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The Guilt of Responsibility

July 24, 2014

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.



7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2014 4:45 pm

    I relinquished my son 46 years ago and was able to merely make suggestions about the kind of parents I wanted for him: educated professional. Well, he got a surgeon for an afather, so I guess they qualified. But my son did not have a happy childhood, and I have not had an easy time emotionally since losing him. We are happily lreunited now, but nothing will ever make up for what we lost. My wish for you, presumptious as it is, would be that you would warn other young women considering an “adoption plan” that the mother their baby needs is them, not some strange couple, no matter how attractive they may be on paper or over a cup of coffee. Babies need their mommies, and until we get that idea uppermost in our minds, hearts–like yours, like mine–will continue to be broken. And you’re just at the beginning of this journey. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

    • July 24, 2014 6:16 pm

      Speaking for myself, I have never once had luck warning an expectant mom about their adoption plan. No matter how gentle and nice I am, i always get the defensive “well just because you had a bad experience” shtick.

  2. July 24, 2014 6:35 pm

    I agree with the poster above. you really have no idea what you’ve done. Everytime you post about how great and open your adoption is, it makes me so mad. I’m
    an adoptee, and it really sucks. Always has, always will.

    • July 24, 2014 9:30 pm

      I’m an adoptee from open adoption. I agree with iwishiwasadopted. It sucks – always has, always will.

  3. July 26, 2014 3:07 pm

    I really love reading your blog – it is always very thought- and emotion-provoking for me and I appreciate your insight.
    I am an adoptive mom and I feel that there have been times where I may have disappointed our daughter’s birth/first mom because in real life (and over time), the real me isn’t a direct reflection of the paper-version of me. I too feel guilty about this and any role I may have played in Aurora’s decision to place her daughter with our family in the event that more information would have resulted in a different decision for her.
    During the paperwork/homestudy/letter writing process, I never purposely withheld information so that I would appear prettier on paper. I tried to be as transparent as possible, but undoubtedly facts and nuances would have been missed as I don’t think there is any process that can fully capture a person’s complete set of experiences and their nature within a 20 page document. I don’t doubt that there have been times that Aurora has learned something about me, my relationship with my family, etc. and felt that there are different parts to me that weren’t presented on paper. And I really do feel bad about this.
    I saddens me to read some of the comments on your blog that there is no positive that comes out of adoption – currently, my daughter seems very happy and adjusted and is very much loved. I hope that there are happy endings for families like ours for all the players, adopted children, birth families and adoptive families.
    You did the best you could with information you had at a point in time. The weight of responsibility that you feel is a natural part of being a mom – I don’t know any mother who doesn’t feel guilt over the weight of the decisions they make for their children. And just because you feel guilty, this isn’t a direct reflection of having done something wrong.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It means a lot to me!

  4. Just Me permalink
    July 30, 2014 10:40 am

    I appreciate your blog because it is thoughtful and nuanced and non-pushy, which makes it a valuable contribution to the world of adoption blogs.

  5. September 7, 2014 12:54 pm

    As an birth mother, I think no matter how hard we try to find the right parents for our children, we may never be sure we choose correctly. What I do know is that I could not be a parent – I would have destroyed him, and me. I gave him the best chance I could, and found him a father who I respect and admire, even more so now, 24 years later.

    I admire your strength and envy your ongoing relationship with J. I also wish more people took into consideration the responsibility that is involved with raising a child. Thank you for sharing.

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