In 2012 a woman handed her baby to me, and my wife, and whispered through unimaginable pain, “Take care of my baby.”
We all broke inside that day. We viscerally felt her heartache and in the same instant experienced the overwhelming elation of becoming a parent. It was a terrible miracle that made me a dad.
Adoption has literally given me life. A child who loves me, and a love inside me that I didn’t know existed. But adoption is also trauma, and because of that trauma adoption should not be a substitute for abortion and should always be a woman’s choice free of coercion.
Last week my son’s birth mom spoke to that trauma on social media. I read her words while snuggling her incredible little 7-year-old.
“I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be allowed to be with my family eternally, that I wouldn’t be loved as a sister or daughter if I chose to be a parent. I was an unwed Mormon teenager with a pregnant belly. Here I am almost 9 years since the beginning of that initial pregnancy with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.”
My son was watching “Home Alone 2″ with his sister, both belly laughing at the hilarity of the Wet Bandits getting smacked in the face with a bag of cement. I had tears welling up in my eyes, but I read on.
“I didn’t even trust myself sometimes because I doubted my ability as a parent because I handed my first baby willingly over to strangers.”
Both of our kids have deep and profound connections to their birth moms. Their birth moms have one-on-one dates with them. They attend birthdays, soccer games and school plays when they can. They Facetime, share phone calls and have healthy happy relationships.
However even at 7 and 10 years old, our kids feel a tangible sense of loss that they vocalize in quiet moments of reflection, “Dad why don’t I live with my birth mom?” This is the bright side of adoption, and it’s still shrouded in pain and trauma.
“I bonded with a baby. I felt their kicks, I helped name them, I listened to their heartbeat, I took care of myself for that baby. I labored for that baby. I tore literal flesh for that baby. I gave that baby everything, then I took my firstborn baby away from everything they knew and put them into the arms of strangers. Adoption is not trauma free. Even with open adoptions. Stop using ‘adoption is an option’ as if it’s a trauma free justification to take women’s rights away.”
I’ve wrestled for years with the fact that I was the benefactor of a deeply spiritually coercive system that led to the violent trauma of a young woman and simultaneously gave me the greatest joy I’ll ever know — parenthood. It’s the kind of dissonance that is never settled, and in some way is left beautifully unresolved.
A woman chose adoption, and I became a parent. But given the trauma associated with even the best adoption experiences, that choice should always be the woman’s to make — not the state’s.
It may soon be the position of the Supreme Court Of The United States, as it already is of the Utah Legislature, that they get to impose the trauma of adoption if a pregnant woman doesn’t want to parent. State-enforced trauma is morally wrong in every way and we should all be outraged even if adoption changed your life forever.
Kevin Lundell, Ogden, is a community advocate, doctor of chiropractic and owner of Lundell Chiropractic and Roy Community Fitness.