I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I respond to people when they find out that I’m a birthmother. It’s interesting to think about my natural response because it tells me a lot about myself.
First, I’m immediately defensive. I got over being ashamed of my pregnancy (not my child, big difference!) a long time ago, and I know how to talk about my story. BUT there is something that happens inside me that makes my chest bow out and my mental boxing gloves come on. On the inside I’m feeling something like, “Yeah! That’s right. Now, say something stupid because I’m ready for a fight.”
Why do I feel this way? Why am I okay with my story but always ready to go guns blazing at someone who says something that offends me? People, let me just tell you, none of you are an expert on my story and so you are very likely to say something offensive and have no idea you did it. Nor should I assume you meant to offend me. Maybe you are learning something about you. (Could it be that it’s not all about me???)
Perhaps I need to be more comfortable with your discomfort…
Second, I say stupid things. “I still love him.” Why do I feel the need to say still as if any mother on the planet ever really stops loving their child? Granted some moms suck royally at loving, but not birthmothers. Yeah, I said that. (And here we see the fight in me again…) But seriously, why? Why do I feel the need to justify my love, the way I love, how much I love, etc. to you (universal you, of course)? Why do I feel the need to defend my decision or position or educate you about all things Michelle’s adoption? If you assume that I don’t love my child at this moment because I placed him for adoption over fifteen years ago, the shame is on you.
Perhaps I need to let the information that I’m a birthmom hang out there in the conversation without trying to wipe it clean. It’s not clean; it’s a huge mess. Even the most open and loving adoption relationships are messy because they involve people.
Let me tell you, if you meet a birthmom, you are safe to assume that she loves her child. She does, and you are safe to love them too with her. You don’t have to clean up her story for her. Jesus did that. God does that.
Finally, when I let people in on my not-so-secret secret, I feel responsible for every birthmom I know and adoption in general. It’s suddenly my job to convince you of everything I know to be true and destigmatize birthmothers and adoption. I want to sit you down and educate you about one of the most complex topics in the world. I want you to understand the transitions and exchanges and sacrifices, not just the law or what physically happens, but the painful and joyful collaboration of what adoption truly is.
The problem is, I’m a terrible teacher, and you didn’t necessarily sign up for an education when you stumbled on my story. Perhaps I need to let you be free to not know.
I suppose I write this for my birthmom friends who are like me. This one is to let you know, yet again, that you are not alone. Talking about my story is hard, and I’m a professional! It’s okay to have two left feet when your telling your story, and let me encourage you to take an internal inventory next time you do it and continue to learn and grow from it.
My husband used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Comfort the disturbed. Disturb the comfortable.” At the time we thought this was for the Church (and I still think it is). Then, I realized that is was Jesus’ mission (thus still for the Church). Now, I know it’s a way I can follow Jesus through my story.
Adoption, for me, is about so much more than that one day I placed a child. It has been a catalyst for almost everything else in my life. I suspect it’s the same for you.