Today kicks off the second Open Adoption Examiner Book Tour. Six months ago we explored the adoptee perspective with The Primal Wound; now we examine the first parent view with James L. Gritter’s 2000 book, Life Givers.
I’ll start by quoting myself from several years ago:
When we first brought Tessa home, my grandma was quite disturbed in meeting Crystal, Tessa’s firstmom.
Now, I love my Grandma, and she was an amazing woman. Almost 90 years old, she had seen space shuttles and the Internet replace horse & buggies and telegrams.
But she was stuck in an absolutely incorrect view of birth mothers. She was both grateful to Crystal for making me a mom, and contemptuous of her for “giving up her child.” Indeed, most mothers — by birth or adoption — have trouble imagining the unimaginable. Grandma couldn’t get over, “what kind of woman does this?”
Jim Gritter and my own old post reminded me that a judgmental view of first mothers did exist when the book was published (and, sadly, still does). How could I forget?
- I forgot because I’ve been living in open adoptions for more than 9 years and do not see either of my children’s first moms the way they are seen by some members of society. Myopia has crept in.
- I forgot because I have spent many years reading and getting to know several first parent bloggers. I see these strong and vocal women as the antithesis of the voiceless and the powerless mentioned in the book.
- I forgot because I now realize that birth parents walk among us. They work in our workplaces and play in our play places, they live near us, they are not essentially different from us. In fact, I suspect that most of us could say about birthparenthood: there but for the grace of g*d go I.
Here are my three chosen questions, asked by others touring with me.
In the chapter on Regret (p. 140), Gritter says that many adoptees like to hear about their birthparents’ feelings of regret. What are your thoughts about birthmothers who have no regret? Do you believe they exist? And what effect does that lack of regret have on the placed child?
This effect of a lack of regret is something I am bracing myself to deal with some day. Neither of my children’s birth mothers seem to have much regret about their placement decisions. Tessa’s birth mom, Crystal, has said so expressly and repeatedly. My antennae have been up with Reed’s birth mom, Michele, but have detected no regret.
So yes, I do believe regret-free first parents exist.
How will this strike Tessa and Reed as they grow and continue to process their adoptedness? I don’t know. I do believe it will affect them and possibly make them sad, maybe angry.
And I have faith in their resilience to work it through.
On the flip side, both my children have birth fathers who carry regret. Both wish they could go back in time and make some different choices (I am not talking about the adoption decision, but in circumstances that surrounded the adoption decision. I will not say more, and you’ll have to trust me that saying they have some regret is not the same as saying they were were forced into the adoption decisions).
Gritter gives 8 ways that LifeGivers can fit in (pp 158-159). Choose one way and tell about it in your situation.
One of the ways that a LifeGiver can fit in is to provide affirmation. Crystal has attended various graduation ceremonies, all 9 birthday parties, some athletic events, music concerts, dance recitals. Joe has, as well. Reed’s birth parents do not live in state, but I have hopes that there will be some affirming opportunities in the coming years.
Regarding the exclusive roles of parents (birthparents as life givers, adoptive parents as caregivers), Gritter says (p. 153), “Open adoption recognizes the deep sadness associated with not being able to provide a vital dimension of parenting.” How did you work through this sadness in your own triad?
I answered a similar question about how I embraced open adoption.
Regarding the sadness of not conceiving, carrying and bearing my children: I just decided that wishing things were different than they were was pointless and would only make me unhappy. So why do it? That was the logical element.
And there was the fact that I was consumed with devotion and enchantment for these babies who were placed in my arms. Such intense feelings burned away the vestiges of infertility sadness. That was the loving element.
Finally, having an infant, and later an infant with a toddler, was exhausting! Who has time to lament??