Tuesday, August 21, 2012


One of the things I used to worry about right after I placed Roo was how I was going to tell people I was a birth mom. A lot of people knew already, but in my head I had a lifetime of awkward exchanges ahead of me, and I dreaded it. I felt good about the choice I’d made to place, but I didn’t trust that the rest of the world would understand. The fact that I was still extremely miserable compounded my worry – how would I ever convince people that I’d made the right choice when I was so unhappy?

I became preemptively defensive, and any time I was asked a question to which my birth motherhood was the answer, I warred with panic and lost. I became adept at explaining away my weight gain, my unemployment, my necklace. I had an arsenal of clever responses that were so well-rehearsed, I wondered if I would ever need to tell the truth.

I knew that in my personal life, I would have to be honest with certain people but I felt that such honesty would be a matter of much thought and prayer and likely panic. My thought was that adoption was such a special thing to me and not everyone deserved to know about it, about Roo. This didn’t stop me from doing presentations at high schools with my adoption agency, but classes full of teenage strangers didn’t bother me. I’d never seen them before and I’d never seen them again. There was no pressure. I had nothing to lose.

I felt that more was at stake with friends and acquaintances and co-workers. I thought more than once that if I said the wrong thing, or the right thing the wrong way, I could ruin a relationship. The first adoption conference I went to offered a class called “Who, When, and How to Tell Your Adoption Story.” I was desperate for this class, which was taught by two birth moms who had the experience and perspective I lacked.

The women who presented had very different ideas about telling their stories. One of them was very open about it. She said she tended to tell men she was a birth mom on the first date. I knew that would never be me. The other birth mom was more private, and she validated my idea that sharing my story was a matter deserving much consideration. Although I liked and respected both women, I connected more with the latter, and I decided to follow her example.

When I did occasionally feel that I needed to share my story with someone, I spoke carefully, mentally filtering out details that felt too personal or too irrelevant. I was careful not to appear too excited, because I didn’t want to give the impression that I didn’t love Roo, that placement hadn’t been hard, that I didn’t miss her. The people I told seemed hesitant to ask questions even when I told them I didn’t mind. Adoption made them uncomfortable and very often it was never brought up again.

I’m a little embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that these people were taking their cues from me. I was awkward about adoption, and it made them feel awkward. I had to ask myself what I thought was going to happen if I were ever completely honest with someone about adoption. I was afraid that they would think less of me. I knew that was stupid. Rationally I couldn’t think why anyone would think less of me for being a birth mom. And I decided that if someone would think less of me for having placed, I didn’t need them in my life anyway. Keeping quiet felt like an act motivated by shame, and I was certainly not ashamed of my choice. Placing Roo is the best thing I’ve ever done. I realized I needed to start acting like it.

The next time a question came up, I didn’t dodge it. I told the truth – that I had a baby girl, that I placed her for adoption, that it was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, that it was worth it, that I love her. And I waited.

“That is so cool!” was the response. I showed them Roo’s picture on my phone, and that was it.

I know that I was lucky – the person I talked to could have reacted very differently. One or two people have, and I'm sure one or two more will in the future. But I decided then that I liked the feeling of being straight with someone about adoption. Once I realized that, it became much easier to talk. Or if not easier, then maybe a little less scary. I don't think I necessarily owe anyone my story. But neither do I feel like I'm doing anyone any favors by keeping quiet. I'm certainly not doing myself or Roo any favors.

The fact is that Roo is and always will be an important part of my life. It only makes sense that the people who get to know me know about her too. So much of who I am is because of Roo. So many things remind me of her. If I keep her a secret, I have to filter every word I say, and if there's one thing I am terrible at, it's filtering what I say (apologies to my mother, who tried her best to teach me better).

Most people who know me know that I’m a birth mom, and they think it’s cool. It like to believe that it doesn't define me in their minds; it’s just one of those things that are true of me like my height or my eye color or the fact that I talk really fast. (I hear things like, "I heard about adoption the other day, and I thought of you" less often than I hear, "I corrected someone's grammar the other day and thought, 'this must be what it feels like to be Jill.'")

So far, every date I have been on has been with a man who knew about Roo before he asked me out. Not that I have been on a lot of dates, but still. I have saved myself a lot of worry by being open about being a birth mom. The men who have taken me on dates knew what they were getting into when they asked me. I didn't have to worry about slipping up in conversation, or about an impending awkward discussion of my past. Everything important is already out there.

I have become that birth mother that was never going to be me. I am the woman who tells new friends, acquaintances, and random strangers that she placed a child for adoption, and I love it. I love being that woman! I want people to know about Roo. I want them to know that adoption can be an amazing thing. I want them to know that even if they know of fifty other adoptions gone wrong, or five hundred or five thousand, adoption can still be an amazing thing.

Roo's adoption is an amazing thing. And I'm telling everyone.


GSmith said...

I've missed your posts :) Another great one! Thank you.

Bec said...

Your clarity, maturity, strength, joy, confidence, beauty, etc.... radiates from you. You are amazing!!!! I am so glad I know you.