Saturday, November 10, 2012

On Birth Mommas

Birth moms are a topic I feel particularly passionate about.  Birth mothers are the most misunderstood and undervoiced members of the adoption circle (except maybe for birth fathers, but they are far less villified).  I believe the reason for this is because most women who have relinquished a child feel a whallop of shame and judgment, along with a sizable helping of pain at the memory of relinquishment.  ALSO the media persists in misrepresenting birth mothers in its narratives about them.  Thus, they remain largely quiet about their experiences and feelings and remain misunderstood.

People don't understand relinquishment and they harbor a deep fear of fundamental parental rejection, and I believe that this is the root of judgment and negative representation of birth mothers in books, movies, television shows, and news articles.

We think, "Wouldn't it be awful if our mothers chose not to be present in our lives?"  and, once we have children, we think, "I could NEVER."  And that's as far as we go.

I'd like to unpack that one a little bit.  Really?  You could NEVER?  How about if there were a war and by sending your child to friends in another country you could save them from the worst danger?  How about if there were a genocide against your race and you could save your child by hiding them in a convent, disguised as another race?  Even if there were an overwhelming chance you might never see them again.  How about if your choice was poverty with your child or opportunity without them (for both of you, or solely for your child)?  How about if your choice was an unhealthy environment with you, or a healthy and stable environment without you?  We all make choices for our children that keep in mind the love we feel and the best interests of everyone involved.

Birth mothers make a heart wrenching choice when they relinquish their children.  They miss their babies forever.  They experience great loss.  They weep.  And many of them know they made a good choice.

Our culture villainizes The Birth Mother.  Being particularly sensitive to adoption themes, I've noticed it over and over again in movies, t.v., books, and news reports.  The way people talk about women "giving up" their child or "abandoning" them, or "choosing ____" instead of their child, is just not consistent with my experience of adoption.  There certainly are exceptions: women who "choose" addiction (don't EVEN get me started on that one), birth mothers who don't want reunion thirty years after relinquishment, and selfish or dysfunctional birth mothers.  But the majority of those who choose relinquishment are just normal women in difficult situations, making the best choices they can manage at the time.  Of course, I think the world should gather around women in difficult situations and help them out rather than forcing the choice in the direction of separation, but since that is not currently universal, relinquishing a child for adoption is something that can happen within the context of love.

One of my fellow students in school was a Birth Mother.  She opened up to me and told me her entire story once.  She told me her daughter's name, and how she exchanges photos and cards with her adopted family several times a year.  And how, on her daughter's birthday, she takes the day off school and work, locks her door, and curls up in bed to cry and remember.  Her own mother sends her a pink rose every year, to say she remembers, too, and feels her pain.  She was sixteen when her little girl was born, and just too young to really give her daughter what she deserved as well as needing to have an opportunity to grow up herself.  I asked her, "What would you want most for your daughter to know about you?"  She answered, "That I made the choice I made out of love."

Every year on Matthew's birthday it hurts to think of his birth mother.  I KNOW she misses him deeply.  I know she remembers.  How can I do anything other than feel tremendous gratitude and love for giving me the most amazing, sparkly, wonderful, spunky, open hearted, fun loving gift in the world?  The magnitude of what she gave us is breathtaking.  The courage it took is breathtaking.  The TRUST she had in God and the good that is in the world is breathtaking.  And inspiring.


tamie marie said...

What a beautiful post, Mel. It made me cry. Your wonderful heart makes me cry. Knowing you helps me continually open my heart wider. Thank you.

christieesau said...

As an adoptee, I really appreciate what you have to say about birth mothers. They get a bad reputation when, realistically, they've made an immense sacrifice to ensure that their babies grow up healthy and happy, and in the best possible environment.

Thanks for your sensitivity!

Rachel @ Lautaret Bohemiet said...

Beautiful, Mel. BEAUTIFUL.