Friday, June 25, 2010

"How Could She. . ."

I've heard the question "how could she do that?" more than I care to. It never fails to impress upon me how certain many people are that their ideology is the right one. Because they've never found themselves in a position to seriously consider adoption they "could never do that" and "can't imagine how a person could do something like that." I think my favorite is "something has to be wrong with you to abandon your own flesh and blood." I often overhear these things said before people know I'm a firstfather.  I'm directly told these things after I've informed them.

The prejudice runs deep. So deep it's considered okay to tell someone they're inherently broken, nigh inhuman, because s/he made a difficult choice. James Gritter has once again addressed these attitudes in a book. I haven't read it myself, though it's now on the list. Fellow blogger Luna reviewed the book and answered a pair of questions about her experience here.

"As Gritter points out, the more compassionate query is what dire circumstances led to such a difficult and life altering decision (p27). Gritter suggests the question 'How could you…' may only be appropriate when posed by an adoptee. 'A question from his soul deserves an answer from hers,” he writes, even though it is “an experience for which there is no adequate language' (p31)." - shamelessly stolen from Luna.

I love that turn of phrase Gritter suggests. "What dire circumstances. . ." It cuts to the quick of things very well. Most often that's exactly the case. Pregnancy occurs surrounded by chaos and a time-limited inability to parent. But here is where the standard version and my story diverge, yet again. I could parent. I don't know how all the details would have worked out but I could have made it work. I chose not to.

My earliest memories of my projected future in childhood involved parenting. In kindergarten I imagined growing up a raising a family much like my own. In second grade I replaced my future career of psychology for my father's in the pastorate. By the age of eight I had changed my mind. I didn't want a family with children. I didn't want to raise children. I couldn't imagine being responsible for another person's life. In the years following my attitude toward parenting has changed a little but not enough to convince me that it's an endeavor I want to participate in. That's the truth of it.

I don't want to parent. I've never been able to integrate it into my sense of self despite years of being told to do so. Much like trying to talk a man into being a woman it just didn't work. It's either there or it isn't. While varying shades of grey exist I don't believe it can be significantly altered nor fabricated. That is why, for as long as my sense of self has been tied to my own experience, I have no identified as a father figure.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that Athena feels the same way. Even more so I'm lucky that both of us were being honest in discussing children before her pregnancy. Our "dire circumstances" were being in a situation neither of us wanted to be, ever.

I think that's all for today.

This post is probably a bit scattered and almost certainly rather negative. Life circumstances are pushing me around a bit and my stress is on the rise. Car trouble is teaming up with low funds to make for a less than joyous week. Hopefully you'll find me in better spirits next week. Until then I hope you have a sunny and relaxing weekend. Good luck to you all and be gentle with each other. It can be a tough world. No need to make it any harder.


  1. thanks for the shout out. glad you liked my review.

    in the book, gritter talks about "circumstances of necessity." I believe those may be different for everyone, but a crisis all the same.

    our daughter's birthmother also had a clear option to parent. she had family support, a place to live, health insurance, etc. parenting was simply not something she felt prepared to do.

    you and athena are very fortunate to have been clear on that point, to have discussed it before, and more importantly, to have agreed and supported each other once you learned she was pregnant.

  2. I say this not as an adoptive mother, but as someone who is perhaps a bit tenderhearted and wishes for people to have solice within their own and Athena made a great choice. If neither of you want to be parents, there is no reason for you to be...even with a pregnancy involved. You are not required by law to procreate. You are not required to raise said child if one happens to be produced.

    Thank you for having enough sense of self to know that wasn't the right path. I've seen far too many people parent because they think it's what they're supposed to do. All that results in is unhappy people, and usually some fucked up kids.

  3. Luna - Both Athena and I have said, now countless times, were we going through the adoption with any other person we would have bailed. Not just on each other, but on the adoption as well. Without the quality relationship we were able to hurriedly build none of this could have happened. I count it as a good thing that it did.

    Sara - That's exactly why we chose to follow the adoption path. I refused to hurt my son by pretending I could change what I know to be true.


What do you think? I'm curious.