Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 Interview Project: Reunion Eyes

How's this for a "meant to be" moment: A woman on her 18th birthday decides that she wants to meet her birth mother who placed her for adoption, so she calls the adoption center which handled her case and puts in her request. That same day, within the hour in fact, the birth mother calls and puts in the same request- that she wants to contact her daughter that she relinquished 18 years ago.

 Thus started Cathy and Kate's reunion, which has now been going strong for 23 years. Cathy (the daughter) even went to live with Kate for a time. Now, they are co-authoring a book about their reunion; they have been meeting once a week to choose a topic and write about it, but each writing from purely their own perspectives, and not reading what the other wrote. They're not sure when it will be 'done', but they have a lot of material since they've been doing this for the last 8 years.

 And now for another "meant to be" moment: To acknowledge November as Adoption Awareness Month, Cathy and I have been paired together for this year's Adoption Round Table Interview Project. We contacted each other over email, she sent me questions and I sent her mine, and with each email she sent I thought she was more and more awesome. She was wonderfully honest with me from the beginning, not only telling me about her experience with her family (the family she grew up with plus her own- she's married and is a mother of two boys) and with her birth mother Kate, but also about a very personal time in her life when she made the decision to have an abortion. Our experiences are vastly different, which makes us want to pick each other's brains all the more. For me, it has been invaluable to be able to correspond with someone who was in a closed adoption and now has a close relationship with her birth mother, especially someone so open and honest. Can you even imagine the questions I had for her? Somehow I was able to whittle it down to a semi-manageable amount, but I couldn't help myself from keeping it to the more meaty ones. Amazingly, she was game. I told her I would love to have a chance to sit down with her at some quaint cafe and spend hours sharing a bottle of wine (or two) and really talk and ask questions and dig deep and get to know each other, but alas, among other things, 10,000 miles separate us.

 So this is as close as you'll get to being a fly on the wall at that imaginary cafe where Cathy and I are swilling our glasses and settled in for a long afternoon of chatting.

(As of this posting, she hasn't added my interview questions to her site yet, but you can still visit her blog, Reunion Eyes.  She's posting every day this month for Adoption Awareness Month, so her blog is filled with lots of insight.  I especially like her Super Hero post.  She also comments about being matched with me for the interview project here.  I'll add the link to my interview when it's posted.)


QUESTION: I've read blogs and comments from adoptees who are anti-adoption, claiming abortion is the "kinder" choice. Although I didn't make that decision for myself, I can relate to women who have, and can see the reasons why someone would make that choice.  It also scares the bejeezus out of me, wondering if Reed will ever have the same opinion- that he may someday think that being aborted would have been kinder of me than to place for adoption.

Let me stop you there - I can't imagine anyone saying that. I don't think abortion is the kinder option. It is just an option. No one can know with absolute certainty what the right decision is, so you just have to go with what your soul tell you...

My answer is contradictory and maybe hipocritical. For me, given the choice of being brought into the world and being given up for adoption, or being not brought into the world, being aborted. I would rather have been brought into the world. And, heck, all drama aside (and I've had some pretty drastic drama in my life), it's been a good life, I've enjoyed it, I wouldn't want to have missed out on it.

I was raised Catholic, and in 9th grade I went to an all girl's Catholic School run by nuns. While in general, I thought the nuns were lovely, they showed us anti-abortion videos, like the Silent Scream, and brought us all on a trip to DC to protest choice. When I was in college, I became pro-choice once I understood that pro-choice wasn't the same thing as pro-abortion. I was pro-choice but anti-abortion. I still thought abortion was killing.

Then, wham, I was pregnant. My boyfriend and I made a series of stupid mistakes - not using birth control first off. Then, I thought he would pull out (he didn't). He thought it didn't make a difference (it did). I thought about the morning-after pill, but thought it was still illegal (it wasn't).

I was 22. I instantly felt the rush of life into me at the instant of conception. I knew I was pregnant.

We really struggled. Both raised Catholic, both not wanting to be parents yet. But we were in love, we thought about getting married down the road. Maybe we should keep the baby, I thought, that would be the right thing to do. I would be done with college before the baby was born, I could live with my parents til I found a job and he could quit school, get a job ... what an awful, dreary life loomed before me. I didn't want that, and didn't want that for the baby either. Although that's what I would have judged upon others as what they should do, it didn't feel right.

Adoption seemed like the obvious choice. After all, twenty-two years earlier, an 18-year old woman had found herself in the same circumstance and did what society says is "the right thing" by putting me up for adoption. I had a good home, she got to move on with her life. Win-win.

But as much as I tried to look at that option, my mind wouldn't go there for a second. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring this baby into the world and not be it's parent. No matter what, this was my child, my child, I could not hand it over to anyone else. Even if I knew they were rich and loving and wonderful and would give the child every opportunity, I couldn't do it. I hadn't heard of open adoption then, but even if that was an option, I wouldn't, couldn't do it. It was my child and if it was going to come into the world, it would be with me.

But, I didn't want to be a parent, not yet.

So, abortion. Ending a life, the silent scream, having the baby cut out of me. I'm using harsh terms because it is harsh. There was nothing pretty about it. I saw the terrible videos that showed what abortion was, I knew what it was. I never believed in that life begins any later than conception. Conception is obviously the moment of life.

But, it is life that can only exist if the mother exists. It cannot live without the mother. Until the end of pregnancy, the baby is completely dependent on the mother's body to survive. It was my choice to allow it to continue to grow and develop and come into the world, or I could choose to end it.

I chose to end it.

I chose to end it even though I felt I shouldn't. It would be wrong, evil, murder. Well, no. No. It didn't feel wrong, it didn't feel evil, it didn't feel like murder. It felt like the right thing to do, for me. In my gut, in my soul, it felt like the right choice.

The doesn't mean I didn't grieve; my boyfriend and I both grieved that we would never know that surely wonderful life that would have been. It doesn't mean I didn't think others wouldn't judge me for it; I would be judged. It didn't mean I didn't wonder if I made the right decision, even though it felt like the right decision, could it still have been wrong?

So, why is it okay for me to say I'm glad I was brought into the world and glad I was put up for adoption, but not the same for the child I was pregnant with.

Mainly, because I'm alive. Once you're alive, and your given the choice of would you rather be dead...well, of course not. We are driven to survive. Would I have really cared if I was aborted? I have to think, no, probably not. I wouldn't have known any different. Before you're alive, are you sad you're not alive? No, you just aren't alive. Once you're alive, you're stuck. Your stuck wanting to survive no matter how awful life gets. And my life was fine.

QUESTION: When you were making your decision, could you relate to that statement at all (about abortion being the kinder option)?

Heck no, not at all. There are only tough choices and complicated decisions. I don't think either is necessarily kinder. Well, maybe adoption is kinder, but a whole lot messier during the lifetime. Not bad, just messy.

QUESTION: Were there things in your own adoption experience that you wouldn't want another life to go through that influenced your decision?

No. I had a good family, parents that loved me - overall a fine adoption experience. Did I not want that for my child? That was irrelevant. I just couldn't bring a baby into the world and not be its parent.

QUESTION: One of the questions I most often receive is about what will I tell Reed when he's older, how will I explain my decision to him. Not to impose or assume any views of the afterlife or souls (this is not supposed to be a religious question!), but how would you explain your decision to your unborn child? (Again, this is purely for the purpose of contrast.)

I was 22 when I became pregnant and was near the end of my bachelor's degree. I minored in philosophy, studied "death and dying," worked in Hospice and discovered both Buddhism and Existentialism. So, by the time I was 22 I had shed Catholicism and embraced Buddhist philosophy. Since that time, I've refined it by taking what spoke true to me about Buddhism and what spoke true to me about existentialism and mixed them into a place where I believe a soul chooses its life. It's really great that soul chose me, and I'm sorry I kicked it out, but I didn't take it's soul, the soul still survives, and probably found another belly to pop into.

This becomes even more strongly apparent to me as I face my dad existing on life support. It's just that his body is worn out. It's done. The soul continues, but the body ends. It ends for all of us. It's not our god-given right to have a body, it's
not a guarantee - it's a gift that we get to enjoy for a little while, and then it's gone.

What would I say to that soul if I get to meet it at my death?
"Hi! How are you? I love you, I wish I could have gotten to know you - you should have shown up later. How are things?"

I'm not being crass, it's just that talking to a soul without a body is different from talking to someone with a body. If I was explaining to the 11 week old fetus, and I did, I would hug it, if I could, and cry and mourn... "I'm really sorry. I hope it wasn't too difficult. I just wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to host another being in my body so I chose to have you taken out. I hope you find a good life. I'm sorry."

QUESTION: I strongly believe in individuality, and I think different people will handle similar circumstances very differently.  One of the questions I have about my relationship with Reed is if he will blame me as he understands more about my decision and how it has affected both of our lives.  Have you ever felt like a victim because you were adopted?  Have you ever felt helpless about your situation, that other people chose the outcome of your life and you had little control over it?  Did you blame your birth mother, Kate, for making such an important decision for your life?

I know there are a lot of anti-adoption birthmoms and adoptees out there. I'm not one of them. Adoption just is. It's not perfect, but it exists as one solution. It's not the solution for everyone, and it's not perfect, but nothing is.

Something I learned from a presenter at an American Adoption Congress Conference - "no one has a problem with being adopted, they have a problem with having been relinquished." I had to deal with having been given up by my birthmom (who I now love and know and have a great relationship with). But, hey, being a newborn baby and not being wanted by your mom, being given away - it sucks. It's hard. I can't imagine that that part is easy for anyone - even in open adoption.

But, you know what? Life's hard. Things happen. It would have sucked if I was born without a leg, but people deal with it. You could be a child of rape (how bad would that suck) or have your mom hate you or have your mom die at your birth. Horrible things happen. And being pregnant and not wanting to be a parent is hard. There's no good choice. Sure, they might have hurt feelings that you didn't keep them, but, buck up, they got life, and that's pretty cool. Count your blessings. But, that's just the way I am.

So, do I feel like a victim, no. Was I helpless about my situation - sure, all babies are. Do I blame my birthmother for giving me up? You betcha. I'm pissed off that she gave me away. She should have wanted to keep me. She didn't. So, I have to deal with commitment issues and abandonment issues and insecurity as all adoptees do. Am I sorry she gave me away? No. Would my life have been better with her? Who knows? Probably just different - different pros, different cons.

So will your Reed have relinquishment issues? I don't know any adoptee who doesn't. I don't know anyone who is happy that their mother didn't want to keep them. Rejection hurts. But, that doesn't mean it was a bad choice. It's just something you'll have to deal with. And, because you chose that, you get to have this beautiful amazing boy in your life. He might have issues from it (don't we all get issues from our parents?), he might get angry sometimes (god knows, I had anger with Kate), but you work through it.
QUESTION: I read in one of your posts about how you knew you were adopted at a young age.  How did you and your family work your adoption story into your life as you were growing up?  Were your parents always open with you about your adoption?  How did they explain it to you?  Did you feel comfortable asking them questions about it?  DID you ask them questions about it?

One of the best examples of good adoption parenting that I saw was a movie called, "Easy A." There's an adopted child in it, and they talk openly and easily about it, it's not even a main story line, it's just part of their life.

My parents were always very open to my questions, they just didn't have any answers. Now with open adoption, the kids will still have questions but they'll have answers too. That has to make it better, I think. Not perfect, not easy, but better.
QUESTION: When did you decide that you wanted to meet your birth parents, and what made you want that?  Do you ever think that your parents feel insecure or uncomfortable with your relationship with Kate?  How did they react when you first contacted her?  When you lived with her?

When I was 18, because I thought it would be an adventure to find out, and I wanted to know.

I always fear my parents feel insecure and uncomfortable with my relationship with Kate even though they never give any indication that they feel that way. Their reaction when I first contacted her was worry for me, worry I would be hurt. They are old-fashioned Irish-Catholic, so having a real, honest, deep conversation about how they really really feel deep down isn't an option. They were fine with me staying with Kate, it was when I decided to stay in Portland, on the other side of the country from Jersey, they were upset. But not because of Kate, just because I would be so far away.

If one of your sons in the future came to you and said, "Mom, _____ is pregnant with my child.  We're thinking about placing it for adoption."  What kind of reaction do you think you would have, or what kind of advice would you give?

Crapola, that's a hard one. I would feel the same way I did when I was pregnant - I can't not be that child's grandmother! But, it wouldn't be my choice, it would be their choice, and I would accept whatever they chose. I would do everything I could to provide them with all the information so they could make an informed choice, and then I would just have to trust them to go with their heart. If their heart told them that adoption was the right choice.

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