In getting to know one another, there are questions in our society we automatically ask without thinking about the weight that they may carry. Recently I was asked one of these questions.
“Do you have any children?”
I’m sure I looked very confused when I stumbled through my answer and responded with an unconvincing “no.”
I find it kind of comical that to this day I still get thrown off by this question. You would think that after 12 years as a birthmother I would have my answers all sorted out by now. Questions that seem to be simplistic can have many layers of complexities for someone who is a birthmother, and “do you have any children?” does not have a straightforward answer. I feel like I’m lying to people when I say no because that’s not accurate, but saying yes doesn’t seem to quite answer the question. I also know that if I answer fully and honestly, this can open the floodgates to a slew of other questions. I’m not ashamed of my decision to place my daughter. In fact, I’m quite proud of it. I think my hesitation comes from not knowing how others will react when I tell them that I made an adoption plan. People don’t know how to react. Should they show me pity? Sorrow? Sympathy? Happiness? I often find that I’m in a place of reassuring them that yes, I’m okay and proud of my decision, and although there is always sadness that comes with an adoption plan, it was and continues to be the absolute best decision for myself and my birthdaughter. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After talking to other birthmothers, I have realized that my answer to the above question is now “no, I’m not parenting any children”. The person asking won’t realize that I’ve worded my answer differently than what their question asks, however I can share honestly while having the power to reveal these pieces of myself on my own terms. I love sharing my story, but want to do so when I choose to share it. My story belongs to me.
I also think about the parallels between these kinds of questions for adoptive parents. Questions such as “when are you having kids?” is one that for families who are waiting to adopt or exploring adoption has an unclear answer. Adoption can seem complicated and confusing when compared to a straightforward, black and white world; especially to those who don’t understand the beautiful mosaic that is adoption.
So for now I’ll keep opening myself up to those who I decide to be vulnerable with, carefully answering questions in a way that feels comfortable for me in honouring my story, one chosen conversation at a time.