Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An interesting line of questions

Normally I try to keep my responses to comments within the comments section. This time, however, there were some questions raised that I think deserve more thorough review than that allows. Further more I believe the ideas raised are worth bringing out for general consideration. The comment in question was this:

"OK So I'm a bit diffident about writing this but you did ask what I think, right? I read this post a few hours ago and I can't stop thinking about it. It has left me very troubled. You usually seem so resolved about your decision to continue the pregnancy and place Festus. But this post suggests otherwise. You are usually very positive about the whole thing, but in this post you describe the day Festus was born as the most painful and traumatic day of her life. Does it have to be that the moment an unwanted pregnancy results in the birth of a child that it has to be so negative? You say that if you had parented Festus's happiness would have been sacrificed (that's if I've understood you correctly). I guess what is troubling me is--and I pick this up from Lia's and Lisa's posts also--that no matter which way you turn, there is just doom and gloom all around. If you keep the baby you're miserable, if you place the child for adoption you're miserable. Why carry through the pregnancy then? I hope I'm not crossing any line(s) by making these remarks and asking these questions."

There is a lot here. First I'd like to address the implied question about my resolve to continue the pregnancy and place Festus. Effectively the question is "why do it if it's really this hard?" That comes again in the notion of doom and gloom following everyone involved in adoption. Why carry the pregnancy to term? Wouldn't abortion be easier?

In the interest of full disclosure I must first say that I don't abide by the right to life movement. I honestly don't care when a fetus becomes a person, when memory or pain receptors develop, et cetera. Some people make the decision to terminate pregnancies. Some people make the decision to raise children conceived in unplanned pregnancies. Some people choose to place those children for adoption. Some people choose dumpsters. These are facts. Most people reading this will be troubled by at least two of the aforementioned choices.

Would abortion be easier? Perhaps for some it is. For many it is not. For some it is unthinkable. For a few (I pray very few) it is a practical form of birth control. I believe anyone being emotionally honest about the gravity of an unplanned pregnancy will recognize that abortion has life long consequences just as significant as adoption. They are very different experiences but each has significant impact upon the men and women involved. For Athena and me abortion was not easier than adoption. There are a couple reasons for that specific to our experiences. Athena's father is an adoptee in a closed adoption. Her personal values inclined her toward adoption should it appear viable (i.e. would there be enough support?). Additionally full term pregnancy would have huge ramifications for her health*. But at the heart of it there was something that didn't feel right about termination to either of us. I think of it like this;

To an adult who has never smoked tobacco and never really wanted to smoking doesn't really make sense.

To a former tobacco user smoking doesn't really make sense any more. But, when the chips are down, the ex-smoker gets it. The ex-smoker understands the feeling of needing a cigarette.

I think in some ways abortion either "makes sense" to you or it doesn't. There can be plenty of moral and ethical arguments but when things get bad, tension goes up, and people get scared it's as simple as gut instinct. It works or it doesn't.

I'll admit that initially abortion made more sense to me than adoption. It took education and some soul searching on my part to understand termination wasn't the best choice for us to make. I can see how abortion can make sense. Understanding it doesn't make it the best choice by default. It just means I can see there from here.

And that leads me to the last bit I wanted to address. Doom and gloom. This is similar to my understanding of abortion. It makes sense or it doesn't. Education can open our minds and experience can shape our understanding in very impressive ways but not until those have a chance to outweigh our initial impulse. Many people have a native understanding of how something extremely painful can still be good. Some people see pain and, understandably, assume it should be avoided. When it comes to a hot stove this works brilliantly. With an unplanned pregnancy, however, it breaks down. The truth is that an unplanned pregnancy doesn't present a person with the choices 1) parent and be miserable, 2) place for adoption and be miserable, or 3) abort. The order of operations is out of whack in that summary. In my experience it looks more like this:

1) Discover unplanned pregnancy - be miserable

2) Learn about the choices available - all choices allow for misery to continue

3) Make a decision - begin processing the specific brand of misery ascribed to that decision

There is no getting away without pain. There is no "easy" option just as there is no easy life. The gloom and misery in my previous post illustrates the pain I keep speaking of in adoptions. The pain is inherent in the process. If I stop dealing with this pain it's only because I've started lying to myself. It gets better and obviously there are days that are harder and days that are easier. The pain of adoption remains just as the pain of never seeing the face of an aborted child and the pain of dreams dashed and plans sacrificed to parent. The doom and gloom the commenter asked about is not the exclusive property of first families or those involved in adoptions. The gloom is recognition of a world view that is no longer valid. The doom is fear that we have lost ourselves as we lost our former worlds. If we do well we come out the other side wiser and more patient. Unfortunately both of those traits are hard won through adversity. But that peaks through in what may be the least publicized piece of adoption. Triumph. Victory. Satisfaction.

Placing Festus for adoption was very difficult. There isn't anything in my life I am so proud of as how Athena and I went about that decision. We poured everything we were into doing pregnancy, labor, adoption, and continuing relationships right. We made it. We made it through and are better for it. We did right by our son and ourselves. That's the funny thing. Going through with an adoption plan feels like moving valleys and tearing down mountains. It isn't until afterward that you look back and realize you've moved valleys and torn down mountains. "Impossible" becomes rather petty after that.

I can deal with pain, because this is the pain that comes with integrity.

* Athena was, in point of fact, slowly losing her battle with Crohn's disease. When we moved into our apartment she was too ill to work and often too weak to do anything more strenuous than read. I am not exaggerating to say Festus saved her life. Were it not for him it is quite possible she would have died by now.


  1. I've written, deleted, re-written, cursed and then deleted again several comments to this post and your last post. Problem is my mind is incappable producing a comment it is willing to support so let me just say this, "I love you man!" (said like an old friend who has had too much to drink) I have really appreciated the honesty of these last two posts and the thoughts it has provoked in my little ol' adoptive parent mind.

    Thank you and may your good days far outweigh the bad :)


  2. One can feel sadness without regret, guilt coupled with a sense of pride. In fact, double edged emotions are part and parcel of being a parent.

  3. Thanks for speaking up on this. I've encountered so many people who say, "If it's so hard and painful, just don't do it." Not just about placing my daughter for adoption; other stuff, too.

    I wish I could promise you that it will get easier. You're the only one who can make that call. But I *can* say that the first year and its attendant milestones were *by far* the hardest. It has gotten much, much easier for me, nine years later.

    Thanks again, and hugs!

  4. I was just talking about how the adoption process is so unique to each person who participates in it. Even within an adoption triad there can be completely conflicting perceptions of the situation.

    As always I can only speak to my own situation. I know that Pie's birth parents are completely resolved and completely confident that the made the right decision placing Pie for adoption. They have also told us that if they made up their perfect couple to take her, they would not be as good as we are. That's not said in a boastful way, it's just to illustrate the point that they are as happy with the process and placement as they can be.

    The other side of that coin is the PPD Pie's birthmother suffered, and the ongoing sense of loss and grief she contends with. There are days that she lives her life and is happy to have the ability to do that as she chooses. There are also days when she wishes things were different. When she wishes she could put the cute t-shirt she saw on her daughter. When she wishes the baby had the name she wanted to give her or was living in the room she had decorated in her mind.

    It's impossible to have joy without saddness. One can't exist without the other. And anyone who says they can isn't being authentic or true to themselves.

  5. I've been checking and rechecking to see if you would respond so I was glad to see and read this post.
    So what I'm getting from this, and forgive me if I'm being too simplistic here, (my family always accuses me that I like things too black and white and that life is not like that,) is that once an unplanned pregnancy occurs, there is pain. Regardless of what one chooses to do once that happens.
    The Crohn's aspect adds a whole other dimension to your "story" (for want of a better word). I'm not sure just what it "means" but it does add another layer of complexity.
    I appreciate and respect what you have to say here in this post, and I totally "get" that it has to do with integrity, and how critical that is. This helps me to understand the previous post a lot better.

  6. Can I join Jill's slightly buzzed party, cuz "I love you too, man!"?

  7. First off, I love how you tackled such a complex comment. You faced it head-on and even explained it well. The thing I "get" the most is that no matter what you decide, there is still pain, but it's okay. Grief and pain can be lived through and dealt with. I loved your analogy: "Going through with an adoption plan feels like moving valleys and tearing down mountains. It isn't until afterward that you look back and realize you've moved valleys and torn down mountains. 'Impossible' becomes rather petty after that."

    Finally, I felt like I could relate to this post even on an unrelated adoption issue. Something worth doing usually has pain associated with it, and I appreciate your very last statement:
    "I can deal with pain, because this is the pain that comes with integrity."

  8. I loved these two sentences:
    It isn't until afterward that you look back and realize you've moved valleys and torn down mountains. "Impossible" becomes rather petty after that.

    I think that's true of so many things in life. Thanks for putting it into words.


  9. Where aaaaaare you? Come back!

  10. Yeah that, what Lia said...

    Oh wait, you're in hiding cause you got a near mullet too, didntcha!

  11. Thank you for your post; I am a new birth mom and reading birth father's perspectives who really cared about their little ones bring strength. Your outlook is refreshing


What do you think? I'm curious.