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.