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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fallen Princesses: the God's Honest Truth About "Waiting" and Being "Responsible"

By Amanda
A couple days ago on my blog, a commenter, a few other readers, and I went back and forth in the comments section about the ethics of money in adoption, the ethics of advertising for adoption, and the ethics of adoption being put as a priority before preserving families and helping them in times of need.  Toward the end of the conversation, my beliefs were labeled by this commenter as more or less idealistic.  The commenter said I was seeing expectant mothers considering adoption and surrendering mothers as "fallen princesses," who could be easily helped to support their children, when it isn't the case.  While I am fully well aware that some families cannot be repaired, I cannot be so automatically judgmental of other women because I acknowledge that all it takes is one circumstance to separate me from the women I would be so harshly judging.

I graduated high school, went to college, fell in love, got married, graduated and had my first career.  We were both employed and homeowners before we even thought about having children.

Don't pat me on the back and tell me I did things "the right way."  Do not tell me how responsible I was or tell me about how "other women" are not responsible.  My husband had the privilege of a degree that his parents paid for.  I had the privilege of a degree that my parents partly and my husband and I mostly, were able to pay for.  We had the privilege of support from our families.  We had the privilege of happening to have skills and education in fields that were still hiring and needing workers during this time when the economy was not (and still isn't) so grand.

There's nothing that makes me more deserving of those privileges than anyone else.  It is what it is.  I am not better than the next person.  Furthermore,I did not "wait" until I had all of those things in place before having sex.  I was not carefully more "responsible" than anyone else.  I could have very well gotten pregnant when I wasn't planning or prepared for a baby.  The reason I didn't?

I had fertility problems.

I don't often talk about this issue in this way, as I have in this blog post.  While I have been married for nearly five years now, there is still a great deal of shame for me discussing pre-marital sex and the fact that I had it.  I was taught in my private Christian school that sex outside of marriage was shameful and not only diminished your worth in the eyes of others but also in the eyes of God.  Embracing feminist ideals and working towards the equality of women and speaking out against stereotypes about women has never quite erased this shame for me.

It is a fair to assume it was my fertility problems (unbeknownst to me at the time) that prevented me from getting pregnant during a time I wasn't prepared or planning for a child.  I have been treated for PCOS and when I was actively trying to conceive, it took me 18 months to do so when I finally became pregnant with my first son.  It is very well that my fertility issue was the only thing separating me from how my life has gone so far and going in the direction that other people expect me to judge so harshly.

I was never any "princess," just a real woman who would have likely needed help and support had I gotten pregnant before graduating high school, college, or before being in a steady relationship with someone who was committed to helping support our child.  Not all colleges have a daycare.  Not everyone can afford daycare.  Not everyone has someone that can watch their children for them.  Not everyone can get a job that works around a childcare schedule or school schedule.  These are not a woman's short comings, these are society's.  Yet society is still content to dictate what women in what special set of circumstances are allowed to reproduce and if they reproduce out of the acceptable set of circumstances, promoting and advertising adoption is prioritized above simply helping them meet their needs.

I will never think that viewing and treating women this way is acceptable, not only because I am a daughter who was lost to adoption but because I believe in treating others how I would want to be treated.  Even the "fallen princesses;" I could have been one.

Credit for photo of castle: Tom Curtis


  1. Well said, Amanda. I often think those couples that are advertising for children could have easily found themselves with a crisis pregnancy if it wasnt for their own fertility issues. We need to help keep mother and child together.
    Another barrier to family preservation is familital culture. There is no time when a woman needs her mom's wisdom more than when she is pregnant.

  2. "Don't pat me on the back and tell me I did things "the right way." Do not tell me how responsible I was or tell me about how "other women" are not responsible. My husband had the privilege of a degree that his parents paid for. I had the privilege of a degree that my parents partly and my husband and I mostly, were able to pay for. We had the privilege of support from our families."

    Thank you. So many, such as myself, did not have any of that. To judge those who do not have that as deserving of being banished from the lives of their children for the rest of their lives is heartless and cruel. It is an uphill battle for those of us who do not have any family support; but a battle that is not lost.

  3. Another rational, well-phrased post. I understand why those who feel that there should be no adoptions feel the way they do, but I keep going back to the fact that some women just don't want their children. My birth mom was that way. She had the resources and education. She was 27. The bottom line was that she just didn't WANT a kid. Not everyone feels magically bonded to what pops out of their "happy place". Reducing adoptions and preserving as many families as possible - fabulous! Labeling as evil EVERY adoptive parent, regardless of motives and the care they give their adoptive child? I understand the emotion behind it, but I'll never be able to go there 100%.

    1. I know this conversation took place over six months ago but I have to put my two cents in...

      Even that sort of situation doesn't need to be answered by surrendering the child to total strangers to have his or her identity permanently erased by falsifying a birth certificate.

      That is what adoption is. When you say "adoption" here, though, you mean "the child being raised by someone other than his or her mother."

      You do not have to surrender the child to strangers or to lie on a legal document to accomplish that, though.

      Once again we see that society has failed in this situation. Number one, that a woman could be that far deranged as to not want her own child, and no one thought to intervene. Believe it or not, that is a sign that SOMETHING HAS GONE WRONG. Number two, that NO ONE ELSE in the child's mother's or father's family felt the need to step up and accept responsibility for the child. Number three, that there are no strong, insistent, LOUD societal messages that if you make a baby, that is your family and you take care of them--and if you can't or won't, your family needs to do so.

      There is NO EXCUSE for strangers to EVER raise a child they didn't make unless that child's entire family has been wiped out. Even dysfunctional families manage to produce a few individuals who aren't batpoop insane. Come on now.

  4. Well said, Amanda. I followed that earlier discussion. You were clear, concise and did not say "all" or generalize. Great writing!

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    You are right, beermary, there are some mothers that no matter what the support and advantage they have in life, will never parent, simply because they do not want to. :-(

    (I know you weren't saying this) but I think there are a lot of people who are content to believe that all women with unplanned pregnancies and/or of a certain socioeconomic status feel this way (or should) and feel that family preservation isn't necessary.

    If adoption wasn't such a big business, we'd be able to tell the difference and help each mother and child as they actually, really, truly need it.

    I'm with you, I don't negatively label all APs and PAPs either. I think it's important for them to be aware of the problems in the adoption system and demand different. So long as there is financial motivation in adoption, agencies who collect "fees" can't really prove that everything (or anything) they do is in the best interest of the child.

  6. How did I miss your original post?

    Well said in this post and I too had the pre-marital sex is shameful upbringing and have a hard time talking about it. I could have been in the same situtation but I am 99% positive I would have been supported by my family which I don't always see in AP's which puzzles me.

  7. Thank you for that and thank you for your honesty. The shaming of women for simply being human and sexual beings is the reason I lost my daughter to adoption.

  8. A good friend of mine has often said that it is not even so much the marital status of the woman anymore, but the visible sign of the act of having sex that is so repugnant today. It is okay for a single woman to adopt, but less acceptable for a single woman who needs some support from her family and society to raise her own child. We assist the single adoptive mother with tax breaks, stipends and monthl payments, but begrudge the single young mother and even in many states deny her public assistance.

    There is a double standard that is not quite as finely delineated today as it was in days past. However, the more I see of it the more I am sure she is likely right about this, too. She often is.

    Having trouble posting with my account, so this is....

    Sandy Young

  9. Beautifully said. The idea that all is bad or good, well, honestly is ridiculous. There are those that try to make things what they are not - no offense but not all adoptees, PAPs, Adopters, nmothers are good people and not all are bad, it is a matter of prospective.

    The point is well made and beautiful. I have been to infertility land, and I can see the sadness over the inability to have a child (my daughter is an only child - all the way around).

    Google is at it again....


  10. I think this is an excellent post. I also had (unbeknownst to me as well) fertility problems, caused by scaring from STDs and lots and lots of unprotected sex with lots of people. I whole heartedly believe that had I had a child during those chaotic years of my life when I was frequently blind drunk and sleeping around I would have very likely would have lost custody to the state (and rightfully so) and the family cycle of child abandonment would have continued, as it so frequently does. Of course I would like to think that I would have gotten myself together and stepped up and did the hard work it takes to raise a child but sitting where I sit I don’t think that would have happened before it did. I was too damaged; I had too much work to do and so much healing in front of me.

    While talking openly about it can be embarrassing to me I also think it is important that I do. Children who are abandoned often grow up looking desperately for love, attention and affection where ever and whenever they can get it and that has lasting consequences. The decisions we make when we are too young to understand can have devastating effects and cause a lifetime of problems. And once the cycle of abandonment begins it can roll on generation after generation.

    I do not feel that I judge women who give up or lose their children. I am well aware that I am only a couple of STDs and dumb luck away from having been in their shoes. I also know that I would have been a horrible parent, I would not have gotten myself together, no amount of “help” would have made a difference at that time and I would have dragged an innocent child through a world of pain, the responsibility for that would have ultimately would have been mine. That child would have deserved proper care.

    Yea STDs!

  11. I had my son in the era before birth control and STDs. I had sex before marriage because I was "in love" and believed I would marry the man. He abandoned me. I ended up in a maternity home. I surrendered my son because I didn't know what else to do. I wanted him with all my soul.I KNOW I would have been a good mother to him as I was to the 3 subsequent children I had after I married. I am so resentful and angry about the stereotypes of women who have unwed pregnancies and the treatment we endured during that time. I am a retired professional with advanced degrees, married a professional man,and raised my children in affluence. My son, in contrast, was raised by uneducated bigots. Given any kind of support from his father, my family, my Church or society my son would have been been raised by me.

  12. I think that is the thing about adoption that is the saddest. From 17-22 I would have not been able to parent a child. At 24 I began parenting a nephew, then a sick friend’s child, and had my first at 30, I have done all right by all of the children I have raised, but I would have lost a child forever over 5 years of chaos.

  13. Case in point: during our reunion meeting my son said he greatly admires his amom because she had been married at seventeen, abandoned by her husband, divorced, thrown into poverty with no support, but managed to pick herself up, go to school, attain a high-level position in her career, and then 'got married and had kids.' She is infertile and was never able to get pregnant. The similarity between amom and myself was not lost on me; she just as easily could have been in the same situation as I had been.


  14. Thank you for this, Amanda. I often wonder when it was decided that the posession of a hymen was the only way a single women or girl was acceptable to any deity or society? We are, first and foremost, human beings.

  15. I work in women's health in a clinic that serves primarily low income women. Most of our patients are not married and many are no longer involved with the father of their babies by the time they come to us. I see so many women who are just as smart as me but without the family support I had to make it through school and such. Just a few twists of fate and our positions could be reversed. We are lucky where I live...we have a great public high school for pregnant and parenting teens. These girls get their high school education and parenting support. Too many pregnant teens have no access to such support.

  16. In all likelihood it could have happened to any of us.As an adoptee I was very aware from an early time in my teen years that becoming pregnant was not an option as I would not be able to bear the loss to adoption or go through with a sham marriage.These were the days just before the pill came in, the dark ages.
    Shame, guilt etc sometimes work as contraceptives and sometimes after marriage as reasons for infertility/conception difficulties.Von


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