The Guilt of Responsibility
I saw J this past weekend, I spent a spent quite a large chunk of the day with him and his family. It was a nice day, one of many visits with J that remind me how much I love this kid and how much I’m loved by him and his family.
But there was a moment that gave me pause on Saturday.
I learned a fact about their family while in conversation with them, something I didn’t know. Actually it was something where I would have bet money on the opposite being true. I won’t go into major details (not really my story to tell) but there was something that I came to believe about M&P when I was in the matching process, information about them that was one of the factors that swayed me to choose them. And what I found out this weekend, more than 4 years into this relationship, is that information is actually only true of P. It isn’t true of M.
I feel weird about finding this out now. It honestly doesn’t really change anything, they are still amazing parents, and maybe more importantly the thing I had thought was true was important to me because I thought it would be a determining factor in how they raised J, and even without it being totally true (again, it’s true of P, just not of M), they are still raising him in the way I had hoped for. But truthfully I don’t understand how I could have so misunderstood something that was so important to me. I don’t want to think they would have purposefully created a scenario where I believed something untrue so they would be more appealing, maybe I just heard something that wasn’t said.
What all of this does remind me is how incredibly difficult a process of matching is for an expectant Mother and Father. Choosing people to parent your children, especially from a pile of strangers, is crazy difficult. I think even worse is if those people turn out to not be who you thought they were, if they seemed to open to you when you were still in control of the relationship and then shut the door after, or if they turn out to be not the right parents for the child (or worse yet, not the right parents for any child), when those things happen not only do you have to deal with the fall out as a birth mother, but you maybe also feel responsible because you chose these people.
Claudia over at Musings of the Lame wrote a blog post that covered a lot of ground but one of the things it did talk about is how because she is a Mother who “chose” to relinquish her son sometimes she struggles with guilt:
There have been times when I almost wish that I had been forced myself, because the guilt of knowing that I, in part, did do this to myself is awful.
I’ve struggled with my own guilt, guilt about the impact adoption has on my son, on my family, on JD, on myself, it all comes back to my shoulders. The decision is all on me, and whatever weight that comes to bear from that “choice” is also on me. To stand up and say “I’m responsible for this, these decisions were mine, and the repercussions all come back to me” is incredibly hard and a large burden to bear.
But then you add to that the fact I was the one who chose M&P, well if they ended up not being the parents that I wanted for J then that would be my fault as well. That would be a hard reality to live with. If M&P somehow ended up abusing J, or just being parents who didn’t have personalities that meshed well with J so he struggled, living with those realities would be near impossible. If M&P didn’t get along with me, or made significant parenting decisions that I didn’t agree with would also carry with it guilt for my responsibility in that. But as hard as that would be what is the alternative? The truth is so many parenting decisions about J aren’t mine that to take away the decision on who parents J (which was one of the only parenting decisions I got to make) seems cruel. And yet, I had no idea what information would be critical, what was the actual important facts to know, and as this information from the weekend shows, even the things I did think were important weren’t necessarily that important. I got lucky, M&P are really great parents for J, they meet him where he is and he is a pretty amazing little kid under their care. They are also great partners in open adoption for me – they have always given me respect in this relationship and encouraged a relationship between J and myself to grow. But I’m the first to admit I don’t think them being such a good fit for J and for myself has much to do with some skill set I possess to choose parents out of a book. So although I appreciate having a say in who is parenting J, I do struggle with the weight of responsibility that comes with that.