Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adoption does not have to equal tragedy

I read a post of an adoptive parent this weekend and it got me worked up.  Nothing that she said, but the reason she was posting.

She was upset by reading other blogs and sites where adoption is referred to as a tragedy and those posting make reference to how adoption should always be a last resort only chosen in times of abuse and neglect.

I would like to voice my opinion about this subject.  As you know, I am a birthmother.  I do not speak for all birthparents.  I especially do not speak for birthparents of generations past where unwed mothers were pressured into decisions they didn't want to make.

I speak from only my perspective based upon my experiences.  So here it goes.  How and why I came to the adoption decision - much abbreviated.

I was the one who made a choice that led to an unplanned pregnancy.  It is no more the birthfather's fault than it is my own.  Above all else, I did not get pregnant to provide a child or a 'gift' for someone else.

No one told me I had to choose adoption.  On the contrary, most of those closest to me told me they would do whatever it took to help me raise a child on my own.  Birthfather/boyfriend and I were not guided toward adoption in any way at all.  We had to seek the option.

I am educated, currently parenting 3 boys as a single mother. I have a career.  I do not live in poverty.  I am not without the resources needed to raise a child.

I was not afraid of the stigma of being a single mother.  Those days are over.  Even for someone like me who lives in the public eye in a smaller community.  Regardless of the support or lack of support I would have had from the BF, I knew there were resources of all kinds to support me if I chose to parent.

Adoption was not my last resort.  Abortion was never an option.  I was choosing single parenting vs. choosing a married couple as parents for my child.

My decision was based upon what I would choose for my child, knowing that a married biological mom and dad was not in the immediate future.

I considered the life that this child would have with me vs. what life would be like with a different family.  The kind of family I wished I had.  Not because I think society pressured me to be married, but because my child DESERVED that advantage from birth.  All of my other children had that.  At least at the beginning of their lives they had a married mom and dad caring for them under the same roof.  Single parenting didn't come until later.

I am a good single mom.  Being single does not make you a poor parent.  It just makes you a tired parent.  I was a tired parent when I was married too.

I did not choose adoption because I didn't think I could be a good mom to this child.  I would have loved her (and I still do) just as much as I love my other children.  But I had to decide if the circumstances which I would bring this child into was fair to all of us.  The unborn child, the children I currently parent, the birthfather and me.

Single parenting would have been the easiest decision.  It was the default decision.  I had to actively pursue adoption.

I thought I understood what adoption would be like.  I was wrong.  I also thought I knew what marriage would be like, but I was wrong there too.  That doesn't make adoption the wrong choice any more that it makes marriage the wrong choice.

I chose a road that few choose.  Not because I am better than those who choose single parenting.  I know how hard single parent's have it.  Been there, doing that.

I chose adoption because I wanted more for this child.  Not more material items; she lives with a stay at home mom and a school teacher father.  I would guess that her birthfather and I make more individually than they make as a couple. 

Financial condition of her parents was not our number one priority.  Her birthfather and I were both young and living paycheck to paycheck when we had our first children.  That doesn't determine if you will be a good parent.  Economics was not the reason for this adoption plan.

I did not want my child to be caught between two households of a mom and a dad who lived apart.  (Yes, this is ironic to me now as I long for a more open adoption relationship.)  I had no gaurantees that her father and I would still be together 5 years after her birth.  Statistically the odds are/were not in our favor.  At least with married parents she would have a 50/50 chance.

Above all else, never once did I feel like I was a victim to the 'adoption mill'.  I was in control of the entire process.  I realize I might be an exception in this area.  But it is important to note, that not every adoption has tragedy associated with it.

Do I wish I would have made a different choice?  Maybe.

Did I make the wrong choice? No.

I did what I thought was best for my child at the time I had to make a decision.  Things have changed since that adoption decision.  Life does not come with a manual or a crystal ball.  We do the best we can with the circumstances we are presented.

There was no perfect solution to the situation I was in.  Neither choice was right or wrong.  Brit would have had a good life either way.  Both choices would have involved loss for Brit.  Not growing up with a married mom and dad, or not growing up in her birthfamily.  I had to choose which I thought was better for Brit.

I do second guess my decision.  Of course I do. But that still doesn't mean I made the wrong decision.  Human nature is to wonder how things would have been different.

Now I am here.  This is what we have.

So I will work toward creating the best outcome for the child who had no say in her circumstances.  She did not choose to be born to an unwed mother.  She did not choose to be adopted.

But like me, she will always have to live with that.  So it is up to her parents, BF and me to make the best of what the reality is for her.

I know this is tough.

But this is not tragedy.  Brit has a happy life with parents who love her.  She also has birthparents who love her very much.  That is not tragedy.  Her parents did not steal her from me.  I handed her over to them willingly, trusting that they would be the parents to her that I could not be.

Sure, Brit will have to deal with her feelings about why she was adopted.  I do not want to marginalize this burden that she will have to carry.  However, how many of us have had to bear a burden of somthing that we have no control over in our own, biological families?  Substance abuse, neglect, mental health issues, even issues as seemingly simple as parents who are just very different from us (even if we have the same gene pool!)?

I am very hopeful that Brit will grow up with a loving understanding of her story.  I am also hopeful that she will never have a feeling of abandonment because we will not go away.

I am also very hopeful that her parents will love her so much that they will be willing to allow her to have whatever kind of relationship with she wants with her birthfather and me when she is old enough to ask. 

As a parent of my own children, I have a great respect for parents and their place in a child's life, and I will never knowingly overstep my boundaries in Brit's life.  I have no delusions of her "coming back" to me as if I was her mother all along.  She has a mother, the only mother she has ever known.  That will never change.

I am her birthmother.  I love her and will always make sure she knows that.  I will be available to her in any way that I can be.

Open adoption is hard work.  But a healthy open adoption for the sake of a child is possible.

I love Brit and I believe I have a role and obligations to her.  And together with her parents, her birthfather and me, we will make this adoption relationship anything but a tragedy.


Amber said...

I wish I could find the words to express how much I love this post. I don't think I've ever seen this sentiment more perfectly expressed. As an adoptive parent, I get discouraged about all the 'tragedy' themed adoption info/opinions, especially online. But as you said, it doesn't have to be that way. The comparison between adoption and marriage is simply brilliant. Adoption is hard; marriage is hard. Adoption can be a beautiful thing or a trainwreck. Same with marriage. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be an OPTION for those who choose to pursue it. And yes, it should be a CHOICE, not a last resort and not something anyone is pushed into.

Thank you for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

Lisa - you took the words directly out of my heart!!

A Life Being Lived said...

I love this post! I have had a rough go of it the last few months but not one day do I regret my adoption decision. I regret the actions and the circumstances which led me to adoption but adoption provided what I could not....and my daughter is thriving, and loved, and has everything she needs and more. It's not easy but I also refuse to bash adoption or refuse to acknowledge my own free will and choice in the matter. Adoption can be wonderful is so many ways and it is. Not easy as a birthparent, but it's still a positive thing when done right and respectfully.

A Life Being Lived said...

(i meant refuse to NOT acknowledge my choice in the matter)

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you posted a comment on my blog which led me to yours. This is so real, so honest, so the-way-it-is. Thank you! Thank you! I love my children and my children's birth parents -- as different as they are. It's not smooth sailing for any of us, but we all keep trying to make the best decisions we can make with our children's best interests in mind. And, as you say, there are no guarantees about how things will turn out or an instruction manual to help us make the "right" choices.

I helped a teenager friend of mine find parents for her baby a few years ago. She wanted an open adoption and we had several in our family. She and her boyfriend (bio-dad) chose a married couple. That couple is now divorced and the teenager is happily coupled and working on her Ph.D. She's still glad she made the decision she made because it was the best decision she could make at the time, and she still gets to know and love her daughter as her daughter matures. I know she would agree with you that her decision was not a tragedy. Thank you again for sharing this/your perspective.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I am so glad I am not your daughter! That is cold-blooded. Honest, but wow, giving your kid to strangers so you don't have to hassle with her.

Poor baby.

Sami's birthmother said...

I couldn't have said it better. My circumstances were different than yours (as most of ours were), but the thoughts were the same. I have no regrets about my decision to give my daughter a wonderful family and things I could not give her. Lately, I have been overcome with grief (for many things in my life) and have realized that even though I know the choice I made was the best for her, I don't sometimes second guess if it was the best for me... and that I have not grieved for her. To hear that I am not the only person who would have this experience means a lot to me.

NZFeme said...

A little late responding to this, however I only discovered your blog today.

I am an adult adoptee who has been in reunion with my first mother for 23 years now - my first mother found me shortly after my 20th birthday, the legal age here in New Zealand at which one can search. (I was born in 1970 at the tail end of the "bumper crop" era; the New Zealand equivilent of the BCE)

Your comment:

"...I have no delusions of her "coming back" to me as if I was her mother all along. She has a mother, the only mother she has ever known. That will never change..."

For me personally as an adoptee, I have two Mothers. (and Fathers) Both are real. Both of equal importance in my life. Both loved.

One set of got to parent me. One set didn't. But the fact that my first family weren't able to raise me, doesn't negate the fact that they are also my Mother and Father. They are buried in my DNA. They are present in the faces of my own children. I am of them.

My adoptive family is also buried in me. My adoptive Mother is there when I fold my sheets "just so". She is there when I make chicken soup. And my adoptive Father is there with me every time I enter a debate on social injustice, or sit to play chess.

The fact that this was a source of discomfort at times, for both sets of my family, was difficult for me when I was younger adult. At times I felt like I was being forced to "choose". Times like that I usually ended up minimizing contact with everyone. Closing down. Navigating these relationships would have been so much easier for me had everyone just understood that there is no limit of love to go around. There is so much love to be gained - for everyone - but especially for the person who is at the very epicentre of adoption. The adoptee.

The reality is that babies grow up. We become adult adoptess. And we begin to navigate our adoptions on our own terms. For the first time.

Much Aroha (heartfelt love)to you.