What Do You Mean, “YOUR Son”?!
Spence-Chapin, the adoption agency I used, was an old, established institution. As adoptions go, they do a pretty good job of fostering communication between the birth and prospective adoptive families. Just to be clear – a birthmother, a woman who relinquishes a baby for adoption, does not become a birthmother until she’s signed the paperwork and the adoption is finalized. Until that time, she is a prospective birthmother.
Not long after my son was born, Spence-Chapin did two positive things for birthmothers. They started a birthmom support group, which I attended regularly until I moved away from the area. And they also created a birthmother advisory board, made up of a group of birthmothers who offered input on how the birthparent department handled their side of the adoption process. I’ll write more about both of those in the future.
Perhaps as an extension of these efforts – and because I’ve always been a pretty good public speaker – I was invited to participate in a number of panel discussions and presentations to people involved in adoptions. Some of those were seminars for hospital staffs and social workers. One was a huge audience at the annual adoption congress. But on a couple of occasions, I spoke to small groups of prospective adoptive parents. The goal was to give couples considering adoption a glimpse into the birthmother’s point of view. I always cautioned them that my story was uniquely mine – they should not expect the same perspective from their birthmother.
During one particular presentation, I made specific mention of “my son,” and a woman stood up and challenged me, “What do you mean your son?”
I was flabbergasted. What did she mean “What did I mean my son?”?
I looked her in the eye and said to her, “He’s my firstborn male child. What else would you have me call him?”
She sat down, flummoxed and irate. It had just never occurred to her that another woman out there somewhere might also be referring to her child as their child, too. But that’s what adoption is. Two – maybe three – families involved in the creation and raising of this little person. One’s not better than the other. None has more claim than the other. They just have different roles. But if it was that difficult for this mom to wrap her head around, no wonder adopted kids can be confused.
I worked hard to stay in touch with my son and his family without ever pushing beyond what felt comfortable to them. And even so, he struggled with the emotions that must inevitably arise when you wonder why they didn’t keep you.
My son’s father wasn’t ready to get married. I’d seen the effects of single motherhood on my own mother and my sister, and I wasn’t willing to do it on my own. For many reasons, abortion wasn’t an option for me. So from the beginning, I knew adoption would be my choice. And from the beginning, Eric has always been my son.