Monday, September 25, 2006

Birthmothers keeping their secret

Something that has stuck with me since reading it was Notmother's opening remarks to her class presentation. This is an excerpt from her post: "How many of you know an adoptive parent?" Everybody."How many of you know someone who was adopted?" Everybody (maybe one that didn't.)"How many of you know a birthparent?" The professor (which was a given because she's a social worker) and one student (who I've been feeling knows about me). A part of me wanted to laugh or tell them they could all raise their hands, but I just filed it away in the "Yeah, it's really true." category and got back to my real focus.

This resonated with me at the time because I thought, yeah, we should be comfortable with people knowing we're birthparents as much as people are comfortable with publicly acknowledging their status as adoptive parents and/or adoptees. But then I remembered all the stereotyping and rude comments that occur, and decided keeping quiet was still a good idea, at least for me, at least for now.

Lately her post has made me realize that hey, I'm not alone. In any group setting there may be another birthmother, also keeping her secret. This thought occurs to me from time to time now, especially whenever I'm around a group of people. I even find myself purposefully thinking, hmmm, I wonder if anyone else here is a birthmother?

Whenever I'm in public with my daughter she gets a lot of attention. This attention comes from people who are grandparents, parents, children. Occasionally there is a random stand-alone comment but almost every comment from an adult is followed up with "... I miss mine being that small", ... "our newest grandchild is her age", etc. Even if someone doesn't make a follow-up comment, there's a certain way people act around babies that let's you know if they are parents or grandparents, in the same way you can tell your waitress is a mother if she is careful to put your drink out of the baby's reach. There's also a certain way people talk and look at babies that gives them away as parents, grandparents, just as there is a way childless people act who are crazy about/around babies act.

Last night in the grocery store I noticed a woman noticing my daughter. No big deal. Later, on the other side of the store as I was standing still for a moment by the dairy section she stopped to tell me how beautiful my daughter was and how much she just loves babies, all the time looking at my daughter. None of her body language indicated that she was a mom. And the slightly sad way she was focused on my daughter struck me as someone who was being vicarious, the way I was and sometimes still am as a birthmother. Sure, she may be someone who always wanted to have a child and couldn't, didn't have the opportunity, or lost a child through death or divorce, but in my gut I just felt like she might be a birthmom. I wanted to ask, to let her know it was okay to acknowledge her status and to let her know I identified with her. But I couldn't. I mean, how would I feel if someone just came out and asked me that? And I thought about asking the more generic, "Have you ever had a baby?" (rather than, "Do you have a child?", but she could have easily lied like I have so many times.

And maybe she does just loves babies.


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