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
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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