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Archive for the ‘Teen Pregnancy’ Category

(Less Than Informed) Consent

I’ve been slow putting the blog back together, not knowing what to write about, what to republish, what to leave gone.

The topic of relinquishment and choice has come up in fairly heated conversations in more than one adoption group recently. And when I say recently I mean the last few days. It’s as if somewhere an alarm went off alerting people that this is the week for debating relinquishment.

There have been those who call it selfless, heroic, and courageous. There are those who call it abandonment, irresponsible. In both camps there are those who insist on reminding everyone we chose this.  We either chose it by signing relinquishment forms or we chose it by being incapable of parenting and having the state intervene. No room for nuance, no room for context. Simple. Dismissive. Choice.

It’s not that simple. Nothing ever is. Sure somewhere there is probably at least one mom who made a clear cut choice to relinquish. And sure somewhere there is probably at least one mom who made a clear cut choice not to work her plan and thus lost her parental rights. But for a majority of people there is no clear cut binary of choice and non-choice. There’s a continuum of coercion and we fall somewhere along it.

I was 17, in high school, and unemployed when I got pregnant. I was lucky in that I found out I was pregnant fairly early in the pregnancy, however I had less than 9 months to figure out how to parent my son.  I found a job, but minimum wage after school and on weekends wasn’t (and still isn’t) a lot even though I was in a state with one of the highest minimum wages.

My self worth was beat down on all fronts.

My boyfriend became distant. I no longer blame him, he was dealing with the same crisis I was, but since the fetus wasn’t in his body he had the option to check out. My best friend dropped me without a second thought. My boyfriend’s family called me names.I treated poorly at my prenatal appointments and reminded repeatedly that my insurance, my father’s insurance, would not cover the baby. I was made to feel like the doctors were doing me a favor in seeing me rather than doing their job.

My parents didn’t really talk to me about parenting or about adoption, come to think of it they didn’t talk to me much those nine months. I remember My father talking to me about the possibility that I’d be kicked out of school. (Which I now know would be in violation of title IX, but he was basing it on how things were done when he was in school). About how I needed to be careful around my male friends so people at school didn’t associate them with “my condition”. And that my parents and sisters would not be providing child care should I keep my baby. I don’t remember my mom saying anything. But really, what do you say when your 17 year old tells you she’s pregnant?

I called several places for help. One called back. An adoption facilitation services which advertised “pregnancy counseling”. I know now that it should have been called adoption counseling, but at the time I was grateful they returned my call. I answered their questions, gave them access to my medical records, they sent me profiles to pick parents for my child. Adoption was a forgone conclusion. At one point during the process I said I wanted to parent and I was threatened with foster care.

I now know they can’t take my child because I refuse to relinquish. I now know my parents would’ve helped me. I now know I could’ve done it. I now know there are programs to help. I now know I could’ve parented. I now know there were other options.

I now know so many things that would’ve been helpful to know then. But no one was there to tell me. No one was there to help.

So yes, I made a choice. But it wasn’t a fully informed choice. It wasn’t free of coercion. It doesn’t negate my pain and grief. It doesn’t make Kidlet any less my son regardless of legalities.

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August 14 2001

It took some doing but all the calls were called and the arrangements arranged and all that was left was for a baby to be born.

If only it was that easy.

Amidst the contracting and pushing people showed up. My mom, my boyfriend, his aunt who’d driven him…maybe more I don’t really remember.

There was also a steady stream of strangers coming in to check this or that as is the joy of giving birth at a teaching hospital. I don’t remember much about them either, but why should I they barely spoke to me. Until, that is, one of the strangers brought me a paper to sign.

Turns out I was going to need a Caesarian. I remember asking why and being gruffly told if I didn’t either I or the baby or both would die. My mom ended up being the one to go into the operating room with me. I’m glad because she was able to joke with me when things got scary. For instance when I heard a crash and then “ooppss” or when a voice said “whats that?” both of which are things you don’t want to hear while you’re cut open on a table.

I knew he was finally out not from some announcement. No one said “it’s a boy” or “congratulations” or even “he’s okay” the words I heard instead were

He’s white

I guess dominant and recessive genes aren’t something doctors are taught in med school.

Momma was the first to hold him and she held him near my face so I could see him. And while the operation had felt like it had taken forever the moments i had looking at my baby were gone too soon. They whisked him off to the nursery while they finished sewing me up.

I spent most of the rest of that day in the recovery room area offering to share my popsicles with orderlies (blame it on the morphine), napping, and waiting for my baby’s parents to arrive.

August 13 2001

In August of 2001 I was pregnant. My sister was out of town leaving her car with me. The morning of the 13th started out pretty unremarkable. I stopped and checked my sister’s mail the headed to the clinic for my check up.

After waiting for the typical forever a nurse took my vitals and showed me to an exam room where I waited to be seen by a random OBGYN. I never saw the same doctor, but it didn’t really matter since they all treated me with the same indifference. Ah the joys of a military hospital.

The doc du jour did a quick exam and left the room speaking only a handful of words if any at all. I took that as my cue to leave.

As I walked away from the clinic the nurse who’d taken my vitals stopped me. Apparently the doctor wanted me to go to report to Labor & Delivery.

Once again the staff barely spoke to me. I had no idea why I was there. They connected me to some machines and drew the curtain around my bed.

On the other side of the curtain was another pregnant 18 year old. Only she was married to a soldier while I was the unmarried daughter of one. Perhaps this is why the staff actually explained their procedures to her, answered her questions, and generally treated her like a human being.

I called my father at some point and he came down for awhile. We were told nothing would be happening for awhile so he went home.

I tried to call the parents I’d chosen for my son but couldn’t from the hospital so I had my mom call from home. (Looking back I’d hashtag this as: Holy no cell phone inconvenience batman)

I also called my boyfriend to let him know where I was.

They hooked me up to pitocin and stripped my membranes (broke my water) at least twice. Sometime after 11 that night more phone calls were made to assemble the troops. It was time to start pushing.

And that is how I ended August 13, 2001. Alone behind a curtain scared, in pain, and waiting for my people to join me…

Open Adoption RoundTable #35: Grandparents

Heather has asked that for this OAR we write about adoption and grandparents. Click through to see the other responses to the prompt.

My mother, Kidlet’s biological maternal grandmother, was the first (non hospital staff) to hold him. She was in the operating room during my c-section and held him up to my face as they closed my incision.

My father, Kidlet’s biological maternal grandfather, wheeled me down to the NICU to see Kidlet after we’d been separated for post op recovery.

And yet despite these very distinct memories I have a lot of anger and resentment toward my parents. I’m trying to get past it. To let it go. But, it’s not that easy.

During my pregnancy I felt alone. Ignored. I remember the harsh words more clearly than the gentle moments, and in turn I want to punish them in a similar way to how I felt punished.

Any time I was sick, whether it was pregnancy related or a migraine I’d be reminded that it was my own fault.

When TheEx’s parents kept pushing adoption my parents didn’t stand up for me. Didn’t even hint that maybe I could be a good mother.

A year after placement my mother gave a bunch of baby clothes to a friend. Baby clothes she’d bought for Kidlet without telling me. I’d believed my parents when they’d said I’d see no help from them. How was I to know they’d been stocking up on baby clothes on anticipation of me parenting.

When they ask for new pictures or information I want to hold out on them. I want to withhold their grandson. The grandson they are partially responsible for living 3000 miles away.

I know my parents love me and Kidlet. Without a doubt. I also know they were being true to our family’s communication style (or lack thereof). I try not to hold it against them, but it’s hard.

It’s hard, when M suggests momma and I stay with them when she and I go to their state for some genealogy research in 2013. I want to yell, “why should she get to infringe on my Kidlet time. What right does she have?! ”

She has the same right any other grandmother has. Perhaps that’s the key. Remembering them as Kidlet’s grandparents, imperfect as they may be instead of as my imperfect parents.