It’s always interesting when someone tries to educate me about my own experience. I try to listen patiently. I am hopeful that they mean well, but I usually get frustrated.
I recently had an encounter with a person who was disappointed in me for using the words “give up” as opposed to “placed” when talking about my adoption experience. This person felt like I misrepresented the adoption experience as a whole for birthmothers. This made me sad for a few reasons, and I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up a few things for those of you who might have the same concerns.
Whenever I speak about my experience as a birthmother I cannot whole-heartedly say that I “placed” my baby boy for adoption. For me, and I beg you to remember that I am and have always only shared my side of the story, for me saying “placed” reminds me of what I did to my plates on the dinner table last night, or that I placed my shoes in the closet. “Placed” cannot, nor will it ever, be the full weight of my experience with Baby Dylan. I gave him up.
Let me talk about the meaning of “give up” for just a minute. To give something up is to surrender. It is yielding oneself to a particular thing, influence or feeling. When I say that I gave my son up for adoption it is because that is the true and raw emotion that I felt when I actually did it. It is the way I feel now, knowing that I chose to relinquish my right to parent him in the day-to-day. I did not merely place him effortlessly into the hands of another woman. No! I surrendered. I died that day, and only by the grace of God am I living a new full life and celebrating Baby Dylan and his life.
I think we are doing a disservice to birthmothers when we tell them how to talk about their painful experience. Some birthmothers may be fine to say that they placed their child for adoption, and I support that. But some are barely even able to talk about it. My hope in sharing my story is partly that more birthmothers will begin to talk about their story and find healing in that sharing. In order to do that, I hope to help create a culture of openness and safety where birthmothers are free to be where ever they are at in the moment.
For me, I think if I were to mechanically talk about placing him for adoption out of some weird obligation to someone else’s needs and/or desires, it would be untrue to the gravity of the situation for me. Part of what has enticed people about my story is the honesty with which I told it. Pain is relative. My pain is relative.
So, in light of my self-awareness on the subject and at the risk of making a few people uncomfortable, I choose to deliberately say that I gave my son up for adoption. I hope others will feel free to talk about their experiences however they choose.