Adoption has not been in the front of my mind lately, partly because my mental waiting room is spilling over with other things needing my attention and partly because I've aired so many of my feelings through this blog. but then Jo linked to this post at Shakesville and as I read it I felt the need to respond line by line, because some of the things she said really can't be reiterated enough. The italicized text is hers, not mine.
1. "I have given a baby up for adoption, and I have had
an abortion, and while anecdotes are not evidence, I can assert that
abortions may or may not cause depression - it certainly did not in me,
apart from briefly mourning the path not taken - but adoption? That is
an entirely different matter. I don't doubt that there are women who
were fine after adoption, and there is emphatically nothing wrong with
that or with them; but I want to point out that if we're going to have
a seemingly neverending discussion about the sorrow and remorse caused
by abortion, then it is about goddamn time that we hear from birth
Believe me when I say that of the two choices, it was adoption that nearly destroyed me - and it never ends. The only comparison I have is the death of a loved one. The pain retreats, maybe fades, but it comes right back if I poke at it...There is no such thing as "over" with this.
Also having experienced an abortion and an adoption, I can echo this point. It drives me crazy that the people who trumpet the emotional consequences of having an abortion are often the same people who tout adoption as the answer to the "problem"* of crisis pregnancy.
I had an abortion after a gray-rape kind of experience when I was 16. (And I am now apologizing to the members of my family who may read this from my facebook page and didn't know it already). While it was certainly harrowing, it was finite. I'm sorry it had to happen, but I have no qualms over the decision I made. It was the right one. End of story.
Adoption, as I've written and as she states on Shakesville, is more of a chronic condition than a trauma that heals eventually. I am fortunate that I am in a period where this monster is sleeping. But when E surfaces again the pain will be just as intense as it has ever been. The body doesn't forget, and she was part of my body. And there is the other issue of her reaction to my decision, and the lifelong consequences she will experience. This is a loss that keeps on losing.
*"Problem" being a relative condition relating more to the structure of our society than the universal unfitness of women who get pregnant without the requisite cultural rubber stamps. Teenagers can be good mothers too. Some 40 years olds have no business making babies. You really can't generalize.
2. "Birth mothers are a demographic seldom heard from, and then generally only in the context of how soon they want to "replace" their lost child. This is a huge WTF to me. I went into a self-destructive tailspin for over a decade, and never once thought that maybe a new doll would do the trick...I'd spend so long hovering on the edge of suicide, desperately trying to find some way to deal with an all-consuming pain I had no idea even existed. I had never needed help so badly, and I doubt I ever will again. I've known a lot of birth mothers, and I consider myself lucky; I'm less broken than many of them, somehow. Maybe it's because I never did get any kind of therapy. I couldn't find any that didn't make me feel inhuman"
Count me among those who had the urge to replace what was lost, or to restore the ruptured motherhood.
Back when I was first exploring the online world of birthparent support on various message boards, I saw that a pattern seemed to develop. Birthmothers either had many children right away, or never had another child. While there were those in the middle ground (where I would eventually land, having two children several years post-placement) the majority seemed to fall on the extremes.
I think what made the difference for me, why I felt the urge to have more children, is because I had always seen myself as becoming a mother one day, and by placing E for adoption I was only delaying babies in favor of things that I thought were more important at the time, like travel (FAIL!) and education (EPIC FAIL!).
Many women have no desire for motherhood, and placing a child ultimately doesn't change that.
It is important to see that in this passage she tells us that even when motherhood is not desired at all, the emotional consequences can be just as severe. Birthmothers suffer a debilitating wound with chronic consequences, which no one, even therapists, can understand. We are stranded, and we must find sense and healing on our own.
Which leads nicely into:
3. "I've googled over the years about the psychological aftereffects of giving up a baby, and what little I found is astonishing. Depression and suicide rates ridiculously high, comparable to PTSD - and beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is no way you can cook any post-abortion trauma study to come anywhere near post-adoption trauma levels. Strange how peer-reviewed studies on this are damn near non-existent; strange how nobody mentions any of this when it's not just your mind on the line, but also that of your kid or kids (more on that later)."
It's a huge problem that the only information about the consequences of placing a child for adoption are mostly anecdotal. Not only does it make supprt hard to find and help hard to justify, it an easy device for those who would like to minimize our experiences. If it was important, it would have been studied, right?
I have a hunch that if it were studied, it would be an undeniable truth that far, far more women are crippled by placing than who skate through like Juno, and women like me would cease to be seen as the embittered anomaly. It would cause a paradigm shift in our cultural view of adoption ("how wonderful! the best thing for everyone!") and adoption industry practices that are now accepted as normal would be seen for what they truly are: manipulative and abusive. Ouch!
Also, for myself and on the behalf of the other women who've been doggedly blogging this topic for years now, I am annoyed that the title of this post on Shakesville includes the phrase "Breaking the Silence". We've broken the silence repeatedly. When will people start to listen??
That's enough for now. As always, I welcome any discussion on this topic.