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July 28, 2017 2:32 PM   Subscribe

You'd Be Such a Good Mother. If Only You Weren't You "Many women who lost their mothers as children go on to flourish as mothers themselves. Some claim to have healed their grief through parenting. I wanted to be one of those women. When the prospect of a baby loomed on my horizon, I felt pure horror. But I thought I could white-knuckle my way through this and become a different person, a better person."
posted by Anonymous (36 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

"problematic provenance "

Jesus Christ, lady, you are talking about a human baby with human parents.

I (no kids, no intention of having any) expected to be much more sympathetic to this piece than I was. I don't understand why she blames the problems primarily on a mismatched appetite for risk between herself and her partner. It sounds much much more like she had no interest in reproducing the working conditions of her teenage years and had the instinctive sense to know that there's no real evading them with a baby in the house (at least as a woman, while maintaining the partner-relationship), especially a baby at higher risk to have special needs. It seems that, although she does say it, she just isn't comfortable accepting the idea of herself as unwilling to nurture, hence also the catalog at the end of how she really does help other people grow. I wish she could have accepted that more, instead of banging on about how unreliable potential birth mothers are and how risky their offspring might be to care for.
posted by praemunire at 3:48 PM on July 28, 2017 [13 favorites]

I was adopted. In the late 60s, an infant adoption (10 days old when I was brought home). My parents were absolutely wonderful. I've had issues with my upbringing over the years, but honestly, I had not only a very supportive middle class upbringing but I also had music lessons and summer camps (sometimes three in one summer) and a vastly supportive free-range childhood that I look back on now from decades later and marvel at.

I'd never heard of a birth mother who was putting their child up rescinding on the offer before reading this. I figure I was some college girl's spring break fling right before the Summer Of Love, but I don't know for sure. I once filed a letter with the State Of New Mexico stating that if my birth mother was looking for me she should have access to find me, but I have never sought her out. That has always felt intrusive.

And yeah I guess it's good that this person who wrote this essay realized that she didn't want to raise a child. My parents wanted to raise me and my sister (also adopted, not related). There's nothing better than being a wanted addition to someone's life rather than an imposition or a resentment.

It's a shame this author got tangled up with someone who seemed compatible but actually wasn't. I hope they are both flourishing on their now separate life paths.
posted by hippybear at 3:57 PM on July 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

I'm frankly shocked at how she doubles down at the end: "I could no longer continue to be in a relationship with someone who aggressively disregarded my informed opinion" . The only child she would want to mother would have to be a perfect child? And yet it's not her fault she wouldn't be a great mother?
posted by kitcat at 4:18 PM on July 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I guess it's better to be honest about how you feel about parenting than to lie about it and pass along your deception about your feelings to your child over 2 decades of rearing them?

I'm not supporting her attitude, but I do support her decision.
posted by hippybear at 4:31 PM on July 28, 2017 [25 favorites]

I enjoyed this article - maybe not the assertions regarding adopted children, but the unpacking of the idea that white middle-class women, at any rate, are natural-born moms. Any woman who fits a certain mold (class and race-wise) is going to hear "You'd be such a good mother!" unless she's a convicted axe murderer.

Ms. Lord seems to feel the need to add that even if she's not a mom, she's a nurturer of other people's kids. Even childfree women are expected to shower affection (and money) upon nieces, nephews, godchildren, pupils, etc. The idea that a woman might not be the nurturing kind is still a taboo in American culture.

I'm childfree. I nurture cats and the occasional basil plant and Christmas cactus. I like children in the abstract - I want a much better child welfare and educational system than we have - but can take or leave them in the concrete. I'm very glad I realized this in time to not have any children of my own. I'm glad Ms. Lord noped away from adopting a child with her (ex) wife because that is the one thing you don't get take-backsies on.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:49 PM on July 28, 2017 [37 favorites]

One thread running through the piece is that she feels she wouldn't have made a good mother, wouldn't have enjoyed it, and shouldn't do it. That is 100% fine by me. Laudable.

Another thread running through the piece - and maybe I'm being too harsh on her in seeing this? - is that some children deserve help, while others are a blessing when they die. Maybe she wouldn't say that outright, but that seems to be her gut response. Her mother's account of her sister's death had a big impact on her. Made her afraid, I think, of any imperfection.

If they can do well against all odds...they deserve my help.

Asking which children deserve help rubs me the wrong way. As the parent of a girl who needs a lot more help than most kids, maybe I'm a little sensitive to that.
posted by clawsoon at 5:02 PM on July 28, 2017 [27 favorites]

Yeah, the whole assertion that her feels that children of criminals are bound to be criminals are "informed evidence" which should not be disregarded is hella fucking problematic.
posted by corb at 5:04 PM on July 28, 2017 [25 favorites]

Certain elements of this article bugged me a lot because this lady seems to think that her 'informed opinion' of 'biology and environment == fate' is correct, which is just not the case. If you're not looking to parent, then own that but don't put it into some basket where biology is equal to inevitability.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 5:16 PM on July 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

This paragraph from the essay stood out to me:
"In a rented house, the colorless one, I learned the dark side of mothering—caring for the 65-year-old toddler who was my father. He had designed the flight controls for the HL-10, one of NASA’s first lifting bodies, a precursor to the space shuttle. But he claimed not to understand the controls on the washing machine. Or, for that matter, on the stove, vacuum, and steam iron. Not to mention the basic principle of the hamper. He dropped his socks and shirts on the floor wherever he removed them. I honestly don’t think he did this to torture me. For his entire life, some woman—his mother, my mother—had picked up after him. They had cooked for him. He had no clue that another way was possible. We couldn’t afford a housekeeper. After one of my inept meals—some components were burned; others sickeningly undercooked—I asked him why he never even tried to throw together a dinner. “Men don’t do that,” he said."
I feel that her reluctance to become a parent was borne out of a desire to escape domestic servitude. Her own experience of being a domestic servant to her father, and watching her mother essentially being a domestic servant while she was still alive, appears to have made a big impact on the author in her formative years. Until domestic labour is acknowledged and compensated fairly, I don't want to judge someone for not doing it if they have the privilege to choose not to.
posted by cynical pinnacle at 5:22 PM on July 28, 2017 [37 favorites]

Maybe a lifetime of YOU MUST MOTHER pushed her toward finding "objective" reasoning to justify her decision, because her decision wasn't - as it should be but almost never is - simply accepted.
posted by clawsoon at 5:23 PM on July 28, 2017 [18 favorites]

The vast majority of children born to addicted women— particularly with nicotine— turn out just fine. are the odds higher that a child born to a woman who is using drugs during pregnancy will have problems? yes. but nonetheless, this is not an "informed" view. nicotine and cocaine, including crack, are about equally harmful to kids— research shows that most of these kids (upwards of 80%) will do fine in a loving home. In fact, what determines how well these children do is not the dose of drugs the pregnant woman uses, but whether the child is raised by someone who is stable, supportive and consistent (ie, either birth mother with support and in recovery or similar adoptive parent). Opioids, although infants can suffer withdrawal, are not linked to any particular syndrome or risks— again, it has to do with how the child is raised and with other genetic stuff that isn't clear just from knowing "this child born exposed."

And, of course, a completely "normal" birth parent can have a child with Down Syndrome (as was the case with her own mother) or other developmental issues. It's certainly fine to say that you can't handle raising a child, period, or that raising a child with a disability would be too much for you based on your childhood experience. But as an excuse for not being a mom with your partner whom you love "this baby is the child of a person with addiction and therefore doomed to be addicted or mentally ill," is inaccurate. Higher risk,yes: nonetheless, even most children born to parents who both have alcoholism and are raised by them do NOT grow up to have alcoholism, despite the genetic and environmental loading.

That said, if a child is born with clear fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, that is likely to lead to significant disability. However, that was not what she worried about, oddly.
posted by Maias at 5:34 PM on July 28, 2017 [17 favorites]

I think there need to be more pieces that talk frankly and unapologetically about the desire to be child-free.

I could have done without the apparent horror she feels about "imperfect" children, though. Or at least she could have acknowledged her feelings about that without making them seem like gospel truth. I would have liked to read a slightly less self-righteous and more self-aware treatment of that particular topic, because it is important to discuss how fears of that nature factor into family planning, etc.
posted by delight at 5:39 PM on July 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

I am both adopted and childfree. I am completely sympathetic to the emotional pretzeling she had to go through. No matter what point of life you are at, people are judging you by your children (or lack). I am by nature a nurturer- but I know my limits. I murder plants consistently. My dogs are only 85% behaved. I love my 6 niecenephews- but in the abstract, and I am done with them after about 2 days in their company.

You should not want the comforts of a partner should you choose not to reproduce. This is what I have heard in one form or another my whole life. Granted, I was raised by a family who was Irish Italian Catholic.

I am sad she lost her person. I am glad her person found the right child for her. But my heart cries for her having to say all these things- like being a good writer and a seemingly decent person is not enough for her to exist on the planet.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 5:42 PM on July 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

In this case, it seems like she spent way too long only willing to engage with this process if the best possible outcome happened before putting her foot down. The problem isn't that she's that risk-averse, even if her reasons for being so are super iffy, so much as that she wasn't willing to say no a lot faster. It kind of seems like she was anxious about the whole process and seems to have fallen down a rabbit hole of obsessive reading and increasingly dwelling on the possible negatives, far beyond the point of being particularly rational about it, but if you're only kind-of-maybe-sorta onboard even if everything goes perfect, seriously, just say no. But I get why she didn't, why people often don't. I hope reading stories like this convinces at least a couple other people to draw that line much sooner.
posted by Sequence at 5:55 PM on July 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

And yeah I guess it's good that this person who wrote this essay realized that she didn't want to raise a child.

My mother lost her mother at age 9, and never forgave me.
posted by infini at 6:28 PM on July 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

On the one hand, there are a lot of things that I relate to in this article. I'm a woman who never saw any appeal in motherhood. In fact, the thought of having children is something that has always seemed actively repellent to me (not that motherhood/children is inherently repellent, just the thought of myself being involved in that). I've never thought babies or small children were cute. And yeah, I get a lot of shit and disbelief for this. And I've heard the countless "You'll change your mind when you get older" and "It's different when it's your own kid."

(I'm sure it is, and if I had a kid, I think I would grow to care for them, but I firmly believe children should only have parents who really, really want them, and that's not me. And I'm only 30, so maybe I really will change my mind, but this conviction only gets stronger as I get older so...)

There was a time where I still thought I'd probably end up having kids some day, probably in part because I was surrounded by women who all had kids, and yeah, everyone told me I would have kids. (Also I am an only child with a mother who desperately wanted grandchildren, so there was a lot of guilt about that.) And I do remember going through a similar phase where I thought, "I can sort of kind of imagine having kids, but absolutely not if they would require extraordinary levels of care."

However, that was when I was like 14. Before I even hit the age of 20 I realized that those thoughts were a huge, blinking, neon sign that I should just skip the whole kids things.

And also, like the author, I work in education, and I really enjoy the kids I work with, and they seem to like me, as well.

I think it's important to hear more from people (especially women) who have chosen not to have children. Having children is great if you want kids, but if you don't want kids, then not having kids is the right thing to do. It doesn't make someone selfish or faulty or damaged in some way, although I have wondered at times if I might have chosen to have kids if I hadn't grown up in such a toxic, chaotic environment.

Which is another way in which I sort of relate to this author: Just as women who lose their mothers may sometimes find healing in having children, I've also heard of people with traumatic or abusive upbringings finding healing through raising children of their own.

And yet, with all that being said, I really found myself getting annoyed throughout reading this article. Her assertions about nature being the ultimate determinant and the horrible dangers of nicotine exposure in pregnancy, while certainly having some basis in fact, are taken to a pretty severe extreme, and I feel like it's all in service of her trying to rationalize not wanting to have a kid. A lot of her rhetoric also just seems rooted in racist and classist thinking, not to mention prejudices about mental illness, drug use/abuse, and the developmentally disabled.

So ultimately I have a lot of mixed feelings about this. Maybe if more women spoke out about their decisions, this author might not have gone through these kinds of mental gymnastics to come to terms with not wanting a kid. But she's also perpetuating misinformation and stereotypes that can be actively harmful.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:32 PM on July 28, 2017 [13 favorites]

"problematic provenance "

Jesus Christ, lady, you are talking about a human baby with human parents.

She's talking about herself and she is excruciatingly clear about that. The whole long painful opener about her vile father wasn't pasted in from some other essay for no reason, and the mother who told her to thank god her baby sister died so young she never had to meet her, that wasn't included for no reason either. These are her parents, who gave her the genes she is so convinced determine what people are. Her parents were smart, like she's smart, and her parents were also like that, and what is she like? That's what this is about.

The fear that drove her to her second bout of color-blindness and migraines was, as she says, the fear that a child's doom is to never be otherwise than its parents made it. She doesn't have any children; she avoided that. she is talking about herself. she, once a human baby with human parents, now a human woman. Of problematic provenance. she's not a goddamn idiot and she doesn't write like one. a modicum of subtlety is no crime.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:54 PM on July 28, 2017 [17 favorites]

It doesn't matter to me why she doesn't want children, what her ideas about heredity are, or whether she shares her mother's belief that children with disabilities are an undue burden on their parents.

She was honest with herself about her level of desire and aptitude to raise children, and based her decision whether or not to do so on the results of her self-examination. Whether or not I would like her as a friend or enjoy her company as a person, she gets a ton of respect from me for that alone.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:04 PM on July 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

I thought it was a great essay, well written and interesting. She's struggling with ideas of merit - but to say otherwise would be to criticise her beloved mother, and her mother had to find some way to make sense of her firstborn daughter's early death in what sound like very silenced circumstances for an intelligent and sensitive woman married to a Giant Toddler (my new favourite term).

She doesn't want to parent, and she doesn't have to. She broke her heart rather than break a child's heart later, and I think that's extremely kind and good of her.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:30 PM on July 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Like others, while I welcome the refreshing honesty about the desire to not be a mother, the use of justifications like "children of addicts are irrevocably broken" and "some babies are lesser and not worth the work" and the whole kind of disgusted attitude she seems to hold towards adopted children is really gross. "I associate motherhood with servitude and have no desire to have it in my life" is a perfectly fine thing to say. "I can't be a mother with my partner because I don't want a child that comes from those sorts of people" is not.
posted by schroedinger at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2017 [43 favorites]

You said exactly what I felt after reading the essay, schroedinger.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:56 PM on July 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

She's talking about herself and she is excruciatingly clear about that.

The heck she is:

As it happened, my now ex-partner did not get the infant whose problematic provenance had caused our split.

If you want to say that she is also, in a roundabout way, talking about herself, that's fine, but there's no question that the literal reference is to an ACTUAL HUMAN BABY who is a real person who existed (and presumably exists) outside of her needs and fears.
posted by praemunire at 10:16 PM on July 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

(And she and her parents deserve humanizing treatment, not objectification.)
posted by praemunire at 10:22 PM on July 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I expected to relate to this child free woman and to enjoy her story, but the more I read, the more my lip curled up and I found myself saying "ugh!" a lot. By the end of it I was really over her creepy attitude. I hated how she kept saying things like, "to my shame," when the whole point of the article was a justification for not feeling any shame. And that is in no way to say I think she should have felt ashamed, but when she obviously fakes feelings of shame and regret, on top of the weird stuff about nicotine and all the rest, it makes her seem almost sociopathic to me. So yeah, thank God she decided to skip parenting.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:08 PM on July 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

She should have dumped her partner as soon as it became evident that she wasn't respecting her wishes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:59 AM on July 29, 2017

Huh. I really enjoyed this essay, even if I don't agree with her views on nature versus nurture. For reference, I've always been firmly in the wanting children camp, but it's damn hard and I hate that so many women are bullied into kids. (I also question a relationship where one partner unilaterally decides to have a child... baby or not, that relationship did not seem stable).
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:13 AM on July 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also question a relationship where one partner unilaterally decides to have a child... baby or not, that relationship did not seem stable

I agree. I think this actually happens a lot, and the author's perspective is less common in that she and her ex Helen are both women. The stereotype is that, in cis, heterosexual relationships, the woman will want children more than the man, who has to be coaxed or even "oopsed" into parenthood - but when the baby arrives, dad falls in love and all is hunky-dory and the family lives Happily Ever After in The Land of Kodak Moments.

Obviously, things don't always (or even mostly) work out that way, and it's an unethical gamble, IMO, to roll the dice and hope that a reluctant spouse comes around. If the dice come up snake eyes, everybody, but especially the child, suffers.

Two women, or two men, or indeed any couple that doesn't have sperm and eggs at the ready, have to be more deliberate and purposeful in getting a child than a cis hetero couple where it can be pretty easy to oops-conceive (whether through carelessness or birth control failure). I really think that's a good thing. I also think that it's good that Ms. Lord had sufficient self-awareness to leave Helen before, rather than after, a child entered the picture.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:36 AM on July 29, 2017 [7 favorites]

I really disliked her attitude to the commodification of adoption.

She was eager to take prenatal vitamins and to submit to drug and alcohol tests during her pregnancy. I doubt if she was eager for the tests themselves, just aware that the adoptive mother would not go ahead without them.

The mother decided to keep her baby. Because she was not a drug addict, she was hit hard by the oxytocin that her body released when she held her infant daughter.

The idea that a mother deciding on reflection to keep her baby is all down to a hormone rush is insulting.
posted by Azara at 9:01 AM on July 29, 2017 [8 favorites]

As a women pressured to place my child for adoption because society sees poor single and struggling mothers as unfit and unworthy of supports to parent, I found this so horrifying I couldn't read all of it. My heart is pumping my body is shaking with the screams of losing a wanted child because the world thinks we who are poor and struggling don't deserve our children while women like this, just because they have money, automatically deserve them.

Fuck the current adoption system, commodification of children, and exploitation of vulnerable mothers we fail to help parent.

Thank the goddess she kept her child.

May they all. May they all. Stop breaking them up, for the love of all that is holy and good.
posted by xarnop at 10:39 AM on July 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

PSA: Please don't have kids in order to try and fix your problems. It's selfish and it doesn't work. If you aren't super into the idea of raising a child for its own sake—a difficult, expensive, thankless project that will take over your entire life—maybe don't have one. There's no shortage of humans, and already there are far too many unwanted kids. The continuance of the species is not in jeopardy.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:16 AM on July 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

Looong story warning!

I knew four women in the small town where I grew up who honestly, sincerely desired to place the babies they gave birth to for adoption.

One (A) was older than I, and the mother of one of my classmates; another (B) was my classmate and became pregnant during our senior year; the other two (C&D) were two years older and conceived a couple of years after graduation.

They experienced the closest thing to the pillory and the scarlet letter that 20th century society could come up with. If I had a dollar for every time I heard some variation on “I don't know what kind of cold-blooded monster you would have to be to carry that baby around for nine months and then just throw it away like it was a piece of garbage,” I probably would have had enough money to get them out of town where they could get their adoptions in peace. Their own mothers and families joined in the ganging-up. This was also, in general, a very pro-choice community, even the Catholics.

B stuck to her guns, although it meant losing a lot of her friends and becoming estranged from her family (except the special-needs sister she cared for). It was an open adoption with a couple who owned a successful business and had two other happy children. B eventually had to leave town instead of commuting to a local college as planned. If we'd had a rail, they would have ridden her out of town on it. People were still bad-mouthing her a year after she was gone, as if she'd thrown the baby in the lake instead of choosing a good home and family for him.

C’s and D’s mothers informed them that if they took any steps toward adoption, they would take them to court and sue for custody of the baby. The mother of the father of C’s baby did the same. D's mother told her, “You better think long and hard, because if I get custody of that baby, I'm going to make sure every day that he knows his mother couldn't be bothered with him.” D had considered abortion, but had honest religious qualms about it. She had had two in high school and just couldn't bring herself to do it again.

So, they both ended up marrying high school sweethearts they didn't love and soon grew to not even like, had more children right away because the same people who told them it was wrong to place a child for adoption also told them it was wrong to raise only children, foughtt constantly, and ended up in messy divorces. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that their oldest children, counting backward from their birthdays, realized that their births might have contributed to the tension between their parents.

A’s ex used to get up and tell this story in the local cafe whenever he'd had a couple. His son was there once, and it was horrifyingly obvious that wasn't the first time he'd heard it. I'm sure I don't have it word for word, but there are certain phrases that stuck in my mind because I was just so aghast.

“So she comes to me and tells me she's pregnant. I finally talked her out of an abortion and then she starts spouting off all this crap about adoption so she can go to college or something. No no no no no no. Nobody’s dumping MY kid off with strangers so she can go off and have fun doing God knows what.”

“I says I'm taking him. She says he should have two parents but that's complete BULLSHIT! If she wanted him to have two parents I would have married the dumb bitch. So I finally talk some sense into her and she understands I'm taking the baby. I asked her if there's anything I can do to help her get a fresh start. She says she's got a scholarship but college is going to be hard without a car. I tell her she can have the one I've been working on.”

And that's his big moment. He takes a long pause, looks around the room to make sure everyone's listening, and then declaims in a voice that drowns out the bar noises from the next room, “THAT'S RIGHT - THAT BITCH SOLD HER BABY FOR A USED CHEVY IMPALA!!”

I am in no way, shape, or form trying to deny that there are still women and girls being pressured and forced into placing their babies for adoption, or trying to minimize their suffering. However, there is very much another side to that narrative, and I don't think I could ever support a strict black and white policy that says absolutely every infant should and must be raised by the woman who gave birth to them. I believe that everyone who gives birth should be given that opportunity. However, I also think we need to create a culture in which people can give birth and choose to find others who want to raise their offspring without judgement or interference. I'm not 100% sure what that looks like - maybe some kind of services to help women lie low while they’re without the support network of their family and community?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:26 AM on August 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Underpants Monster, I am well aware there are women who don't want or love their children and of course I would rather such women place their children. What we have at present is not a system that helps women who don't want to bond and care for their children self identify as not a good candidate to parent but a system that tells women in struggling situations that if they TRULY love their children they will place them. Rather than a system that identifies those struggles and provides resources to parent in a healthy way. And let's have a look at how in spite of knowing poverty is the biggest driver of infant adoption, there is focus on bad personal choices both by adoptive parents and the adoption industry as a whole. A sense that by default of getting herself pregnant the mother created and earned her own poverty and does not deserve resources or aid.

It is extremely likely that the woman who placed received this kind "support" from the agency even though she wasn't receiving it from family. Unfortunately this system plucks out the women who most love their children and are most willing to sacrifice for them as the ideal "birthmother" (who they are often referred to as while pregnant simply for walking into an adoption office).

I have spent years reading the tiny amount of research that exists on birthparents (which is a field no one cares about because there's no money in it and results are often literally stifled when they pain adoption in a bad light or make adoptive parents uncomfortable).

Because it would take me over an hour to figure out where all the studies are (but will do if you're interested) I will leave this to think about as agency propaganda... what is the reason these birthmothers give for the placement, that the agencies are PROUD to advertise amount and that they know will work as a marketing gimmick for other pregnant and scared broke mothers who can be convinced they aren't good enough even though they love and want their kids?

Adopthelp A birthmothers words and reasons for placement

We know that single, low income, and teen homes are harder for kids and asking the poor to hand over their children to the wealthy and married and socially acceptable is not a just way to provide for those struggling in poverty and with diverse family types, yet we know it is promoted and used as a solution for poverty at present in this country.

That is what I am saying fuck everyone who supports that to, not that abusive or unloving parents shouldn't be able to contact social service and find a better home for them. It is a for profit industry and both the ideology and the money point toward idealizing breaking the poor and struggling from their children as the ideal solution.

From that stance I "wanted" to place also as I too believed I was unworthy and from a wealth and stability perspective I was certainly less able to provide. My story matches a very typical pattern of wanting a child to have a better life and choosing something better for them.

Yet none of what happened was a just manner for my community to "help" my child and certainly not a just way to "help" me. They helped themselves to my child due to my struggles.
posted by xarnop at 6:37 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was part of a recent research project (say about 6 years ago) in which the study was denied publishing, because a reviewer felt that it was biased toward birth parents and "did not have enough adoptive parent perspective". The study was ABOUT the impact of adoption on birthparents, and a call for more and better longitudinal research. It included addressing what we who have been birthparents a long time call "the honeymoon phase" in which in the first 5-10 years one is really really positive about how great and necessary adoption was for the child to have a good life as a coping mechanism for all the pain and ongoing grief. It is common for women in this phase to post positive adoption stories to their agency and to anyone they talk to about their experience. I personally know women whose "positive" stories were kept up on the website years after they felt differently about the experience and asked the agency to take them down.

In this study it was found that the number of years past the adoption significantly decreased positive descriptions of the adoption experience, and that descriptions of the adoption in positive terms did not decrease grief of trauma symptoms. It was also described that in interviewing 42 women only 4 indicated that even with financial resources they would not want to parent. One due to sexual assault, one due to not wanting to start over as a parent and two due to not wanting to be parents and not interested in that role. These ARE the women we should support placing and it is honorable to know parenting isn't for you and find someone who will love and cherish a child in way you don't want to do. We who have tried to help expectant moms sort out whether their adoption desires are truly not wanting to parent vs a crisis that could be temporary or could be solved call "the million dollar question" (if you had unlimited funds and obtain whatever living, housing, medical and therapeutic supports needed would you want to parent?). If the answer to this question is yes, then the mother should be given the best possible problem solving and resources support with parenting, something adoption agencies frequently fail to do at all and when they do the resources or counselling they offer about parenting are often far behind what some of the parenting support centers I've seen provide (who help get parents into housing, get them into jobs programs i.e provide MEANINGFUL aid to get real resources and not just fill out a form with you about what you have to offer your child vs the agency has which is what many of us are offered as "options" counselling).

This is an interesting paper that describes an attempted overview of birthparent and adoption counsellor experience of adoption counselling. It, like most projects, indicates financial reasons and social stigma and pressure around single or young parenting as the bulk of the reasons NOT the desire to part with their child. Like most projects regarding birthparent welfare, it's small and does not have handy charts about statistics found in the project but would be worth a read for anyone interested in or who cares about birthparent experience. Baylor University Research

It also find the innate bias in how adoption professionals discuss the desired outcome (which to them is placement) and how they use "choice" language to detract from the reality that they absolutely do have a preference for the outcome and are not removed from that in how they discuss options or choice with clients who often believe they are receiving ACTUAL nonbiased counseling which is impossible given the business interests and adoption as "the ideal selfless heroic act" and "the best interests of the child" nature of adoption agencies as a whole.

For anyone interested in reading the non-published study I was a part of it had a lot more statistical analysis and was even more disheartening but I can share with individuals and not on a public message board as was her request since she might write a book at some point breaking down all the information and gathering more in a more comprehensive way.

What's more anyone who works in a field where this research would be used, I can give you her contact information and she could provide very good resources in addition to access to the study.
posted by xarnop at 7:42 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Needless to say most of us who have discovered adoption was painful and not in our own interests don't talk much about it, because the trauma is so devastating- it still leaves me shaking and physically in pain to discuss even 16 years later.

And for those us who go through this hell, this horrifying trauma because we want our children to be loved and cherished and given all the love and resources possible- the idea that women who are coming to adopt with the kind of mindset the writer of this article proposes is unspeakably painful.

In my case the adoptive parents were adopting to avoid divorce (didn't work), the mom is a smoker, and smokes pot, and invites homeless guys to come live with them.... I mean I love her and I would support her being a messy imperfect mother of her own children, but I could have been a messy imperfect mother myself and my daughter would have been wanted, loved, and imperfectly provided for without me having to go through a horrifying hell to achieve it. And I can guarantee you all the research I have ever found backs up that a majority of birthparents want and love their children and are faced with external circumstances making it very hard to parent effectively- thus to take their children without being pretty sure you ARE a lot better than them at parenting, and prepared to love this child with all your heart and soul and give them the world as this mother is often damaging herself to make possible for her child- is adding many many layers of injury to an already injurious and painful experience.
posted by xarnop at 7:50 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

women who are coming to adopt with the kind of mindset the writer of this article proposes

She didn't want to adopt. She didn't want a child. Her partner wanted a child. Her partner was the one pushing to adopt.

Your legitimate and justifiable anger seems to be preventing you from reading her essay clearly. A few quotes from it:
…two years ago, when my then–life partner unilaterally decided to adopt…
…suddenly—and, for me, bafflingly—engaging work took a backseat to a new fixation: securing a human newborn…
…When the prospect of a baby loomed on my horizon, I felt pure horror.…
…Even as a child, I never wanted to nurture.…
…given how badly my partner wanted a baby, any baby…
…at my present age, with not that many productive years left, the last thing I wanted was a child…
…In retrospect, I should have left the relationship. I should have heard my body’s message. It knew who I was and how far I could travel from my core self without breaking.…
There's plenty to criticize in the essay that's actually there. Criticizing her for having mixed and negative feelings towards something she never wanted in the first place seems unfair.
posted by Lexica at 10:40 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

"It knew who I was and how far I could travel from my core self without breaking. But my brain, or at least part of it, was intrigued to be part of a social experiment. My partner and the aspiring dad registered with an adoption lawyer and, after a few months, a birth mother on the West Coast contacted them.......

The mother decided to keep her baby. Because she was not a drug addict, she was hit hard by the oxytocin that her body released when she held her infant daughter. (For active drug addicts, oxytocin can’t always compete with the pull of methamphetamine or heroin.) My partner was devastated—perhaps all three of us were. We had fleshed out a collective fantasy about making a “better” life for a kid, a life with love (from my partner) and financial advantages. We had to regroup. 
Call me monstrous—and I’m sure some will—but after the disappointment, I was relieved that the mother had kept the baby."

She was willing to go along with all this, and someone like her could have wound up with a loved and wanted infant like mine, and left the birthmother in horrific pain all for the sake of being moved from a loving mother to a reluctant and detached non-mother.

Yes that is still horrifying, and according to plenty of my adoptee friends, the myth that adoptive parent money and ability to pass an adoptive parent test does not mean they are any more loving, nurturing, or capable of being good parents, though their wealth and relative stability can confer benefits even if they are unloving and abusive.

I would not have ever placed a child if the adoptive mother had said any of the things this woman did, hence why I am thankful this mother kept her child-- and I don't think it's monstrous of her to be happy the original mother kept her child. Going along with adopting a child when you are not prepared to love the child and not telling the woman who is likely breaking her heart apart to give her child a better life is absolutely a heinous thing to do. It was simply luck, not ethical decision making (and good instincts by the birthmother) that prevented her from being part of separating someone else from their child under the belief the child was in fact going to have a new actually loving mother.
posted by xarnop at 4:40 PM on August 2, 2017

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