October 14, 2012 § 1 Comment
Two of my friends are pregnant now. They’re due around the same time. I can say honestly that I am excited and happy for them, especially as both pregnancies were very wanted and intended. It hurts though, just like it hurts every time I see families, pregnant women, babies, and children, especially cute little boys.
One of my pregnant friends was talking to me about how she is still pro-choice, but she can understand the other side now. She never could before. I agree completely. I’m pro-choice for many reasons, and I think having access to abortion is fantastic. Gestation and birth is such an enormous responsibility that choice doesn’t seem like an appropriate word, though. And when the baby is born, choice has nothing to do with it. The connection to that baby is not a choice. It is there and so powerful. The mother-child bond is the basis of life.
Among other things, I wish someone had attempted to explain this to me. Signing away your parental rights should never be seen as a good option. It’s not some simple “choice” you can make. And it should rarely be considered a solution to problems. There are better ways to handle the problems posed by an unintended pregnancy. Abortion is one of them, but it’s not the only one. Finding social support, applying for aid, and figuring out how to make things work as a parent may be difficult, but I can assure anyone that losing a child to adoption is worse. If it’s too hard, there is letting relatives help, and even temporary guardianship.
An adoption plan shouldn’t be made before birth. It’s so hard to know how to feel about the baby while pregnant. You were an abstract concept I couldn’t understand. And when I decided on adoption, I was treated as if I was already a birth mother by the agency and by the prospective parents. I saw myself as one, too, even if I wasn’t yet. Both parties court you relentlessly. Your parents sent me flowers. The agency ladies took me out to lunch all the time and seemed like they cared about me.
I think even if adoption seems necessary, the mother should make a plan to bring her baby home and try to parent and see how it goes. I felt so alone when I was pregnant, but when I had you I was amazed by the support that suddenly popped up and all the people who adored you. I never knew I had anyone willing to help me. I never even guessed.
I realize that the reason adoption isn’t treated this way, as something harmful that should be discouraged as much as possible, is because it’s a huge industry. Their clients are hopeful parents and that’s who they serve. Scared girls who are pregnant with healthy white babies are what they make money from. As much as they pretend to care, their clients are prospective adoptive parents who pay them a lot and agencies act in their interest, not the mother’s. Our culture also tends to overstate the important of material goods and a child “deserves better” than young single mothers without much money. But once I saw how much you needed me, I knew separating you from me was not what was right and best.
The laws should be different. In Utah, you are given 24 hours after birth until you can sign away your parental rights. David and I signed the papers about 27 hours after you were born. 27 hours that I had spent in my hospital bed, exhausted, full of emotions, people going in and out of my room, no time to myself and my own thoughts. Is 27 hours enough time to make a decision that will affect the rest of my life forever? Some states have a waiting period of 72 hours. I know that if I had been given 72 hours, I would have decided to trust my emotion and I never would have let you leave my arms. Some states have a revocation period. In Utah there is none, and the adoption is effective once signed. If there was any such thing, I would have changed my mind immediately.
And for everyone who would call me selfish for thinking of myself instead of being happy that you have a two-parent middle-class home, adoption is a loss for the baby too. I hope with all my heart that you don’t miss me as much as I miss you. But I know a baby would not want to be separated from his mother and given to strangers. It is my voice and smell and heartbeat that you knew when you were born. When I read about the trauma caused to infants when they’re separated from their mother and adopted, I’m wracked with guilt. I never wanted you to feel abandoned. You deserve so much better than this. If you hate me I understand.
The easiest way to explain the emptiness I feel is to describe a recurring dream I’ve had. I’m standing in front of a full-length mirror, and the image reflected to me is that of myself holding you. But I’m the only one standing there. You are in my own self-image, now and forever, not something that happened in my past. I don’t know who I am without you. I’m no longer complete. I feel the same way with David, that you should be there but you are missing. We are only two of a solid triangle.
There are times it hurts to look at him because his face reminds me of you. I wonder if he’s ever reminded of you when he looks at me. I don’t know because we’ve only spoken about you a few times.
I regret that in the hospital we spent so little time together, just the three of us. My family, Sara, Sara’s family, the ladies from the agency, and your parents were constantly there. I should have spoken up and told them to get out of my face. Not to mention the continual presence of hospital staff, fussing over me, taking my vitals, checking my bleeding, bringing me food. We weren’t alone until I was discharged from the hospital and we were about to take you to C and L, and we stayed in the room for a few minutes. It was just the three of us together, so that we could said goodbye. David was holding you and I laid in his lap sobbing, and we both told you we loved you and how happy we wanted you to be. It was horrible how nice it felt, just the three of us together. And how fleeting the moment would be. I wish we’d at least asked for some time alone before signing relinquishment papers, and talked it over to make sure that was what we wanted. I think we were both in denial and I think we both assumed it was what the other person wanted.
Our culture views adoption so favorably, as if this was Brave New World and it doesn’t matter who you raise or who raises you. But David and I were not your egg and sperm donors and my uterus wasn’t an incubator. You aren’t just some baby to me. My love for you is not just emotion, hormonal reactions that are subordinate to reason and doing the “right” thing. I love you and that is all that’s real to me. I wish I could hold you right now and tell you how much I love you. I wish you could feel that.