Friday, November 03, 2006

My Rapist

Every week in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, there’s a short piece for the Lives section. On 10/29, the piece was "My Rapist" by Maureen Gibbon. In short, the protagonist deals with the emotional fall-out of reading the engagement announcement of the man who raped her when she was 16. About half-way through, she writes:

After I left at 17, I never lived in my hometown again. When I
returned for short visits, I rarely left my parents’ house. I felt
as uncomfortable and vulnerable as I did when I was 16. But
that was another gift my rapist bestowed—agelessness.
Because I think so frequently of that night in April 1980, my
teenaged self is still strong inside me. Because of my rapist,
I’m forever young.

My daughter’s birthmother, Mitzie, was 16 when she became pregnant, 17 when my daughter was born. We saw Mitzie a lot when BabyGirl was really a baby, before she and Ramone broke up. We haven’t seen her much at all in the last couple of years despite repeated invitations and close proximity.

In an effort to understand her journey more, I emailed a blogging birthmom looking for insight. This blogging birthmom is being effectively shut out of her son’s life by his parents, while we feel like we’re being shut out by our daughter’s first mother. Anyway, she suggested that perhaps Mitzie is kind of stuck in her late teenage-hood, even though she’s nearly 23.

And that got me thinking how much like a rape losing one’s child to adoption might be. There isn’t really a choice in either situation, both are events that stays with the victim for her lifetime, both result in the woman losing a part of her soul.

Yeah, yeah, we all like to say that adoption is a choice. But was it really a choice for her, for them? I’m confident that our agency counsels pregnant women and couples well because Mitzie told me how they had her go to the store to price diapers, formula, clothes, and all the gear babies require. They helped her work out a budget. They helped her sign up for all the assistance programs for which she was eligible and to get a part-time job so she could finish school. They helped her work out a way to ask her mother to help raise BabyGirl, they even helped her to ask Ramone’s mother for help. They explored all the options and angles to make it possible for Mitzie and Ramone to be the mommy and daddy, and I’m grateful the agency made them go through those steps.

But was adoption really a choice for them? They didn’t have any family support—emotional or financial—for raising her, their two part-time jobs and public assistance wouldn’t cover the bills, both families said they’d have to find new places to live. To choose means to select from a number of possibilities; pick by preference. They didn’t have the luxury of a real choice, the decision they made was not their preference. They didn’t choose to make an adoption plan for BabyGirl, they just didn’t have any choice not to.
…Because I think so frequently of that [morning] in April
[2001], my teenaged self is still strong inside of me.
Because of [losing] my [daughter to adoption], I’m forever young.

And sometimes maybe being young means blowing off dates, not returning phone calls, and ignoring the letters. We desperately hope she’ll come back around sooner rather than later. But how hard it must be to look into the faces of the ones who have the one thing she’s always wanted: a family with her daughter.

And how do I explain this to a five-year old who wants to know why Mitzie never comes to see her?


Third Mom said...

Holy smokes, what a great post. I'm so glad I stumbled onto your blog - I saw a comment at Jenna's. Thank you for this - and I'm truly looking forward to more. Please stop by where I write, too.

Susan said...

This is such a poignant and thoughtful and insightful post. I am currently working with a very young birthmother and I think much of this is true for her, too...

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