Relinquishment, Remorse and failed Redemption

I wish to recommend to you a deeply moving journal of a relinquishing mother as she writes of her experiences and emotions through the years following the adoption of her first-born. Her eloquent pain is so profound that I hesitate to link to her writing as a pro-abortion advocate, because I don’t want to appear in any way to downplay the courage of her choice to continue with her pregnancy and give birth.

I firmly believe that the ultimate goal of the abortion-access movement, which is to work towards a whole raft of medico-social policy options to ensure that every child born is not only wanted but planned (because every woman has full reproductive autonomy) is compatible with this woman’s experience.

Because she was poor, this young woman was told she could not possibly be a competent mother, and was pressured to give her baby up for an adoption arranged through her church. Although her pregancy was unplanned her bond to her unborn child became very strong and loving, and relinquishing the baby to adoptive parents was agonising. She chooses her current church in large part because on Mothers’ Day they are inclusive toward women like her who are not accompanied by all, maybe even any, of their children.

This is the first post in the archive, and each later post continues her story. After you’ve read this first post, go to the home page, choose the January archive link, and read the posts in order. This is gut-wrenching stuff.

I offer this as a counterpoint to those spinning inconclusive studies into a solid proof that abortion is emotionally and mentally damaging, and that women who are not prepared to raise a child can find a pain-free solution in adoption. That the adoption option is often wrapped around in symbols of sacrifice and redemption is not surprising given its widespread association with religious organisations, who cannot seem to let go of the notion of unmarried sexual relations as sinful. But the experience of this mother and many others show that relinquishing a child is not necessarily an option that leads to improved happiness and mental health.

Unplanned pregnancies fuck women up, not because we are irresponsible and selfish if we feel unready to be mothers, but because society, particularly in the USA out of the developed nations, refuses to adequately support all children with a social safety net to ensure that even poor mothers can adequately provide for their children.

Most single young women with unplanned pregnancies have only two practical choices – abortion and adoption. Both choices can offer the woman concerned relief as she slips back into the life she had planned for herself before her pregnancy, both can offer despair and regret as the woman copes with unexpected emotional responses to the events surrounding her pregnancy and the aftermath. Nobody can predict what their own reaction to an unplanned pregnancy and the choices they make will be, let alone the reaction of another woman. Anyone who advocates that either adoption or abortion is some sort of happy-happy cure-all is doing a disservice to women confronted with a disturbing choice.

The only proven way to limit the anguish surrounding unplanned pregnancy is to minimise the number of unplanned pregnancies. The way shown to work best by this measure is a combination of a broad sexual health education and easy general availability of contraception, best demonstrated in the low teen pregnancy rate and low overall abortion rate in North Western European nations.. The current US administration’s emphasis on abstinence education is pie-in-the-sky laughable.

I just had a long discussion with my 11-year-old-but-looks-16 daughter about this relinquishing mother’s anguish, which morphed into a discussion on contraception and teenage sex myths (“you don’t have to worry, nobody gets pregnant their first time”), and then into different opinions on abortion, pointing out that everyone has to look into the facts of reproduction and embryonic development and decide for themselves when a foetus/embryo becomes a person, and make later reproductive choices with that knowledge in mind.

It was one of the most powerful, grown-up, mature discussions I have ever had with her, although I have always been very open with both my kids about sex, i.e. that sex is fun and can be emotionally exalting with a beloved partner but carries obvious risks regarding STDs and pregnancy and should not be lightly engaged in. (My parents were local Family Planning Association volunteers and I read all the literature, which is why I delayed sex until I was well over 18 and well-protected while most of my peers were risking pregnancy before they were 16 – their parents had kept them ignorant. I felt this particular parental example was one of the keepers.)

We are fortunate in Australia that the schools have a reasonable sex-education programme and that contraception is easily available unless you’re in one of the few small towns that has a sole godbag pharmacist. What we mustn’t do is take this current good fortune for granted – it needs to be protected so that generations of women to come do not have to deal with the anguish of either abortion or adoption.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, Politics

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. I’d like to think we also have the option to keep our baby and be his or her mother. I don’t like to lump abortion into the same basket as adoption, that’s just how I feel about it. For me it wasn’t going to be an option, I felt too much protective energy for my daughter. I’d rather see better welfare systems set up, affordable childcare, making the fathers have to pay properly and changing attitudes to young mothers. I feel like abortion is a band aid solution to unplanned pregnancy. I hate to see a woman have to go through that as well. Of course it should always be available but my first choice would be to stop making it so difficult for women to be mothers.

  2. Sorry to be so long in replying to your post – I screwed up my email alerts system. I agree that making it financially possible for women to welcome an unplanned child into their lives without sacrificing future career options would be better all round.

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