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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What to Expect When You Weren't Expecting to Be Expecting!

I think that should be the title of my next book.  Really, because it is the one, and maybe the only thing, we birthmothers all have in common..... we all faced what you might call a "crisis pregnancy" (at worst)  or a "surprise" (at best) but, for sure, we would all agree that our pregnancies were "unplanned."

How each of us dealt with our pregnancies may vary, but the end result is the same; we have three choices, pick the least bad one.  (And if you were pregnant pre Roe v. Wade, you may have only had two choices!).  For me, adoption was the least bad choice.  My first choice then would have to not have been pregnant.... my first choice now would have been to have the same baby ten years later when I was ready for him.

I hate it when birthmothers fight amongst each other.  To see the divisions among the troops pains me so.  The haves and the have-nots.... the open, semi-open (a/k/a semi-secretive), and the closed.  The opens who are now closed, the reunions who have gone on to successful relationships and the ones who didn't.  Some whose endings were as painful as the torturous beginnings.  

We all love our children - we all grieve - we all feel pain that no one but another birthmother can truly understand.  Yet, because I chose adoption without pressure or duress or regrets, and because I was given the opportunity to watch my son grow to adulthood when so many of my era did not, I am not accepted by such a large group of birthmothers.  Sometimes making the best of a bad situation means choosing the least bad choice.  I love my son and his adoptive family as my own.  I appreciate that adoption existed and I was fortunate to fall into a situation filled with so much love and so few secrets.  I hate that every birthmother can't say the same.

What we can all say is this: None of us were "expecting to be expecting" and from that moment on, though our paths may have diverged greatly, that one moment in time was enough to make us sisters forever.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What color is a birthmother's cap?

I was reminded of a very basic reality last night.  I was sitting in a circle with 25 other birthmothers at a weekend retreat, and looking around the room, I once again realized that we are all sooooo different and yet, so much the same. (and don’t ask me why this continues to strike me as something to blog about but I guess I am a slow learner!).  Let’s see, this retreat has a med student, a few grad students, a massage therapist, a high school sophomore, a grandmother, a full-time mother and a nurse... and that is only a very partial list!  
I remember when Elizabeth Edwards died recently, another victim of breast cancer, I heard several interviews from people who knew and loved her and was struck by the one common thread that kept coming up.  All the people they asked to comment on her life were not political pundits, or Washington big-shots, but people who had some connection to breast cancer.  The very first interview I heard (ironically it was with a man rather than a woman) but he still said “...the most amazing thing Elizabeth Edwards ever said to me was that no matter where she goes, whenever she meets another cancer survivor, she feels an immediate bond with kindred spirit with them.”  Then someone else said, “...Elizabeth Edwards shared a sisterhood with every other survivor she met.”
So I guess if you want to know what it is like to be a birthmother, go talk to a breast cancer survivor.  We all know what it means when we see someone in a pink baseball cap;  It means she is a fighter, a brave survivor, yet obviously not without the scars left from the both physical and emotional wounds inflicted by a terrible disease.  
Maybe someday birthmothers will wear a cap too, and then you will see that we aren’t so rare after all;  We too are fighters, brave survivors, yet not without out wounds inflicted from making the most difficult decision of our lives.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gratitude

Thanksgiving is many people’s favorite American holiday; I know it’s mine. On this one day in our country, no matter what your background, you will probably be sitting around a table somewhere, remembering all you have to be thankful for. (Although, I must say, that it is a little ironic to me that Thanksgiving is followed by the biggest shopping day of the year. Maybe remembering all we have to be thankful for also makes us think of all the things we wish we had to be thankful for? Hmmm...).

In adoption, if we are truly honest, being thankful can sometimes be hard. The bright, happy side of adoption also has an opposing dark twin; before anyone can experience gain in adoption, someone must have first felt loss. Adoptive parents often go through the pain of infertility and the struggle of letting go of the fantasy child they will never know. Birthmothers’ (and birthfathers’ as well) loses, although most obvious, are not always as simple as just losing a child. She also looses the fantasy of carefully planning a family with her partner when the time is right, of experiencing the first-time joy and wonder of pregnancy, and of course, the physical loss of raising her child. Lastly, but by no means the least, the adopted persons losses are just as significant. Regardless of how an adopted person joins his or her family, they always lose the experience of being raised by genetically linked parents. They often miss out on the never-ending exploration of the intricate tapestry that is nature and nurture. Internationally adopted persons lose an entire culture; language, tradition and sometimes the common occurrence of having themselves reflected in those around them.

Many adopted persons I know, grew up being told that they were more special than just any-old-baby-who-joins-a-family-by-birth because they were “chosen.” Their birthmother wanted them to have more than she could give (which leads us to the natural conclusion that what they have in their adopted families must be better than what they would have had if they’d remained with their birthfamilies), and so they are luckier than most. This is especially evident if their birthfamily lives in a straw hut in Ethiopia or in a shack in Guatemala. But what if an adopted person doesn’t always feel thankful like everyone says they should be. What if a birthparent doesn’t always feel grateful for the family who is providing her child with a wonderful life? What if an adoptive parent still sometimes wishes she could have been the one to give birth to her son or daughter?

Here’s something to think about. What if admitting that we sometimes have a hard time being thankful, is just as important as gratitude itself! I say, how can we appreciate what we have if we don’t first take a look at how we got it in the first place? Both are important and I’ve seen how too much of either can lead to an unhealthy, unbalanced life.

Recently, Scott Simon, a news guy from NPR, wrote about the joys of his two daughter’s adoptions from China. His book “Baby We Were Meant For Each Other," sings the praises of adoption and, obviously reflects the complete and utter euphoria this new father feels for his two daughters. It is quite beautiful. Yet, if you read the comments posted below any of his internet interviews or blogs you will find an outpouring of anger and outrage over the one-sidedness of Mr. Simon’s presentation of adoption. Post after post challenge him to examine his lack of understanding of what his daughter’s birthparents have lost in order for him to experience such joy. Several readers plead with him to gain some insight before his daughters grow any older and must bear the burden that such unbalanced gratitude brings. If you didn’t know a thing about adoption, you would be shocked to see such angry posts in response to a seemingly beautiful idea.

In my book, Secrets To Your Successful Domestic Adoption” I propose that the adoptive parents are the “ying” to the birthparents “yang.” Neither one is complete without the other. The same is true with loss and gratitude; so often one follows the other. If we give our losses the time and attention they deserve; allow ourselves to acknowledge the pain and know that it is only perfectly acceptable to feel sad sometimes, the paradoxical consequence is this: when it is time to be thankful, we will be . . . with pleasure.