Yes, I am going to go “there”. However, this post is not an abortion bashing discussion. It is more that I had an interesting conversation with Turkey-Man’s birth mother, Mama-A, that raised some questions in my mind that left me with a need to write.
She and I were catching up over the weekend about how life was going. As is common with Mama-A, we ended up jumping into deeper issues than just the surface “How are you?” type conversations. We were discussing our next visit and she commented on how much she misses Turkey-Man. From there our conversation dove into some reflections on her experience as a birth mother.
At the time she placed Turkey-Man with us, she felt like she was not ready to parent and had no interest in ever having children. In maturing she has started to feel the maternal side of herself and is realizing that she would like to eventually have more children. As she longs for future children, it brings the reality of being a birth mother to the forefront of her mind. She struggles sometimes when she remembers she has a child that she is not physically raising. She expressed, “It is hard not getting to express a fraction of the motherly love you want to give him.”
We discussed how difficult it is, especially when you are young, to have the foresight to see what the decision will look like 5-10 years down the road. Everything is so “here-and-now” that understanding this decision will impact you for the rest of your life is nearly impossible.
It was a hard conversation to have. Although she reaffirmed her decision to place Turkey-Man with us, I could sense the struggles she lives with as a birth mother. She verbalized her gratitude that we were his everyday parents, but the reality that she faces was apparent as well.
As the conversation wrapped up, a single thought that ran through my mind. “What if we changed her choice to abortion instead of adoption?” Completely taking out the context of immense gratitude that I have in getting to mother Turkey-Man, I wondered where her mind would be psychologically if she had no option to visit her child because she aborted him instead.
We can council women about the risks of abortion, both physical and emotional, but it is difficult to conceptualize what the decision will look like long-term. This is especially true for younger women who are still at the maturity level that produces a strong connection to the weight of immediate issues. Are they protected or dissuaded from making a decision that stands to be so life altering?
The conversation between Mama-A and I reflects the problem so clearly. At the time of placement she was not able to parent and in fact, felt like she never wanted to have children at all. With maturity, her views on becoming a birth mother have morphed, but she still has the option to have a relationship with the life that grew inside her. She knows how is he is doing and what is going on in his life. His LIFE – the one that she choose to give him.
In my opinion all women who become pregnant are birth mothers. Some choose to parent, some choose adoption and some choose to end their child’s life. Regardless, they have a choice to make about the life that lives inside them, a choice that they have to live with the remainder of their life.
What if instead of only counseling women about the immediate risks of abortion we ask, “In ten years, when your circumstances change that make parenting seem impossible right now, will you still feel like it was a good decision to end the life living inside of you?”
Or, even bolder, “How can you mother/parent this child best?” because when it comes down to it, that is exactly the decision that needs to be made. We do not refer to a pregnant woman as someone with a group of cells growing inside her. We call her an expectant mother. If a woman with this so-called “clump of cells” growing inside her chooses to drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs we look down on her as a bad mother. If we view an expectant woman as any form of mother, then the question about abortion changes context. “Is abortion the best way to mother this child?”
Abortion and adoption both result in a life-long separation from the life growing inside of them. Either option carries the risk of regret, but only one offers the ability to resolve that. The other ends all chance at connecting with the life growing inside ever again. Ultimately, the choice boils down to deciding their child’s life or death.