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.