Birthmother: Chance

By Birthmother – It’s not often that you have a clear opportunity to do something GOOD.  By GOOD I mean life-affirming, joy-inducing, compassionate, and challenging. When I got pregnant for the first time, unexpectedly, I realized that I had been given such an opportunity.

I wasn’t ready to be a parent.  I had NEVER wanted to be anyone’s parent.  And certainly no one wants to become a parent when they aren’t financially ready to take care of another person.  My husband felt the same way.  So we could have been overwhelmed by the obligation that had just landed in front of us.  Instead, we recognized how many men and women were waiting out there, filled with hope that they could bring life into the world.  We recognized that our baby could be meant for one of these hopeful couples.  What seemed like a fluke occurrence could be a match made in heaven.

A friend of mine once told me his feelings about choosing to be a parent.  He said that becoming a parent is a bold statement of your true feelings about life.  When you have a child, he said, you are telling the world that you LOVE life, you love life enough to share it with another human being.  You have enough hope or optimism to willingly bring an innocent new person into this uncertain world.

I can’t say that I’ve ever felt so strongly positive about life.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to be a parent!  But once a life is growing inside you, you may find that your feelings about life are changed, or that they grow more strongly in one direction or the other.  I remember sitting in bed on the day the doctor confirmed I was pregnant, taking in the reality of it.  I was 25 years old and newly married.  I had JUST finished college with a Master’s degree.  I had not planned to be pregnant.  In fact, I had taken birth control pills every single morning since the age of 18.  Pregnancy was the furthest thing from my mind.  By the time I found out I was pregnant I was already MANY weeks along.  I hadn’t behaved like a pregnant woman in those weeks.  The winter Holidays had just finished, complete with drinking and smoking.  But the doctor had done an ultrasound right away –  he confirmed the baby was healthy, with a strong heartbeat.

So as I sat there in bed, the STRENGTH of the life inside me impressed me more than I can explain.  How could this tiny bunch of cells be so tenacious as to survive the first trimester of life without any help from me?  “Wait,” I thought, “This bunch of cells IS receiving help from me!  I may not be expending conscious effort, but my proteins and my fluids are sustaining this life. My body has been growing this baby!”

I suddenly felt how much effort my body was expending without my knowledge.  A great process of life had started into motion without me knowing.

And you know what they say: A body in motion tends to stay in motion.  If I had closed my eyes and pretended that I wasn’t pregnant, if I had gone on with life as though nothing had happened, the process would have remained in motion anyway.   Once those little cells come together and start multiplying, BAM!  The pattern had begun and hose cells were going to KEEP multiplying unless something stopped them.   My body was in the midst of a natural state of development, following it’s own basic design for sustaining an embryo.  Life is programmed, genetically, to persist.  Sometimes our life systems malfunction, sometimes fatally, but the overall pattern is to SURVIVE.  When the system is working properly it takes incredible force and difficulty to stop it.

And so I chose not to stand in the way of what my body was doing.  I chose to let those cells grow.  I chose to let my baby find the hopeful, compassionate couple who would could give it all the love it would ever need.  My situation wasn’t perfect, but I refused to believe that nothing good could come out of it.

I definitely had fears about what would happen next.  Would the biological father support me through the adoption process?  What would our parents say?  What would our friends and family say?  What if the pregnancy was hard, or if the delivery was painful?  What if the child hated me for giving it up?

All I can say is this: Life isn’t perfect.  And no matter what you do, your child’s life will not be perfect.  The reality is that you will be questioned and judged no matter what decision you make about a pregnancy.  Someone will always be there to doubt you or tell you you did the wrong thing.  And you will face difficulty and trials no matter which way you turn.

But does that mean you should give up?  Does that mean life isn’t worth sharing?  I’m not going to answer that question for you.  But I can assure you of this: There will be people there to support you no matter what you choose, there WILL be people who understand what you’ve gone through.  For each reason you find to doubt yourself, you can find an equally good reason to appreciate the choice you make.  Once the clouds clear the sun will shine in and you will see the beauty of life again.

Birthmother: Answering questions

By Birthmother – I was at a typical getting-to-know you gathering on a Friday night, casually making new acquaintances, when I met a particularly loud-mouthed woman.  She had a knack for saying the wrong things and asking the wrong questions.  For instance, she asked me if I had children.

This question is always hard for me to answer.  Yes, I’ve HAD children, but I don’t HAVE them.

When a doctor or medical professional asks this question, I immediately say, “Yes.”  They may need to know that my body has gone through the physical process of bearing children.  When a casual acquaintance asks, however, they’re usually trying to fill space in a conversation… they’re not likely to want to get into that conversation.

So what do I do?  Even 5 years after the adoption of my daughter, I still find myself choked up and grasping for words when confronted with this very simple question.  If I say, “No, I don’t have children,” I feel like I’m denying the existence of two amazing children.  I think of these children every day!  Their pictures are on my fridge!  How can I deny them?  And how can I resist the urge to mention how amazing they are?  But if I say, “Yes,” I have a lot of explaining to do.

I decided to open my silly mouth and tell this nosy woman the truth; I’ve given birth to two children, but gave them both up for adoption.

The woman sat there silently, staring at me as though I had admitted to something horrific.  She made a point of extending her open-mouthed silence as long as she could, widening her eyes at me, to make sure that her shock was evident.

I should point out that in 5 years of being a biomom this was the FIRST person to openly disapprove of what I’d done.  I was at least as shocked as she was, but I attempted to move on with the conversation politely.  I explained that the adoptions are open, allowing me to watch the children grow and see how loved they are.

She asked me, “How old were you at the time?”  I said that the youngest child had been born less than 2 years ago.  I was 29 years old.  I was not young.  Her shock continued.

She asked me, “Were they [the children] disfigured or disabled in some way?” at which point I may have looked at her as though she were horrific.  Why would the health of my children be relevant?  Would it have been more OK for me to walk away from my children if they were in medical trouble?  I said none of this aloud.  I explained that both children are healthy and beautiful and wonderful, perfect in every way.  Her shock continued.

Finally, she looked away from me.  She said, “I will not judge you.  I will not judge,” in the tone of someone who, clearly, was judging me very harshly.  I laughed out loud and mumbled something like, “I would hope not, you don’t even know me!”  Then I turned the conversation to other topics and we went on with our evening.

My friends rush to my defense when I tell this story.  For instance, they call this woman “narrow-minded and dumb,” saying that her own ignorance caused her to behave the way she did. They express shock and anger that anyone would think badly of me for choosing adoption. They remind me how strong I am, how wonderful it is that I gave the gift of parenthood to two childless couples.

But I can’t shrug off this woman’s questions as easily as my friends can.  Because every woman who chooses adoption for her child has to be familiar with this question, “Why?  Why did you do it?”

Even if I get remarkably lucky and no one ever asks me this question out loud again, I have no doubt that I will ask it of myself every single time I see or think about my children.  And someday my children will ask me this same question.  I’m going to have to answer.  Every biomom will be held accountable for her own answer.

I can try to explain about being scared of parenthood, not having a maternal instinct, not wanting to bring a child into a marriage that was not ready for it.  Those are my personal reasons, though they might not make sense to anyone else.

But when I see my children in the arms of their adoptive parents, when I see how loved they are, this seems like all the answer I could ever need.  Adoptive parents devote uncountable resources to seeking a child.  You can’t miss it when you’re looking at their adoptive parent profiles; they are so ready and willing to give everything they have just for the chance to give their love to a child.  How rare and wonderful for a child to be so completely wanted and prepared for!

So whatever my reasons, I know that by choosing adoption I have achieved something profoundly good.  My choice created a family where before there was only a dream of family.  I made someone’s dream come true and I gave my child a loving home.  There is nothing better I can say.