Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How To Irritate a Birth Mother

I love being a birth mother. Knowing that I helped to create an eternal family, that my sweet baby won’t want for anything including a father, means the world to me. Adoption is such an amazing thing and I am blessed to have it (and Roo) in my life.

But there are times when I wish I didn’t feel the burden of responsibility, the need to educate the world about adoption. I wish I didn’t have to be an adoption mythbuster and tell people why they shouldn’t ask the questions they do.

I believe that for the most part, most people are mostly good. I know that people don’t mean to offend me or other birth mothers when they say the things they do. But the fact remains that they have offended me, or bothered me, or irritated me, or made me want to smack them.

I know that there are a number of similar such lists floating around the internet, but I feel the need to add my two cents’ worth. So here is my list of things one shouldn’t say to a birth mother.

1. “Didn’t you want her?”
“Are you serious?” is how I always want to respond to this. I don’t know a single birth mother who didn’t want her baby. I wanted Roo more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. If I had to choose between breathing and Roo, Roo would win every time. I wanted her, and I do want her, and I love her. But this wasn’t about me or what I wanted. It couldn’t be. It had to be about what was best for Roo, and adoption was it.

2. “I could never do that.”
This one is infamous in the adoption world. I think this of all statements is the one that most would consider harmless. But when I hear that, I want to ask, “Why? Why couldn’t you do that? Wouldn’t you want the best for your baby?” So often the tone in which it is said implies that the birth mother has erred or acted impulsively or been careless, or that she did it because she doesn’t love her child. Adoption is not a choice made lightly or impulsively, and it is certainly not made because of a lack of love. Adoption *is* love. As my friend Tamra says, if I’d loved my baby just an ounce less, I would have kept her. I placed her because I love her.
I also liked Tamra’s advice to me on dealing with this comment. She said to tell people, “No, you probably couldn’t,” in a tone that implies that I am a much stronger person than they are.

If you would say to a birth mom, “I could never do that” to try to tell her that you admire her strength and courage, consider phrasing it differently. Just tell her that you admire her strength and courage and that you can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her.

3. “I’m sure you did what was best for you.”
Someone actually said this to me and I wanted to hurt them. Does anyone really, truly believe that I chose adoption for my sake? It wasn’t best for me. What was best for me was keeping and parenting the daughter I loved so very much. Placing her was hell for me, certainly not best for me. If it was about me, I’d still be a single mother. I did what was best for Roo. Period.

4. “Will she call you mom when she’s older?”
Of course not. Why would she? I’m not her mother. M is her mother. She can call me whatever she wants to. “Jill” would work just fine.

5. “Won’t she be confused about who her mom is, having you in her life?”
Well, let’s see. One of us will feed her, dress her, bathe her, read to her, sing songs with her, play with her, teach her, give her hugs and kisses and tend to her boo-boos and take her to primary and listen when she talks and make sure she’s happy and healthy and smart, be married to Roo’s father and live in the same home, in short, be her mother; and one of us will … visit from time to time. Nope, sorry, I don’t see any confusion there.

Roo will know that she grew in my tummy before she was born, and that I made sure she got to her mommy and daddy. I don’t think she will ever, for a second, be confused about exactly who is her mother.

Going along with that question, people will opine that openness must surely mess with a child’s identity and sense of self. Well, how on earth does having more people in Roo’s life who love her, mess with her? You can’t spoil a child with love. Roo has two families who love her. She will know exactly who she is. Studies show that open adoption is mutually beneficial. All members of the adoption triad find peace and joy in openness.

6. “Oh, you took the easy way out.”
This is another statement that makes me want to hurt the speaker. There hasn’t been a single easy thing about adoption. I didn’t place Roo because being her mother was too hard. Being a mother wasn’t something I wanted out of! What was hard was placing her for adoption. I have never felt sorrow and despair so deep as I did when I drove home from LDSFS without Roo in the car. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and the pain nearly undid me. Don’t think for one second that adoption is the easy way out. It’s not easy and it’s not an out.

7. “Well, now that she’s been adopted, you can get back to being young and having fun.”
Oh, honestly. I couldn’t believe it when someone said that to me. Did they really think that I placed Roo because she was interfering with my social life? I would take Roo over fun and youth in a second. But I can’t have Roo. So I go out with friends instead. That doesn’t mean I placed her so I could go out and have fun.

8. “You made the right decision.” (said with an air of judgmental superiority)
Well, thanks. I’m sure glad to know that you thought I made the wrong decision when I single parented for nine weeks. And thanks for judging me and deciding what’s right for me and my baby, too. Because that was totally your call to make.
Adoption was the right decision for Roo, but not right away, and I don’t think that it’s the right decision for everyone. When someone says this to me, I wonder what they say to single mothers, women who chose parenting over adoption. “You made the wrong decision”? How rude and judgmental!

Yes, I made the right decision for Roo. But the rightness of it was for me to determine, and I don’t need anyone else to confirm it for me.

9. “You know, you could have sold her for millions! People will pay a killing for a healthy white baby.”
People will say this jokingly, but it always makes me sick. A child is not a commodity to be bought and sold. I didn’t place her for any kind of physical gain and I never, ever would. No one should. Period.

10. “Will she know that you’re her real mom?”
Sorry, I’m not her “real” mom. M is. And what’s a real mom, anyway? I didn’t place Roo with a family of cardboard cutouts. Calling me Roo’s real mom implies that M is … what, her fake mom? Uh-uh. I am Roo’s birth mother, not her real mother. Same goes for the phrase “natural mother.” What constitutes an unnatural mother? There’s a lot of negative adoption language out there I’d like to change, like …

11. “Oh, what made you decide to give your baby away?”
Excuse me, but I didn’t give her away. I didn’t put up an ad on Craigslist, “I’m giving away my baby, does anyone want her?” I placed her for adoption, but I certainly didn’t and wouldn’t ever give her away. I gave her a family. People who ask this question always want to know when P and M will tell Roo that she’s “not really theirs.” That’s funny. I was under the impression that she was really theirs. Hmm. That’s news to me! Whose is she then?

I’m sure I’ve neglected to mention a few other words and phrases that I loathe hearing, but this is the list for now. One last thing that bothers me is how many people pretend I never had Roo at all. So many people ask how I’ve been, but so few ever think to ask how Roo is doing. I don’t want to ignore those 9 weeks of my life. They are precious and wonderful. I had a baby, and I placed her for adoption. Please don’t pretend none of it happened!

And for the record, I think the best thing to say to a birth mother is, “What a brave woman you are. You must love your baby so much to have done that for her.” And leave it at that, folks, unless she wants to talk.


Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

great list!

Audra Owens said...

Well said, Jill.

Cami said...

Love it!
Thank you for sharing something your light in something that irrates many of birthmoms including me.

StefanieJinelle said...

I found your blog through the adoption blog grapevine.

For one of your "What not to say to a birth mom thing." I have an example. It's actually posted on my wall on Facebook.

R-I didn't know you had a baby girl? Bless your heart...I'm so proud of you to make the right but i'm sure difficult decision to put your little one up for adoption.

Me-I didn't put her up for adoption like she was a baby for sale in an auction. I placed her for adoption.

I like your blog and how you tell it how it is. I'm the same way (:

Jill Elizabeth said...

Hi, Stefanie :o)

I've always HATED how people say "put up" or "give away" for adoption. I chose her family and placed her with them. I did not list her on eBay or Craigslist!

Anonymous said...

I especially love your answer to #5. Blog on!

J said...

GOD BLESS YOU! I am humbled by reading this...you loved Roo more than you loved yourself and you put her needs before your own, I admire you!

Margaret said...

Hi, I just found your blog from a link on FB - LDS Birth Moms. I am an adoptee from the old closed days. Open adoption is wonderful although I did not understand it at first. I like this post. Some of these things have been said to me about my birth-mom, unfortunately some of these things are true about her. I was 5 when I was adopted, foster care off and on from birth. I look forward to reading more of your blog later.

Katy said...

I just had a little boy on sunday and placed him with wonderful friends of the family. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life and this list is wonderful because in less than a week at least half these things have been said to me. I want to print it out and hand it to everyone.

Kelly said...

Hello, I was pointed to your blog by my father. My husband and I are hoping to adopt some sweet day and I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved this list, thank you for making me more aware of what may come stumbling out of my mouth, but also I just loved the way you phrased number 5. It was beautifully put. We have had some doozies of things said to us not having children. It's really quite incredible what people will say sometimes.

happygirls said...

Hi~ I just found your blog-love it. I'm an amom to 2 little girls both with open adoptions. I can relate with the "Stupid People" questions/comments. Sometimes I use it as an opportunity to educate, use PAL, or just roll my eyes. Most people's intentions are good. They are just curious and insensitve. After 10 years, I've toughened my skin a bit and let things go a little more. Some people will just never get it. It is a special bond only those in the adoption circle will understand. The only thing I don't agree with is the "I could never do it" I guess it is how it is said (people say the same thing to me about adopting and openess). I tell my girls bmoms that I could have never done and went through all they did at their age. I would have been too selfish and done what would have caused me the least amount of pain at the time. It is not an insult but just a truth about myself. If a comment sounds like a put down, I always say something like," Yes adoption isn't for everybody. You have to have an open heart and a lot of faith for the journey. Maybe someday you will understand that." It usually stops the questions pretty fast.
I look forward to catching up on your blog.
Take Care.....Deb

Unknown said...

When people who know I'm a firstmom say stupid things to me, it's gotten to the point I'm just happy they talk to me and don't shun me like most everybody else does. My own sister (who's married to an adopted person once said "I could never do that" so I replied "Well, I guess you're just better than me" and her jaw dropped.

Mystic said...

I am an adult adoptee who can totally relate to the "stupid question" issue. The one that really gets my hackles up is, "Do you know where your real mom is?" to which I would always reply, "She raised me; why wouldn't I know where she is?"
I have a birth mom; I have spoken to her, and I am grateful for her sacrifice as I have had a wonderful life, but I have ONE MOM--she isn't an amom or 2nd mom...she is my MOM!
Roo is blessed. Roo has a wonderful mother and father and a birth mom who is TRULY unselfish and has put Roo's well-being before her own desires.
Thank you for sharing your feelings ,and for taking the time to educate the ignorant about the adoption triad.

Fairlight said...

I guess it depends on the individual. I was adopted but I always had such a deep longing for my "first parents" while growing up. I do call my F.M. "mom" because she's been in my life since I was 16 yrs. old (I'm in my 40's now). It wasn't easy being adopted. Finding my parents (that's what I call them) was a wonderful and healing experience.

Debra A. Simons said...

This is so beautiful. My daughter found her birth mother on Facebook. When my daughter was 13 I gave her a picture, framed it in a beautiful frame and told her she was loved.

Finding her birth family means she has more love in her life. I also get the "who is the real mother" from other people. Yes, in my daughters heart I am the real mother. But, her birth mother is also her mom and that is fine with me. No competition here. The goal is more love.

I believe you can not really love the child unless you love the birth mother too. I love the the woman who gave me the greatest gift. My daughter.

God bless you all. And, remember, ALL children belong to God. They are not our possession.