OBG Editors Note: We’ve been lucky to have the wonderful birthparent blogger Racilous of Adoption in the City trek all the way to Ohio from New York to attend some of our support groups in person. She recently wrote about her first time at OBG on her blog. For this week’s installment of Member Mondays, Racilous discusses how becoming a birthparent has shaped her identity:
When I’m having a conversation with someone, one of my favorite things to ask them is to pick five words to describe themselves – I find their answer an interesting way to see how someone identifies themselves – the priority they place in what makes them who they are.
There are a lot of ways I can describe myself, independent, logical, quirky, messy, solitary, lover of the arts, lover of words, lover of stories, single, mid-westerner, Catholic, sarcastic, ethical, stubborn, private, the list goes on. In my 20s when I would ask this question of someone else, I would worry that person would ask the same question of me and I would have to figure out how to limit my answer to just five words.
But the day I left the hospital without my son, any other words I use to describe myself seemed to take a back seat to Birth Mother. Being a birth mother has become more than a part of my identity, it has in so many ways become THE defining part of my identity.
When I was still pregnant, still wondering if I could find a way to parent, and I would look ahead to what my life would be like as a Birth Mother, I’m not sure I fully understood what that would mean. To be honest I’m not sure any really can understand the depth and complexity of emotion until they actually have experienced it. But I did understand that I would feel some loss, some grief, that I may spend some days wondering what if, that having an ongoing relationship with my son while not parenting him would be a complex relationship. So although I don’t think I understand the expansiveness of the emotions I would go through, I understood on the surface what they would be.
But the thing that was completely unexpected was how invasive the role of Birth Mother would become in every part of my life. It affects my work, my social life, where I live, how I spend my time off, everything. Some of it is impacted by my son and my relationship with him. For instance if I am thinking about even applying for a job in another city, in another part of the country, a major factor in that decision is the impact it will have on my relationship with my son. It’s not the only factor, but it is one that is high on the list of things to consider. That sort of decision has a direct and defined link to my son.
It’s not just the big things either – a thousand different things are impacted by my son every day, I may choose to cook a certain type of food because I know he loves it, or more likely he hates it. A might read an article online because it’s about a kind of animal he loves. I realized that in the last year or so I’ve started buying a lot of purple clothes. I even bought a purple case for my phone. Purple has never been a color I’ve particularly liked, my favorite color has been orange for over 20 years. But in the last couple of years my son’s favorite color has been purple, and without ever even thinking about it, it seems I’ve started integrating that color into my own world.
My Motherhood has also impacted my personality. I often find myself feeling out of sorts around parents, when they are talking about any sort of issue with their children I want to weigh in, to talk about what I’ve experienced – only I haven’t really experienced any parenting, I’ve only watched it from the sidelines. And yet, I am so cognizant of children, of what ages they are and what they are experiencing, I interact with children around me like a parent, even though I know people don’t see me as one.
The impact on me isn’t just in relationship to my son and my Motherhood. There is this undertone of loss that has pervaded my whole life. I used to believe that the world had a sort of balance, things happened for reasons and that in the end if you were a good person that you would live a good life. I had optimism for my first 29 years that I lost a month short of my 30th birthday; on the day I signed papers to relinquish my son. I know I can go on to have wonderful things happen in my life, and I hope many of those wonderful things happen with my son present, but the loss I experienced was profound and it colors every part of my life. Don’t get me wrong, my son brings joy to my world, but he’s not the same child he would have been if I had parented him, and the loss of that child, of who he would have been will always be a part of my life. I can confidently say that not a day goes by where I don’t think about my son, he’s usually my first thought in the morning, but there’s also not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the version of my son who stopped existing when I signed a TPR.
I know who I was before, I had lived 29 years as that person, and I can say that nothing had the deep and profound impact on who I am more than relinquishing my son. So if someone one days asks me to describe myself in five words, I don’t need all five anymore, just two, Birth Mother.