Thursday, April 22, 2010

Risking to Love

The thing I have struggled with the most since our disruption last October is the idea of trusting another birthmother to not do the very same thing. Right after our profile went back on the website, I spoke at length with our agency about how we would relate to our next birthmother. In a way, I almost feel sorry for whoever decides to pick us the next time. As much as we want to get to know her and build a relationship with her, and as hard as we might try to do so, there will always be a piece of us that resists out of fear. It's so sad. We have a lot of love to offer both baby and birthmother, but I often wonder how much of it will be unconsciously withheld from the birthmother until after we've brought our baby home and our hearts are safe from the anguish she has the potential to impart.

This is something that has plagued my thoughts for several months. How do we simultaneously open our hearts and make ourselves vulnerable while protecting ourselves from the painful possibility of another loss? The answer is that we can't. It's literally impossible to be both vulnerable and protected at the same time. But protecting our hearts would almost certainly alienate a birthmother from us, driving her further away and perpetuating exactly what we've been afraid of all along. So the only option left is to trust and to love, and that is a very frightening thing. How do I give my heart to someone who might break it?

In her book Carmel, Land of the Soul, Carolyn Humphreys writes "Our reactions to suffering can break us or make us. Love directs us to deal with our suffering in a positive way. We enter the pain and live with it with realistic expectation and respect. We trust God in our suffering, knowing it can be a channel for personal and spiritual growth. We fluctuate within the limits of our endurance, neither by being stoic and placing ourselves above the pain, nor by being consumed and becoming a product of the pain. Everything in life happens for a purpose. Although we may not understand the total purpose in suffering, we can find specific areas that enlighten us with new wisdom. Finding meaning in our pain comes from a combination of effort and grace. Moving through pain with assisting graces brings us out of dark tunnels into the light of possibilities. We find pieces that answer the puzzling question: 'What can I make from the situation in which I am?'"

Yesterday morning I watched several episodes of MTV's "16 and Pregnant." I don't know why I was watching it. I hate that show. I especially hate listening to the whiny, pregnant, teenage girls selfishly complain about what they've gotten themselves into (although there are a small few who are able to see the bigger picture and make responsible decisions). One of the episodes yesterday followed a 17 year old girl who had been adopted as a child and was planning to give her baby up for adoption as well. As she struggled with her decision, going back and forth until just before the baby was born, I caught myself judging her for the things she said and did. Because the baby's father was a useless, lazy good-for-nothing blob, the girl was already struggling to get through her last year of high school, and the girl's parents didn't seem especially interested in helping her take care of a newborn, the decision to give the baby up for an open adoption seemed blatantly obvious to me. While arguing with her mother the girl says that the baby is her only biological family, her only real family since she has no contact with either of her own biological parents. My first reaction was anger. Teenagers can be so callous. How dare she say to her adopted mother that she has no real family! Who are they? Her pretend family?! You could see on the mother's face how much that comment broke her heart. But after thinking about it I realized that as hurtful as the girl's words might have been, she can't help the way she feels.

I watched the rest of the episode with a new perspective. The baby's father came to the hospital to be with her for the birth. After the baby was born, he began to argue with her against going through with the adoption. He hurled all sorts of insults at her, calling her lazy, selfish, and accusing of not loving their son enough to keep him (sound like anyone we know?). She burst into tears of course, and the girl's father had to intervene to throw the boy out of the room and calm her down. It was really terrible and I felt so bad for her. That was really hard for me to watch because I imagine that's exactly what happened to our BM, except she had no one there to intervene on her behalf. I'm not going to lie, seeing it made me feel a little sick. Nine months of complete indifference and suddenly he wants to be a parent? No comment.

Ultimately the girl went through with the adoption. Her social worker performed a little adoption ceremony in the hospital chapel for the biological and adoptive families, which I thought was really sweet. It gave them a stronger connection and gave the birthmother a sense of closure that left her feeling confident in her decision and very much at peace with herself. Watching her journey and her struggles gave me fresh insight on what things are like on the other side. From my perspective, it's all too easy to forget that I'm not the only one putting my heart at risk. Although the birthmother holds absolutely all the power until after her rights are terminated, that doesn't make her risk of trust and love any less dangerous or her heart any less vulnerable. I hope to carry that insight forward as we wait patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, to meet our perfect birthmother so that I might be able to once again open my heart to her and the amazing sacrifice she is willing to make. 

"If we risk to love, we love ourselves in such a way that allows us to be deeply loved by God." Carolyn Humphries

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