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How To Irritate A Birth Mother (& Adoptive Parents)

From the time that Walter and I informed our families and friends about our intentions to adopt, we’ve had to grit out teeth and grin & bare it while people have made some of the most insulting, hurtful and ignorant statements about our plan to fulfill our dream of having a family. While I realize that some of these statements were made purely out of ignorance and not with the intention to be hurtful. There have been times when I’ve been astounded by how thoughtless people can be and at times, I’ve been really hurt by the almost spitefulness of some of the statements made.

A few week’s ago I stumbled across Jill’s blog and I loved her page on How To Irritate A Birth Mother. I wrote her and asked if i could use extracts from her page her on my blog because I think she touches, so beautifully and so perfectly, on many of the same issues we, as adoptive parents, have had to face.

I think the “general public” fail to understand the close bond that develops between a BBM (beautiful birth mom) and adoptive parents who are selected through private adoption. I know I speak for myself as well as my friends who have adopted in a similar way when I say that one should never underestimate the love, admiration and respect that we, as adoptive parents, feel for these women. I will love our BBM with all of my heart and soul for as long as I live. Although we have no further contact, for now, I think of her with great love, every single day of my life. Although now absent, she is very much a part of our lives, she is very much part of Ava’s life. We have started now, at 20 months, telling Ava how special she is because she is adopted. We openly talk of how special she is and how loved she is because of her fairly unique circumstance. She has a tummy mummy who loves her so much, she forsake her own happiness for her child. She has a mommy and a daddy who love her and yearned for her so much that we traveled to the edge of hell and back to have her as part of our family.

Below, I’ve taken extracts from Jill’s page and put the adoptive parents spin on it because most of what she has to say is not just relevant for BBM’s but also for adoptive parents.

1. “Didn’t you want her?”
“Are you serious?” is how I always want to respond to this. I don’t know a single birth mother who didn’t want her baby. I wanted Roo more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. If I had to choose between breathing and Roo, Roo would win every time. I wanted her, and I do want her, and I love her. But this wasn’t about me or what I wanted. It couldn’t be. It had to be about what was best for Roo, and adoption was it.

2. “I could never do that.”
This one is infamous in the adoption world. I think this of all statements is the one that most would consider harmless. But when I hear that, I want to ask, “Why? Why couldn’t you do that? Wouldn’t you want the best for your baby?” So often the tone in which it is said implies that the birth mother has erred or acted impulsively or been careless, or that she did it because she doesn’t love her child. Adoption is not a choice made lightly or impulsively, and it is certainly not made because of a lack of love. Adoption *is* love. As my friend Tamra says, if I’d loved my baby just an ounce less, I would have kept her. I placed her because I love her.
I also liked Tamra’s advice to me on dealing with this comment. She said to tell people, “No, you probably couldn’t,” in a tone that implies that I am a much stronger person than they are.

If you would say to a birth mom, “I could never do that” to try to tell her that you admire her strength and courage, consider phrasing it differently. Just tell her that you admire her strength and courage and that you can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her.

I was astounded when someone close to us, who’d been encouraged as a teen mom to put her child up for adoption stated that she was not the type of woman to “throw her child away”. I was so angry when that statement was made I had to stop myself from responding that what type of woman was she then? The type of woman who puts her own feelings above that of her child?

3. “I’m sure you did what was best for you.”
Someone actually said this to me and I wanted to hurt them. Does anyone really, truly believe that I chose adoption for my sake? It wasn’t best for me. What was best for me was keeping and parenting the daughter I loved so very much. Placing her was hell for me, certainly not best for me. If it was about me, I’d still be a single mother. I did what was best for Roo. Period.

It amazes me that many people see adoption this way. Walter and I too, have been faced with that statement: “Well your BBM obviously did what was best for her.” And I ‘d have to say, I agree 100% with Jill, our BBM did not do what was best for her, she set her feelings and her needs aside and did what she thought was best for Ava.

4. “Will she call you mom when she’s older?”
Of course not. Why would she? I’m not her mother. M is her mother. She can call me whatever she wants to. “Jill” would work just fine.

5. “Won’t she be confused about who her mom is, having you in her life?”
Well, let’s see. One of us will feed her, dress her, bathe her, read to her, sing songs with her, play with her, teach her, give her hugs and kisses and tend to her boo-boos and take her to primary and listen when she talks and make sure she’s happy and healthy and smart, be married to Roo’s father and live in the same home, in short, be her mother; and one of us will … visit from time to time. Nope, sorry, I don’t see any confusion there.

Roo will know that she grew in my tummy before she was born, and that I made sure she got to her mommy and daddy. I don’t think she will ever, for a second, be confused about exactly who is her mother.

Going along with that question, people will opine that openness must surely mess with a child’s identity and sense of self. Well, how on earth does having more people in Roo’s life who love her, mess with her? You can’t spoil a child with love. Roo has two families who love her. She will know exactly who she is. Studies show that open adoption is mutually beneficial. All members of the adoption triad find peace and joy in openness.

I loved no. 4 & 5 because people have often referred to our BBM, to my face, as Ava’s real mother. That has stung and hurt me in so many ways. While our BBM holds a very special place within our triad, I am very much Ava’s real mother. I’m the one that is doing all that Jill has described above, how could I not be her real mother?

6. “Oh, you took the easy way out.”
This is another statement that makes me want to hurt the speaker. There hasn’t been a single easy thing about adoption. I didn’t place Roo because being her mother was too hard. Being a mother wasn’t something I wanted out of! What was hard was placing her for adoption. I have never felt sorrow and despair so deep as I did when I drove home from LDSFS without Roo in the car. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and the pain nearly undid me. Don’t think for one second that adoption is the easy way out. It’s not easy and it’s not an out.

Yep, we too have heard that sentiment about our BBM and I find is shocking. There is not a day that has past in the last 20 months where I have not thought about her, thought about how she is coping, thought about the depth and breadth of her pain. I know it must be something she struggles with on a daily basis.

7. “Well, now that she’s been adopted, you can get back to being young and having fun.”
Oh, honestly. I couldn’t believe it when someone said that to me. Did they really think that I placed Roo because she was interfering with my social life? I would take Roo over fun and youth in a second. But I can’t have Roo. So I go out with friends instead. That doesn’t mean I placed her so I could go out and have fun.

8. “You made the right decision.” (said with an air of judgmental superiority)
Well, thanks. I’m sure glad to know that you thought I made the wrong decision when I single parented for nine weeks. And thanks for judging me and deciding what’s right for me and my baby, too. Because that was totally your call to make.
Adoption was the right decision for Roo, but not right away, and I don’t think that it’s the right decision for everyone. When someone says this to me, I wonder what they say to single mothers, women who chose parenting over adoption. “You made the wrong decision”? How rude and judgmental!

Yes, I made the right decision for Roo. But the rightness of it was for me to determine, and I don’t need anyone else to confirm it for me.

9. “You know, you could have sold her for millions! People will pay a killing for a healthy white baby.”
People will say this jokingly, but it always makes me sick. A child is not a commodity to be bought and sold. I didn’t place her for any kind of physical gain and I never, ever would. No one should. Period.

10. “Will she know that you’re her real mom?”
Sorry, I’m not her “real” mom. M is. And what’s a real mom, anyway? I didn’t place Roo with a family of cardboard cutouts. Calling me Roo’s real mom implies that M is … what, her fake mom? Uh-uh. I am Roo’s birth mother, not her real mother. Same goes for the phrase “natural mother.” What constitutes an unnatural mother? There’s a lot of negative adoption language out there I’d like to change, like …

Again, I’ve often felt hugely hurt by that “real mom” statement. Because I couldn’t stay pregnant and I couldn’t go through the labour and the birth, does that mean I’m any less equipped to be her mother? I’ve always maintained that while pregnancy and birth are part of the journey, for some, to motherhood, pregnancy and birth do not make a mother.

11. “Oh, what made you decide to give your baby away?”
Excuse me, but I didn’t give her away. I didn’t put up an ad on Craigslist, “I’m giving away my baby, does anyone want her?” I placed her for adoption, but I certainly didn’t and wouldn’t ever give her away. I gave her a family. People who ask this question always want to know when P and M will tell Roo that she’s “not really theirs.” That’s funny. I was under the impression that she was really theirs. Hmm. That’s news to me! Whose is she then?

This last point felt like a affirmation for me. I’ve often felt, strangely mostly from my IF peers, that I am not really “qualified” as Ava’s mother because she is not really ours. While her birth certificate states that I am her mother and Walter is her father, society, through the subtle comments, have often left me feeling like I am seen as “less than”.

It was really interesting for me to read this post from Jill and to know that so many of the issues she faces as a BBM are so similar to the ones that we face as adoptive parents.

I have loved reading and following her blog, it makes me feel closer to our BBM. It helps me to know and understand what our BBM is going through and that a lot of her thoughts and feelings are the same, Jill’s blog has made me feel closer to our BBM and has given me an insight into what her world has been lock.

Dear Ava’s Tummy Mummy, I hope you know that you are never far from our thoughts and always in our hearts. That we think of you and speak of you daily and that we are forever grateful to you for what you, in your unselfish act of love, have given us. We love you.

Forever in our hearts, forever part of our family!

Again, here is an image of my tattoo, on the inside of my wrist, forever marking my body with what Ava’s placement has meant to me. The tattoo, for those of you who don’t know is the international symbol of adoption. The three corners of the triangle represent God, ourselves and our BBM with Ava’s initial in the middle as a symbol of the love that will bind us all forever and ever.

 

 

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12 Comments

  • Reply To Love Bella

    I follow Jill’s blog too because I want to be closer to our Genny too. I sometimes have to wipe tears away, because I can’t help but wonder if alot of what Jill has to say is echo’ed in our Genny’s head. Hers is a beautiful blog to read.

    Our own paed constantly refers to our BM as “her (Isabella’s) mom” all the time. There is no getting away from it – it stings. There are times that I feel totally inadequate at being a mom, period – and statements such as these don’t help! I do subtly correct him, but he doesn’t really notice and I know that it is certainly not intentional.

    When Isabella was still very tiny, someone looked at her and started to say “I don’t understand how anyone can give…” and right there, I stopped them in their tracks. Sharon, no one can understand the love we feel for our BM’s unless they KNOW; nor can they ever understand / comprehend what our BM’s have been through and continue to go through. How easy and convenient it is for society to believe that babies are “just given away”, without much thought. What an ugly stigma to attach to adoption.

    And then there was the time when a blogger ‘shouted’ at me on one of my posts because “I was tearing a family apart”. Ignorance is such bliss.

    August 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm
  • Reply Mash

    Thanks for this, I really love this post and Jill’s blog. So much going around in my mind about adoption right now. I know that if DH was ready for it I probably wouldn’t even go for the next IVF. I feel so ready for it! And even I had a lot of misperceptions about birth mothers until recently. I wish there were more blogs like Jill’s!

    August 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm
  • Reply tan32

    I love Jill’s blog too.

    My best ignorant comment was from someone who didn’t know I was a BM.
    “We plan to adopt but I can’t get over the fact that we have to beg some slut to give us her baby” “she doesn’t want it anyway” I was so angry and I told them that adoption is an act of love in no way did I ever not want T.

    My other is well she can’t be a good mom if she gave her child away. Or I understand you didn’t want her because she would have reminded you of what her Dad did to you. Yes I woke up one day and decided that I can’t cope with 3 kids and well the last ones father was a waste of air so I just throw her away.
    Like wtf ???

    No I wanted what was best for all of my girls. And I did that. It was never about me.

    For me T’s Mom is always going to be her mom. And I will support her parents 100% because they are the ones who tuck her in. And hold her when she’s sick. And kiss her better when she’s hurt. And they know what is best for her.

    but I will always be her BM And love her from the side (without interfering).

    I also feel the more people open up about adoption the more understanding there will be which is why I’m open about placing T and being a BM.

    Hugs great post.

    August 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    I think the truth sometimes is that people judge because they haven’t walked in their shoes. I have never faced ‘giving up’ my baby so I don’t understand what the motivation would be although when I became pregnant with my daughter I was in such a bad place, I could understand terminating a pregnancy for the first time ever. I try not to judge but we are all human after all. Also the whole thing about you guys feeling like you less of mothers – shew, you chose this even more than those of us who had children by ‘accident’ – doesn’t that make you better mothers?

    August 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm
  • Reply Gwen

    More and more I’m realising how unmindful we all are of the infinite number of challenges that people face. The truth is that most of us will never truly understand a situation like this without having been there ourselves, and we’ve all been caught on the hop and made an unthinking comment. As I get older and more cynical I realise on the one hand how little I understand of so many people’s problems, and at the same time my expectation of others understanding mine diminishes. I’m not sure whether to be sad about this or not. It’s such an awesome gift when somebody does seem to understand or empathise, and I suppose we all long for that, but I know now it’s not something to take for granted.

    August 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm
  • Reply suestuart

    Gwen said exactly how I feel – being in the IF trenches for so long at first blinded me to the fact that other people were going through different challenges that were probably equally as tough, and then woke me up to the fact that actually, I don’t know what they may be going through. It made me realise that any comment I make about any situation should be carefully considered, though I’m sure I have made many blunders. Having said that, I know that IF and being BM’s are subjects that really, unless you’ve been there, it’s so difficult to comprehend the enormity of the pain. Big hugs to all the beautiful BMs and adoptive parents out there, and to those still in the IF trenches.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:59 am
  • Reply Shelly

    People are really ignorant and if they do know better, they really dont think before they speak.

    I know our situations are very different, but heck people are equally as ignorant when it comes to surrogacy.

    As a surrogate I am often asked dumb questions like:
    “How can you just give a baby away, I could never do that?” or “Arent the parents scared you are going to keep the baby?” Well, you have to understand the baby is not mine to keep, I am babysitting for 9 months and then returning the baby to his parents. Have you never left your child with a babysitter? Are you scared the babysitter is going to steal your child?

    “Dont you feel anything?” Um, yes.. I have so much love for his parents that I am prepared to puke in the morning, have back ache, take progesterone shots daily, be crampy and emotional, have my body stretched in unimaginable ways, go through a delivery and the postpartum “stuff” – just to see them hold their son and fall head over heels in love with him.

    People need to think before they speak!

    August 23, 2011 at 9:39 am
  • Reply Captain Murdock

    Loved this, and loved Jill’s thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm
  • Reply shirl34

    Thanks for this post Sharon, people can be such insensitive fools sometimes. Ive had to live with the ignorance for many years! xxx

    August 26, 2011 at 9:00 pm
  • Reply LilRed

    I’m an avid follower of Jill’s blog, I am also a birth mom, I really appreciate your perspective on this. I think as birth mom’s we sometimes get wrapped up in our own grief and sadness, but it is always awesome to realize the joy these children give to their parents. We get alot of hurtful comments and people see us in a skewed way (IMO) but it’s all worth it to know the happiness these children can have. I am grateful every day for the loving example given by such amazing and very REAL families.

    September 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm
  • Reply Jan

    Got here from Jill’s blog, which I love. Loved this entry as well <3

    September 20, 2011 at 4:04 am
  • Reply sweetridgesisters

    Thanks for your beautiful and compassionate post. As a birth mother, I am so grateful for your kind and passionate heart. There is such a lot of ignorance out there, but I am grateful to have come across such wise and eloquent women writing about adoption from every side of the issue.

    September 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm
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