Why’dja do it, huh?

Yesterday and today I am answering questions from fabulous commenter Artemis: “Hi. I guess my question is why you decided to place, and how you came to that decision? Maybe you covered that already but I only discovered your blog about a month ago. And what made you choose Ruth and Nora?” If you have a question, lay it on me.

I’m a little nervous about answering this one. Part of that is that there are reasons here that I never gave to the agency, or to Ruth and Nora, or to anyone, really—there are dumb things and petty things. I tended to give people my good and overwhelming reasons: “I am extremely poor and not ready to parent.” True, and it seems like enough…but there’s always more to the story, seems like. As soon as I had given birth I felt ready to parent—hell, I did parent for that one day—but I literally would not allow myself to consider any alternative to adoption. I didn’t want to let Ruth and Nora down, I didn’t want to look weak, I didn’t want to trap my boyfriend—and of course my list of reasons going into the process was still mostly present. And it was an actual, physical list; when the agency told me that many women falter after birth, I decided to write a list down so that I could look at it if I needed to. The list was full of self-hate, and I kind of wish that I had been able to get some counseling during the adoption process: it started out “Listen, you stupid f%ck%ing b%tch.” Yes, that is what I had to say to myself. So I guess that’s one reason for choosing adoption that I never put on any list, not even in my head; I sort of despised myself.

I had a lot of reasons for choosing adoption: some of them were good reasons, and some of them, frankly, were pretty crappy. I’m going to give all of them because I do myself no favors by holding back on this blog and because I think it’s usually a complicated decision. So here they are, in no particular order:

  • My partner, the future Mr. Book, was planning on going to law school and wouldn’t be able to do that if we had had a baby. It’s still going to be at least another year, but a child would have pushed that back several years.
  • I wanted to prove to my partner that I hadn’t gotten pregnant on purpose.
  • I have a history of serious depression, and worried that I would suffer from post-partum psychosis. My mother had pretty bad post-partum depression and abused me and Tammy as infants—I began, in a weird way, to see the pregnancy as a trial run, a chance to see whether I could have a baby and not lose my mind. I managed to keep taking care of my cat and remained affectionate and attentive to him even during the worst of the aftermath, so I’ve decided that I can probably have a baby and not go dangerously nuts.
  • My parents had all of us kids while they were poor and my dad was in school, and things were pretty dire sometimes. I wanted my kid to have toys and adequate indoor heat and health insurance; stuff I didn’t have when I was little. My memories of my childhood are not good, and I didn’t want to raise my son the way I was raised.
  • My partner had very much wanted me to have an abortion, and told me that many times. Maybe this sounds weird, but I didn’t want to raise a kid whose life we’d talked about ending. I’m trying to find a more rational/less emotional way to phrase this one, but this is the best I can do. Not that we ever would have told Cricket, but I didn’t want to have that in my head, even.
  • I told my partner that I worried that ten years down the road, he’d resent me and feel that I’d trapped him…and he didn’t say anything. Right, I thought to myself.
  • The only night of my life that I had unprotected sex, I got pregnant. I decided that this meant that I’d gotten pregnant for a reason, and that the reason must be that God was punishing me by making me carry someone else’s child and then give the baby to the real parents. Catholic guilt can really do a number on a girl, huh?
  • When I was pregnant, I was unemployed, living with my parents, and in a long-distance relationship—if any one of those things had been different, I might not have placed. Even now, I’ve had a couple of bad moments where I look at Mr. Book and think, I should have kept Cricket instead of marrying you. That’s not fair of me; if I had told Mr. Book that we were going to be raising this baby, he would have married me and stepped up to be a dad. But we were both in bad situations, and we didn’t want to make a baby carry part of the burden.

I second guess my decision to place—maybe I always will, I don’t know. But Cricket is doing well, his parents love him, and I’m meeting my obligations to him; I think that’s as much as I can reasonably hope for.

I guess that’s only half the story, tho. Before I got pregnant, I had always assumed that I would have an abortion; once I got pregnant, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to do that. I am still pro-choice, but feel that abortion is a choice not available to me personally. So when I did get pregnant, I thought that I was going to have a baby. Then I talked to my partner, and I realized that I couldn’t have a baby. I had read Dan Savage’s memoir about adopting his son, so I knew of open adoption—I emailed the agency he used, and went from there.

7 thoughts on “Why’dja do it, huh?

  1. People sometimes (well, often) ask why Pennie placed and then they hear she was young (19) and that settles it for them. But of course she placed for a million reasons some of them I know, some of them I can guess at, some of them I’ll never be privvy to. But her reasons change, too. Why she placed then and her hindsight now and I think it will always change really as her understanding of her self changes. Sometimes I look and I see that her decision was made inevitable by all of these small and big things that happened in her life and were happening at that time and I think that reforms will help but also that there needs to be more in place for girls/women before they ever get to that place where they’re making an adoption plan, too.

    Life is complicated.

    • A difference for me is that when people found out that I was twenty-five, with the father, etc., they really didn’t get it. Maybe that accounts for a bit of my defensiveness.

    • Maybe I’ve given you a mistaken impression? My husband’s a good guy, and would have supported me whatever decision I made. Part of the problem for me was that I did a lot of the decision making in my head, essentially alone. In fact, although I wasn’t able to really take it in at the time, he would rather have parented than chosen adoption–I wasn’t really hearing that because I wasn’t sure how to deal with it, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I “put [him] through that” than vice versa. In fact, I tried talking to a therapist whom I’d seen during the pregnancy once after the surrender, and she said “He wanted to parent, though, right?” And it was like a revelation for me. I was so self-absorbed during that process that I think I didn’t pay enough attention to his feelings.

  2. Thanks for telling me that, I did have the wrong impression.

    My mother cites lack of self-esteem as the largest contributor to giving me away too. She was much younger than you and coerced as well, so that made it harder on her.

    I hope you gain confidence in your abilites. Poor self-esteem is actually really dangerous.

  3. I get this question a lot about my kids’ adoptions. In lots of ways I think their first parents are still sorting through and re-thinking the reasons why–and probably always will be. How could I pretend to know?

    This has always seemed to me, in general, like one of those impossible questions to answer. Like explaining why you fell in love with a certain person. There are so many intersecting pieces, big and small, and it’s all so very specific to that particular person in that particular moment in time. The sum of the parts just never seems to equal the whole. It’s too complicated.

    • I like the image you provide–the desire to create a simple explanation was very strong for me at the time, and I think it’s what the agency wanted…but there’s probably almost always a more complicated back- to these stories.

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