In many of the little moments and all of the big ones, I think about your first mother. M's last words to me when we met were, “Tell her I made this decision because I love her, and I always will. Tell her I’ll think of her every day. Please make sure she knows I wanted to keep her, but I wanted her to have a better life. I’m not able to be the mother I want her to have. You are.”
At the time, her words sounded right. I thought it was self-evident that she - an unwed 16 year-old high school student overwhelmed by the idea of parenting - couldn't be the mother she wanted for you, and I - a married, college-educated, fully adult woman longing to be a mother - could. I was honored by her trust. I felt we were partners. I vowed to be the mom she couldn't. We were in this thing together, M and I. Go us!
The lens has changed so much since then. Now I can't get past "I'm not able to be the mother I want her to have" without wondering, "Why not? Why can't you be? Are there supports that can be put in place to enable you to raise this child you grew in your body?" Did anyone tell her she had a right to parent the person she created? Did anyone let her know that other teens have done it? Did anyone offer to help her work that out if it was what she wanted?
At the time it didn't even occur to me to wonder about that. Everything was handled by the agency. They were the experts, right? They were the ones who counseled pregnant women and first mothers, not I. Even if I had thought of it, I doubt I would have questioned M. I would have assumed the social workers and her parents had done that. I would have thought it was out of line for me to probe or second guess her decision. I trusted that she and the agency had worked through whatever needed to be worked through. I = new mom; they = experts.
I did ask M if she was sure this was what she wanted, and I believed her when she said, "Absolutely." And maybe it was what she wanted. Maybe she's still happy with her decision. I hope so. Not all first mothers/fathers want to raise their children, and that's for them to decide. But it's impossible to choose an option you don't know exists. I wonder if anyone asked M if she wanted to raise her child; or were the adults so relieved when she suggested adoption that the discussion ended there?
Did anyone sit with her and explore her reasons for wanting to make an adoption plan? Or was it taken on faith that a young teen - not old enough to drive or see an R-rated movie; one who required a parent or guardian's signature to take a class trip out of the county, get her ears pierced, obtain a library card, get a cavity filled, ride a friend's school bus home, opt-out of a state exam, volunteer at the animal shelter, attend overnight camp, or join a softball team - was fully capable of making one of the most monumental decisions of her life?
Believe me, I know I'm late to the dance here. I know I'm not the first or even the thousandth to recognize that there are FAR more resources and FAR more pressure directed toward getting women (young women, especially) to make an adoption plan than to figure out how to raise their child.
But I'm the one who adopted this daughter from this teen; and that daughter is now almost the same age as her first mom was, and I can.not imagine her anticipating or understanding the long-term ramifications of such a decision, especially in the throes of post-partum hormonal hell.
I'm not in the "adoption is evil" camp. It's one of many options, and for many people, it's the right option. I do know that if my daughter or son end up in an unplanned pregnancy, I'll make sure they're given as much information, support, and opportunity as they need to be sure they're making decisions based on what they want, not just on what they need.
Click here to purchase Sally's adoption book, What I Want My Adopted Child to Know: An Adoptive Parent's Perspective.
Sally Bacchetta - Freelance Writer
The Adoptive Parent