This month Scary Mommy shared a piece entitled, 12 Myths About Birth Mothers. I tend to avoid these pieces because they’re generally all one and the same: “Birth Mothers are so selfless!! YAY!” That narrative exhausts me, personally. It’s a broad stroke that completely undermines the nature and circumstances that a woman faces when she relinquishes her parental rights. The selfless byline is touted to women from the moment they walk into an agency, and then usually it’s thrown in your face afterward. You are, as the mother who relinquished, expected to buy into this idea, and repeat it to anyone who brings up adoptions, yours or otherwise. To discuss the nature of your grief surrounding the adoption is to openly ask for an onslaught of more stereotypical diatribe – You gave a gift, and therefore, your sadness is not important. You are angry, and bitter. Your experience isn’t the norm, so you shouldn’t bother commenting about your supposed rare negative experience. To experience anything other than the selfless, heroic, gift-giving birth mother basically means you are wrong and unnecessary to the adoption conversation.
While this piece contributes to the Selfless Birth Mother culture, that wasn’t the most disappointing aspect demonstrated. When I finished reading it, I was curious to know who wrote it. I wasn’t surprised to find that it wasn’t actually written by a birth mother. In fact, it was written by an adoptive father who also co-founded two pro-adoption websites that prominently display perspective adoptive couples looking for the Unicorn Birth Mother. For anyone who is involved in speaking out about adoption, this isn’t shocking. Adoptive parents often co-opt the narrative frequently. I assume that Scary Mommy was hit with a PR email from said individual, with the hopes of gaining exposure during National Adoption Awareness Month, and likely didn’t see anything wrong with giving this man or his websites a platform.
That alone is the issue. It’s an issue both birth parents and adoptees face all year, not just in November. We consistently have to fight to have our voices heard over the loud chorus of adoptive parents. This was yet another case of this; An adoptive parent taking away an opportunity to allow someone who is actually qualified to give voice to this topic. There is so much wrong with giving the microphone to an individual who has not lived the birth mother experience. Yes, he has likely interacted with, and spent time with birth mothers, including his children’s mothers. There is value in that, absolutely, but only from a specific angle. If you want to know about myths that birth mothers face? You should probably ask a birth mother herself. Go a step further and ask several birth mothers, because as much as we all share the same “title”, our experience, and opinions vary.
To say that he is capable of speaking for birth mothers can be summed up in this simple analogy: I drive a car every day. I have watched people fix cars, and I even live with someone who maintains cars for a living. However, that doesn’t make me an expert on the subject, nor does it qualify me to write, or speak about the topic. You shouldn’t be taking advice from me. You shouldn’t listen to me dissect an issue with your car and believe that I know what I’m talking about. Maybe I have some mild knowledge on the subject, but I’m not a mechanic, and therefore completely unqualified to talk about fixing cars.
Those of us who choose to speak out about the issues or real myths that face birth mothers are often shushed. The most popular come back, as I detailed above, is that we’re just angry, and bitter. Of course we’re angry and bitter. Do you know what it’s like to be told over and over again that your experience, your opinion and your concerns with an industry you are intimately tied to is invalid and wrong? We’re not saying, (at least I’m not) that your happy experience as a birth mother is incorrect or wrong. What we’re saying is that this experience is far more complex than just cliche, positive statements, and it evolves over the years. That side of the birth mother experience desperately needs to be heard.
When we hand the microphone to someone who hasn’t lived the experience directly and speaks from a place of privilege, it sets the discussion back. We need to be aware of who is speaking, and need to hold the authors and even the publishers accountable for giving a non-expert a place to discuss a subject that they are not qualified to speak on. Readers, in this particular case, should have questioned why a male adoptive parent was penning this article, and why the website had not sought out the appropriate voice for the piece. Beyond that, as #flipthescript (for the adoptee voice) has shown this month, it’s imperative that we make room for all of the voices in adoption. All of our experiences are relevant, and necessary.
Simply put, if you aren’t an birth mother/father or adoptee and the discussion requires input from one of us? Pass the microphone on, and wait until it’s your turn to speak.