Overcoming Birthmother Stereotypes
I vividly remember the fall of 2017, about a month before I placed Juniper for adoption. Hardly anyone knew I was pregnant and planning on adoption. At that time I was mentally preparing for the backlash of negativity coming once it was no longer under wraps. The opinions, judgements and disapprovals were inevitably coming in my mind. I knew I was making the right choice and I was confident in that but I now had to ready myself to defend it publically as I decided to share my story.
My method of preparation was to root myself in my reasons why. I just knew if I explained my "why's" I could make anyone understand. I believed so heavily that my decision was the obvious best choice. I also understood that it wasn't so obvious to others right away. However, I was convinced once someone knew my reasons they would immediately get it. I shared my first blog post a week post placement. There were two surprises after I went live.
The first surprise was the amount of positive feedback and support I received! Secondly I was surpirised I was actually lacking that disapproval I expected to have which was such a relief but very shocking. I had questions from people but none that I felt came form a place of disagreement. If anything it was simple, genuine curiosity which I was happy to face instead.
Fast forward to today. I have recently faced the opposition in my decision I expected to have in October 2017. I have gained so much peace in sharing my story over the past 18 months and I accepted that society really is gracious just in time to realize it is not 100% gracious. I finally felt the heavy weight of disapproval. I actually had feelings of inadequecy I hadn't faced yet as a birthmom, almost as if I deserved less in my life for choosing to place. The opinions of others were really impacting what I believed about myself, that I deserve a happy marraige to someone amazing and more children in my future. I had moments of doubt that I was tainted and second rate because I had had an unplanned pregnancy.
After feeling that pain for the first time I decided to talk about the stereotypes that come with being a birthmother and a few things I did to restore my self worth. Fortunately the adoption community has grown and expanded so many minds so these steroetypes are much less common but they are out there and even years after placement may effect birthmoms. Self-esteem, relationships, the healing process, etc. may all be effected.
At first I was overwhelmed with defensiveness and anger I hadn't yet felt. I have since accepted that I cannot change someone's opinion. I cannot make them understand me and my choice but I can choose to look beyond their lack of understanding to the bigger picture.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions about birthmothers and the facts.
1. We are all teen moms.
Actually I was 24, divorced and already a mother to a 3 year old. Many other birthmothers I know personally are in their 30's and even 40's when they chose to place. You can still decide that you are not equippped to parent even if you aren't 16 years old. We are allowed to know our limitations at any age. If anything it may be more difficult as you can see loopholes in where you may feel ready to parent so that black and white line is much more watered down. People expect you to parent at an older age. I had this question many times, "You already have a daughter, why wouldn't you choose to parent your second?" I have written about that more in depth in previous posts so I will spare detail but I knew my limitations at that time. I couldn't romanticize parenting and having a new little baby in my circumstances. I knew what it took and I am glad I had that self awareness to say no, I cannot provide what I know she deserves right now.
2. We are addicts.
Some are addicts, most aren't. BUT that is true of people in general. To me, if that is the case, then why aren't we applauding the small percentage that are admitting it and want better for thier babies?
3. We are uneducated.
In fact, more that half of birthmothers have an associates degree and much more than that have their highschool diploma. Studies show that women who choose to place pursue higher education and finish school with a defgree. I have personally chose not to go back to school but I made that choice long before even having my first daughter and it definitely had nothing to do with my unplanned pregnancy or decision to place. I have since had some big career growth and believe that was partly possible because I chose to allow someone ready to parent to be there for her 100%.
4. We sleep around.
This is a big one for me. I was irresponsible with birth control regularity. I wasn't moonlighting at the local bordello. Each of my pregnancies were while in a committed relationship and yes, I own the fact that is still not a reason to neglect birth control but when people hear birthmother they probably think we are sleeping around.
I will be the first to raise my hand when it comes to knowingly staying in an unhealthy relationship and allowing the actions that lead me to where I am. If you know me or read this blog you know I am well aware of my flaws in this area. I am not justifying the fact that I have had two unplanned pregnancies just because we were in a relationship. I do however refuse to feel like less because my physical state proves I was sexually active when most everyone is. I can only try to make the best of it once it happens. I am to the point where I see there is a line of viewing myself as trashy for having unplanned preganncy OR I can precieve myslef as classy and worthy of the best things in life!
5. We just don't want the baby.
Also false and probably the most hurtful bias. That is why some women abort. They don't want the inconvenience of preganancy. For a birthmom to go through 9 months of this just to have empty arms at the end is exactly the opposite. Birthmoms want their babies, but they want them in the right circumstances and that is much more selfless than choosing to parent knowing you cannot provide what someone else can. I say this a lot but I know my limitations. I know I am a single mom already facing all that comes with even one child and her dad. I would have been lying to myslef if I told myself I could have done all of that again at that time. I feel deep sadness when I hear "How could she take it out on that poor baby," or that I am selfish for not "bucking up and parenting." Guess what? I did buck up. I fulfilled my role in her life and I am so blessed to be able to see that confirmation daily that I did the right thing.
There are probably more common mosconceptions I didn't touch on. As sad as it is that this is still an issue with all that goes on in the world I am happy to say that there is support and genuine respect for your decision as a birthmom. So many incredible families are brought together through your sacrifice.
For me, the prejudices have hit close to home in recent weeks and I have a few ways I have been combatting them that may help a fellow birthmom out there.
First I go back to "My Why's." I reread words I wrote when I made my decision. I look at all it takes to be there emotionally, financially and physically for a baby and remember what my limitations were at the time. This really gives me my power back as I remember that I took charge of my situation with my baby's best interest at heart.
Second, I reach out to those who I know supported me then and support me now. They remind me that there is understanding and open minds we can lean on. It is good to know the negative opinions are so small in number compared to the supportive ones.
Third and most difficult sometimes, I pray to understand those who judge me. I sincerely hope they can let go of the biases and disapproval and realize that my dicision was MINE. It does not help me to feel anger towards those who don't understand. It does not serve me to wallow in those opinions. I am a birthmom. Plain and simple. I know what it means to me and that is all that matters!
Fourth and final for now, I try to use social media carefully. Anyone with eyes and a laptop can critisize you online. Do not put yourself out there if you allow those faceless comments to effect you. Just don't go there. Network validation is pretty empty if it is all you have to rely on. Be okay with yourself and your decision first and then you may be ready to share your incredible, unique story. If you are struggling at any stage in your motherhood, be aware of online risks and rewards. You are more than a blanket steroetype! Remember that!
Ultimately this is how I look at it. You are beautiful, the world is big and life is long! Let yourself be happy, let yourself progress unapologetically and hold tight to the truth that you owe nothing to anyone. You have every right, as does everyone, to learn lessons your own way and put your self worth first!
Your families love you, your babies love and revere you and I am very proud to be among this community of strong women.
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