Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Easy Way Out?

Recently The Skeptical Mother posted a photograph on Facebook of a young woman with her newly-born daughter. Though I haven't been able to confirm the story, the photo was posted under the description that it was taken moments before the baby was placed into the arms of an adoptive family. And though someone accused the story of being a fake, and probably the "agenda of pro-lifers", I find that assumption kind of silly since, photo or no photo, birthmothers exist, and that moment before the child is handed to the adoptive parents is a very real one.
Thousands of likes and comments ensued and I tried to keep up, scanning for negative remarks before they were thankfully deleted by the host. It's always amazing to me to see the things people find necessary to say, but I only want to focus on one comment for today (though I really would like to gather up common negative attitudes and misconceptions so that I could address them here).

"Way easier to give up than brave the adversity" and hints of the birth mother "taking the easy way out" stuck out to me.

Though it's very easy to react out of pain and hurt, something important we should remember when addressing those who are critical is to have compassion; it's the very thing we wish they would show, so it doesn't make much sense to stoop to their level with anger and sarcasm.

From the outsider's point of view, I can see what would make someone jump to this conclusion: black-and-white, shallow thinking. One route requires raising a baby and the other doesn't, therefore choosing the second route must be inherently easier.

I'll have to say that it wasn't what would be easiest for me that prompted me to make my decision. Like I've said, we planned on parenting for seven months, and the one time we seriously sat down to consider adoption before that, we both felt physically ill and discontinued the conversation.

Adoption did not seem easy or appealing. It was gut-wrenching and the opposite of what we wanted. The thought of going on alone after the birth of our child was too much for our hearts to bear at that time.

But time went on and I started looking at everything as a mother, with consideration of my son. Our relationship was deteriorating ...what effect would this have on our son? We were living paycheck to paycheck, and disagreed on how to spend or save our money, how would we afford a child? Our families were completely at odds and full of drama and disdain, what would this environment do to a growing, impressionable child? What about the fights? The drinking? Abuse? Screaming? Broken lamps and holes in the walls? Irresponsibility? Distrust? Depression? Lack of goals in life? Selfishness? Immaturity?

How could we take the easy way out and do what we wanted, instead of what this baby needed?

So, what did that mean for me after I became a birthmother?
I changed forever. I didn't completely mature overnight, but I wasn't the same teenager ever again.

Going home without a child is not the same as never having a child or never being pregnant; your mind and heart are forever affected and unfortunately the "out of sight, out of mind" rule doesn't apply. For the first couple of years (for me, at least) that's almost all you can think about, dream about. It's lonely and painful. It's depressing and sometimes embarrassing. Personally, I was left longing to have children; it became my goal in life, whereas before becoming pregnant, I hadn't given thought to being a mother. There's the decision of when to tell someone you're interested in dating, whether to shed light on your odd behavior at work (running to the bathroom crying, withdrawing from co-workers, glaring at families with babies...) or to save yourself from the uncomfortable conversation.

As you're healing, sometimes being a birthmother defines you and you scrutinize every acquaintance, wondering if or when you should tell them. Sometimes telling others isn't an option, sometimes even your family never knows, and you're forced to deal with your grief inwardly. And there is grief. So much grief. Sadly, the grief may be disabling and destroying when there isn't support and guidance on how to heal properly.

And then someday you may have children again, and all you can do is compare to your last pregnancy. Sometimes you're overcome with unexplainable fear or feelings of detachment, as though you only know how to deal with a joyous pregnancy through coping strategies.

And on top of all of it, you get to deal with judgmental and inappropriate comments from people who have never been in your shoes or even heard your story.

Some people are supportive, and yes good things happen after an adoption: I took care of my education and cleaned up my act. Why? Because I told myself I never wanted to take advantage of the decision I had made. I wanted R to be proud of me. I wanted him to see that it wasn't in vain - not for him, not for me. 

Whether parenting or adoption is chosen, there will be hardship, there will be downs, there will be ups, smiles and tears, rewards and heartbreak. Neither of them are easy, both come with costs and hardship. Even as a birthmother, I still only intimately know my own situation, and I can't throw out the blanket statement that says adoption is always or never the answer. Truly, we cannot judge each other so blindly.

But I can say, placing your child with an adoptive family is not the easy way out.
Or, to quote The Happiest Sad: "It’s not easy and it’s not an out."

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