Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I haven't ranted in a while. I think it's time :)

I want to state at the outset that this a really stupid, ridiculous thing to be bothered by. I am acutely aware of that. In the grand scheme of things, this matters very little if at all. But I'm going to complain anyway, because I'm Jill, and that's what I do.

In the past 3 years I have heard a lot of opinions about adoption and parenting and the choice that I made. The things that I hear tend to fall into three categories. There are the nice, appropriate comments that people make; there are the stupid, inappropriate things comments that people make; and there are the ostensibly nice comments that people make that seem nice and that come from a good place but that actually kind of bug me, especially when I think a lot about them. (I know this is going to be kind of a shock, but I am the sort of person who overthinks things.)

Last week I heard something from the third category. It's something I've heard before and it's always bothered me a smidge, but I tended to put it in the second category based on the people who said it. But this time it was said by someone I love and respect, and I think that's why it bothered me.

I was telling her about how proud I am of the choice I made, and how happy I am with it. And she said to me, “Well, of course you're proud. You did the right thing.”

I know that I did the right thing. If I hadn't been one million percent sure adoption was the right thing, I wouldn't have done it. When I talk about adoption, I often say the words, “I know I did the right thing for Roo.” So why does it bug me when someone agrees with me?

It bothers me because it's a judgment. It's a judgment of my behavior by someone who has no stake in the choice or the consequences; someone who has no right to choose or to judge my situation. I know that I did the right thing. But it's not for anyone else to tell me I chose right. Because it was my choice to make. “Right” was my judgment call.

Adoption was the right choice for Roo. I know that. But I feel like when people tell me, “You did the right thing,” they're really telling me that they judge women who don't choose adoption. If my choice was right, not placing must be wrong. They're telling me, “If you hadn't placed Roo, I would think you made a poor choice.”

But you know what? I don't think that adoption is just this big Band-Aid that covers every situation and fits every person. I may have thought so before I got pregnant, but I sure as heck don't think so now. It's so easy to look at a situation from the outside and think that adoption is obviously the best choice. But it doesn't matter if you think it's the right choice. What matters is the opinion of the one doing the choosing.

When I was pregnant, pretty much every person I talked to (including my family) told me that adoption was the right choice and that parenting would be a mistake. It was pretty awkward when I parented, because I knew that no one thought I was doing what was right; they felt I had made the wrong choice. Whether my choice was right or wrong isn't the issue here. The issue is that everyone else thought it was for them to decide what was right for my baby.

I know that people mean well. I figure that when people tell me I made the right choice they think they're complimenting me. But there are so many other words that they could use – brave, selfless, mature, heroic, incredible. I don't feel super comfortable with any of those except maybe “selfless.” I mean, it's not like I pulled a family of five out of a burning building. But “right” … it's beyond uncomfortable. It raises my hackles and puts me in a defensive position.

I know I chose right. And I want you to know that I know I chose right. But I don't want you to decide that I chose right. Does that make sense?

I didn't say any of this to my friend. I'm hoping that her conviction that I chose right grew out of seeing my own conviction in my choice. I'm hoping that she has seen for herself why I know my choice was right. It would hurt my heart if she thought it was her place to decide whether I did the right thing. It's no one's place but mine.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Last night, I had an emotional earthquake.

It wasn't as scary as it sounds. There were no aftershocks. Once the initial seismic activity stopped, I regained my balance. I was fine. I've weathered this kind of storm a few times before, and I have always been better and happier for having been shaken up a bit. Last night was no exception.

Here is what happened.

I was thinking about taking an Advil for my toothache. I was sort of surprised that I even have any Advil, because I pretty much never take any medicine anymore. If I'm sick I take antibiotics, but rare is the time I take so much as an aspirin. This wasn't always the case; before I had Roo I was taking seven different prescriptions for depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia and migraines, and I was quick to take NyQuil or a decongestant or whatever I needed.

Then I found out I was going to have a baby, and I had to drop all 7 prescriptions. I probably could have taken a Tylenol or something safe like that if I needed it, but at the time I figured my baby was starting out at a disadvantage having me as her mother* and I wanted to do everything I could to make sure she was healthy and grew right.

Once I got out of the habit of taking medicine for everything I never really got back into it. Drugs have never worked particularly well for me; my pain tends to be stubborn. Besides, I live alone, and have you ever tried to buy a small bottle of an over-the-counter medicine? If I end up taking 96 Tylenol before they're out-of-date, I think I've got bigger problems. I buy bottles of 24 and end up throwing 20 away because they've expired too quickly.

Anyway. I actually had Advil in my bathroom cupboard, and I was going to take one and I was thinking about how I don't ever take medicine anymore and why. And it hit me like a blow to the solar plexus - the magnitude of what I have done. My emotional ground shook.

I had a baby - a child, a little person that I grew in my womb and who shares my DNA - and I placed her for adoption. I had a baby. I had a baby, and I am not her mother. Someone else is her mother, even though I grew her. And for just a second, I thought, I'm not sure how I feel about that, even though I should have figured that out in the past couple of years. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about that. Happy? Sad? Abnormal? Somehow cheated?**

I had a baby, but I don't have a baby. That is HUGE! How did I do that? How could I do that? How am I okay? I love her so much! My love for her is bigger than anything I've ever felt before. She is the most precious little thing in the whole wide world. And I am not her mother.

And it's okay. I'm okay. Roo ... Roo is more than okay. That's why I'm okay, why I settled on "happy" as the way I should and do feel.

This choice I made, this huge thing I did, wasn't for me or my piece of mind. It was for Roo and Roo alone that I chose adoption. I've never doubted that I did what was best for my little girl. People can say what they want, judge as they see fit, but I have never known anything as deeply as I know that I made the very best choice for Roo and that she's where she belongs. I would do it again in a second.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, has the greatest magnitude of all.

*I felt she was at a disadvantage because at the time I found out I was pregnant, I was not at my healthiest, mentally, and I had a lot of growing up left to do. By the time she was born, I was in a much better place and I think any perceived disadvantage had disappeared.

**For the record, I do not feel cheated. Roo's not mine to raise. If I ever feel cheated, it's that I'm not a mother, period. Not because I'm not Roo's mother. Any feeling of being cheated comes from being crabby about being single and childless and closer to thirty than I'm completely comfortable with.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

That Which Does Not Kill Me

Four or five years ago, when I was making decent money doing hair, I bought a lot of vintage clothing on eBay. Among my most prized purchases from that era is a pair of blue and black Foster Grant sunglasses. They lean a bit too far toward the Willy Wonka end of the sunglasses spectrum to be considered stylish or cool but I knew as soon as I saw them that I had to have them.

In the time that's passed since then, I misplaced them. I recall seeing them a couple of months ago and thinking that I'd probably developed the chutzpah to pull them off. So I put them ... somewhere. And I couldn't remember where, and it was driving me crazy.

I thought that perhaps they'd ended up in some of the boxes of stuff at my mom's house, and so a few weeks ago after work, I went to her house to do some digging. I discovered a number of interesting things lurking in those boxes, none of which is my Foster Grants. I found thinning shears, Hello Kitty checks for a bank account that I no longer use, Mr. Sketch markers (they still smell!), a wooden model of a human hand complete with movable joints, a case for my iPod, several records, my old baseball mitt, and a stack of magazines from 2005.

There was one more box I thought my sunglasses might be in. As soon as I opened the lid, I found a handbag I'd been looking for. I seemed to remember having my sunglasses around the same time I had the handbag, so I dug deeper into the box. I'm sorry to say that I did not find my Foster Grants (they showed up later in my closet). What I found instead was a manila envelope that I quite purposely had not looked at for two and a half years.

I did not look at it again at this time, but I did slip it inside the handbag and I took both home with me. A few hours later, when I was home for the night, I sat down with that envelope and decided I was finally strong enough to read the contents.

The heading on the first page: Birth Mother Consent to Place Child for Adoption.

My heart beat a little faster, but I was surprised to find that I felt mostly okay. I read farther down the page.

"The undersigned represents and declares ..." There were my name, date of birth and address. Below that, "I am the birth mother of [Roo's name at birth] born on July 7, 2009 at [hospital name and address]." I was surprised to find myself smiling at that. Surprised mostly because last time I attempted to read this paperwork, not too terribly long after I signed it, I fell apart before I got to the third line (which reads "I am not presently married and was not married at the time of conception or birth of this child," which felt like a forced confession of sorts). I'm not sure what's changed - everything, maybe - but I sat there, uncharacteristically sanguine, and read every single paper in the stack, including the one that uses the word "sever" in a way that always punched my gut a little.

I read the whole thing, and I didn't hurt. I can't explain it, but reading through these papers, the very ones that cut me to ribbons a few years ago, left me feeling happy.

I am happy I signed them. I am happy for what they say and what they did. One line in particular jumped out at me that night. I never noticed it before probably because I was too caught up in the "sever" part which, incidentally, is in the very same paragraph. The paper says, about the adoptive parents, that "They will be the child's parents."

I realize that's probably very obvious and stupid, but it struck me as very profound, and I loved reading it. I think it's because more and more lately I've heard the uninitiated make reference to birth parents being the "real" parents. P and M are Roo's real parents. It says so on a binding legal document (and it says so in their hearts). They are the child's parents; Roo's parents. And I am so happy for all of them!

I read through every single page I signed 2 ½ years ago, and I felt happy. I am so happy with my decision! I have such peace. I don't think I've ever made another decision in my life with the certainty of this one. I've had reason to question a lot of the choices I've made, but never this. Not every birth mom got the result I did, and I'm sorry for the ones that didn't. But here's the truth of my experience: I don't regret it for a second and I never have. My pain has always been for my loss, not for my choice. My loss was Roo's gain. And now my loss doesn't feel so much like a loss at all. I still love her. I always will. She has everything I could want for her and so much more. Her gain has become my gain. I'm happy because she is.

Instead of pain, I found peace in that manila envelope. The paperwork that I once thought would kill me, didn't.

It made me stronger.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

FAQ: I Would Keep My Trap Shut

I used to get a lot of questions about my perspective on adoption. I probably still get a lot of them in my e-mail but I'm sorry to say I am several months behind on my e-mail. Anyway. There's a question I was asked more than once and I always meant to answer it but I never got around to it until now.

The gist of the question is this - what would I do if I disagreed with how P and M were parenting Roo? Would I say something? Would I try to get them to do things my way?

The very short answer is that I'd keep my trap shut, because how presumptuous would it be for someone without children to offer parenting advice to a couple with two children? I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. I have zero credibility.

Maybe not quite zero. (This begins the long answer, by the way.) I mean, I think I did okay in the time I parented. But before I had Roo, what I knew about parenting could fit in a text message. I didn't know what made a good parent, or what characteristics a good parent would have. When I started considering adoption, I made a list. It was short, but I thought it had the important things on it.

It wasn't until Roo was bigger - more than a year old - and I saw her interact with her parents - that I started to see things that were more important. P and M are good parents in ways that I never even would have thought of before. I find myself almost taking notes, thinking, "If I am ever blessed with children, I want to make sure I do this." It's not always things that seem big, either. It's little things, like the way they encourage Roo to speak for herself, even though she's very small. She is so confident for such a little thing. I know her parents taught her that.

Granted, I don't see or know everything. But I know P and M, and I know they are the very best parents for Roo. How could I think to question their parenting choices? The only thing that I can seem myself taking exception to is spanking. I don't think it's ever okay to hit a child (I know some of you are going to disagree with me here, but that's how I feel). When I was trying to choose a family for Roo, one of the first questions I asked was about discipline. There were a lot of areas in which I was willing to be flexible, but this wasn't one of them. I did not want Roo spanked. Ever.

In this, P and M and I are in accord. They believe there are more effective ways of disciplining a child. I was and am inclined to trust their authority on this because they already had parenting experience when Roo came along. I know that some birth moms want the children they place to be the first in the family, but I didn't want Roo to be the test pancake. I liked that she was going to have a sibling already, and that her parents knew what they were doing!

But even if they didn't, even if I happened to disagree with something or think they should do things differently, I would keep my trap shut. Because it is not my job to tell them how to raise their children. When I placed Roo with them, I did so trusting that they would act in her best interest. I did so, trusting them in general. If I thought they needed my parenting advice, I wouldn't have placed with them!

This isn't to say that I think P and M are absolutely perfect in every way and that I am never, ever going to disagree with them. We're all human; it would be creepy if we agreed on absolutely everything. But it doesn't matter if I would do things differently. It's not my call. I know that they love Roo every bit as much as I do, and if they've decided on a course of action, it's not my place to question them. If I'm blessed with children of my own, I'll do things my way. P and M get to parent their children their way.

I love them, and I trust them.