I heard a quote this week that really struck a chord with me:
“We are all just one circumstance away from really bad situations.”
It made me think, on many levels. It’s true for me. And probably true for you. And definitely true for the birthmothers we work with.
Adoption brings a child born to other parents into a new family. Birth parents have a number of reasons for placing children for adoption. In the end, it’s usually because they want better lives for their children than they feel they can provide.
Children who are placed for adoption come from many different circumstances. Still, we encounter people who think it is okay to say whatever they want about a child’s birth parents; the very people that gave your child life – and gave you the opportunity to be a parent. So, why do people think it is okay to speculate about the choices of birth parents? There are those who seem to believe that the only women who would place a baby for adoption are young, single, and poor. While that profile might fit some birth mothers, it certainly does not fit all.
There are others who assume that the baby was “conceived in sin” because he was born to an unwed mother. Perhaps his birth mother was involved with an abusive man and placed her baby for adoption to protect him from abuse. Perhaps the birth mother already had more children than she could care for on a limited income and wanted to provide a better life for the baby. Perhaps the birth mother had a surprise pregnancy late in life and was not physically/emotionally/financially healthy enough to raise another child. There are those who have cognitive delays or mental/emotional illness. Many come from a family steeped in generations of bad choices and/or addiction, and part of a cycle that’s difficult to break. It isn’t a pretty picture. Placing their child for adoption is the first step for most in breaking a tough cycle.
There is a certain segment of our society that says, “If you want to be successful then all you have to do is work hard and make the right choices”. That sounds nice, but if your reality is dysfunctional family and lack of support, poor education, low socioeconomic factors and lack of opportunity, it is difficult make seemingly right choices. They aren’t available to you. There are some who do it, but those very few usually have someone in their life helping them make the right choice and offering the opportunity. This isn’t an excuse for their behavior, but a look into why things happen this way.
Working in adoption, we have access to more than average amount of information on birth parents, and it’s often quite clear how a birth mother’s choices led her to where she is. And to be honest, I feel for them – I really do. Because most of them are really good, caring women who love their children. But usually they have no family support. They rarely have examples of functional parenting/family life, and most are doing the very best they can with what they know.
If one circumstance had been different, they’d probably be in very different situation.
The people who inhabit that universe do not have the same world view as us. The rules that provided us with education, jobs, homes, stability, etc., don’t exist in their world. They spend every day just surviving. They don’t live – they survive. This may seem to be oversimplifying things, because there are many factors that go into making people the way they are, but it helps our ability to understand things a little more clearly. They simply live in a different lifestyle than most of us do.
It all comes down to this: I know I can’t get through the day without support from family and friends. And when I have a crisis – big or small – I am surrounded by people who are ready and willing to help. When I have a question about my kids, there are people I can call on for help/advice. I can only imagine how hard it is for parents with little support and multiple challenges.
As one of my daughter’s birthmother told me, “I’ve made a lot of bad choices in my life, but placing this baby is the best one I’ve ever made. And one I will always be proud of.”
Consider that next time there is frustration about a birthparent and their seemingly long trail of poor choices. If you are lucky enough to be the parent of an adopted child, you know that the birthparent has made one incredible, amazing, selfless choice – placing that baby in your family and giving you the greatest gift ever — the privilege of being “mom” or “dad’.
So maybe next time there are judgments being made about a birthparent, exercise a little tolerance. Appreciation, and maybe even just . . . love.