Missing Pieces
Missing Pieces by Lisa Ritter Starr

So Do You Have Kids?

by Lisa Ritter Starr

It's a simple yes/no question, and one of the most common ones asked when getting acquainted with someone new. For a birthmother, however, the question, "Do you have kids?" isn't so simple. When you're involved in any adoption and you aren't parenting another child, a personal question like this often triggers a lot of thought.

Whenever someone asks me if I have kids, I might say yes or no. It depends on my instinct or where the person falls on my "need to know" list. I've learned to like telling people about my role in open adoption, because it's a unique experience that most people have never heard of before. But if my instinct tells me at least one of us will feel uncomfortable talking about it, I don't mind answering in the negative. To me, it's not lying, it's just that they don't need to know.

The "need to know" list takes care of all the gray areas. When I can't intuit a person's need-to-know status, I resort to the guidelines of the list: people who will spend time with my daughter, those I believe would be positively affected to a certain extent, co-workers I consider friends, and new acquaintances I might get to know better.

After some practice it became easier to use either my instinct or the guidelines of the list, and the once-feared question, "So do you have kids?" no longer inspired such confusion. But this isn't the only question birthfamilies deal with. There are others - questions just as personal and not so easy to answer - that most people don't ask, even though I often get the feeling they might like to.

For example, I often wonder how many people, after hearing about my open adoption, immediately wonder, Why open adoption? Why not abortion or parenting or closed adoption? While there are probably as many answers as there are birthmothers, a few general reasons are probably shared by most. But first and most simply, the most important precursor to choosing open adoption is simply to be aware that the choice exists. That's a big one, and also part of the reason to talk about the subject with others.

Aside from religious and political beliefs regarding abortion, the next most common reason I've heard from open adoption birthparents is that they just didn't feel ready. Many were single women and felt strongly that their child should have two parents. If the birthfather was around, the two of them may have felt the commitment of a child would be too much for their relationship. Simply put, I'd say all birthparents, to some extent, just didn't feel they had the emotional and financial resources to give what they considered to be "enough."

Those are the reasons they give. I'm certain there are many reasons they don't give, and these are the most personal and various. My decision was made as soon as I knew about open adoption. It just so happened that my suspicion of being pregnant coincided precisely with my discovery of a Mother's Day newspaper article introducing the concept of open adoption. Right away I had a powerful feeling that it was the right thing for me to do. The closest way I can think of describing the feeling is that it was like a "calling."

Even though my decision began with a rather unexplainable urge to "just do it," I can say that I, too, wanted my child to have two parents and wasn't emotionally or financially ready. I liked the idea of having my child and her new parents in my life. And I was drawn to the idea of watching this child grow up with so much family and support around her.

I may never have another child. This is one reason why I'm so thankful to have my daughter because I went through with the pregnancy and adoption. I'm no so different from anyone who started a family from an unexpected pregnancy. I may not have planned for it initially, but now that it's here, I can't imagine life being any other way.

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