It’s a cry I hear from birthparents over and over again: “If ONLY someone had believed in me. If ONLY someone had presented one encouraging word, one small offer of emotional support.”
In her blog this week, Paragraphein writes of a conversation in which she’s trying to forgive her now-husband for his lack of support during relinquishment.
“I opened my mouth to speak and my chin wobbled. The room went blurry behind my tears. My voice shook as I said, “I just wanted one significant person in my life to say to me, ‘You’ll be a good mom, and I’ll help you.’ But no one did. No one said that to me. No one.”
It’s a sad fact, but very few people ever say this sort of thing to pregnant women. What they typically say is, “Let me relieve you of this baby and make someone else happy, as you’re clearly not good enough to handle it. If you want to achieve goodness, you will be unselfish and give your baby up.”
Think talk like that doesn’t happen like that anymore, in our enlightened times? Then you haven’t been talking to enough birthparents…say, for example, all those who were forced to sit at a table and chart their good qualities against those of a wealthier, happily married couple. (Talk about your exercises in shame.)
But it isn’t just pre-birth that self-confidence is a problem. After the papers are signed, self-confidence can plummet even further. Here’s what a birthmom named Karen has to say about that phenomenon:
For years I was filled with the feeling of being bad. If the subject of adoption would come up, and of course it would, though no one knew I had any part in it… I would hear the words, “How could anyone give away their baby?” It was said in disgust, and judgment, and each time I heard any statements such as this one I would internalize the judgments and my self-esteem would plunge. It didn’t matter that I was a good mom to my sons, a good sister, a good daughter, a good wife, a good friend…a good person. If all of these people, these judgmental people, only knew…would they still be my friend…think highly of me…like me??? I lived in fear of being discovered, by friends, by relatives, by my own sons.
Then in 1987 I found Concerned United Birthparents and met other birthmothers, amazing women who were beautiful, smart, successful, good people. They were all these things but they too were suffering from the same disease as I…lack of self esteem due to the trauma of surrendering our babies to adoption, even though we had been convinced that was the only “choice” we had.
Together, through the years, we have worked at reclaiming our confident selves. We have read books, participated in workshops, journalled, written articles…books…poetry, and told our stories to all who would listen and some who would rather not…hoping each step would bring us closer to wholeness, happiness, peace.
Still, some women never do reclaim their confident selves. They aren’t able to bowl strikes in life because the entire experience of relinquishment came at a time when they were already down, and it crushed them once and for all. These are the suicides, the perennially unhappy, the women who cannot “move on.” The next group is the women, including me, who are slowly recovering, knocking down a few pins here and there, but often missing the mark when it comes to feeling like a truly self-confident woman. And then there are the most resilient – the women who are out there trying to change adoption for the better. They are amazing, because believe me, it takes enormous strength to go up against conventional wisdom. When women like this are able to speak up, make a change, or advance reform, the rest of us cheer like mad, as if we too had rolled the strike that smashed up the old way of doing things.