' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Flashing Neon Signs

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flashing Neon Signs

For the past two weeks a colleague involved in basset hound rescue has been working many hours trying to find a home for a daschund. His current owner is an older woman whose husband just went into a nursing home; she won’t be able to manage the dog alone. As long as I’ve known her my colleague has insisted that Maddie, my daschund, needs a playmate/companion while we’re at work. So yes, I like daschunds, I’ll take a daschund over a basset hound even though I don’t think I need a second dog; Maddie’s enough responsibility. But my husband and I are up to it, and I want to help my friend.

This decision has been going back and forth for the past two weeks. Yes, they’ll give up the dog. No, they’ll keep the dog. And this whole time, from the moment I completed the adoption form (yes, we adopt pets just as we adopt children and it’s just as complicated, or so it seems), I’m comparing this to my 30 plus years of membership in the world of adoption. My husband and I have discussed changing the dog’s name. He’s called Buster; I don't like Buster. Yet we didn't change Maddie's name because "she already had a name." And I remember thinking back to that benchmark moment (i.e., when I became a “birthmother”) that my daughter already had a name too, but it didn't matter to the people who became her parents.

And this line of thought led to another painful memory. I was a guest speaker at a new adoption support group (99% adopted parents) several years ago. Prospective adoptive parents asked me how could a birthmother agree to relinquish her child only to pull the rug out from under the adoptive parents at the 11th hour and 59th minute? (I simply, sharply told them that child belonged to the woman who gave birth to him and should be considered as such until she relinquished her legal right to be that child’s parent.)

My regular parking area at work is being repaved so I have to walk to another lot further away from my building, near our onsite childcare center. It’s nice to see the happy little preschoolers burning off energy at the end of the day while they wait for their parents to take them home to dinner and baths and books and bed. The other evening I was walking past the playground and I heard this little voice calling out. I turned to see the voice belonged to a cute blond boy, probably around Tyler’s (the grandson who doesn’t know I’m his Grandida, about 2-1/2, 3) age. So I just smiled and waved, and he waved back. Another reminder of my selfless, courageous act: I’m a grandmother yet not a grandmother.

I just finished reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest book of essays about the state of our country-- from Wall Street to religion--and she was discussing abortion, and how that which we take for granted can easily be taken away from us, and that those who have benefited from safe, legal abortions in the past need to speak out to protect that right for future women. And she admitted to having two abortions of her own because she couldn’t afford more children at the time, and praised working/welfare moms struggling to get by on next to nothing. Should I have been one of those struggling women instead of choosing adoption?

My mother called me over the weekend to tell me my aunt, her brother’s wife, passed away a couple of weeks ago. She was 85, it wasn’t a surprise. Her obituary said she was born in Charlotte, NC; I didn’t know that. (My daughter lives in Charlotte, at least I think she still does). So everywhere I turn it’s like there’s a flashing neon sign screaming Wendy, the name my daughter has been known by for almost 31 years. And no matter how many concerts I attend, how many movies I see, how many books I get lost in, how many miles I walk, she’s living rent free in my head.

And I hate it.

And after all that, Buster’s owner didn’t let us have him after all; she didn’t feel we’d be a good match.


  1. Linda, This is so powerful. The seemingly simple experiences in our lives that bring us straight back to adoption.

  2. I'm grateful you articulated all these blaring reminders. So often I repress them

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