Fifty years ago, the word ‘adoption’ was whispered behind the closed doors of a hospital room as a woman delivered her baby. She wept as her child was whisked away, knowing she would likely never see that child again. She recovered alone and slipped out the hospital doors with a broken heart that few people would ever hear about. Being a birth mother was a secret, full of adoption shame.
Since then, adoption has come a long way. It’s not a dirty word anymore. Open adoption is now the norm. I can shout from the rooftops that I am a birth mother with no shame… mostly. The majority of the time, when I tell people I am a birth mother I am met with curiosity, followed by exclamations like, “Wow, that’s so cool!” and “You must be so strong.” But sometimes I get a very different response. Here are some shaming things people say about birth moms, and how I would respond if I could really be honest.
1. I just don’t get how anyone could just give away their baby like that.
Really? Well I don’t understand how you could be so incredibly insensitive. Every time someone says this I want to cry. I don’t know how I did it either, but I placed my baby for adoption because I wanted the best for her. I love my birth daughter with every fiber of my being, and for you to imply that I just thoughtlessly threw away my child is so unfair.
2. Well it’s probably good that you did that, she’s a lot better off now.
Thanks so much for that. I know you mean well, but you’re implying that I would have been a bad mom–that I am somehow not enough. This makes me feel ashamed of myself as a woman, and afraid that I will never be capable of parenting a child. I hope you understand that it was the timing and the circumstances, not who I am, that made placing my baby the best option.
3. I could never do that, as soon as I held that baby I would be too in love to let anyone take her.
If people could stop implying that I placed my baby because of a lack of love, that’d be great. No one ‘took her.’ I hand picked the perfect family for my birth daughter because I am so in love with her.
4. I can’t believe that girl got herself pregnant and then just put the baby up for adoption like she can get away with it without any consequences.
Someone said this about my friend once and it was all I could do not to punch them. For one, we don’t “get ourselves pregnant.” Conceiving a child takes two people. Much of the time, an absent birth father is a contributing factor to adoption being best for the child. Why is it culturally acceptable to shame a woman for being single and pregnant? Just because men aren’t visibly pregnant doesn’t mean they are any less an expectant parent.
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Secondly, placing a child for adoption comes with consequences. These include, but are not limited to, a lifetime of grief, the excruciating pain of labor and delivery, never being called “mommy” by the child you bore, the permanent toll pregnancy takes on the body, cruel comments like this one, etc. etc. etc. Once you are faced with an unplanned pregnancy, there is no such thing as an easy way out.
5. But you seem so responsible, couldn’t you have kept her?
Thanks! I’m responsible now, and I was responsible then. Placing your child for adoption is a parenting decision, and for me it was the best parenting decision I could make at the time. It was my job as a mother to ensure that my child had the very best shot at life. At that time, it wasn’t me. But that does not make me irresponsible, and to say that placing a child because of a lack of responsibility is shaming and just plain wrong.
I’m a birth mom, loud and proud. Adoption isn’t something that needs to be covered up. I did something brave out of love for a child. There is nothing shameful in facing reality and understanding that adoption is the right thing. Society still has a long way to go in understanding and accepting adoption, but that’s okay. Those of us involved in the adoption community can help make progress every day by standing up and not allowing shame to bring us down.