When I tell people in my life that I'm a birthmother the same question usually comes up every time. "Do you think you did the right thing?"
The short answer is that I don't know, and there's no way to ever know for sure.
The long answer, the real answer, is something I'm afraid to explore too deeply. If I look back and decide that I did the "right" thing, I feel like I'd be invalidating years of grief and depression. It's hard for me to get my mind around it being right and being this painful anyway. If it was right, shouldn't that be of some comfort? If it was right, where does my anger go?
If I am faithful to my feelings at the time, I would have to say that it was the right choice to make. When I recreate the time in my mind, the overwhelming memory is the feeling I had of being in the hand of God, fate, destiny, karma, or what have you. Like Martha Beck in Expecting Adam, I felt like a spiritual portal had been opened during the pregnancy, and I was making choices with profound insight that I never has access to before, and never had access to again. I wasn't really a religious person, in fact I was very dissillusioned with all things spiritual at the time, which made the open portal feeling even more striking.
The Christmas season before E. was born in January was not the worst Christmas, like you would expect, it was the best Christmas I can remember. It's one of my dearest memories. So many people reached out to me, the kindness of strangers during that time was just staggering. Meeting the adoptive parents was also magical, profound, indescribable.
One of the (quite literally) soul-crushing things I experienced in the years after placing E. was the loss of this profound faith. In my mind, it became a symptom of my denial, something I wished someone had tried to puncture. It became a foolish refuge of a 19 year old who was terrified of growing up, a delusion. A psychological reaction to the guilt racked up by being a "troubled" teenager, a craving for redemption. A decision made not with profound insight, but with profound ignorance and blindness.
Was it right?
Yes, I think it was. Not just for the rational reasons. The flickering memory of E.'s hands in my life before she was born is what stands between me and atheism.
Why is this so hard for me to say? What is it about being wronged that is so attractive?
By accepting the experience as it occurred at the time, without all the knowledge and coloring I added later, there's no reason for me to be angry. Or sad. According to this story, I did a beautiful thing. I should be proud of myself.
I honestly don't know if I would have made a different choice if I knew how truly sucky it would be.
Part of what I'm afraid of is my experience being used as a stick to beat other birthmothers with. Just because my choice was right, it doesn't mean everyone's is right. It's certianly doesn't mean that there's nothing wrong with the way adoption works. I feel like admitting that my choice was right robs me of the right to criticize adoption and the way birthmothers are sometimes treated.
If it was right, how do I justify how I behaved afterwards, what with all the crying and failing out of things and dropping out of life? If it was right, what kind of person does that make me, one who bears a child she can't, or won't, care for? If it was right, and what I remember and believed was true, what does life have in store for me?
Since I don't believe that any living human can know the whole truth about anything, I have lately been making a conscious effort to believe what empowers me, instead of what defeats me. For nearly seven years I have believed all the worst things about my adoption, and where has it gotten me? I'm an angry, shameful person who is deathly afraid of people. If you knew me from before E. was born you would not recognize me.
There's one moment that sticks in my mind, that I return to again in again. When E. was born, her cord severed on its own. It just broke. There was no medical explanation, the cord was healthy, the placenta was tested and found healthy, the cord just broke. The could be a medical anomaly, or it could Mean Something. It's my choice to make.