A friend of mine (Lori from Five of My Own) recently came under fire when she posted a picture of herself wearing a t-shirt that said "Paper Pregnant."
Now, many of you might wonder what's so objectionable about that term. And you'd be right to wonder.
After all, if a woman is bringing a baby into the world through pregnancy, all those who cross her path will be in on her news thanks to her baby bump. Or her "I'm not fat, I'm pregnant" shirt. Or her shirt that says "Baby" with a gigantic arrow pointing to her protruding belly. And most of these path-crossers will wish her well and ask when she's due, and perhaps may even cross the line and inquire as to the state of her cervix.
So to my mind, this "paper pregnant" shirt is nothing more than a lighthearted way of sharing the news of an impending addition.
But apparently there are others who feel differently. Others who said things like:
...for someone to usurp that one beautiful thing from the women who make the sacrifice for them....
...these women need a therapist to deal with unresolved infertility issues....
...entitled adoptive parent - one who believes it's OK to buy someone eles's baby if nature doesn't play nicely.
When I read those responses(and more), I felt momentarily disoriented. I had no idea that there were those who were against adoption, and it made my head spin.
My first reaction, after my head cleared, was anger. I felt the need to go toe to toe with these people who would besmirch (I love that word) adoption and all those who play a role in it.
But then I realized that their hate was probably stemming from frustration. From loss, perhaps. And my heart softened a bit.
And I think, at the core of things, we're maybe closer in our viewpoints than I first guessed. I know that we probably all see that giving birth to a child can be a noble act; that loving and caring for a child is life itself.
With that in mind, I thought I would list a few things concerning pregnancy, adoption, and child-rearing that we could perhaps all agree on.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout pregnancy and delivering a child into the world, whether through a planned or unplanned pregnancy, is a noble, self-sacrificing act. It means you have chosen life for your baby, and have agreed to go through all the pain and discomfort of pregnancy and delivery in order for your child to come into the world.
NOT SO MUCH
Planned or unplanned, if a woman commits to carrying a baby to term, but does not quit drinking, smoking, or doing drugs, I've got no respect. I know too many children, my own included, that will suffer the lifelong effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. No matter how you slice it, it is wrong to subject a baby to such devestating problems. Babies should never be born brain damaged, or addicted, because of the acts of their mother.
Choosing to love a child, parent it well, and keep it safe, is noble. Whether it is the child's biological parent, foster parent, or adoptive parent, it matters not.
On the flip side, when a parent chooses to give up her child when she knows she cannot provide for it, she has demonstrated the highest form of love. If the parent knows the child has needs that she cannot meet, if she knows she cannot keep her child safe and cared for, and she lets her child go in order for it to have a better life, she is nothing short of heroic.
NOT SO MUCH
For a parent to keep her child as her own when she is unable to provide basic safety, health and love, is not parenting, and is not in the child's best interest. There are those that would say that children should be kept with their biological parents at all costs, but I do not agree. When children are physically abused, sexually abused, starved, kept from school, living in filth, endangered, they should be reomoved from the home. The parent has my empathy, and my prayers that she can get the help she needs, but I do not think she should be allowed to keep raising her child under such conditions.
Because adoption is choosing to parent a child, it is a noble and self-sacrificing endeavor. The reason a person arrives at adoption does not matter. The common thread connecting all adoptive parents, whether they are infertile, single, have a desire to be parents to more than just their biological children, they are a gay couple, whatever, they are choosing to give a child a good life. I have known adoptive parents that chose adoption before even trying to conceive a child on their own, simply because they believe in adoption. It is not neccessarily a last resort for people.
NOT SO MUCH
Pointing fingers at anyone choosing to give a good life to a child is mixed up. The bottom line is that a child will be cared for. Whether the parents have to pay exorbitant adoption fees or are adopting a child through the foster care system, whether they are able to give birth or not, or whether they choose to adopt severe special needs or perfectly healthy newborns, they are opting to give up a substantial chunk of their lives in order to parent, and parent well. They have agreed to endure sleepless nights, school plays, teen driving, and cleaning up vomit. They have consented to walk the straight and narrow, keep food in the fridge, and to discipline their child with love. They have promised to read to their child, hold their hand crossing the street, and dream about their future.
If a person commits to parenting a child and putting that child's needs first, no matter how he or she comes into parenthood, they have acted gallantly.
To those who choose to do right by a child, even, or especially, when that means giving your child up, I salute you.
To those who choose to keep their child but not provide for it, I say to you, seek help. My wish is for each and every child to have at least one loving parent. If you can be that parent for your child, then go out and be the best parent you can be. But if you cannot provide love, safety, food, warmth, and guidance, let someone else step in to raise your child up.
But let's all of us keep the child first. Then everyone wins.