Sunday, December 6, 2009

My "Real Child" Matthew

Main Entry: re•al

Pronunciation: \ˈrē(-ə)l\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, real, relating to things (in law), from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin & Late Latin; Medieval Latin realis relating to things (in law), from Late Latin, real, from Latin res thing, fact; akin to Sanskrit rayi property
Date: 14th century
1: of or relating to fixed, permanent, or immovable things (as lands or tenements)
2a : not artificial, fraudulent, or illusory

Excuse me
while I vent my raw pain onto the page--
for what I am about to share
just happened a half-hour ago
and I am still bleeding (on the inside, that is).
The scab is a long way from forming,
but the scar is already here, with me, forever.

This is not a mere blog posting.
It is a plea to the whole world
to be more sensitive and to think before speaking,
especially when talking with the parent of an adopted child.
Because sometimes, the words you say in casual conversation,
the language you choose to use,
burns and sears and scars.

So hear me out
with eyes wide open.
And if you have been blessed enough with birth children,
listen especially close,
for this was said to me by a birthmom of three grown children.

I thought I was a mom, pure and simple.
It's taken me a long time to get to this place
of calling myself a mom, even though the child I gave birth to
is no longer on this earth,
and even though I have never carried a child to term.
It has taken me a long time to be okay with
choosing to not define myself by adding the adjective
"adoptive" in front of the noun that is now me ("mom").

It never even crossed my mind
that Matthew may be seen as not a real child.
Until today.

Today at noon,
I took a step backward, in so many ways, all because of one casual, meant-to-be-funny-and-consoling comment.
It was anything but.

An acquaintance who shall remain nameless
asked me if I was going crazy with everyone asking me
"any news?"
I said yes, somewhat.
Sighed.
Said I wish I had different news to report, but it's always the same.
Said I am ready to lose my mind.
Said I am frustrated, and we just want him to come home.

She then said "Well, in this way, it's like having a real child.
This is what the real thing is like. People walk up to you and notice that you're still pregnant and say 'Wow, you're still here. You haven't had that baby yet?!?'" And you get so sick of people saying that!"

Ever been punched in the stomach?
That's what it felt like.

I know she didn't mean it, but it hurt all the same.
Words like that, they hurt me. 
They hurt my friends
friends like CatherineMaureenLauraDebbieMaryClareMichelle

and so many others.

And then, five minutes later, in a conversation with yet another person (this person asked me the same thing, essentially--"aren't you going crazy?"), the acquaintance repeated the exact same story!

It reminded me of that time I was at a party, a few months ago, and a friend compared my agonizingly long wait for Matthew, to the week-long wait she had to endure when adopting their puppy.

I am a person who believes in the positive
and in highlighting, focusing on, the good things in life.
The bad things can still be bad and crappy,
but by not focusing on them, or obssessing over them, we allow them to lose their
powerful hold on us, to diminish in value,
and maybe, even, to go away altogether.
That is what I believe.
But I have not been able to practice what I preach today.

If birth children are real, what is Matthew, then, a fake child?
Is he not living and breathing, same as other children?
Is a real child one who remains with his birthmom his entire life?
Is a child real only if she is raised by the same woman who carried her?
Is pregnancy the only real thing, the only real way, to parenthood?
Yes, I am getting deep.
Intentionally deep.
I have been told my whole life that I'm "deep"
so this will probably be no surprise to many of you.
But I want to get deep
because I am so pissed off,
I want to punch a wall.
And I am so hurt,
I can barely breathe.
A knife was stuck into my side today
and then it was twisted upon repetition
of what real really means to some people.

For those of you who have not been touched by adoption,
I implore you:
Please, please think before speaking to a waiting parent of an adopted child.
Use your words carefully.
Please, please use positive adoption language.
This incident made me want to step proudly onto my pedestal,
despite how preachy I may be perceived as being,
and tell the world
that phrases like real child and natural parents
have no place.
In the same way that the phrase gave her child up for adoption has no place.
How can loving your child so much that you make an adoption plan for them
be twisted into such a heartless phrase as gave her child up for adoption?
Gave her up speaks not the truth.
Rather, use the phrase made an adoption plan instead.
Realize how brave and strong these women are,
and how much love it takes to let go.

Real.
Natural.
Giving a child up for adoption.
All of those words and phrases, they HURT.

In the name of my real child Matthew...
please
stop
saying
them.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that you faced such pain today.
Matthew is VERY real to me. You are his real mother in my book. Giving birth does not make you a mother...raising them with love and preparing them for this world is what makes you a mother.

Dan said...

Kathleen,

Thanks for writing what needs to be written over and over again until people understand how insensitive their comments can be. Adoptive families are "real families" that consist of "real parents" and "real children". Stay strong...together we'll all make the world a better place for our children.

Mama C said...

What is remarkable about this to me is that it is precisely because you are his mother that her thoughtless lack of word choice hurt you so deeply. I am feeling you big time over here. Your post is beautiful in all of it's pain. Real pain from a real mama. We'll educate the world, one adoption, one family, one post at a time!!!!!

Stauffer Family said...

Thanks for writing what needs to be written over and over again until people understand how insensitive their comments can be. Adoptive families are "real families" that consist of "real parents" and "real children". Stay strong...together we'll all make the world a better place for our children.
The other word that can sting is "my own children" a comment that will be said by those maybe considering adoption but wanting their "own" children first ... aren't my children my own?