Monday, February 11, 2013

Choice and Compassion: Interview Follow-up and Fallout

A fellow writer continues the debate in "Is It a Woman's Right to Surrender Her Child?" on her site, No Apologies for Being Me.

Thing is, I can see all sides. I was unwanted and adopted. But I've also had an unwanted pregnancy. Can't we all have a little compassion for people making hard choices? Are there any "right" choices?

Here is Rachel's Interview of me on the other choice, my choice - abortion.  Commentors on Lost Daughters were judging Rachel for being selfish. I was selfish too. I chose an independent life as a young adult over being a parent.

RACHEL: I've read blogs and comments from adoptees who are anti-adoption, claiming abortion is the "kinder" choice. Although I didn't make that decision for myself, I can relate to women who have, and can see the reasons why someone would make that choice.  It also scares the bejeezus out of me, wondering if Reed will ever have the same opinion- that he may someday think that being aborted would have been kinder of me than to place for adoption.

ME: Let me stop you there - I can't imagine anyone saying that. I don't think abortion is the kinder option. It is just an option. No one can know with absolute certainty what the right decision is, so you just have to go with what your soul tells you...
My answer is contradictory and maybe hipocritical. For me, given the choice of being brought into the world and being given up for adoption, or being not brought into the world, being aborted. I would rather have been brought into the world. And, heck, all drama aside (and I've had some pretty drastic drama in my life), it's been a good life, I've enjoyed it, I wouldn't want to have missed out on it.

I was raised Catholic, and in 9th grade I went to an all girl's Catholic School run by nuns. While in general, I thought the nuns were lovely, they showed us anti-abortion videos, like the Silent Scream, and brought us all on a trip to DC to protest choice. When I was in college, I became pro-choice once I understood that pro-choice wasn't the same thing as pro-abortion. I was pro-choice but anti-abortion. I still thought abortion was killing.

Then, wham, I was pregnant. My boyfriend and I made a series of stupid mistakes - not using birth control first off. Then, I thought he would pull out (he didn't). He thought it didn't make a difference (it did). I thought about the morning-after pill, but thought it was still illegal (it wasn't).

I was 22. I instantly felt the rush of life into me at the instant of conception. I knew I was pregnant.

We really struggled. Both raised Catholic, both not wanting to be parents yet. But we were in love, we thought about getting married down the road. Maybe we should keep the baby, I thought, that would be the right thing to do. I would be done with college before the baby was born, I could live with my parents til I found a job and he could quit school, get a job ... what an awful, dreary life loomed before me. I didn't want that, and didn't want that for the baby either. Although that's what I would have judged upon others as what they should do, it didn't feel right.

Adoption seemed like the obvious choice. After all, twenty-two years earlier, an 18-year old woman had found herself in the same circumstance and did what society says is "the right thing" by putting me up for adoption. I had a good home, she got to move on with her life. Win-win.

But as much as I tried to look at that option, my mind wouldn't go there for a second. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring this baby into the world and not be it's parent. No matter what, this was my child, my child, I could not hand it over to anyone else. Even if I knew they were rich and loving and wonderful and would give the child every opportunity, I couldn't do it. I hadn't heard of open adoption then, but even if that was an option, I wouldn't, couldn't do it. It was my child and if it was going to come into the world, it would be with me.

But, I didn't want to be a parent, not yet.

So, abortion. Ending a life, the silent scream, having the baby cut out of me. I'm using harsh terms because it is harsh. There was nothing pretty about it. I saw the terrible videos that showed what abortion was, I knew what it was. I never believed in that life begins any later than conception. Conception is obviously the moment of life.
But, it is life that can only exist if the mother exists. It cannot live without the mother. Until the end of pregnancy, the baby is completely dependent on the mother's body to survive. It was my choice to allow it to continue to grow and develop and come into the world, or I could choose to end it.

I chose to end it.

I chose to end it even though I felt I shouldn't. It would be wrong, evil, murder. Well, no. No. It didn't feel wrong, it didn't feel evil, it didn't feel like murder. It felt like the right thing to do, for me. In my gut, in my soul, it felt like the right choice.
The doesn't mean I didn't grieve; my boyfriend and I both grieved that we would never know that surely wonderful life that would have been. It doesn't mean I didn't think others wouldn't judge me for it; I would be judged. It didn't mean I didn't wonder if I made the right decision, even though it felt like the right decision, could it still have been wrong?

So, why is it okay for me to say I'm glad I was brought into the world and glad I was put up for adoption, but not the same for the child I was pregnant with.
Mainly, because I'm alive. Once you're alive, and your given the choice of would you rather be dead...well, of course not. We are driven to survive. Would I have really cared if I was aborted? I have to think, no, probably not. I wouldn't have known any different. Before you're alive, are you sad you're not alive? No, you just aren't alive. Once you're alive, you're stuck. Your stuck wanting to survive no matter how awful life gets. And my life was fine.

RACHEL: When you were making your decision, could you relate to that statement at all (about abortion being the kinder option)?

ME: Heck no, not at all. There are only tough choices and complicated decisions. I don't think either is necessarily kinder. Well, maybe adoption is kinder, but a whole lot messier during the lifetime. Not bad, just messy.

RACHEL: Were there things in your own adoption experience that you wouldn't want another life to go through that influenced your decision?

ME: No. I had a good family, parents that loved me - overall a fine adoption experience. Did I not want that for my child? That was irrelevant. I just couldn't bring a baby into the world and not be its parent.

RACHEL: One of the questions I most often receive is about what will I tell Reed when he's older, how will I explain my decision to him. Not to impose or assume any views of the afterlife or souls (this is not supposed to be a religious question!), but how would you explain your decision to your unborn child? (Again, this is purely for the purpose of contrast.)

ME: I was 22 when I became pregnant and was near the end of my bachelor's degree. I minored in philosophy, studied "death and dying," worked in Hospice and discovered both Buddhism and Existentialism. So, by the time I was 22 I had shed Catholicism and embraced Buddhist philosophy. Since that time, I've refined it by taking what spoke true to me about Buddhism and what spoke true to me about existentialism and mixed them into a place where I believe a soul chooses its life. It's really great that soul chose me, and I'm sorry I kicked it out, but I didn't take it's soul, the soul still survives, and probably found another belly to pop into.

This becomes even more strongly apparent to me as I face my dad existing on life support. It's just that his body is worn out. It's done. The soul continues, but the body ends. It ends for all of us. It's not our god-given right to have a body, it'snot a guarantee - it's a gift that we get to enjoy for a little while, and then it's gone.

What would I say to that soul if I get to meet it at my death?

"Hi! How are you? I love you, I wish I could have gotten to know you - you should have shown up later. How are things?"

I'm not being crass, it's just that talking to a soul without a body is different from talking to someone with a body. If I was explaining to the 11 week old fetus, and I did, I would hug it, if I could, and cry and mourn... "I'm really sorry. I hope it wasn't too difficult. I just wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to host another being in my body so I chose to have you taken out. I hope you find a good life. I'm sorry."

QUESTION: I strongly believe in individuality, and I think different people will handle similar circumstances very differently.  One of the questions I have about my relationship with Reed is if he will blame me as he understands more about my decision and how it has affected both of our lives.  Have you ever felt like a victim because you were adopted?  Have you ever felt helpless about your situation, that other people chose the outcome of your life and you had little control over it?  Did you blame your birth mother, Kate, for making such an important decision for your life?

ME: I know there are a lot of anti-adoption birthmoms and adoptees out there. I'm not one of them. Adoption just is. It's not perfect, but it exists as one solution. It's not the solution for everyone, and it's not perfect, but nothing is.

Something I learned from a presenter at an American Adoption Congress Conference - "no one has a problem with being adopted, they have a problem with having been relinquished." I had to deal with having been given up by my birthmom (who I now love and know and have a great relationship with). But, hey, being a newborn baby and not being wanted by your mom, being given away - it sucks. It's hard. I can't imagine that that part is easy for anyone - even in open adoption.

But, you know what? Life's hard. Things happen. It would have sucked if I was born without a leg, but people deal with it. You could be a child of rape (how bad would that suck) or have your mom hate you or have your mom die at your birth. Horrible things happen. And being pregnant and not wanting to be a parent is hard. There's no good choice. Sure, they might have hurt feelings that you didn't keep them, but, buck up, they got life, and that's pretty cool. Count your blessings. But, that's just the way I am.

So, do I feel like a victim, no. Was I helpless about my situation - sure, all babies are. Do I blame my birthmother for giving me up? You betcha. I'm pissed off that she gave me away. She should have wanted to keep me. She didn't. So, I have to deal with commitment issues and abandonment issues and insecurity as all adoptees do. Am I sorry she gave me away? No. Would my life have been better with her? Who knows? Probably just different - different pros, different cons.

So will your Reed have relinquishment issues? I don't know any adoptee who doesn't. I don't know anyone who is happy that their mother didn't want to keep them. Rejection hurts. But, that doesn't mean it was a bad choice. It's just something you'll have to deal with. And, because you chose that, you get to have this beautiful amazing boy in your life. He might have issues from it (don't we all get issues from our parents?), he might get angry sometimes (god knows, I had anger with Kate), but you work through it.


  1. I am grieved. I am one who believes there are "right choices". And yes, I know it's sometimes really hard to make them. I do have compassion for people who are in tough situations and have been there many times myself.

    Having compassion and supporting someone in a tough situation doesn't mean we have to agree with the choice. Nor does it mean one is judgmental to not agree.

    To say that any choice one would make is okay simply because one is in a tough situation is to basically throw our hands up and say that
    people get a free pass to do whatever they want just because they're going through a hard time. Guess what? Everybody goes through hard times. None of us are exempt from that.

    Let's say you needed money and were in a very desperate spot. I care about and love you, but am never going to agree with you going out and robbing a bank no matter how much you justify the need to do it. But I will still love you. I will support you as you go through whatever you have to go through in the ramifications of that situation. But I will never agree that it was okay to rob even if you didn't know how you were going to pay the bills.

    I believe in these related posts, there's an underlying current of, "we have to support women no matter what they decide to do because they're in a tough spot. So let's be understanding no matter what they decide" Really? So how far are we going to take that?

    How about owning up to our actions and reactions without justification?

    How about acknowledging the pain we have caused others?

    How about taking full responsibility instead of offering up all the reasons why causing harm was okay?

    Where does taking responsibility for our own actions come into play?

    Women can explain the rationale for our choices all the day long but it's never going to make anyone else feel any better if we caused harm.

    As for some choices being legal, all I have to say to that is, a lot of unjust things are legal. Things like keeping adoptees OBC's from them. Currently legal in most states. Yet it's harming many and is inexcusable.

    No progress is made by affirming harmful decisions.

    You say it boils down to choice, I say it boils down to selfishness.

    Social ills that harm children in any way have this common root. Take any problems that concern a child's best interest...when that is not accomplished, somebody in the equation cared more about themselves than a child and saw to it that their desire was carried out at all costs. Whether it meant killing them, or giving them away, it boiled down to...somebody wanted their own way.

    You and Lynn spoke of compassion for women and their choices. What about the compassion for those who are harmed by the choice?

    The summary of this post was that, when we make choices that cause pain in others' lives, people will just have to find a way to cope with our choice. They might get angry but they'll work through it. Just like we do, just like everyone does.

    Wow. I hardly know what to say to that, and I am rarely at a loss for words.

    1. Deanna,

      I really appreciate your comments and totally understand where you're coming from. Your comparison to a bank robbery is spot on - just because it's someone's choice doesn't make it right, my reasoning was faulty there. And you're also right, you can be compassionate and supportive of someone without judging them, even if you don't agree with their choice.

      Choosing not to bring a child into the world or choosing not to raise them is a selfish choice. I'm just not convinced that makes it wrong. Is it better to bring a child into the world when you're too young / not ready? Maybe. I can't honestly say I know.

      You're coming from a place where you feel there is a right answer, and I respect that. I just don't feel that there is a right answer, just different answers to each situation.

      Hope we can agree to disagree. I get so much out of reading your point of view and truly enjoy it. We might not see eye to eye on all things, but, again, I think that's what makes our group thought-provoking.


    2. We absolutely can agree to disagree. Because we disagree doesn't mean I don't value you, have compassion for you, and love you. I do! And always will.


    3. p.s. I just have to say this. Sometimes we talk about "hypothetical" situations...this illustration about the bank came to mind immediately because I'm living it.

      For the sake of my friend I will not share identifying details but ironically, a very close friend of mine has just gotten into some very serious trouble for stealing. They are a middle class citizen however they fell on some really hard times and thought they were going to lose everything. So in desperation, they embezzled. They were caught and are now facing worse consequences than it would have been to lose the house, etc.. As they have committed a felony, unless God does a miracle they will have this on their record for a long time, maybe until heaven. I hate that for them. Hate it!!!

      My heart is broken for them. I can't even describe how broken. I wish to God they would have come and talked to me or to someone before they did it. They thought they had no way out and that to talk to someone else was futile. I get that. At the same time, I don't agree. They have explained over and over again what led them to the choice, yet no matter how much I still can't agree with them for stealing. I haven't come out and said that I don't agree with their initial choice...they just know I don't. All there is for me to do now that what's done is done is to see what can be done from here. I've been talking to them about how we can pick up the pieces going forward. I have been trying to help them with practical matters like how to come up with the restitution money, attorney's fees, making amends where they need to be made as much as possible, and just being a friend. I say how "WE" can pick up the pieces and move forward because I have not abandoned my friend because they made a mistake, nor will I!! Friends do "support" friends through choices, but not necessarily agree WITH choices. I have held their hand with compassion through this, but it doesn't mean that I believe they made the right choice. All that to say, we can love people without agreeing.


    4. Exactly. I have had similar situations with friends - they might have done something I disagreed with and didn't think was right, but supported them anyway. You're a loving friend.

  2. So many things wrong with this situation.
    You are a child abuser. The definition of child abuse is an adult using a child for their needs.
    You are using Rachel's son, who has not consented for you to talk about his situation as a way to understand your own life. You are using him as a way to meet your own emotional needs. You are empathising with someone who has abandoned a child. Through choice. Rachel is a shameless child abuser. And you are enabling her.

    How you feel about your own biological mother is up to you, you have no right to intrude on what happened to another adoptee. Particulatly one who is too young to voice his feelings and cannot consent.
    If her son goes looking for support when he's older I pray he doesn't find this. What do you think it's going to do to him? How would you like a detailed interview with your birth mother online, that others saw your story way before you did and were discussing what happened to you?

    It's not your place to try and make her feel better about her choice. That's her son's place. And I hope he isn't influenced by people like you.
    You should be enough to be able to understand that not all bmothers are victims.

    Some bmothers are abusers. They give their babies away because they don't care. Mothers abuse their kids, do terrible things to them, so why give bmothers like Rachel a free pass just because she chose adoption. Do we give abusive mothers a free pass and try and understand them? She just didn't want to parent. Adoption is not contraception!

    Remember, there are plenty of abused kids who grow up to abuse their own children or abuse other children. You are the adoptee equivalent of this. There are plenty of adults who haven't come to terms with their abuse issues (I do count adoption as child abuse also) who try to normalise what happened to them by understanding and defending perpetrators. We don't think this makes abuse OK, do we? This is how I view you.