A Tribute to Birthmothers

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It is not uncommon for anyone who has been touched by adoption to refer to “the courage of birthmothers”. But what does this really mean ? As a 53-year old man, it’s somewhat difficult to identify with a young woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, but I’ll give it a try.

After she gets over the initial shock of discovering she’s pregnant, she is faced with a very difficult choice. Society (and maybe friends and family) tell her to take the easy way out – abort and move on with your life. Her own heart may tell her initially that she can parent; that she can somehow make it work. But ultimately she decides to make the most selfless decision imaginable – putting the interests of her baby ahead of her own. She takes the high road – and this is courage.

She goes through the pregnancy – putting her life on hold for 9 months; getting sick; enduring stares; perhaps creating distance with friends – and for what ? So she can eventually place her baby in the arms of a couple who is not able to conceive, but is ready and able to parent. To persevere through pregnancy and delivery must take great courage. (Courage isn’t lack of fear. Courage is facing the fear of the unknown and moving forward anyway. I imagine any woman about to deliver her first baby qualifies as facing the fear of the unknown.)

And then she comes to the most painful moment – relinquishment. What must that be like ? She’s carried this baby for 9 months. She’s felt it kick. She’s completely re-oriented her life around her baby only to get to the point where she relinquishes. She leaves the hospital empty-handed. Here, I can identify a bit. As Rebecca and I struggled years ago to have a family, our biggest setback was the delivery of a still-born girl we named Jessie. The pain was enormous and the most difficult moment of all was wheeling Rebecca out of the hospital carrying flowers in her arms rather than our baby. We didn’t choose this, but birthmothers do. Birthmothers probably understand sacrifice better than any of us. (And courage is built upon sacrifice.)

And then the final stage – the months after delivery. Again, through our experience with Jessie, we can identify somewhat. People all around you offer well-meaning, but often misguided, words of advice. Usually along the lines of: “you’ll be fine; now it’s time to move on”. Well, it’s not time to move on. It’s time to grieve. And facing your grief takes courage.

I want to encourage everyone, especially us adoptive parents, to make sure that when we applaud the courage of our birthmothers that we don’t do it lightly, that we really think through everything that their courage entails – from their initial choice to the ultimate letting go associated with the grieving process.

Rebecca and I are forever grateful for the courage of Phillip’s and Hayden’s birthmothers. Our experience is multiplied thousands of times over each year. So, we celebrate the 2 birthmothers who changed our lives and the countless others who through their acts of selfless courage have given to so many the gifts of families.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Well, said! Thank you from me and all my past, present and future Birthmoms.