It’s been six weeks since giving birth. It seems like longer in some ways and in other ways it seems like it just happened. Time has flown by in the way that it seems like the scent of Max’s hair, the feeling of his perfect baby skin, or the way his eyes had yet to settle in color are engrained in my memory. Since my time in the hospital after giving birth was all the time I had to spend with him, I don’t have much to cling to mentally. It’s a matter of debate to say whether or not clinging to memories is a good or bad thing, but in the instance of motherhood keeping memories in tact is the world–to a birth mother it’s truly everything.
I’m hitting phases of emotions that I sometimes feel capable of handling and other times I feel too angry to even sleep a full night from thinking so much. I now have the time to think through the small incidental actions (of the adoptive parents, Max’s father, the agency, my family, peers, etc.) and things I noticed and really sort through them. Along with the hundreds of little “clues” I feel like I should have picked up on and questioned I must deal with peers. People obviously knew I was pregnant on sight in my last trimester, but they didn’t know I was seeking adoption. I wish I’d have just openly mentioned the decision then instead of keeping it to myself, because now I have to explain why I had no baby with me.
“Yes, I had the baby…I had a little boy…Well, he lives in south Texas now. I put him up for adoption….”
The conversation often pauses there long enough for the look of shock and/or pity to cross their faces; that’s about when the tears start stinging my eyes and my throat wants to close up. First of all, people are not acclimated to seeing me get emotional. At all. So this starts a process of slight freaking out on their part and a fight to get my face back under control of my brain and not my heart.
“It’s OK! I’m all right….He has a great new family that I like a lot.”
At this point, I’ve reeled in the watering eyes and have managed not to get mascara and eyeliner running down my face and people are either anxious to remove themselves from the uncomfortable situation OR worse….the pep rally starts.
I cannot begin to describe the anguish it creates in my chest for people to tell me what a good thing I’d done in choosing to place my son for adoption. A lot of words of approval get tossed into the atmosphere around my head and I’m left fighting the urge to roll my eyes or get irritated by the processions of “brave” and “wonderful” and “selfless”. It may be different for other birth moms, but these little approval cheers tend to grate my nerves because I feel guilty for having been in the situation at all. As people tell you their opinions of your choice they’re not able to factor in the less than favorable circumstances surrounding the decision. I’m far more surprised that I can get through the praise than I can the explanations of these highly undesirable conversations. I’ve wondered a million times whether I’d be happier if someone berated me for my decision. It’s almost as if I want to have to defend my choice out loud so that I don’t keep cycling through these god-awful feelings of regret.
And those feelings are mostly what have been eating me. I know Max is loved. I know that he is safe. I know that he will never be without material needs. I know that he feels all the love he’s given because I’ve quite honestly never seen a newborn smile in so many photos! All that and yet I feel the motherly pang of regret. I’d fought to better my situation so that I could raise my first two children, why did it seem that I was giving up on this one? Feeling that way immediately triggers a sense of selfishness. Then I go through the entire cycle of feeling as if I shouldn’t feel selfish for feeling something so natural. However, I get gut-check moments from others sometimes. I was speaking with my social worker from the agency and as I mentioned getting photos from the adoptive parents she said, “So how are your kids?”
Your? The world should have stopped turning in that moment. It may have been harmless, but the way it slapped me in the face I couldn’t process it that way for the life of me. But I answered her the way she wanted and pretended like I didn’t want to yell. Amazing how “your” and mere suggestion of separation of how I classify Max from my two children at home angered me. I consider them siblings. They consider Max their little brother. Is that wrong? Because that “your” and the other ways she (either on her own or by procedure) found little ways of telling me that Max was not mine really got to me. I wanted to remind her that she was there as I signed my relinquishment…she saw my tears and heard my sobs as I read the document–I obviously comprehended the gravity of it all. I knew that Max was legally no longer my child and that I had no further claim on him.
Tell that to my body, though. Mother nature herself had been quick to remind me that I am the mother of a newborn child. Lactating (still!), contracting, hormonal swings, and PAIN all rolled through me full tilt. It took this situation to make me realize that taking care of a newborn during this period is what helps it go by much faster. Instead I felt every pop of my hips and pelvis, every crick in my back, and every gory sensation that is expected after giving birth…but it seemed specifically extended and poignant in Max’s absence. Nine months of pregnancy and I’m supposed to snap to because ink dried? …cute, lady!
I will never, ever be so nearsighted as to tell a birth mother that the child she bore is not hers. Even if she is the type of birth mother to have happily washed her hands of the entire situation. Don’t they teach diplomatic response to these people who work with women in these situations? Although I’d always acknowledged Max’s adoptive parents as his parents and had no problem accepting them as mommy and daddy to him, I still had the natural connection to him as my biological son. I care about him, I love him, and I want the best for him. There’s no amount of corporate or social training in the world to make a mother less cognizant of the fact that her child is a direct part of her….so why not just avoid causing that type of pain? Especially in a person who has made every attempt to show support to the child and the new parents! Especially if post-partum counseling has been forgone or forgotten by the agency. I can tell any agency worker or adoptive parent (from all those little incidents I previously mentioned) that you should do more to not act like the baby is your investment that you are staking claim in or that the birth mother should be leashed. No bueno.
I have NEVER used terms of possession in regard to Max when communicating with his mom. I know how insulting and/or threatening that could be. I know to be courteous of her love for him. Why would a professional not know to show the same courtesy to the woman who gave birth to the child?
As I continue to churn through the expected roller coaster that comes for birth moms after the baby has gone home with its family, I am also churning through normal single parent frustrations. School uniforms, supplies, lunch items, snacks, homework, bedtime, and my own school admission process has been a welcome distraction from all the the things my body, my peers, and my social worker hint at, scream, or say. Funny how you get “friendly” little reminders of your situation even if you’re the first to acknowledge it. C’est la vie.
For other birth mothers out there, I’m including a poll asking about your experiences with your agency, worker, and the adoptive family. I’d love to get feedback (and comments) on what others are dealing with or simply feedback from someone who found themselves here in passing 🙂