A Birthmom’s Pain
Their name is legion, for they are many, and yet no one knows them.
A “legion,” in Biblical terms, was a Roman military platoon of 6,000 men. There are probably more than 6,000 of them in the biggest city near your town. And yet no one knows them.
You can find them if you look carefully each May. They’re lining up babysitters for Mother’s Day — for themselves, so they can survive it without incident.
Somehow, birthmothers — women who relinquished their children for adoption — never get remembered on Mother’s Day. There are no flowers, no cards, no phone calls. We don’t get mentioned in the blessings at church. People would prefer not to know us, frankly. It’s “uncomfortable” to talk about. Your family is ashamed of you and tries to sweep the whole thing under the rug. But it’s not a thing, it’s a child; and it’s your feelings and emotions that get discounted or ignored.
I have lost track of the number of people who have told me I am not a parent, and that I don’t deserve to grieve. It continues to appall me, 18 years down the road. I, too, have lost a child. It is a type of death: the death of dreams, hopes, futures. It has contributed mightily to my chronic major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But people think that because I made a “choice” (ask me sometime how much of a choice it really was), I don’t “deserve” to feel the way I do about it.
My son is 18 now. The agency I worked with was required to send a social worker out to observe the new family for six months after placement, and the family was required to provide a photograph for the file.
After a few photos were forwarded to me, since it was a closed adoption that was the last I heard of my son for 12 years. I carried him for nine months, spent 18 ridiculously painful hours of labor to bring him into the world, and have not seen him since he was five days old. Tell me again I don’t deserve to grieve.
Closed adoptions aren’t as common nowadays. When I held a temporary job at Catholic Charities in Milwaukee several years ago, I filled in for someone who worked in the child welfare area. You know what the child welfare area does? Adoptions.