Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Wrong Question

I have been the worst blogger this year. I remember when I used to have time and energy and ideas for blogging and anymore I'm just tired. I love my job - well, parts of my job - but I am not now nor will I ever be a morning person. Getting up at 6:30 isn't particularly fun in the summer, but it's worse in the winter when it's cold (I hate the cold) and the sun hasn't even bothered to rise yet. I don't think I should have to get up before the sun. It's much bigger and much more important than I am. And then the lazy good-for-nothing sun can't even wait for me to get home from work before disappearing again. The winter feels dark and cold and endless and when people come to the circulation desk and mention that it's warmed up outside, I want to grab them by the shirt collar and beg, "Please, tell me what the sun feels like!"

I am not now nor will I ever be a winter person.

I digress.

If you liked A Series of Unfortunate Events, you will probably like the newest series of books by Lemony Snicket, which is called All the Wrong Questions. I don't always read juvenile fiction, but I've had a short attention span lately and 272 pages sounded just about right. Anyway. I had not planned on mentioning children's books on this blog, but this evening I heard a young woman talk about single parenting and adoption, and I thought, she is asking all the wrong questions.

 Let me begin by saying that I respect the choice so many women make to single parent. It wasn't for me, and it wasn't for Roo, but I can't make that decision or that call for anyone else. I can't advocate adoption in every single situation because I don't think it's for everyone. I don't want to step on the toes of any single mothers. I do want to say that it's not something I'd choose.

I'm going to interrupt myself for a moment to address a comment I got on my last post. I'd reference it more specifically but my computer is being dumb so I'll paraphrase. The commenter, a single mother, urged me not to deny myself the pleasure of motherhood just because I'm single. I totally get where she's coming from, and having parented Roo for the time that I did, I know that being a mom is pretty rad. But I would much rather deny myself motherhood than I would deny any children of mine a father simply because I want to be a mom. You are of course free to disagree with me, but that's a decision I've made and I'm sticking with it.

I had never before met the single mother I heard from today and I don't know if I'll see her again. I respect the decision she made for herself and her baby. I don't know why she made the decision she did and I don't need to. It's none of my business. Someone asked her if she ever thought about adoption, and her answer is where the title of this post comes from.

"I do wonder, what would my life be like if I had placed him? Because [single parenting] is so hard."

Sometimes someone's words sort of float around in my brain for a while before I can formulate a response. This was not one of those times. I knew almost instantly what I wanted to say to her, and I had to bite the insides of my lips to keep my mouth closed. It would have been extremely rude for me to say, "Pardon me, but as far as adoption is concerned, you are asking the wrong question." So I was polite and said nothing.

The right question is, "What would my son's life be like if I had placed him?" And the answer consists of every reason I placed Roo for adoption.

I asked myself the wrong question for my entire pregnancy and the first seven weeks of Roo's life. When I considered my own future, I could never even entertain the idea of adoption. I would be sad and empty and broken. I'd have nothing. It took me a while to scrape up the nerve to ask the right question - what would Roo's life be like? - and when I did I had my answer. 

Adoption is the only truly selfless thing I've done in my life. But it was selfless. I made the choice I did because I knew what adoption would do for Roo, and I loved her too much to keep that future from her.

It hurts my heart a little when I hear women talking about adoption in terms of what it can do for them and how it will affect their lives. I think it gives birth mothers a bad name. We're not all like that. Some women might ask the wrong question and place for the wrong reason (or not place at all, for the wrong reason, and parenthetically I do believe there are plenty of good reasons for not placing). But I know plenty of pretty amazing women who asked the right question and placed for the right reason.

 Adoption isn't for everyone. Single parenting isn't for everyone. But I think that the question, "What will my child's life be like?" is a question for everyone, and it should be asked early and often.


Tanya said...

Jill Thank you its been a rough week for me regarding my birthdaughter asking questions. you just put it into words. Hugs Tanya

The Blessed Barrenness said...

Jill, you amaze me! You are so wise with your words.
If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought this post was written by our own birth mother.
The question you have asked and the answers you have found for your Roo where exactly the same motivations for her placing Ava with us. Adoption was never about her, or about us, it was always about Ava and her decision to do what she believed was right, given her circumstances for her child.
Respect sister!

A Life Being Lived said...

Excellent post...I admire single parents as well, and can't make the decision for them, but for me and my daughter, adoption was the right call. I scoffed at adoption when I first learned I was pregnant but past the sixth month, the ONLY question I kept asking was what would her life be like (in both scenarios- me raising her on my own, or me placing her). It was only after I met her parents that I knew down to my bones that the reason why I had been asking myself that question so often and earnestly was because I knew she deserved a better life and opportunities than I could give her, and once I met her parents I stopped asking that question. Really a profound question to ask, in any unplanned pregnancy where the pregnant woman and/or her partner if involved, should ask.

Lara Zierke said...

Insightful as always. Love it. And don't you live in Arizona? Does winter really exist there?

cmgr said...

Thank you for referencing my comment on your last post. I am a single adoptive mom, and I used to always wonder what my son's life would have been like had he stayed with his birth mom. It wasn't pretty. I have so much respect for her being able to see that and choose better for him.

True, I'm not married, but we have grandpas and uncles and cousins nearby (in addition to strong female role models) and my son is well loved by a wonderful large family.

I'm not trying to change your mind, of course. But well-rounded, happy, successful children can be raised without a father in the home.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

I always find what you've written to be informative and insightful. Thank you for sharing. I hope 2013 is a great year for you!

Lindsey from The R House said...

You always deliver. Great post. Thought provoking. Powerful.


jj said...

Just be honest and tell your child the truth. Also, just be there for her and allow her to ask you anything she wishes to do so.

Incidentally, if your child is going to school with happy children born to caring single mothers, your child will pay you the compliment of comparing you with them rather than to the stereotypical single mother described by "adoption counsellors" so you will need to know how to address that.

As for selflessness, it is of course a wonderful thing, but children don't always understand as they often associate love=want/want=love. Sometimes also when one takes ones own needs and wants totally out of the equation when making a decision, one can sometimes end up making a decision as if for a stranger rather than for someone one loves. Just a thought.

Also, in regards to this:

"and it wasn't for Roo"

That is only something Roo herself can answer. I know my bmom placed because she wanted me to have a better life that she could provide (and there certainly were not many options back then) but I would not want her speaking for me - only I can answer whether adoption "was" for me or not.

Anonymous said...

sorry, but i don't see what is wrong with discussing how adoption affects you and your life. most first mothers never consider themselves at all when placing their child, and it's a mistake. no one should be made to feel selfish because they asked a certain question and the answer made them sad. the more questions asked, the better. it's not about right and wrong.