the real myths about birth mothers
November 30, 2014 § 10 Comments
Just in case consulting a real birth mother is too hard or too scary, adoptive father Lawrence Morton wrote this piece of fiction about what birth mothers are like. He attempts to contrast myth with reality, although there is nothing new or fascinating here. It’s the same sticky-sweet birth mother tale that adoptive parents and adoption agencies have been telling for ages. In calling out myths about birth mothers, the author only perpetuates a different set of adoption myths, except this time they are myths used to acquire more babies for adoption. Being called “selfless and loving” or “brave” is more insidious, but not any different, than simply being called a slut.
Since Morton is an adoptive father, not a birth mother, I figured I would do a better job picking apart birth mother myths.
Myth: Birth mothers are selfless and loving.
This is the most pervasive birth mother myth I know of, based on the number of terrible ads that blare, “Adoption is a selfless, loving choice!” Those words were said to me, over and over and over again when I was pregnant, and I believed it. Try to stop and comprehend the true meaning of that slogan for a minute. Isn’t parenting selfless and loving? I don’t know how other people are raised, but I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that parenting is tough shit. My mom and dad never let me forget it. We all hear about the troubled teenager who selfishly gets pregnant so she has a baby to love, but I have never met anyone like that. And yet, every expectant mother considering adoption is implicitly told that raising her child is selfish. Pretty sure most women are not fulfilling their own selfish desires when they parent alone and without much money. They are simply doing the work that every parent does, no matter the joy or the exhaustion. Undoubtedly, parenting is loving. There is nothing shameful about that.
It’s not always possible for mothers to raise their children, but adoption shouldn’t be higher on the pedestal than parenting. It shouldn’t be made out to be the best possible solution for mother and child, in all circumstances. If adoption is “selfless and loving,” then whatever obstacle the mother is facing in parenting her child, no matter how temporary–safety, money, marital status–is BEST solved by relinquishing her child forever. All other solutions are implied to be selfish and less loving. Apparently, it’s not even worth a conversation about how, in the future, choosing adoption may seem incredibly selfish to the one who was adopted. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t seek out any adoptee voices when I was pregnant. I was told that adopted people are always happy and grateful, and that was that.
I came across a discussion of my blog on an adoptee forum, about the part where I wrote my cringe-worthy reasons for choosing adoption, and some of the adoptees who commented said, “At least she realizes how selfish she is.” Just because the adoption agency calls you “selfless” doesn’t mean you are, nor does it mean your child will feel that way. And if you choose adoption for a murky reason like not being married or not having a college degree, like I did, you will probably be called selfish at some point. I’ll admit that there are birth parents who are entirely deserving of the negative “myths” that Morton tries to debunk. The truth is that giving up your child doesn’t make anyone loving or selfless automatically.
This myth assigns the mother such worthlessness, that the best way she can show her love is by leaving her child’s life. It assumes that the adoptive parents will be better than the birth parents in every possible way, that the child will prefer being raised by the adoptive parents, and that the mother has nothing to offer her own child. If she keeps her baby, it is for no other reason than to satisfy her own needs and desires. There is no way to show her love and care except by relinquishing. And of course all adoptive parents are perfect–they are never abusive or flawed or any of the things birth moms are.
Moreover, the cheer of “b-moms are selfless, rah rah” takes on a different meaning when it comes from APs or PAPs. I’m sure my son’s parents were more than happy to rescue me from the horrible fate of Parenthood that so many will pay thousands of dollars for, and yet I was expected to just throw it all away. But in adoption, everything is opposite and backwards. “Adoption is a loving choice” makes as much sense to me as WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
Myth: Completing someone else’s family (while destroying our own) is a birth mom’s job.
Consider the common phrase “our birthmom” used by adoptive parents. I always hear that flung about, online and in real life: “our birthmom.” Really? Did she birth you and your spouse as well? Is she a human being with a name, or is her only purpose in life that you care about to give birth for your benefit? When adoptive parents call their child’s birth mom “our,” it makes me realize she is yet another lower class person in their lives who performs a service for them–our birthmom, our pool cleaner. Like she was a handmaiden assigned to serve them.
A lot of women buy into this. We’re told to feel happy and proud that we are building a family for people who can’t. But that’s not our job. No one should be made to feel that their baby is for someone else, which brings me to…
Myth: Birth mothers were destined to get unexpectedly pregnant for the benefit of infertile couples who “need” babies.
I’m not religious, and yet this myth plagued me for a long time. The ladies at the agency fed me the idea that by looking through parent profiles, I would find the perfect couple who was just MEANT for my son, thereby setting me up to choose people with hopes of parenthood so I would feel obligated to go through with the adoption, rather than chill out and think more about my options as my pregnancy progressed. After I picked C and L, they told me over and over that I found my son’s perfect parents by “fate” and everything happened for a reason. After I told C and L that I chose them, the agency encouraged me to sit back and relax with the knowledge that everything was as it should be. This marginalized the guilt I felt and made me feel content for the time being. After all, you don’t mess with destiny.
The idea of things happening for a reason can be comforting, I suppose, but it’s made-up bullshit. People love to tell you “everything happens for a reason,” especially at funerals. It’s difficult to face the fact that life and death are chaotic, senseless, and unfair. As infinitesimal specks in the universe, it’s comforting to believe in an underhanded arrangement out there, but it’s for this same reason that we shouldn’t presume to know what is meant to be or not meant to be. We are just too small and too stupid. When I look back on my pregnancy, I see now that there were signs everywhere that I shouldn’t give up my baby and that I was being used. I just didn’t pay attention. It was too stressful to deal with any cognitive dissonance, so I buried it.
It’s usually self-entitled adoptive parents who believe that adoption is God’s plan for them. They probably don’t realize that for God to plan an adoption, God planned for a mother to lose her child. If so, God is a real asshole. They also don’t understand the vast improbability that “THEIR child” is waiting in another pregnant woman’s belly. The principle of Occam’s Razor suggests there are more likely possibilities that involve fewer assumptions. And if an adoptive parent doesn’t realize that the biggest difference between them and birth parents is money, they are probably assholes as well.
Myth: Birth mothers did the right thing in giving their child up.
Like the “loving/selfless” myth, this one does not allow for any complexity to be present in the situation. Adoption is ALWAYS “the right thing.” It is as black and white as right and wrong. This implies that choosing adoption is taking the moral high ground. It’s as simple as saying no to drugs in your sixth grade DARE program. For adoption to be the right thing, it has to be the right thing for everybody. My son is not living a better life with his adoptive family, just a different one. And if adoption were the right thing for me, I wouldn’t be crawling out of my skin wishing I could be with him.
This reminds me. I always get a kick out of adoptees who don’t know anything about their birth families, but they wish they could thank them for doing the right thing. How do you know your adoptive family is better, or that your birth family didn’t relinquish you for adoption because it was “right” but because of sad, difficult reasons? Anywho.
There are times when adoption is wonderful and necessary. My son’s adoption wasn’t one of those times. Giving him up was not even close to the “right” thing to do, and don’t tell me I should find peace, either.
Myth: That everyone thinks birth mothers are selfish in the first place.
Dear Lawrence Morton, we’ve been bashed in the head with this propaganda long enough. 90% of the comments read, “I never thought birthmothers were selfish! They are so brave!” True, plenty of people think birth moms are selfish whores who discard their children. But we’ve all heard the “selfless and loving” narrative for so long, that’s what people believe now. There is something seriously wrong when adoption, which should be avoided if at all possible, has become widely known as the MOST loving option POSSIBLE, even for women who could realistically parent. In this day and age, young single women parent successfully all the time, and that’s what the adoption industry is afraid of.
Let’s be real, being a birth mother is not a source of pride or a badge of selflessness–it’s just the only way for adoptive parents like Mr. Morton to acquire healthy babies.