Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Up and Away

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.


Angee said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! You are so eloquent with your words! Beautifully spoken!

Lara Zierke said...

May I please repost this on my site?

Savannah said...

LOVE this post. And I always interupt people too and correct their terminology. Unlike you, I'm not a big fan of words, but THOSE words are very important to me. I especialy love the third and second to last paragraphs. Beautifully written!

Red said...

This. Yes. Some days I am truly amazed by how you seem to pluck thoughts from my brain. Do you come into my room at night and use a vulcan mind meld or something? Or perhaps the experience of each birth mom is more similar than I ever imagined. I really do feel blessed to have found this blog.

Andrea Phillips said...

I am glad to have found your website. I think at times I may be one of those people who is insensitive, or maybe just never thought about the difference in those phrases. I have a brother who is adopted, and I've always had some bitter feelings towards his birth parents (who are married and have a couple other children). Mostly it was her comment when he was born handicapped, that she would have had an abortion had she known, and no longer wanted him. But I think it's important for me to realize that she then looked carefully at families to place him with, and maybe she was seriously worried she couldn't take care of a handicapped child. Sad yes, being a married couple who already had one child, but it just makes me grateful for my parents who cared enough to adopt this "handicapped" boy, who is turning out pretty awesome. Sorry for my rant on the subject. :) Thank you for your blog. You are an amazing person.

Jewls said...

I cringe every time I hear that too! I also cringe when people ask how much Z "cost" I went to the grocery store and purchased him like a gallon of milk...ugh!

Monika said...

Like Red said, sometimes you just seem to take thoughts directly from my brain. I've been thinking a LOT about words relating to adoption lately (in fact I just wrote a post about "pregnant birth mom" to be published tomorrow on the BBuds site). This post fits in with that SO well. So much of what you say so beautifully I wish I knew how to say. This is precisely why I can't stand "give up" or "give away" when related to my own adoption either. I placed my daughter. I chose where she went and I took infinite care in my decision. Sounds like what you did with Roo to me! :)

GSmith said...

Love your post! Very well written, and I agree 101%!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I love your passion and your precision with words. For myself, I resonate with the term gave away- but for a similar reason that you like placed, I think. When I think about placing my daughter for adoption in terms of giving her away, I definitely don't think about it like an insert in the newspaper section. When I think about giving her away I imagine myself with my hands fully open. I do believe that in order for an open adoption to be healthy, it has to be a gift wholly and completely given. I think about Christ giving up his life for us. I find the concept of giving to be deep and true and resonant. So that is my two cents... -kate

reneerenee said...

Unfortunately I dont feel that is 100% correct. I am a birthmom and I feel that while yes, I placed my son in anothers arms to raise, I gave up on us by not allowing myself to parent due to "others" comments, insults and lack of understanding adn willingness to support my decision. He woul have had me- only me- my family would have never acknowledeged him, actually I was told to never coem back to our hometown if I parented. So, I was basically FORCED to place and brainwashed by the maternity home. Instead of fighting, I did indeed GIVE UP because it was too hard- wow what a failure I am . I just actually realized that due to your blog but that is okay. I needed to let myself say what I really have tried not to believe. Your blog is great but not 100% for all

Jill Elizabeth said...

Lara - you absolutely may repost.
Red - no Vulcan mind meld, but there are rumors that I can use the Force :)
Kate - I'd never thought about "give away" in that sense, but I love the way you explained it!
Renee - every birth mom is different. I can only speak for myself, and I'm sure there are plenty of other birth mothers out there who would also disagree with me. That's fine. My blog isn't for everyone, and I hope I've never said anything that made it sound like I'm trying to be the voice of every birth mother out there.
I'm sorry you felt coerced into placement. That should never happen! I also wouldn't consider you a failure, and I hope you don't really believe that you are.

Amber said...

Amazing post! Thank you so much for writing it. I plan to share it, as well. :)

Mary said...

I know I'm going to have to refer others to this post in the future as well. Once again, Jill, you explained things so thoroughly!

Shian said...

Beautifully written! I added a link on my blog so others can more fully understand why I have a problem with the terms "give up" and "give away." Thank you. :)

Chris and Tara said...

I agree that this was beautifully written and explained. I came here through Shian's blog and am so glad she put the link on there. I'm so glad you correct people. :)