Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Birth Order in Birth Families

When I was 19, and Colin was 17 months old, I attended an awesome retreat for birthmothers. It was the first time I was even in the same room with another birthmother; the isolation melted away in a puddle of tears. It was incredible. One of the biggest surprises, to me, was that there were women there who had placed under very different circumstances than me. I know that sounds very naive, but I was the classic teenager in a crisis pregnancy who then became the "angel" (gag) for an infertile couple. At the retreat, I met women who had placed multiple children, who were already parenting several children and then placed a surprise baby, and a married couple who had placed. At first, I'll admit it, I was judgemental.

I looked at the woman who had placed 3 times and thought: How in the world did you keep letting this happen?

I looked at the woman who was already parenting several children and thought: Really? This is the one you can't handle? How is that child going to feel years from now knowing his siblings were cool to "keep", but he wasn't?

I looked at the married couple and raged: Holy crap! If I had been remotely close to marriage I would never have given my son away! How is your kid going to handle that?

It took me about an afternoon to notice that despite different circumstances, there was a universal theme. Every single woman there placed because she didn't feel ready/able/prepared to parent her baby. Every single woman there wanted a different life for her baby than she was ready/able/prepared to give. I was humbled, and cast my judgements to the wind.

Now, once again, parenting Jeb puts a spin on my thoughts. I'm certainly not picking those judgements back up, in fact, I've become much better at not judging in general. Quite frankly, I don't much care to hear the reasons another woman feels the need to place. I trust she knows what she's doing, and only really think about the support I hope she has. (Obviously coercion, which I abhor, is another story.)

No, the spin parenting puts on it is just this: when I placed, I knew there was something, many things, many wonderful things Colin would get/experience from a stable household that I was not able to provide at the time. I didn't understand what those things were, but I knew they were real, and that he deserved them. It was his birth right to have parents who were bonkers to be his parents. Now, though? I get it. And so, it's wild for me to read blogs, or hear stories of women who were already parenting, and place a subsequent baby. They know. They know exactly what they are giving up. They know exactly what it feels like to snuggle, kiss, caress, love, cradle, nurse, lose your patience but regain it in that toddler's smile, etc. I know that those women's intentions are as pure as mine were, but their strength far exceeds the strength I needed back in 1998.

I'll reiterate, that for a woman feel the need to place a baby while she's parenting other children, is an especially incredible act of love. I wonder though, how that changes the experience of the adoptee. Does that throw an extra question mark into the adoptee's process? Again, no judgements, I am only wondering. Anyone who has read my previous posts, knows that my birthson struggles with the fact that he's adopted, so I am certainly on no High Horse.

Over the years I have learned that adoptees feel a range of emotion about their situations, and I've come to conclude there really is no sure fire way to make an adoptee feel peachy about the whole thing. Many do, don't get me wrong, but it's impossible to tell at the moment of placement how that child will cope with it later in life.

I think I've answered my own question. You just don't know, so you do your best.

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