This phrase has been uttered to me many times over the years and I suspect most birth parents have heard it more than once. It’s one of those sentences that can mean something different based on how it is delivered.
Many people think they are complimenting me when they say it. They say it with this hushed awe, commenting on the strength it must have taken me to go through with life without my son. As they reflect within themselves, they somehow find their own fortitude coming up short in comparison.
There is another side to this comment, however. “I could NEVER do that”. It is said with a tinge of disgust, as the speaker recoils from the idea of a mother separating herself from her own baby. It goes against everything that is natural. When I hear the phrase in this way, I recoil as well – from myself and my past and I allow more shame to be piled on.
How am I to respond to this comment? Should I take it as a compliment and say “thank you” – that doesn’t feel right to me. Should I acknowledge the disdain and say, “Thank you for pointing out what a horrible person I am”? A fellow birth parent suggested this reply, “Be grateful you have never had to”. Yes.
Be grateful you have never had to.