No Win Situation

An unwed mother is pregnant with her 2nd child, due in early February, and the dad has no plans to be involved. She has a 5-year-old that she had the same heartfelt struggle with making this decision. She has spent almost every day of his life, wondering if he would’ve been better off if she’d just put him up for adoption. That is what she wanted to before his dad stepped in and said he wanted to keep him. She has limited to no support from her family and friends.

Where she is now . . . “The only consensus I managed to come to is that I’d be traumatizing my baby if I put it for adoption, but if I don’t have support, I’m going to ruin the baby anyway. So many of those adoptees have such a jaded, negative view of their birth families for putting them up for adoption, but they also resent their adoptive families for ‘stealing’ them, so I’m right back to square one of no matter what I choose, I’m evil and ruining my baby’s life.”

From an adoptee – I’m an adoptee of a closed adoption. A DNA test for Ancestry revealed my birth parents. If I were you, I wouldn’t adopt and as an adoptee, I regret being adopted. I don’t necessarily think my birth parents ruined my life by not keeping me because I don’t know what my life would have been with them. Having another baby won’t ruin your life. It won’t ruin your son’s. You can get your mental health back either way, because either way it’s going to take work and probably therapy. I just wouldn’t make the decision out of fear that you’re not capable because I think that’s when we get into decisions we regret.

So often, when unwed expectant mothers come into my all things adoption group seeking insight, it is almost universal that they don’t feel capable of parenting. It is most likely true in all of these cases that those who do decide to parent still have a difficult and challenging situation to navigate. With some mothers, the group goes the extra mile to supply things the mother will need once she has her baby, if she decides to parent. These women often come back when the baby is older saying how grateful they are to have been encouraged to keep their babies.

This group also sometimes helps a parent who has become embroiled in a custody situation where adoptive or foster parents want to keep the baby they managed to get. The legal process is daunting, fraught with challenges and no certainty of being won. Better to at least give parenting a try. Worst case, there is always the option to surrender to adoption . . .

My favorite saying in life is from the Lemony Snicket movie – A Series of Unfortunate Events. I can’t find what I remember anywhere but it comes down to no matter how dark or bad things look, there is always a way out of that situation. It has often inspired me to hold the line until I see the way has proven to be so . . .

Baudelaire Kids from Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events

Limited Perspectives

I was thinking yesterday evening that the same mindset causes both adoptions and abortions. It is the limited perspective of the pregnant woman about what she believes she is capable of. In my adoption group there comes occasionally a pregnant woman who is trying to decide whether or not to surrender her baby to adoption. Not all adoptees say they are happy their mother didn’t abort them. It is a sad commentary on the experience of some adoptees and others feel they had a good enough life and accept that their mothers did the best they could in that moment for the higher good of all concerned.

So in the adoption group, when a pregnant mother shows up and hasn’t made a decision, the group always recommends several courses of action to her. The main one is – don’t decide right away. Don’t allow prospective adoptive parents to be at the hospital with you. Don’t sign the papers in advance. Spend some time with your infant. You can always make that choice – weeks, months later. Hopefully not years later when it may be even more traumatic. Give your infant some time with you. In these modern times, there are groups who will try to help you with the necessaries, at least in the short term.

I was reflecting recently on the fact that each of my parents were with their original mothers for about 6 to 8 months as infants. I take some comfort in knowing they had that forward development time not separated from the woman who gave birth to them. All a baby knows at birth is that mother who birthed them. I do know my dad’s mom breastfed him. I don’t know about my mom’s mom. Certainly once she was taken to Porter-Leath orphanage in Memphis, she would have been fed a bottle of formula (what was considered a formula at the time).

Most of the women who chose adoption or abortion do not believe they are capable of raising a child. Society’s willingness to financially help such women does not have a good track record. When I ran out of birth control while driving an 18-wheel truck cross county and quickly became pregnant, I knew that if I went through with that pregnancy, my partner was not going to be there for me. He said as much but he left my decisions up to me, if it can be called solely my decision under the circumstances. I already had struggled to raise my daughter following a divorce when I received no child support. Her father and a step-mother were raising her by this point. I chose an abortion. It was early in the pregnancy, the procedure was safe and legal and I’ve not regretted not being tied to that family by a child. I have struggled with the morality of it thanks to the vocal efforts of the Pro-Life contingent but it is a done deal.

As I have learned more about the subconscious trauma of babies being separated from their mothers for adoption, I am also glad I didn’t inflict that on my unrealized baby. I already had done enough damage to my daughter, though at the time I thought her circumstances were better than they were. Both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption. One always knew she was going to do that and went about it rather methodically. The other explored abortion but was too far along. She tried to get government assistance but was rejected because she was living with our parents and their financial resources were the grounds upon which she was denied (which I will always judge as very wrong of the system). Our mother, an adoptee herself, coerced my sister into choosing adoption. My parents were unwilling to take on the financial responsibility that potentially would have fallen upon them. We’ll never know what the alternatives would have yielded.

The point is that in my adoption group, time and again, I’ve seen a variety of outcomes. In some the young mother does wait and finds resources and decides without regret and great joy to try and parent her baby. Some make some other arrangements, either for temporary help or for an open adoption, that fail in some manner and it becomes a legal battle to get their child back or to know how the child is developing when as often happens, the adoptive parents renege on the open part.

It is said in a song – you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need. And I think generally speaking whatever we get, actually is what we needed, because the reality is, that is what we got. Hasty decisions can lead to a lifetime of regrets. I’ve seen that too in women who relinquished their child. I’ve been told that was the case for both of my own original grandmothers. Both remarried. One went on to have other children.