To The Girls at Dinner on Saturday Night
To the Girls at Dinner on Saturday Night,
I have to first say that I know you didn’t expect me, a person you only met recently through work, would tell you during a casual dinner filled with friends and drinks that I was a birth mother. I know in the best of circumstances people don’t realize that people who relinquish their children don’t fit neatly into any stereotype, but even if the mere fact of my being a birth mother didn’t surprise you, I’m sure you didn’t expect to hear about it in such a casual setting. You should know that my son is part of my life, his relinquishment is a part of my life. Do I like exposing this tender, difficult time in my life to people, not really, but the truth is if I didn’t talk about my pregnancy when it was brought up, and then didn’t talk about my son when you said you didn’t know I had kids, then others at the table might think I was ashamed of my son. I know it’s not the cheeriest of subjects but your discomfort is not enough reason for me to be dishonest about who I am. And even if you were surprised by the fact I talked about this, there are things that bothered me about what you both said, how you reacted.
First of all, It would have been okay to show surprise, but it was pretty hard to hear I didn’t seem like a Mother to you. I know you probably meant that in the best way possible, not that I was harsh or not caring but because my actions didn’t seem to show I had a child at home, I wasn’t calling a babysitter or including stories of my own kids into every conversation like some of the other parents did. But at the end of the day, telling anyone, especially someone who has gone through what a birth mother has, that she doesn’t seem like a Mom is probably more harsh than you meant to be.
Second, its okay to ask questions, it’s wonderful to ask about my son, and I am more than happy to show off pictures of him. And although I don’t expect you to be an expert in open adoption, it would be nice if you hadn’t asked me if I knew anything about him after I showed you a picture of him (where did you think I got the picture?). The way you were shocked that I would stay in his life, the reactions you had as I talked about it made it seem like you felt I was doing a disservice to my son by being in his life. I know not everyone understands openness and why I think it’s so important for my son, but take a minute and listen to what I’m saying before you start judging. I make every decision with what is in the best interest of that little boy.
I don’t understand the need to tell me how amazing a thing it is. I couldn’t even ask you what you meant, if you were a pro-life person telling me it was amazing I didn’t get an abortion, if you were a gay rights activist telling me it was amazing I chose gay parents, or a person who just thought I would be such a shit parent that it was amazing that I could see that and give up my son to spare him being raised by me. Whichever of those is the case, what I did wasn’t an amazing thing, and it wasn’t selfless. It was because I was backed into a corner, it was what I felt had to be done. It was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was also one of the worst things I’ve ever done. I forever changed my family in ways that will impact generations to come. I rolled the dice, taking all the control for my son to have the life I wanted for him and giving it to people I didn’t know. I’m lucky because my son does have an amazing life, but it’s dumb luck, not because I made some amazing wonderful choice.
I know you wanted to show me you could relate to my story, I know the easiest way to do that is to talk about the person you know who is adopted. I can deal with that. I can even deal with you talking about how that person searched for their Mom (and I appreciated you willing called your cousin’s birth mother her Mom). You talked about how she had to deal with her parents’ insecurities about her search, it’s nice you recognized that and the difficult position she was in. It was good that you saw the connection that my son won’t have to struggle with that. But then you lost me. Why did you feel the need to tell me your cousin was loved like family. She is family. Why would you say that your whole family accepted her, you feeling like you had to say that tells me a different story. I have no fears that my son is treated like a second class member of his family, I know they love him and accept him and if I didn’t believe adoptees were anything but just family I don’t think I would have ever considered that life for my son. But the fact that you could tell me that you love your adult cousin just like everyone else in your family with a straight face and not see the intrinsic issues with saying that made it really hard to continue the conversation with you.
I don’t know if you will ever give a second thought to the conversation you had with me, but in many ways it will haunt me, a reminder how misunderstood my world is, how people actually view my decisions.