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Birth Mothers Deserve More Respect

Adoption is increasingly in the public eye. Celebrities like Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie and Madonna have all become poster children for adoption as a route to motherhood.

But what about the birth mothers? I wrote last week about a mom’s moving essay on her choice to place her son for adoption but remain in his life. As she put it, open adoption has meant being giving a place at the table, but she’s never sure where to sit.

This week Newsweek columnist Raina Kelley makes a case for giving more respect and a larger voice to birth mothers who make the choice not to parent a child they’ve given birth to.

Kelley points out that a birth mother who places her child for adoption is doing what most mothers would do: making any sacrifice necessary to provide the best life for her child:

No matter whether it’s staying home, going to work, raising their kids alone or choosing to leave their children in order to provide for them, there is nothing most of us would not do to ensure our childrens’ safety. And, for some Moms, giving their children the best chance at a good life means making the most excruciating sacrifice of all: placing them up for adoption.

So often, birth mothers are left out of the adoption story. We don’t see their beaming faces on the covers of glossy magazines. They’re not viewed in popular imagination as good moms making tough choices, but rather as irresponsible or downright bad women who have made mistakes.

A few weeks ago, Jillian Michaels caused a stir by telling an interviewer she’d adopt rather than get pregnant herself. Most of the scandal focused on her negative comments about pregnancies affect on the body, but there was some outcry about her saying that she wanted to adopt because she liked the idea of “rescuing” a child.

The birth mother, and her life circumstances, are implicitly the thing a baby is being rescued from  in that statement. It’s a sentiment I hear a lot of. The few women I know who have placed a baby for adoption have kept that part of their lives extremely private afterwards.

In her Newsweek column, Kelley says this discomfort with birth mothers is a sign of our cultural discomfort with adoption. We should accept, she says, that sometimes choosing not to raise a child is the best choice a woman can make, and applaud women who have the strength and wisdom to make that decision and place their baby in a loving home.

Photo: D.A.K. Photography

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