Saturday, January 31, 2009

Adoption vs. Abortion... Letter from a Birthmother

Tonight I received this note from "Lynn." She raises an important issue that I've encountered many times since I started writing about adoption. So many of these women are grieving -- deeply -- the loss of their children. Some feel as though they were coerced. Others simply wish they'd had the opportunity to parent.

The grief they feel is real. Patricia Dischler, in her book "Because I Loved You" explains that, for first/birth moms, making an adoption plan is one of the most painful experiences of her life. Even when that choice is the right one, for the sake of the child. And sadly, it seems that many of these women -- in their grief -- honestly believe that for those who cannot parent, abortion is a better choice. At the very least, they argue, the options are not abortion vs. adoption, but abortion vs. parenting. This woman is one such example.

I am a birthmom and I have met many others. Not one among us considered abortion and then chose adoption as an alternative. I understand that your motives for this argument are made for the sake of children but since abortion and adoption are mutually exclusive decisions, your argument does not have a very firm foundation. I'd be happy to hear more of your thoughts on the matter and hope you don't mind that I've shared mine. Thanks, Lynn.
Dear Lynn: Of course I don't mind hearing from you -- especially since you pose your ideas so respectfully.

In years past, the default decision for women in crisis pregnancies was adoption. Since the legalization of abortion, this trend has changed -- and millions of women and children have been hurt or killed in the process.

Abortion and adoption are "mutually exclusive" only because it is impossible to adopt a dead infant. If a woman who felt she was unable to parent (for example, the main character in the movie "Juno"), was encouraged to consider adoption instead, she would both save the child's life and prevent herself from suffering the long-term effects of post-abortion trauma. Making an adoption plan is not without its challenges -- but for women who feel they are unable to parent, it acknowledges the intrinsic value and dignity of the child without forcing a woman to bear the lifelong burden of knowing she had killed her child.

A lot of this is about education, about teaching our children that a life in the womb is indeed a human life, with the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," rather than a "blob of tissue." So many women have bought into the lie that the life inside them isn't really a child -- and the horrific reality hit them too late to save the child. (This is one of the most important differences between adoption and abortion: With abortion, the woman shies from making an adoption plan because she is afraid of the pain of losing her child; with abortion, the pain hits much later -- after it is too late to save the child.)

In this day and age, medical technology is capable of saving children -- performing surgeries and taking other lifesaving measures -- long before they are born. On the other hand, these children are killed -- legally -- while the only part of them that has yet to be delivered is part of their scalp. It's all very arbitrary -- and evil. When there are viable alternatives -- when there are so many families who are willing and able to care for these children, why on earth should these children not be given a chance to live?

Thanks for writing,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Smelling the Roses ...

Last week after her birthday shopping excursion to Meier's (my mother's favorite store), Sarah came home clutching a single long-stemmed red rose. Silently she handed it to me, then dashed to her room to continue filling up the 4x6 foot bulletin board my father had mounted on her bedroom wall. In a span of a few days, she had nearly covered the thing.

Sniffing the blossom, I glanced expectantly at my mother, assuming that she was behind the whole thing. "Nope, not me," she said. "When we went past the flower stand, Sarah said to me, 'My mommy hasn't been feeling good. Can we get her a rose?' Now how could I say 'No' to such a sweet request?"

She couldn't, of course. And nearly a week later, the flower still has a place of honor on my kitchen windowsill.

As mothers, we sometimes underestimate how deeply the little crosses of our lives affect our kids. I had thought I'd been soldiering on bravely, apart from the occasional mad dash to the bathroom. But my kids ... they knew. Mommy hasn't been feeling good. And so they do their bit to ease her suffering.

They pick up their rooms to surprise me.

They catch me curled up on the bed, and turn me into a "Mommy Sandwich."

They bring me a rose when they are supposed to be picking out their own little treat.

Lord, help me be the kind of Mommy these kids deserve!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

My parents blew into town this weekend, and Sarah was ready for them with a song she had just learned in school (to the tune of "All Night, All Day, Angels Watching Over Me"):

Dr. King, Dr. King,
Dr. King was a civil rights' leader
Dr. King, Dr. King
He had a dream!

He wanted everybody to have the same freedom... (3x)
He had a dream! (chorus)

He wanted everybody to love one another... (3x)
He had a dream! (chorus)

He wanted everybody to join hands together... (3x)
He had a dream! (chorus)

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Marriage and the Single Mom: Some Thoughts

My sister is getting divorced after ten years of marriage. Another dear friend is hanging onto her second marriage by a slim thread. Both of these women are loving, nurturing individuals and wonderful mothers. Although only one is Catholic, both of them love God and intended to be married for life. And both of them brought a child into the union who was not biologically related to her new husband.

In at least one of these cases, the woman has endured years of selfishness and immaturity, supporting her family herself as her husband found one excuse after another to abdicate his financial responsibilities to his family. And in at least one of these cases, a child she brought into the union has suffered real abuse at the hands of his stepfather.

When a single mother chooses a potential marriage partner, one of the most difficult -- and most crucial -- considerations is not what the guy looks like in a snug pair of jeans, how fat his bank account, or whether he can make her eyes roll to the back of her head (after they are married, of course). The most important consideration is how is he going to treat her child? Period.

My (other) sister Kathy, who counsels survivors of domestic violence, has experienced both sides of this. Her abusive first husband taught her the importance of choosing a marriage partner slowly and carefully. Thank God, the second time she got it right: Ken is a loving, gentle, patient man and a hard worker who loves Kathy and her daughter equally ... and when they finally married, he pledged himself to them both.

"Marry in haste, repent at leisure," the old saying goes. Heaven knows how tempting it can be to plunge ahead and make a permanent commitment when the stars are shining in those days of wine and roses. He looks good, smells great, says all the right things ... Day and night, you dream of your rosy future with this, your Prince Charming.

But if you have a child, you need to stop. Seriously. Even if you are living at home and can't wait to get out. Even if you are struggling to make ends meet, financially speaking. Even if you really, truly believe that God has brought the two of you together. My grandmother used to call this "seasoning" a man -- seeing him through all four seasons of the year before making a permanent commitment.
The first step, of course, is making sure you are ready to be married. Have you "unpacked your baggage" and worked through the issues of your past relationships? Are you in a healthy place, capable of making good dating choices? If you're Catholic and were married in the Church, have you obtained an annulment? If you are a Christian, have you sought and followed your pastor's advice regarding remarriage? I recently read a book entitled Divorced. Catholic. Now What? by Lisa Duffy that provides excellent advice for navigating the aftermath of divorce with your soul intact. I highly recommend it.

If your friend is indeed "Mr. Right," he'll understand your caution. You aren't thinking just of yourself -- you need to decide what is best for your child. Because that's what mothers do. So ... you need to consider carefully, over time and with the help of close friends and family (who can help you maintain objectivity).

* Is this man pressuring you for premature physical intimacy, or asking you to compromise your moral values in other areas? (If so, this may be a sign that he is does not have the self-control needed to be a good father.)

* Does he have obvious anger, entitlement, or control issues? Is he charming and persuasive one moment, but critical and demeaning the moment you say or do something he doesn't like? (If so, he may be a potential abuser, even if he never hits you.)

* Does your child seek out this person's company, or does s/he "disappear" (keeping physically or emotionally distant) the moment your friend shows up? (Children are highly intuitive creatures, and may pick up on signals you overlook.)

* How does he act around your friends and family? Does he avoid them whenever possible and e resent the time you spend with them? Or does he try too hard to get them to like him, exaggerating his accomplishments or flaunting his possessions? Or does he seem a more-or-less "natural fit"?

* Does he remind you how lucky you are that he picked you, or how difficult it would be for you to find a mate if things don't work out between the two of you? (This is a RED FLAG! RUN!!!)

* Do you ever feel that the relationship is "imbalanced" -- or that you have to give up an important part of yourself to make it work? (Some adjustment is needed in every relationship, but the key is mutual support and respect.)

* If the child's father is still in the picture, does your friend support your efforts to let your child have a relationship with his father? Or does he resent the man's existence (and does this portend how he is going to feel about your child down the line)?

* If the child's father is no longer in the picture, is your friend willing to father your child? Does he express an interest in adopting your child? Have you met his parents, and do they welcome the prospect of becoming your child's grandparents ... And if not, how does your friend feel about this? Does he make excuses for them ... Or encourage them to build a relationship with the child?

* Is he able to support an "instant family" without resentment? Have you talked about your finances, and does he include your child in his long-term financial planning (college fund, wedding fund, retirement planning, etc.)?

* Do you feel you can trust him to make good choices for you and your child, and that his heart is big enough to accommodate you both -- even if no other children enter the picture?

If you are not sure about the answer to any of these questions, it's better to wait until you have an answer than to rush ahead. Take all the time you need. Your child is worth it ... and so are you!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Prayer for the New Year

Today is the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, a title that was attributed to her formally at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD). Although the mother of Christ was venerated by Christians from the beginning, the importance of Mary's role was seen most clearly in light of the Christological dogmas regarding the dual nature of Christ (both human and divine).

The reason was simple (or relatively so): Mary did not give birth to a human nature, but to a divine person. Therefore, through the Incarnation she is rightly called the "Mother of God" even though she is a creature ... and her Son, the Incarnate Word, Eternal Creator.

Through her act of obedience, Mary fulfilled her calling and became the channel by which the original perfection of God's creation would be restored. "Behold I make all things new," says the Lord (Rev 21:5).

At the Second Coming of Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven will be restored to its original perfection. However, the Kingdom of Heaven is also a present reality, and we are to be laboring diligently to bring it about first in our own lives and homes ... and then in ever-widening circles. Each day presents another opportunity to bring the life of Christ to the world around us, a world dying for that light.

And so, as we enter the New Year, we anticipate with great hope all God has in store for us. In the past year, we have amply demonstrated that own wisdom, our own capabilities, our own resourcefulness ... all these things are in woefully short supply. Our only hope is a promise that the Lord made thousands of years ago to King Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived:

"... if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Almighty God and Heavenly Father,
thank you for this new year.
Another year to do your will.
Another year to hear your voice.
Another year to imitate your saints.
Another year to work.

Lord Jesus, Eternal Prince of Peace,
thank you for sharing your life with us.
Divine life that strengthens us to work.
Divine life that purifies our hearts.
Divine life that enlightens our minds.
Divine life that keeps us close to your Sacred Heart.

Holy Spirit, Keeper and Protector,
Flow through us and wipe away all that is unworthy.
Unworthy thoughts that lead us to despair,
Unworthy dreams that keep us from laboring fruitfully,
Unworthy plans that crumble at our touch.
Shine your light of truth along the chosen way.

Mother Mary, Queen of all the Saints,
pray for us, that your "Yes!" will always be on our lips.
"Yes!" to blessing and challenge alike.
"Yes!" to calling and waiting.
"Yes!" to tulmult and silence.
"Yes!" to grace, whispers of God flowing through us.
Photo credit: Anastasis Icons