During the various adoption classes and trainings we did, we came to understand how adoption is a beautiful thing built on a foundation of loss. The birth mother feels loss over placing her child. The adoptee feels loss over a lack of identity or not knowing their biological family. The adoptive parents often know the loss of infertility.
I feel as if I understand the losses that everybody in our two adoptions feels. However, I tend to look at loss mostly from my perspective, which is rather rosy. I have long accepted that my wife and I will never have a biological child, and I am perfectly fine with that. Our children are amazing – smart, beautiful, vibrant little beings that make me happy beyond words. I truly believe my wife and I could not have produced anything as wonderful as our two kiddos. So I tend to forget about the other two sides of our adoption triangle and any pain they might be feeling.
I may be over my loss, and I’m naive enough to think that we can provide enough love and support to cushion whatever loss our kids may feel as their comprehension of their journeys to our home evolves. But do I really understand what our birth mothers went through?
Sure, I can vocalize the pain they must feel over knowing that they have not seen their beautiful children in person since birth. I can try to understand what it must be like to go through life – being with their other children, hearing a baby cry, seeing their C-section scar, or any of the thousand moments in the day where they are reminded that the life they brought into this world is (for differing reasons) not currently in their life.
It is a pain that I cannot understand, a loss that I will never know, an ache that (presumably) never goes away. I am grateful beyond words these women chose adoption and chose us to parent their children.
But is another part of the story that I had never ever considered; one that makes me love and appreciate these women even more: the social stigma they must face. The judgment (silent, vocal, or implied) from everyone you know.
I recently read a very interesting piece in the Washington Post entitled “A Mother’s Day plea to stop equating adoption with abandonment“. It really opened my eyes.
I clicked on the piece expecting a rant against an all-too-common adoption phrase: “gave up for adoption”*.
*I hate that phrase. Despise it. It makes the hair on my neck stand up and wakes up the protective Papa Bear inside me. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – “gave up” on my babies. Not their birth moms, not their biological families, nor anybody else. Say that about my kids, and you may “give up” on breathing for a while.
But while “gave up” is mentioned in the piece, it is a small component in the bigger message.
The loss a birth mom faces can sometimes pale in comparison to the social stigma they face for placing their child for adoption. The author even asserts that for some women, aborting an unplanned pregnancy can have less impact than placing a child for adoption.
Think about it: there is a woman at work, at school, at church, in your family, wherever. You can tell that she is pregnant, even if you think she’s trying to hide it. You hear that she’s gone into labor and delivered a healthy child. Then one day, she is back but little is said publicly about where the baby went.
You would judge her.
You would think she was a slut for getting knocked up, or she’s a bad person because she couldn’t take care of her baby, or she has betrayed religious tenets you hold dear.
You would ask why. Why couldn’t she raise baby? Why did she have to “give up” this child? Why is she such a bad mom? Why?
You may not say or intentionally do anything, but you would likely judge her for placing her baby for adoption. Or make negative assumptions.
Hell, I am a two-time adoptive father. I owe an overwhelming debt of gratitude to our two birth moms. And I can honestly tell you that I have made some negative judgments about birth moms (especially the one who lied to us in our failed adoption).
Simply put: the social stigma our birth mothers faced is something that I (as an adoptive father) have failed to comprehend, or even acknowledge.
And that is what makes birth moms so amazing. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, they could take the “easy” way out and abort. Few people would know, and they would not have to endure nine months of judgment, and a lifetime of whispers about how she “gave up” a baby. Imagine the strength, the love, and conviction needed to make an adoption plan, especially in the face of such social stigma.
The solution is simple: as a society, we readjust our mindset on birth moms. They are not pariahs incapable of parenting. They love their children and want the best possible life for them. The author says it best:
“A woman’s decision to carry a baby to term knowing that she will not reap the fruits of motherhood should be treated as an act of bravery and selflessness — the ultimate standards of good motherhood.”
* * *
Update…The WordPress Daily Prompt for 5/14/2013 is about unconditional love. I definitely think the love birth moms have for their children qualifies.