarize: a TON of important and relevant information which continues to shape my interactions with my son and the adoption community. I loved people’s comments here and on f@cebook, and wanted to point out what my sweet friend Wendy said: not all adoptees have a platform opinion on adoption. Being adopted, for some, is like the color of their hair. It’s a part of them, but does not define them and they really don’t think about it that often or have a strong opinion to share. They’re just living their lives, thanks. But especially since I’ve chosen to be involved in adoption-related ministry, I’m going to keep listening to the voices who DO still have strong feelings and think about their adoption loss daily, and just be prepared to inquire and be present with my guy no matter where he is in the process.
You’ll notice this post is a bit shorter. I’ve not read as much or heard as much from the birth mother voice. I have found some insightful blogs (linked below) and read some powerful articles by birth moms. The thing that stands out to me the most is how MANY DIFFERENT reasons a pregnant woman chooses not to raise her child, and how MANY DIFFERENT life situations they represent. I’ve learned there is no “stereotypical” birth mom story.
Those who choose to voice their story almost always talk about the difficulty and pain of handing over their child. No matter how resolute they are in their choice, the ache of surrendering this person that you carried inside of you for nine months is profoundly deep. Anyone who has given birth can probably empathize with that inexplicable connection. Some birth moms feel that they were coerced into choosing adoption for their child, by their own parents or even adoption agencies. When this is the case, these birth moms seem to live years with pain AND resentment. However, even those who stood firm in their own choice still often suffer immense sadness and depression, particularly in the first year(s) after relinquishment and on the child’s birthday. Some heal from this pain rather quickly, others never do. Still others refuse to acknowledge the birth, and even when contacted by the adoptee, they deny any relationship. Some birth mothers have a lot of anger. It is directed at different sources, but many feel betrayed or rejected by the adoptive parents and/or their child. Just like the angry adoptee online world, there is an angry birth mom online world as well. It’s hard to read, not necessary to live in, but IMHO, still important to LISTEN.
Last year at Called to Love (holla!–retreat for adoptive moms you should check out) we had a panel of birth moms share their stories with us. It was so powerful to have these beautiful, strong women give us a glimpse into their past and their present, their decision, and their dreams for their children. They defied any stereotypes we might have. The message I heard from each of them was: “I don’t want to be ____________’s mom. I just want to know about her life and how she’s doing.” They had gratitude and respect for the adoptive parents, and simply asked for the same in return.
The topic of and relationship with birth mothers should be handled with great care. But those of us who have adopted internationally rarely have the opportunity to interact with our child’s birth mothers. If we have a name, a bit of a story, or in the best of circumstances, a photograph, we are so blessed. Many international adoptees have no information on their birth families whatsoever. (I remember meeting a young adoptee from Southeast Asia, and I told her my son was born there. The first question out of her mouth was: “Does he know his real birthday?” I said yes. Her face fell and she just said, “He’s so lucky.” It broke my heart. The simplest gift of knowing your date of birth, the teensiest bit of information about the woman who carried and delivered you is information that the majority of us take SO for granted. But that’s technically back to relating to adoptees, not birthparents….)
I will make one sweeping generalization regarding adoptive parents and birth parents. In GENERAL, there seems to be some tension between the two members of the triad. IMHO, in GENERAL, I think more grace can and should be given by both parties, but TO birth moms in particular. In the way we talk about them with our children and each other, and even our body language and tone. In finding gracious responses when we read angry words directed at adoptive parents. More honor and respect can probably be shown, even in rough circumstances. I know that is easy for me to say, not having any dealings at all with my son’s birth mom. Some parents are trying to juggle a relationship with an emotionally unhealthy or mentally ill birth parent, an addict or even an abuser. I won’t even pretend to have any insight for those situations, because that is not my experience and I haven’t talked with any parent in this situation who feels great success. But for the majority of families, we can make a decision to always speak of our children’s first parents with respect, no matter what their decisions have been in life.
Without putting ourselves in the shoes of a birth mother who is unable to parent, it’s far too easy to ignore or look down on them. Reading this article and seeing these pictures of birth mothers was one of the most emotionally painful things I’ve ever experienced. In China there is (was) a “Baby Safety Island” also known as a “baby hatch” where parents can relinquish their children without penalty and with promise that the children will be taken care of. A reporter captured these moments of PURE ANGUISH at the moment of relinquishment. The laws and culture of each country are different. The effects of systemic poverty are more than we can ever comprehend. Most of us will NEVER know the feeling of being scared and pregnant, having no idea how we will feed and clothe the child. We may disagree, we may feel strongly that we would have chosen differently, but God forbid any of us dare to cast judgement.
One last thought. Recently I’ve become aware of a fantastically simple truth: in developing nations, access to prenatal care, counseling, safe options for labor and delivery, and real postpartum support are all forms of orphan prevention. I love adoption, but I don’t love how many children are relinquished by living, loving parents due to lack of resources. Many women relinquish their children because they feel hopeless and scared, for themselves and their children. Ministrires like Heartline in Haiti provide support to empower these women to raise their children, even in seemingly dire circumstances. If we truly desire to care for the most vulnerable, the least of these, it only makes sense that we support organizations that are helping women to be just moms–not “birth moms.” Please take a moment to check out their ministry.
Birth mom blogs and articles (opinions in links below do not necessarily represent Brazenlilly’s opinions):