A reply to a birth mother

Susan Oyer, an adoptive mother in Greeley, Colo., wrote this article in reply to an April 17 commentary by a birth mother. In that article, the birth mother warned others like her about a new Oregon law that would make public the names of women who, believing they would forever remain anonymous, have given up children for adoption.

Dear fellow parent, friend, and birthparent:

I read with sadness your letter to other birthparents who may, as you do, prefer to remain nameless and faceless to the remarkable children you gave birth to, and nobly surrendered for another family's joyful adoption.

I'm saddened by the still prevalent negative connotation attached to your role as a birthparent who became pregnant under circumstances that made your adoption plan something to be ashamed of. Birthparents who choose to surrender nine months of their freedom for the life of a child, and then make the most difficult, yet honorable decision any woman could ever be asked to make in choosing what they feel is the best future for that child ... well, these are women of great courage and selflessness. Society should honor them and celebrate their strength of character and commitment. There ought to be a National Birthparent Day on which their dignity is honored, privately and publicly. We have so far to go as a nation that honors responsibility.

As an adoptive mother I am saddened at how your letter would feel for any of my three daughters to read. After years of being told that they are God's gracious gifts to us, they would suddenly realize that adoptive children are a darkly kept and embarrassing secret in the lives of some birth mothers. We've encouraged them to love and cherish birth mothers and to be grateful for the months of tender care and selfless surrender of body and will, that their very birth represents.

Fortunately, our oldest daughter has a loving and tender relationship with her birth mother. But the layers of assumed shame that needed to be peeled away, before this relationship could blossom and bring joy, were deep and took much assurance on our part that the birth mother's role was one of great love and honor, and that we welcomed her into our child's life.

But, I'm most saddened that you would forget why we all entered this world of adoption - for the best interest of the child. Whether that child is 10 or 30, we as parents, both birth and adoptive, have a responsibility to set aside our own needs for privacy or emotional security and do what best serves the well-being and self-knowledge of the child.

You're a very important person in that child's life. You're the woman that allowed him or her to grow into a beautiful, adoring, trusting, and innocent baby. Your role doesn't go away. As an adoptive mother, I can never be you. I will never be able to tell my daughter what it felt like to feel her move for the first time, or what flavor ice cream I craved in the middle of the night, or how I prayed through dark days of doubt and indecision and through a birth that brought tears of joy and sorrow. But you can and - if she needs to hear it, for whatever reason - you must.

When our daughter had these questions, I would have broken into Fort Knox to get information that would give her peace of mind and heart. I saw the crumbling away of her early childhood self-assurance when she looked in the mirror and her eyes looked so different from her dad's and mine. I saw her eyes well up with longing as she heard a friend of mine tell her biological daughter's birth story, including details of how the little one cried or smiled or looked like a little old man.

Fortunately, I found a birth mother at the other end of the Internet who loves my daughter as much as I do, and would do anything to make her feel as beautiful and loved and wanted as she truly is.

Our daughter was raised with a deeply spiritual sense of her identity as eternally whole and complete. Just as this sense of identity wouldn't negate the deeply felt emotions between birthparents who choose to raise their children or to send them to boarding school, neither should it undermine or negate the rightness of relationships whether they are for nine months or 19 years. Your role as your child's birthparent is very real and honorable and can never be surrendered or given away.

As a society, we must stop thinking of birthparents, adoptive parents, and their children as a less legitimate type of family whose relationships are ambiguous or tenuous. These relationships are strong and as divinely ordained as any other parenting relationship built on love, trust, and commitment.

I hope you discover how precious you are to your child and how deeply grateful his or her adoptive parents are to you for the amazing lessons you've allowed them to learn about themselves and their ability to love.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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