First of all, I want to thank the awesome peeps who commented on my last post. I got a lot of really good feedback, and I feel like slightly less of a brat than I did before. I'm going to try to be more patient ... and also more direct.
And now for something completely different. (Happy birthday, Monty Python!)
I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've been feeling the urge to tell more people about my being a birth mother. I'm not sure why, but the itch is there. It's a little bit annoying, to be honest. I mean, I don't think I will ever be so blasé about adoption as to throw it out there when I first meet someone. When someone says, "Tell me about yourself," I never say, "Well, for openers, I'm a birth mother." My experience with adoption was and is much too significant, much too important to be mentioned in the same breath as an introduction.
But when it feels right, I've been speaking up more and more. There's always this brief moment of panic where I wonder, what will they think of me? But more often than not, the reaction I get is, "Wow!"
I don't know if it's because people are genuinely impressed or because they don't know what else to say. I'm content to believe that it's the former.
Still, every now and then, I'll hear that phrase so loathed by every birth mother of my acquaintance: "I could never do that." It doesn't matter how the person means it, it's still cringe-inducing. But you know what makes it worse? When people specify what "that" is - "Oh, I could never give my baby away."
You know what? I could never give my baby away, either.
I promise I'm not being deliberately obtuse. I know what people mean when they say "give up" or "give away." But I didn't give Roo up, or away. I placed her. I will very nearly always correct someone who says "give up" or "give away." I don't even think about it most of the time. If it's a situation where someone else is talking and I'm supposed to be listening, I'll catch myself interrupting with "placed" every time the other person says "gave up." I can't help it.
Usually when I correct people, they'll brush my correction aside. "Same thing," they'll say. But ladies and gents, it is absolutely NOT the same thing. There is a difference between placing, giving up and giving away, and I can tell you right now that only one of them applies to adoption as I've experienced it.
In case you weren't aware, I like words. I like learning them and what they mean and I like using them correctly. I adored semantics before I even knew what that particular word meant. Can we talk about words here for a minute?
Even before I ever thought about adoption, the word "placed" always brought to mind care and deliberation - it's a verb one would apply to the action taken on something that is precious and important. I might drop my purse, I might set down a book, but something of value, a piece of fine china, for instance, is carefully placed on the table or in a cabinet. I toss my mail on the counter, but I place my jewelry on my nightstand. When I place something, I don't let go prematurely. I make sure that it's just where I want it before I loosen my grip - I make sure my target is stable. I slide my water pitcher into the refrigerator, but I place my full glass of water on the table. I take care. Placement is always done deliberately. When I care about an object, I don't let it go. I place it.
"Gave up," on the other hand, suggests something that should be the object of less care. People give up things that are bad for them - their vices. You might give up smoking. You might give up sugar for Lent. You might give up drinking soda. There are other uses for "gave up" though. People will give up on a sports team that isn't going to win (maybe next year, Dodgers). If something is too hard, what do you do? You give up. You quit. Giving up is quitting. I don't know about anyone else, but I sure didn't choose adoption because I wanted to quit being a mother. "Gave up" is a poor, mean way to describe the impossible choice a birthmother makes. Saying a birthmother "gave up" her child makes it sound like she was a drug user who couldn't kick the habit, or a selfish person who didn't want to bother with parenting.
I didn't give up my baby. You know what else? I sure as heck didn't give her away.
Have you ever wandered through the cosmetics section of a department store? There are signs everywhere for free lip gloss, bonus eyeshadow compacts and miniature bottles of perfume that can be yours with a purchase of $40 or more. Do you know what those little freebies are? They're giveaways. The samples of medicine or cereal or granola bars that come packaged with your Sunday paper? (I don't know if they do those other places, but in Phoenix sometimes you get NyQuil or Frosted Flakes with your newspaper.) Those are giveaways, too. Giveaways are cheap. They cost the giver either very little or nothing at all. Of course, you usually have to pay for those one way or another - your $40 purchase, or a newspaper subscription. If a giveaway is really free, it's usually given in the hopes that it will entice you to spend money - the giver stands to gain from his or her generosity.
That doesn't sound much like adoption to me, either.
But, hey, I'm talking about giveaways as a single word. I've forgotten semantics. What people have said is that I gave my baby away. Really? Gave away? Well, if I ever decide to replace my couch, I'll give away this one. I won't sell it, because it's not really worth anything. I'll put an ad on Craigslist and give my couch to the first person to contact me. People give things away because the things are no longer wanted, no longer needed, and have no value. If it's worth something, you sell it, you don't give it away.
Place, give up, give away. Which one of these three sounds the most appropriate given what you know of adoption from my blog? I love my little Roo. I always will. I wanted her. I needed her. She has infinite worth. She is dear and precious and very much loved. Because I love her more than I ever thought one person could love another person, I placed her. I took deliberate care. I didn't give her up or away, and I never, ever could, not in a million years.
So, please, don't tell me that either of those is the "same thing" as placement. They are worlds apart. I know which one I did and why. If I correct you, it's because I want you to know too.