The Impact of Adoption Language on Birth Mothers
In honor of National Adoption Month 2020, NCFA is featuring various stories and perspectives on adoption. Today we welcome guest writer Jessica, a birth mom, working to raise awareness about the impact of harmful adoption language on birth mothers to educate those in the adoption community and beyond about choosing their words more carefully. Our thanks to Brave Love for sharing Jessica's story.
The more time I spend reaching out to others about the truth in adoption, I find the skewed words and ideas many individuals have on the placement of a child, from a mother and father that love him/her so dearly.
I encounter comments, and vocabulary that cuts deep into the being of who I really am as a birth mom. These statements that people throw around pertaining to adoption is crippling to my heart and to the hearts of many others. As with any sensitive topic, I think it is important to understand the truth behind the words we are spitting out of our mouths.
As I begin writing about this topic on vocab, the reminders of all the other haunting questions and statements that have been spat my way start to surface in my mind. This vocabulary that people tend to throw around is not just individual words, there are statements made and questions asked to a birth mother (and even an adoptive parent or adoptee) that hurt and don't make sense. I don't pity or become angry with individuals who ask silly questions or make harsh comments. They don't understand the truth but, how could they if no one has educated them?
I have found that many of the individuals closest to me are still so unaware of the brutality in their words when they speak to me about my choice. Their statements of, "oh I love telling others how brave you are because you gave up your baby" isn't encouraging, it is downright hurtful. How could one know this pain caused by their words, if I did not share it? I have to share it. I have to share it not only for the other birth mothers out there with a grieving heart but for myself. I have to share it so that I can help put an end to the shameful words and ideas that surround adoption.
As I began thinking over all of the hurtful comments and words thrown my way, I created a hefty list - clearly they hurt or else they would have been dismissed from my mind over all of these years. I went along and chose a few on the list that I hear most often. This list is accumulated from 7 1/2 years of sharing my story.
Here it goes...
"I could never do that"
You could never do what? Love your child? I am sure that you could. When your child is hungry, do you make a choice to nourish them or watch them cry in starvation? When your child is sick, do you make a choice to work to heal their illness or watch them suffer in pain? When my child was more than deserving of stability and love I made a choice to place him into the arms of a loving family that could offer that. This had nothing to do with strength or willpower, this had everything to do with love and grace. I made a choice that would benefit my child because I loved him and I am certain that parents make those choices for their children everyday.
"Don't you miss him?"
Of course I miss him. Everyday. Every hour of everyday I am thinking of him. There is not a day that goes by that I don't pray for him, stare at his photo, and daydream of who he is to me. I miss him beyond measure many days. Some days I sit and cry because I miss him so much. It is beyond missing him physically and wanting to just hug him, it is an aching missing of what he was and is to me. As any parent misses their child when they go away, I miss him. However, missing somebody doesn't mean that you don't make painful choices for them. I always tell people that had I made a choice for myself, I would be raising my son; but had I made a choice for my son, he would be just where he is today.
"Give up." or "Give away."
Unless you are talking about giving away my heart, I am not sure what you mean here. I gave up on absolutely nothing, what I did give was a life. I gave into something more than I ever could have imagined I would. I gave into a love that overpowered me and shook me to my core. These words ‘give up’ and ‘give away’ cut deep. I PLACED my son into a loving home and a safe family, and I gave sacrificially to him the gift of love and surrender. There was nothing given up on or given away. While I hate to knit pick words, these words are HARSH.
"What does your husband think of this?"
Think of what? My choice of love for my child? The endless grace God has placed upon me? My husband is proud. My husband is humbled. My husband is thankful. Dan appreciates the choice I made for my son and loves me for the heart that I had as a mother. Dan loves receiving updates on him and viewing pictures of his life play out. Dan thinks my choice is incredible, and I am not speaking for him; he tells me this. Dan and I look forward to creating a family that adores my firstborn and that includes him in our prayers, our thoughts, and our day to day lives.
This one gets me every. single. time. Real parents? Quite frankly, in my opinion, my son's ONLY REAL PARENT is God. God is his Father, healer, and provider. God chose me to bring him into this world, as his REAL birth mother. I then chose REAL people who wanted to become REAL parents (still, nothing imaginary) to raise him and love him in a way I was incapable of doing at 16 years old. His adoptive parents are his parents, they are of course REAL people. I am a REAL person, and I am his birth mother. I am not his "real mom", I am his birth mom. I am a real woman to him with real emotions. When you call me his "real mom" I can only begin to imagine the pain his adoptive mother feels. We are both real people to him & real women who love him beyond measure on the earth. That is something he will never be confused about, the realness of the love that is offered to him. Nothing is fake here..
"Do you regret your choice?"
Not once. There are days that I sit and mourn the loss of my label as a mother, but I have been given a beautiful title to my son as his birth mother, and I don't regret that for a second. God was working on my story far before I was ever even known on this earth, and for that, there are zero regrets.
"Will you get him back?"
This one has always confused me, and honestly, I have heard it at least a half dozen times. It makes me sad that folks don't understand the choice in adoption. This wasn't some temporary plan that would give my baby everything he needed plus more in a family, only to then rip him out when I was old enough and stable enough to parent. This was a long term plan to raise a child in a stable, loving, and strong family. There was nothing temporary about my choice. I could not begin to imagine the pain it would inflict on a child if their birth parents were then able to just "get them back". I am not sure where this idea comes from in individuals' minds, but I am here to boldly tell you, that does NOT happen. Adoption is permanent.
"Do you think that his parents love him as much as you do?"
This may or may not be a trick question - I have yet to figure that one out. My son’s parents are in AWE of him. I couldn't begin to even measure the love they have for him. They have adopted him into not only their family and their home, but into their hearts. While I don't like to speak for anybody else that plays a part in my story, I know that Adrienne and Dave love our baby (who is not a baby now) more than words could ever describe. I fully, 150% trust that Adrienne and Dave love our sweet little boy just the SAME as I do. I trust that their desires for his life align with mine, that their goals for him are parallel to my own, and that their prayers for him are reflecting of mine. I have never questioned their love and compassion towards my son and am more than confident that the love we all share for him is more than just comparable but entirely equal.
"Do you have any children?"
Now this one is not your fault, at all. This is something a birth mother, especially myself, has to simply accept. This is a normal and common question asked to all married, adult, individuals on a day-to-day basis. A common question is, "do you have any children?" Regardless of the answer I give - whether I lie or remain truthful and bold…it hurts. Lying about the fact that I did indeed have a baby and that I do indeed have a little boy is aching to my soul. Denying the fact that he is who he is to others puts me right back into this aching state of grief. I lose him all over again. Each time I reply "no, I do not", I find myself aching inside. Each time I lie, I strongly pull myself up from my bootstraps and jump right back up onto the horse of birth mother reality.
Now, other times... I answer truthfully. I love sharing about my sweet little boy and about the life he is so wonderfully living. I love sharing that I am a birth mother and that I am stronger for having become one. Often times I will say the truth, but the result has never once been how I hoped for it to be. The receiver of this truth is always taken back and acts as though they are shocked to hear this beautiful story. They want no part of it. 9 out of 10 times, I get a sympathetic smile and encouraging nod, with the word, "Oh". The topic is always quickly changed, making me feel like... well a moron. This then brings me right back to a place of pain and grief. As bold as I am in my choice, I still become surrounded by the shame in adoption. I still become an unheard voice as a mother. Again, this question is not the fault of any, but it is a point important to make. There are women out there, and you will encounter one, that have made a brave and painful choice. She seeks love and encouragement. Let us appreciate others when they speak to us the truth of their journey, regardless of what that may be. Let us not grow weary and become uncomfortable for their story is differing from our own, let us love and comfort.
"Why did you make that choice for him?"
How long do you have to chat? The answer to this question is not simple or short, but I will make it. I loved him. I do love him. I will always, always love him. That is why I made the choice of adoption for my son.