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Relinquishing (p.s. Grab Some Tissue)

I decided a long time ago that if I got pregnant before being ready to have a child, I'd have an abortion. Yes, I'm on birth control. Yes, I'm not currently in a sexual relationship. Yes, I've never been raped and my chances of that are (relatively) low. However, any number of circumstances can be in place and I could still end up with a child, and if I really couldn't have a child then, I'd have an abortion.

I also decided that if an abortion was impossible, for whatever reason, I would never give up my child. I've always had this fear of this new human growing up in me, and then giving birth to it and knowing what it looks like -- and then having it taken away from me and I wouldn't know what happens to it after that.

Which is why whenever pro-lifers talk about adoption as the best option for expectant mothers who cannot keep their child, I get a bit antsy deep inside. I couldn't express why. Only that I knew that I could never give up an unwanted child for adoption. Which is why I'm such a strong proponent for abortion - I don't get to resent a child I never wanted, the child never gets to resent me; I don't ever get to wonder what happens to the child I never wanted but still care about anyway because well, fuckdammit, I carried the critter for NINE MONTHS and anybody who thinks that's a piece of cake can shove said cake up their arse; the child never has to wonder about their own origins and about me.

At Shakesville, there is a post which everyone should read. It is an anonymous post by a birth mother who gave up her child several years ago.

And has never gotten over it.

The birth mother is a very rarely considered viewpoint in the adoption angle of many prolifers - often it's just about handing off the baby to a family that wants the child, just so the woman wouldn't get an abortion. Very rarely do they care about what happens to the child and the woman after the adoption process is done. It's generally a viewpoint that adoption agencies tend to hide from prospective adoptive parents, because it raises many ethical issues about adoption.

In abortion, the possible suffering burdens only one person: the woman getting the abortion.

In adoption, the possible suffering burdens several: the birth mother, forced to relinquish her child and in many cases never knowing what happens after that and spends YEARS wondering; the child who may or may not have issues with their adoptive status; the family who has adopted the child, who has to live with the knowledge that their joy in life has come at the expense of another person's suffering.

It also doesn't help that for many birth mothers, the ONLY counselling they'll possibly get runs along the lines of: "You did the right thing" "your child is in good hands" "you'll get over it" "you can have another one".

I've been considering the idea of children as commodities in our societies today, and I can't help but feel that this angle is terribly important to the overall idea - that to many who have never given up, never been in that position, it is so easy just to give up a child for adoption, as if it were a kitten or a simple possession. We forget that that child is going to grow up a human being, with agency, sensitivities and all other issues involved in being human. Sooner or later the child will question their origins.

We don't own our children, our children own us. People say this about cats, but look, a fucking cat can't really compare to a child that will, under our guidance, grow up to become a part of our society - the onus is on us to deliver to society a well-adjusted adult who is capable of empathy, community and contribution. A child is of us, yet not ours.

Because I can't keep talking about this since I need to go to bed, I'm going to copy-paste some excerpts. Hopefully you'll be tempted to go read the whole thing yourself.

Post-adoption counseling turned out to be focused on getting yourself together enough to make yourself a new Christian baby so you could be a good Christian wife and mother. I kept getting the same thing. What if you don't want to have a New Baby (tm), or can't? Or you're not religious? And why the fuck are actual babies so disposable that you're expected to get over it after a suitable period of mourning (i.e., till you get a good Christian husband) in the case of adoption? It's odd how this does not apply in the case of aborting a blastocyst, when you're expected to wall yourself into a tomb away from decent society and gnaw on the bitter bones of your own despicable evil. Bad woman. BAD.


I'd also like to point out that every time I mention the adoption in public (including the Net), one of these things invariably happens:

1: metaphorical pat on the head: "you did the right thing", which helped at first, but rapidly came to sound amazingly condescending. Nobody asked me if I was doing okay or anything like that, ever, even though I quite spectacularly wasn't.

2: "what kind of a woman gives up her BABIES?!" - this is always said by exactly the kind of people I don't want to be having a conversation with in the first place.

3: "don't worry, you can have another one" - would people say this to a parent whose child had just died? That's what giving one up feels like.

4: a lecture on the evils of abortion, which seems grotesquely out of place in this context, and inevitably makes me turn extremely vicious in real life. I can pretty much guarantee that talking about the downside of being a birth mother on the Net will bring out at least one, regardless of where on the Net it's posted.


Adoption fucked up my head far worse than abortion. I've googled over the years about the psychological aftereffects of giving up a baby, and what little I found is astonishing. Depression and suicide rates ridiculously high, comparable to PTSD - and beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is no way you can cook any post-abortion trauma study to come anywhere near post-adoption trauma levels. Strange how peer-reviewed studies on this are damn near non-existent; strange how nobody mentions any of this when it's not just your mind on the line, but also that of your kid or kids (more on that later).

Also, read the comment thread, because there are some heart-wrenching stories. In particular this one made me break into tears:

"When I met him, I told him that it was like standing on a railway bridge, late at night, halfway across the span, when you realize there's a train coming, and no way to escape. So you fling the baby wildly out into the night and hope that he lands somewhere soft."

And another from a different perspective, that from an observer of the pain:

"I was training as a midwife at the time, and she was sitting in one of our clinic rooms, wailing. She had milk leaking out of her breasts, lochia coming out of her vagina, and her ankles were still swollen from her nine month pregnancy. She had previously worked out an agreement with the adoptive parents to have an open adoption, but I don't think it was going to still be an option, since she was frantically calling them over and over, and sleeping in the hotel parking lot where they were staying with the baby in her car. She sobbed to me, saying "They told me not to get an abortion! No one told me how hard this was going to be!" I wanted to say "I wish you had asked me first," but of course that was not productive then, and I didn't say it."

Another observer:

"So my friend, still half doped by the drugs they had given her, signed what she believed was a semi-open adoption for the baby she delivered. Still reeling from the realization of what happened, she believed that she would be able to know this child somehow, receive pictures and updates. She was deeply depressed, down on herself for not knowing, and grasping at straws trying to find a way to cope w/ a secret she could tell no one, all while trying to figure out a way to find a relationship w/ this baby and his new family.

The agency her mother contacted told her a few months later that she had in fact signed a closed adoption, and I can't believe for the life of me that someone still on drugs in a hospital can be expected to make permanent, legal decisions. Even though she was in no position to raise a child, she just wanted contact in a quasi-anonymous way, hoping that someday the shock of who she was to him wouldn't be so harsh b/c she would be a familiar face. She was shut out faster than a blink, and left w/ no one to talk to (except apparently me), b/c in the end, she was forced to keep a secret out of shame."

A quick comparison between abortion and adoption, this one's up for discussion:

"Remember: 'adoption' is an alternative to 'safe, cheap and legal abortion' like a snorkel tube is an alternative to a skateboard. They are just two very different things that don't substitute for one another at all."

A very snarky, but spot-on criticism of the criticisms that all parties involved get:

"Everyone seemingly is just expected to forget. Adopted children are criticized for not forgetting they were born to another. Adoptive parents are expected to forget they didn't do the birthing themselves (yeah right!). Parents who give children up are expected to forget they ever had a child, get over it, gone and done with. This entire system lacks compassion."

Here's a radical thought I'd never considered before this:

"***ADOPTION ABORTS MOTHERS!*** It saves the baby and throws the mother away with the bath water, like the wrapping on a gift. And, it ABORTS, destroys and severs FAMILIES...often for no decent reason. Adoption should only occur when there is no one in the entire extended family of kin who are willing and able to provide safe care for a child. And even then, there are alternative ways to provide that care without destroying the family/ kin ties.

Adoption enslaves the children it purports to help by teated them forever as second class citizen in about 45 of our 50 states - disallowing them the same access to their own birth certificate as non-adopted citizens take for granted. If it's such a wonderful thing to be promoted, why is it STILL shrouded in secrecy and lies?"

(And she's right too... which is why I think the nuclear family model is such a failure, and the worst thing that came out of the Industrial Revolution. Yes, let's isolate a couple and make them raise their child themselves without benefit of extended familial support. This model works for uncaring capitalist companies that find it convenient to have workers that can be mobile and are willing to move across the country, away from aforementioned family support, and the parents are literally bound to their jobs in order to provide and care for their children. It's a tough system.)

There're so many things to consider in an adoption, but I'm more convinced than ever that adoption isn't really the shiny alternative to abortion that pro-lifers seem to think it is, because in the end, it still disregards the pregnant woman and denies her her agency, her choices, her life.


( 19 Words — Have Your Say )
Mar. 19th, 2009 06:14 am (UTC)
I'd like to share this.
Mar. 19th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
You can post the link to the Shakesville post. Links are for sharing.
Mar. 20th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
Oh, shit, I posted a link to this post. D:

There's already a bit of a scuffle in the comments already on my side. Do you want me to take it off?
Mar. 20th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC)
As long as the scuffle stays on your side :P You can just change the link to the original Shakesville post.

You DID read the original post right? :P
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Yes, Eldest Sister, I did.
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
And since I posted that link in Facebook, I can't edit it. Have removed link, with the whole scuffle.

Ugh, why do I feel dirty all of the sudden?
Mar. 19th, 2009 08:59 am (UTC)
Jha, you always have such amazingly thoughtful things to say and to comment on. I'm a bit too tired and too tipsy to comment on this thoroughly, but all I can say is that as much as I feel adoption has it's place for children who sincerely have nowhere else to go, I agree that it's not all the sunshine and happy that pro-life agencies make it out to be.

It's simply a truly truly sad thing for the people who suffer through this process with no support for what they're dealing with. Giving up a child really IS like a death and it's awful to think that so many people are told to 'just get over it' like that baby they've given birth to, that human being, is a disposable commodity.
Mar. 19th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
I also feel adoption is hard enough for children who genuinely need a stable home and would benefit from it. It makes me SO angry to hear of these adoption agencies that would deny a parent open adoption for their babies - the only reason for a closed adoption would be so the new parents don't have to think about the birth mother that's left behind to pick up the pieces of her life, and the baby would have no remembrance, nothing to look back to.

And then there are the parents who have to fight for the right to adopt, although they've proven themselves to be exemplary foster parents (a few gay couples come to mind). It's maddening.
Mar. 19th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
In abortion, the possible suffering burdens only one person: the woman getting the abortion.

What of the grandparents, uncles, aunts, and heaven forbid father, who are also potentially on the list for psychological and emotional trauma from an abortion? No, the suffering does NOT necessarrily burden only one person.
Mar. 19th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
Or for that matter any children already in existence and living with the mother?
Mar. 19th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
Wait, hang on, let me check with my dad if he suffered any psychological or emotional trauma from my aunt (his eldest sister) having been FORCED to get not just one but TWO abortions while she was still in her teens.... wait, I already have. No one gave a shit. THAT'S WHY SHE HAD TO GET THEM.

The only reason why the extended family would be so personally invested in this unborn child is the control over the woman who has to bear it - the reason why they're upset isn't because of the loss of the child, but that they were necessarily dismissed in favour of the woman's choice. The loss isn't that of a child; it's the loss of control, the right to weigh in on a deeply personal decision that ultimately belongs to the woman herself.

I can understand the potential father suffering, but honestly? I lack the necessary sympathy - it's something people should discuss once they embark on a serious relationship, and he shouldn't assume she shares the same feelings about it. If they weren't that close in the first place? What possible loss is there? Control over a situation he should have had active participation in, in the first place.

Heaven forbid a woman not be beholden to that of everyone around her whose feelings and opinions on something that don't directly affect them obviously are more important than her own agency and personal decisions on something that DO affect her directly - that selfish bitch!
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
Ah.. So your personal experience is the template for the rest of the world. You may find the subject sensitive, and frustrating, but that does not give you the right to VENT ON ME BY SHOUTING!

It's not all about control. That is a rather narrow minded and unenlightened viewpoint.

You lack the necessary symnpathy. Yet you expect others to extend sympathy to the mother. How.. Magnanimous of you. So. If they _are_ that close and mommy decides to get an abortion anyway. I'm willing to bet you wouldn't support the father's bid to get a court injunction to block the procedure. There are more people's rights to consider than _just_ the mother's.

Why shouldn't she be beholden to everyone around her. The picture you've painted makes everyone around beholden to her. A little quid pro quo is in order.

Selfish bitch, selfish bastard, selfish parents. Depends on one's perspective. Yours seems far than objective on the subject.
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
"far less than objective on je subject" I should say.
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:13 am (UTC)
Sorry for the shoutiness. I wasn't mad at you, but at the unfairness my aunt faced (and continues to face, because she's mentally slow).

I lack the necessary sympathy because I'm sort of busy extending sympathy to the person who's not getting any. We live in a society that either swings between apathetic individualism or mob rule. And so often, there's a subset of women who get forgotten.

And I've done extensive reading on the subject. Whenever people say it's about love or something shiney like that, I've always gotten this crawling feeling in me which I was never able to name. Now I can.

I never said I had the objectiveness to be the expert on the subject. While I certainly present it, all I can present is MY viewpoint. This is why I blog - what were you expecting? Journalistic objectivity? That's not possible.

Why should she be beholden to others? In fact, why should anyone be beholden to her? Why should they be wrapped up in what she does, and vice versa?
Mar. 19th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
Wow, that was an amazingly insightful entry. I never really thought of it that way but wow, ..... well said.

Thanks for posting.
Mar. 19th, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC)
I cite a long ago post about women using abortion as a means of leverage against others. (Parents, b/f, partner) I STILL feel, STRONGLY that abortion should be treated with utmost care. I ~deeply~ believe it should always, always be an option, but a as a plan D, E..just not A or B. (As in Birth control, condoms, IUDs, spermicide, ECPs, hell if they had the damn RU328) I still hold a harsh view of folks who go into a sexual relationship, and looking to abortion as a 'way out' if they happen to get pregnant, rather than recognizing the risk of the act and taking every blinking precaution possible.

I'd fight for the right for someone to have an abortion. But, I want more than that, I want psychological follow-up, I want guaranteed unbiased counseling prior. It's an invasive procedure, the risks and potential complications MUST be given out and alternative means of preventing future procedures at least explored after. I ~do~ want partners involved, so we can know if it's a manipulation from either side of the fence. Nobody should be forced to have a kid, but then again, nobody should suffer when the kidlet is, at the core, wanted. Besides, if someone is so terrible to use or pressure another into this, there's clearly a need for psychological help, and if that's not the case, there has to be a way for a partner who can't make that decision for you can deal with the trauma of losing something potentially precious to them, too. (This is particularly important in cases where an abortion has to occur to save the mother or prevent suffering of the child)

Abortion isn't for everyone. I've seen women go in, ready for the procedure, then devestated with depression and guilt after. You've seen the commercials for depression...it affects everyone. The after-affects of an abortion regretted can just as easily ruin. (Just like a nuclear fallout. Might only hurt one place right away, but wait til winter sets in...)

I know it's something I, personally, could never do. As a mom who's given up kids before in various circumstances, it's never easy no matter how you cut it. It ~does~ hurt, scares and gives you a great deal of guilt...but in my ~personal~ perspective, unlike terminating a life, there's always the shimmer of hope on the horizon that one day you can see that child again. Believe me, I cling to it every day.

I have to concur on your assessment of the 'nuclear family',(somewhat) with an addition. The cost of living should be modified to allow a parent to remain home as an option. Kids get so much more out of being raised with the love and attention of a parent or close family member than this warehousing of children we call 'day care'.

As for the '50 states' thing..I'm an American, so I am going to poke holes into this misspelled rant. One, you ~can~ access your birth certificate, but only a guardian can legally get, say, another copy for you. (Simple logic. 13 y/os can barely remember to bring all their homework home, and someone has to be in charge of you. It's the best way of pointing a finger at the adult responsible.) Not something to complain about. Second, children in the US 'on the system' receive by and far more perks and bonuses than non-foster children. They get a free ride in university for starters, guaranteed healthcare that children that remain with their families don't get. Honestly, children remaining with their parents, and those living in the lower class are the real second class citizens. This poster isn't themselves adopted, I'll wager, as I know many Stateside who are. You can't say someone is 'correct' unless you know the system they are referring to yourself.

Edited at 2009-03-19 11:54 pm (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
That's very interesting to know re: the system. The only encounter I've ever had with 'the system' was when I was a child and my family took care of a boy from a shelter (I don't remember what it was called). His mom had the shelter take care of him and she visited him once ever few weeks. He lived with us for several weeks - and that was that. Granted, the cost of living in Malaysia isn't too high as it is here in North America, but I always wonder whether the kids' orphanages are struggling. I've thought about my 'temporary brother' a few times since then, but never really examined the issue too deeply.

I agree with you completely, everywhere else - I've seen these issues brought up elsewhere but never found occasion to blog about them myself. The counselling, the support, these are all necessary. I've probably said before that abortion should never be the first choice of kidlet prevention, not when other options are available, but we do have to have our bases covered in case shit that should not happen does happen (eg a woman getting pregnant despite hormonal BC and condoms, and that COULD happen).

There's something I never knew about you before (and why would I since it's never been my business, heh). I hope you manage to get all your kidlets together again. As I've said, I know I could never muster giving up anyone I carry for nine months and if it came down to that, I'd rather rough it out. But I'm one of the lucky ones. If I ever dwell on this issue again, it'd be nice to hear from you again, too.

I really do want to write more on the nuclear family, and I think your suggestion is definitely fair. Have I ever mentioned a classmate of mine who was an economist by profession and gave a length treatise on how non-sustainable nuclear families are? I can't understand money very well, so it took me a long time and a well-articulated post to understand that multi-generational households probably are better off, money-wise, than nuclear families, simply due to the cost of being a nuclear family - household costs, daycare, tutoring, etc.

While I generally like the idea of daycare as a place where children can mingle with other children their age, there's one thing I don't really like about day care - too few adults to care for children, and I think it makes more sense if there're as many adult as there are children, or at least a higher ratio of adult:child in such institutions.
Mar. 22nd, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
No one has any self respect, respect of life, or morals any more. If you are not able to care for a child, KEEP YOUR LEGS CLOSED. If you make a mistake, deal with it. Don't kill a innocent life due to your lack of control. You think you are being so open minded, its just allowing yourself to be ignorant to the facts. Abortion is murder, try to live with that. It is much easier to wonder where you child is than to deal with the fact that you killed it.
Mar. 22nd, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, look, a troll!
( 19 Words — Have Your Say )