I got to do an outreach presentation at Compadre on Monday (the 3rd). Compadre is always a fun one because instead of a health class full of bored fifteen-year-olds, I get to speak to single girls who are facing unplanned pregnancies. Compadre has classes for pregnant girls and for girls who are already single-parenting. On the one hand, I think it's fantastic and innovative and a good idea. On the other hand, it depresses me that there are enough pregnant girls in the Tempe Unified School District that they need their own program.
I've done an outreach presentation at Compadre once before. Talking to the class of single mothers is awkward. It's like going to a prison and talking about the benefits of a law-abiding lifestyle. Fortunately for me, I didn't get to speak to that group Monday. That honor (I think) went to another birth mom I know, Heather. But Heather had to go back to work after that, so the second class was all mine, and the class was all pregnant girls.
I do pretty well speaking to teenagers, because they appreciate my attention to humorous detail and my asides about trouble with my ex. They were a terrific audience, and they all oohed and aahed over the Roo pictures I showed them. When I finished, Sarah, an adoptee and adoptive mom spoke. I've heard Sarah speak before at adoption academies before and I love her story. The time was mostly gone after we'd both talked, but C (the LDSFS caseworker doing the outreach) passed around some fact sheets and asked the girls if they had any questions or if they'd learned anything.
This is usually when the girls take a sudden interest in their mobile phones or their homework, and they refuse to look up or make eye contact. This was a good group of girls, though. They all enthusiastically thanked Sarah and me for speaking and said they'd loved our stories.
C asked if what they'd heard had changed any ideas any of them had had about adoption. One girl - this stick-thin 14-year-old with a gigantic hairstyle, gave me a big grin and said, "I really liked your story. It helped me make up my mind. Now I know I'm never giving my baby up for adoption. My situation isn't like yours was. My boyfriend and I really love our baby."
This is what I believe the 'nets refer to as a facepalm moment. Had she not heard a word of my story? After she thanked me and opined, a few other girls nodded their assent. They, too, had conclusively decided against adoption.
These teenage girls ... they just kill me. You want to make a birth mom breathe fire? Imply that she chose adoption because she didn't love her baby. They just didn't GET it! It was pretty discouraging for me because even though I figure no one at an outreach presentation is going to leap up and say, "Yes! Yes, adoption! That's it!" this is the first time after one that a girl has actually told me that I persuaded her against adoption.
I wanted to cry. It felt like I'd done more harm than good, and I wondered if I should have just stayed home. But while I was wallowing in stunned disbelief, one of the girls in the class mentioned to C that she was definitely going to consider adoption, because certain parts of her pregnancy story paralleled mine, and she wanted more for her baby than she alone could offer.
C, I didn't tell you this, but when you offhandedly mentioned what that young girl told you, you saved my bacon and my day. Thank you. Thank you for paying attention to the quiet, reasonable girl and not just the cheerfully loud one. Thank you for making me feel better about the words of the toothpick teen with the big hair.
And thank you, quiet girl on my left who spoke to C, for listening with your heart and not just your ears. I haven't forgotten you, and I never will.