Better than the alternative?
Don’t tell me I should be grateful I wasn’t aborted. Just button your mouth and listen to adoptees.
This week I had an adoptive parent suggest that being adopted was “better than the alternative”. She didn’t use the word abortion but given my age we can assume that is what she was referring to.
As this person knows nothing about my life or the circumstances of my adoption, I can only assume this is the chosen narrative she lives by. To pit adoption and abortion against one another as the only two options when faced with an unwanted* pregnancy is to deliberately not see the full picture. There are always other alternatives, from family preservation, to kinship care to a more open, humane way of raising someone else’s child.
Let’s break down the other “alternatives” to my adoption shall we?
- My birth parents raised me together with the support of both sets of parents.
- My birth mother raised me with the support of her parents.
- My birth father raised me with the support of his parents.
- My birth mother’s parents raised me.
- My birth father’s parents raised me.
- My adoptive parents raised me without the secrecy and shame of a closed adoption.
- My adoptive parents raised me as a team with my biological parents and their wider families.
This list makes me cry, because as unlikely as some of the alternatives seem, they were still possible. There are at least seven ghost versions of me out there whose life was very different. None of those ghost versions of me feel half as much shame as I do for existing. And if you wonder why adoptees are angry, the reason that many of these alternatives didn’t happen was a mix of selfishness and a lack of education around the impact on the child. It was easier for both sets of parents if there was a “clean slate”. It was not easier for me – although I have to believe they thought it was, or where would I be? When adoptees speak up about this stuff, use it as an opportunity to educate yourself.
Being adopted is not easy. That is what I was saying when the “better than the alternative” comment came in. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough when I said being adopted is not easy. Let me be clear about the depths it has taken me to. I say this not to elicit sympathy but to be as truthful as possible in the hope that my truth may help others feel less alone: there have been times when I have felt so utterly desperate that I wished I had been aborted. On bad days, the recurring thought that goes back and forth in my brain is: “You shouldn’t be here.” “You shouldn’t be here.” “You shouldn’t be here.” When I was asked by a health professional whether I had thought about suicide, I said “No, but I have thought that my husband and children would be better off without me.”
Imagine if you will, a very large, very grand restaurant with hundreds of demanding diners calling the waiting staff over to place an order, complain about a dish, ask a question, or pay the bill. Now imagine in this vast, incredibly noisy restaurant there is only one waitress rushing back and forth, trying to please every customer and almost fainting on her feet. That is how I experience life, this is a normal day in my brain – and even more acutely since my reunion with both biological parents.
So unless you have a lived a “shift” in my head, please refrain from intimating that I should be grateful I wasn’t aborted. It’s one of the most dangerous and damaging narratives for an adoptee to hear.
Of course I am grateful to be alive and on this planet with my wonderful friends and family, but that does not negate my struggles.
*I know many of the pregnancies in the 50s and 60s were very much wanted, but society made it impossible for the mothers to keep their babies. My own situation is that I wasn’t planned (read: wanted).