Jenna and Nic have both posted about the first year after relinquishment. I have to agree: the first year was a breeze, in comparison to the years that followed. After the postpartum fog lifted, there was hope. Things were going well in the adoption, I had a good job and was going back to school, I was planning to move far away with someone I loved very much. I was going to get it together! I was going to make it worth it!
Everything seemed exactly as it should be. I had cheated grief, and would continue to cheat grief for another year or so.
When a birthmother just a few years out from relinquishment starts singing the praises of adoption, I just can't take her seriously. I know that's elitist of me, to discount the experiences of someone because they haven't yet served enough time, but I remember being that girl all too well.
And these are the women, by the way, who do most of the work with adoption agencies telling pregnant mothers that adoption isn't so bad.
Jenna asks what we think when we read this quote from the Secret Life of Bees:
Also, go check out what barb and nic have written.
I wish she’d been smart enough, or loving enough, to realize everybody has burdens that crush them, only they don’t give up their children.
What does it make you feel? I'd wish I'd been smarter. Also, less arrogant than to think with the right mental manueverings, I could avoid the repsonsibility that life had thrust upon me as well as avoiding the pain of relinquishment. Yeah, I feel stupid. And then there's this idea that life could, and should, ideally, be without burdens, and there are certain things you should never take on (like parenthood) under the stress of burdens, for example, the burdens inherent in being a young single mother. I wish I'd known that the fact that I would have had those burdens, or any extra burdens, didn't disqualify me from parenting my own child.
What does it make you think? that at 19, I was idealistic to the point of arrogance, and had so many misconceptions about what life is really like, and what parenthood is really like.
How does it hit at your core? oof. I feel like my decision was a shallow one. I wanted her to have access to private schools and long vacations and everything she wanted. I wanted to finish my education and travel. These things are not worth the loss I marked us with, not by a long shot. Getting back to being stupid, I had no idea how mismatched this trade would turn out to be, and I can only hope and cross my fingers that she turns out to be one of those adoptees who doesn't feel the pain and confusion of having been relinquished so acutely, just to keep a lid on the losses that have piled up.
Have you had this conversation with your placed child already? No.
How did it go? How did they respond to your answer? n/a
How did you phrase your answer? n/a
If you haven’t yet had this kind of conversation, are you mentally preparing for it? Or mentally avoiding it? Reasons as to why. I've been mentally preparing for it for years. I don't know what to say. I hope that in the moment I say the right thing, the true thing, the whatever that heals.
You know those stories you hear, the ones about the hopeful couple who adopts a baby only to have the birthmother change her mind? It's always couched as such a tragedy, that poor baby now has to grow up disadvantaged with an ungrateful, irresponsible mother instead of the adoring, deserving parents that could have been. There is no figure more reviled in adoption than the waffling birthmother.
What is Stephanie's crime, what makes her unworthy of motherhood? Her age. At 17, how good of a mother can she be? She's too immature! She'd need too much help! She might have to depend on her parents! Or- gasp- the government!
I dont know a mother who could truly do it on her own. Not the most stable, educated, older, married, real-estate owning, investment savvy mother could do it on her own. Mothers need other mothers. Mothers need breaks.
And, at 17, there's so much else she could be doing! Like Bettering Herself! Getting an education! Never mind that a child may not be a hindrance, but might actually help her focus on her goals. Mothers do things for thier children that they'd never do for themselves. Like, quitting smoking. Or eating more nurtitiously. Being a role model for a young mind is a powerful motivator. It's a totally different ballgame when its not just your health and happiness at stake.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a 17 year old mother. There is no better motivation for maturity than a baby in your arms.
The tragedy doesn't happen when a hopeful adoptive couple loses the chance to parent the baby of a 17 year old mother. The tragedy occurs when a young mother is forced to surrender her child by an unsupportive society abetted by the dirty tactics of an unethical agency.
I've been dying to tell you about this for weeks, and I finally can, because it's up. The podcast is eleven minutes long, and my part starts about halfway through. Also interviewed were an adoptive family and the founder of the agency I placed through, though this connection is not revealed in the story.
Emily came to my house one weekday morning while Naomi was at school and Miriam was out with her Poppy, and interviewed me for this podcast. She wore fabulous red shoes, which made me like her immediatly. I think I yammered on for an hour. I cried.
Miranda comments: "It's not like first moms are snatched off the street by a slowly-cruising white van. Autonomous adults walk into agencies/lawyer's offices."
Miranda, you bring up a good point, one which needs clarifying.
I admit that my statement wasn't shored up by anything scientific or even linkable. I have only my own experience to learn from. The fact is, as soon as I decided in my fourth month not to have an abortion, people started talking to me about adoption, and about the great couple or wonderful friend they have who wants to adopt. Coersion started long before I walked into an adoption agency. By the time I talked to an adoption professional in my 8th month, my mind was made up. Coersion was already complete.
My OB gave me a profile to "consider". A friend's therapist offered me $10,000 for the baby and "free therapy" to get through the experience. I heard more "we have great friends who can't have a baby would you give them yours" stories than I can count, or even remember. This was all before I initiated contact with anyone who had anything to do with adoption.
In a culture so steeped in images and beauty, is it "paranoid" to believe that I was made more offers, than, say, a 20 year old black girl from the ghetto, because of how I looked? I don't think so. There area a lot of shallow people out there, who want a child who looks a certain way. My features fit the mold.
Isn't kimkim gorgeous? She writes: "I say we are the most glamorous ones in adoption, we are tragic, we represent sex, we are brimming with fertility, we are the ones people whispered about, we are the most feared, we are the catalyst for all things adoption."
I agree. Fallen women are HOT.
And she's given me the perfect excuse to post this picture of myself. I love the t-shirt. I love the shadow of the bars on the window, I love the unholy mess in the background. Locked in jail, plotting revenge. I love it.
I have wondered about the effect, if there is one, of the birthparents' physical appearance on coercion in adoption. Is a person with desirable features, say, bright blue eyes, likely to be carrying a blued eyed baby, more likely the be sought after by people on the lookout for stray babies?
It's an ugly thing to consider. Especially the flip side.
Thanks to an adapter, I am back online, typing on my old desktop keyboard. Yay. The boob post is coming next, once I find the picutres I know I took of Naomi nursing about a week before I weaned her. They are both indiscreet and of a child old enough to negotiate. Scandalous!
I found an old diary, one I'd filled, put away, and forgotten about. Naomi was six months to eighteen motnhs as I was keepingthis diary- it is filled with analyses of her sleep habits. Among the jabbering about sleep and dieting that I went on and on with, I found this entry about adoption, and decided to type it up and share it with you. It marks an important moment; I was realizing that I wasn't incapable of mothering at 19 years old, I was seeing for the first time the unseen forces at work in my relinquishment of motherhood.
And, it was written three years ago today. A year before I started blogging, for those keeping score at home.
January 16, 2004
I hate the world. We are so sick. The earth is sick and humanity is the cause. Mothers beat their babies, make their children suffer. Adoption is necessary in such a sick world.
I flirt with the idea of shutting myself off from the world by joining an isolated commune, freestanding and independant, living like humanity was meant to live. But it wouldn't do any good to run away, it would not feel right to abandon the world, even though there's nothing I can do.
By giving up E, I capitualted to this sick and backward society. What is so wrong and unnatural about a pregnant 19 year old that she can only come to one conclusion: she is incapable of raising her own child?
While making sure I was not pressured in any way by any specific person, I underestimated the coercive effects of cultural truths we take for granted. 'Teenagers are too immature to love and raise children, teenagers are inherently selfish. I never questioned this or other "truths": If you don't finish college now, you never will; motherhood will be the end of all your dreams; you need to find yourself before you have children. That last one is funny- I "found myself" in motherhood more than anything else I've ever done. My life before motherhood lacked a sharp focal point.
[I think of women lke Ariel Gore and Beverly Donofrio, who've written about teenage motherhood and how it gave them the guts, the drive, and the stability to go after their dreams. I wonder if things would have been different if I had found Ariel Gore's Hip Mama's Survival Guide when I was pregnant with E. It would have been a revelation; growth, change, drive, new horizons, intense experiences because of motherhood, not in spite of it or by relinquishing it. Motherhoood as a beginning, not an ending.]
I am so angry at my 19 year old self- that I was such a demure handmaiden to society.
I saw the relinquishment as my redemption; the idea that I could be redeemed by a single act appealed to me. I was motivated by the guilt over being a rebellious, unmanagable teenager, for treating my own mother so horribly for the previous five yers.
I am embarrassed and ashamed for being so blind to the inner workings of society. I was so spineless in my eagerness to please and be the perfect birthmother to make up for being the nightmarish daughter. Because a person who had caused so much pain could not possibly love a child.
Now that I have Naomi I know this is not true. There is healing in being a mother. If I had focused my energy toward preparing for motherhood instead of birthmotherhood I would ahve been fine. Now that I have Naomi I know I would have been a good mother to E. If I could only have believed I was capable. If I could only have seen myself as deserving her.
One year ago I wrote this post. Remember when Dot was placing? I was thinking about her when I wrote this. I didn't want to come out and tell her "no, don't do it" because I knew she wouldn't hear me. But...I couldn't say nothing.