About Me

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I placed my daughter in an open adoption in 2002. I started this blog in 2004 as a place to journal and eventually I became part of a community. The community has moved on, but I have decided to come back.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Week

There has been a lot on my mind this week.
I have to say that the day after posting about adoption on Daily Kos, I regretted it.
I was emotionally drained.
Lots of people told me I was brave to share my story. Initially, I wondered how they could think so- what's so brave about sharing my story anonymously?
Brave would be coming out at work or on the street or speaking up when people perpetuate adoption myths. I do none of those things.
As the comments died down, a couple of people continued to post. These were the dissenters. The people who didn't appreciate my posting- even going so far as to tell me I shouldn't be talking about adoption on the internet.
I'm all for lively debate. I know that not everyone agrees with my views about adoption. I know that there are plenty of people with valid reasons for disapproving of the choices I made. At first I wanted people to debate. Yet when it started, I couldn't deal with it.
It was too much for me. It reminded me of why I don't share my choice in my public life. Even if hundreds of people validate me, all it takes is one to stir up the seeds of doubt and take me back to my choice all over again. Was it really the best thing? Am I really still a decent person having done all that I have?
Questions like these do nothing. I made my choice. It's over. The only thing I can do now is decide how to live with it.
Part of why I write is for my daughter. I was warned early during my birthmotherhood that there would come a time where even I would no longer understand why I placed. My life would settle down and the things that seemed so big during pregnancy would no longer seem like good reasons to let go of her.
I need to leave a record of where I was then and where I am at each stage of my journey.
Someday my daughter will ask. She may be angry. She will have every right to be angry. I need to be able to go back- to have something to explain to her.
Anyway, I was drained this week. Sharing my story was much harder than I envisioned. I no longer regret it. I'm glad it was read and appreciated by so many. But I don't know when I will write again.
I am just one person. I am not an expert. I cannot claim to know of any other person's adoption experience. It feels heavy to be treated as if I do.
Anyway, I'm glad it's the weekend again.
I got my daughter's Easter picture and I imagine she has a family-filled weekend ahead.
It's good.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Birthday Song

Friday was my birthday.

My daughter called me again and sang to me. She kept repeating the "Happy Birthday, dear Poor Statue" over and over.

It was so sweet.

I miss her.

I Am a Birthmother: On Judgment and Choice

I made the recommended list on Daily Kos.

Because I wrote about adoption, I thought I'd link to it here.

The text: 

I am a birthmother.

Quick, what pops in your head?

A teenager? Lost, unsure. Barely able to take care of herself? 

 A drug user, maybe? A runaway? Uneducated, definitely. You're wrong. 

I was 25 when I gave birth to my daughter. A schoolteacher even. Oh, well you're different you say. I'm not different. I'm the rule. 

 Oh, and I have an open adoption. 

 What's that?you wonder. I get to see my daughter. In person. Sometimes her parents even leave me alone with her! 

 Oh, well you're different,you say. 

But I shouldn't be, I counter. 

And you scoff at the audacity of suggesting that all birthmothers be allowed to see their children. It will confuse the children. The birthmother might try to kidnap the baby. You made your choice- now walk away. And I sigh. I used to think the same thing. 

We judge. 

We judge women who have multiple births.We judge women who have abortions and dare to feel relieved.We judge women who choose to remain childless. We judge women who have children. We judge infertile couples. We judge women who get welfare. We judge the highly religious or those of other religions. We judge those who aren't religious.

The fights get ugly. I've seen them and I cringe. I cringe because I see people I respect lashing out against women's choices as if somehow they are the only reasonable voices. 

And I cringe because I know about judgment and choice. 

I knew about my pregnancy early. I conceived at a man's apartment in Germany. While I tried to blame my fatigue on jet lag, I knew it wasn't. Three weeks after I came home, I went to the walk-in to get the official word. And I cried. I told the doctor I was going to have an abortion. He didn't judge me, but he did let me know that I had plenty of time to make my choice. He suggested I wait a month before deciding. He caught me on the way out and gave me the name of an obstetrician in case I changed my mind. I threw it out. 

I was 24, single, living alone- and my baby's father was a German national who had never even visited the United States. I wanted no part of being a parent. I didn't tell anyone right away. I've been around enough to know that plenty of people are pro-choice only as long as it isn't someone they know having an abortion. I've also been around long enough to know how hard it is for people to get in someone else's shoes. I love that abortion is a private decision. No one had to know. 

But the doctor had planted a seed.I did think about it. I was given my guilt: how dare I consider abortion when there are so many people who want children but can't get pregnant? How could it be fair that I could get pregnant so easily when I didn't even want children? 

A week later, on my way home from graduate school, I made my choice. I was going to place my daughter for adoption. I was about eight weeks pregnant. Adoption is a funny thing. You can't go far without seeing a sticker that says, "Adoption is a Loving Choice." Adoption has a sugary-sweet reputation. People love hearing stories about desperate couples getting the babies they deserve. 

People don't love hearing stories about the women who bore those babies. I didn't know. I was na├»ve. I chose life, right? Nobody told me about adoption's other side. Nobody told me how I would be judged. Nobody told me that my daughter would become a skeleton in my closet. But mostly, no one told me that even a woman who doesn't want children can't escape the primal urge to protect her offspring at all costs. 

I had my first doctor's visit around ten weeks.I was tiny so I had a chance to hear my baby's heartbeat. It was amazing. As soon as I got home I called my friends and family to share the news. The reaction? So what.You're not keeping your baby so why are you so excited about the heartbeat? I was in shock.  I didn't understand.  How could I not care about the heartbeat? I chose life, right? I wanted this baby. I may not be parenting her, but I wanted her. To me she was a miracle- a little slice of international good will- a chance to pass along my genes. 

I wondered aloud what she'd be like. Would she be a soccer player like her father and I? Would she get my family's theater genes? Would she get his blue eyes? My thick, dark hair? Would she be smart? A math whiz like her mom? An athlete like her dad? Would she be healthy? How can I protect her from the stress I'm feeling?Am I eating the right foods? Will she know how much I love her? Will she understand why? Yet I was placing her for adoption.  

For most people, that was all they saw.During my entire pregnancy, the only person who shared my enthusiasm for my daughter's life was the woman who would become her mother. My family, people who had known me my entire life, my boss, all assumed that because I planned to place her for adoption that I didn't love her. They assumed that I was indifferent about my pregnancy, that I couldn't possibly care about her, that "giving her up" was the most severe form of rejection. I was told I was selfish, that I was trying to get money, that I was heartless, that I was irresponsible and cruel. I sat at family functions where my pregnancy was ignored and I was treated to stories about how brave and strong and selfless my sister was for raising five children alone and I thought,What does that make me?I learned quickly to hang my head in shame, to avoid eye contact for fear that someone would ask about my shameful condition, to keep quiet about my hopes and dreams for my daughter. 

Right now there are still some of you who still think that I am the exception. It is hard to believe that a woman who is planning to place her child for adoption can possibly feel the same about pregnancy as a woman who is planning to parent her child.There are too many "experts" out there about birthmothers and adoption. There are too many news stories that focus on the tiny percentage of adoptions that are disrupted. Even though liberals can dismiss plenty of other myth-based stories, adoption is still such an unknown. And birthmothers like me have been shamed into silence so that the public may never know. 

I had a friend who was very kind to me during my pregnancy.She offered me a place to stay and a ride to meet my daughter's prospective parents.She helped me research adoption and assured me that my daughter would be okay. I called her from the hospital after my daughter was born healthy and beautiful.I shared the news of the birth. Her reaction: so what? Even this friend who had supported me during my pregnancy couldn't fathom that I would be excited about her birth. After all, I didn't want her. 

I joined an online support group for birthmothers and adoptive mothers after my daughter was born. There I found people who understood my grief and my choice. I also met women who were being judged because of infertility. Married couples who chose to place and faced the judgment of ignorant doctors and thoughtless relatives. Younger women who were pressured by parents and clergy to place. Christian woman who gave birth to babies who they knew would die at birth. Women who became single parents after becoming birthmothers. Single parents who became birthparents. 

I learned not to judge. I learned that you really can't know. I learned just how valuable choice is- choice to parent or not to parent. Choice to give birth to six implanted embryos or just three. Choice to give birth to six separate babies.I learned about shame as well. I learned about compassion even for those women who had babies taken from them or who did drugs during pregnancy.I learned that there are plenty of people willing to weigh in and offer judgment but very few willing to offer their home or cash or even just a shoulder to cry on for a woman faced with choices.

I thought this place was different. I thought people here were tolerant. I thought this was the party of tolerance. 

We can understand how job loss and medical crises and alcoholism and depression can affect a person's abilities and are quick to offer encouragement for these kinds of life changes, yet when it comes to parenting choices, we offer criticism. 

My employer was very upset about my decision to place my daughter for adoption- so much so that I was forced out of my job because of it. Right before I left, I told the girls the truth about my choice.Of everyone I have encountered, they were the most understanding. Having been there through my pregnancy, they had seen firsthand how much I loved that life inside me. They were still young enough to have their own opinions. They saw their own lives as precious and respected my choice to place. They also knew life was hard and respected my decision not to parent. Most of all, they were relieved that my adoption was open. They knew of their own love for parents who were abusive or absent or just unable to care for them and believed in their bones that no one should permanently separate a mother from her child.

I think those girls could teach us a lot.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Phantom Kicks and Phone Calls

I imagine some will find it odd, but I often feel as if I am pregnant again.
Tonight I sat on my couch and it was as if she was moving inside me again. That was the best part of being pregnant. Feeling her moving around.
There's a pregnant woman at my work right now. She's apparantly keeping it quiet (though she is wearing maternity clothes- I recognize some of them) and every time I see her I wonder how she can resist keeping her hands off her belly.
I couldn't. I probably would have worn a groove if you could do that to skin. I rubbed my belly constantly. I couldn't keep my hands off the firm roundness, the closeness I felt to my daughter by simply laying my hands on my protruding stomach. On the hard days I would pace and pat my belly hoping to soothe her and me so that she would bear no ill effects from my stress.
It's weird to have that feeling again.
A half hour later, she called me. Her sweet voice saying hello and telling me about her day. Just as I was starting to worry from not hearing, they call. And I am relieved. Reminded of my loss but crying a mix of tears- both happy and sad.
She told her mom she was coming to my birthday. I wish she could.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Birthday Invite

I met a girl several years ago. We worked together and were the only young females there so we bonded. It was great. We were like sisters for the summer.
We stayed in touch for awhile, but eventually drifted apart. Her life was a mess and I couldn't be there for her so I stepped out as politely as I could.
We'd still write occasionally. A few years ago she sent me a letter telling me she was expecting. I had just recently had my daughter.

It took me awhile to respond. This girl had been adopted at birth. She never knew her birthfamily and her adoptive family was decent but a little cold. I didn't know how to tell her what I had done.
Eventually, I decided to send her a pregnancy book I had enjoyed with my congratulations and a note saying I had enjoyed the book.
Since then we've exchanged holiday cards and she's sent the occassional picture. I never did tell her that I placed my daughter.
Today I got an envelope addressed to Poor_Statue and daughter. It was an invite to her daughter's second birthday party. At first I was excited- I'd love to see her again and see her little girl. Then it hit me. The party is at a kid's place. I was invited in large part because I have a daughter close in age to hers. How I wish I could call my daughter's mom and ask to take her (of course I'm aware that I'd still have to come clean with this girl)!
It's amazing the ways birthmotherhood affects life. I can either deny her to avoid times like this or I can acknowledge her and either face these or share all the details with everyone I tell. Most birthmothers would tell you that they don't want to do any of these.
Either way, it looks like I have another letter to write.

Back In Denial

Last week was hard. Really hard.

I suppose I should have known better than to look at so many pictures all at once. Too many reminders.

There are very few people in my life that I can talk to about grieving my daughter's loss. I've mentioned it here before, but it is true that it makes people feel uncomfortable.

Midweek, I decided to start a new exercise program. I've used exercise to help me deal with depression in the past. I've always found it effective, but as anyone who's ever suffered from depression knows- you have to be able to get up to exercise. I couldn't last week, but I've been able to this week. I already feel better.

Also, I'm back at work. Since childhood, I've dealt with my problems by being really busy and doing as many activities as possible. I've been busy this week. It's been good.

The bad news? I was right about the long wait between visits. Right now, if all goes well, I'll see her at the end of April. I hope all goes well.