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Why I’m Not Really All That Grateful to My Birth Mother

All my life I’ve been asked questions about my adoption. Today I heard a new one.

When I had Jessica (our oldest child) I got a sense, for the first time, of how hard it would be to carry a baby for nine months and then just walk away. A relief, perhaps, and a resolution, too. But I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be mind-bogglingly difficult for anyone with a heart.

My entire life I’ve been grateful that my birth mother allowed me to grow up in an intact family.

Not Grateful to Birth Mother

But today, as a few people on Facebook discussed the “Burger King Baby” — a 27-year-old adoptee who’s on the hunt to find the birth mother who abandoned her, wrapped in a shirt, in a Burger King bathroom — I was baffled at the curiosity. I know all about lack of DNA history, but there would have to be something pretty darn big going on to make me to want a meet up with the woman who dumped me, for the love of all that is holy, in a public bathroom.

We speculated about whether the girl wanted a genetically-specific mother figure of just to punch her lights out. But the graciousness of my friend (also an adoptee) by giving credit to the birth mother took me aback. The implied question:

Aren’t you grateful your birth mother didn’t abort you, given the alternative?

I thought about that for a bit. OK, for about 30 seconds. Then I answered it: no, not really.

Sure, I’d rather be here than be aborted. I’d rather be here than be decomposed body parts in a medical waste dump somewhere. But to me that’s kind of like being “grateful” that the guy who just mugged me and stole my car didn’t also slit my throat. No, not just being grateful I got out alive, but being grateful to the thief that he wasn’t also a murderer. As I said to my friend:

It’s weird when we have to be all, “Oh, thank you for not sucking me into a sink. You are so amazing!!!!!”

I guess I think that should be a given.

There are reasons to be grateful for and other things we should simply expect in the name of humanity. When the act of allowing a baby to grow rather than be slaughtered is no longer the latter, God help us.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Merriment March 10, 2014, 9:10 pm

    Hear, hear! Well said!

  • Panchee March 10, 2014, 10:07 pm

    I read some of the comments on Facebook. I decided to come here to comment because I know one of the women who didn’t like what you said and I don’t want to get on her bad side!

    I think that either they didn’t really read your post (just seeing the title and assuming they understood what the “why” meant) or they were very personally involved in the subject (and didn’t separate their emotion from what should be obvious).

    I think a better analogy (than to a thief who isn’t a murderer) is to a mother who is _raising_ her baby.

    No one would ever say, “It’s so _noble_ of you that you didn’t beat your children today! You should be so proud! What a wonderful mother you are!” or “It’s so _noble_ that you actually fed your children today instead of going bar hopping with your man! You should be so proud! What a wonderful mother!”

    No, we don’t do that. Instead, we _expect_ that every decent parent refrains from beating their children and sets aside personal desire to see the their children’s needs are met.

    To say that it’s so _noble_ not to kill a baby because it would be _so_ much nicer to do away with them is just crazy.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 10, 2014, 11:01 pm

    THANK YOU for understanding! Giving birth to a child and allowing someone else to raise it for the sake of the child IS noble — and uncommon and nonintuitive!

    Refraining from ripping your child to shreds, chemically disintegrating them, or stabbing scissors in their skulls should be pretty run-of-the-mill decency. The fact that it’s NOT is disturbing and alarming!

    But if ya’ll want to start sending me trophies, tiaras, and cash awards for normal human stuff, please do. For the record, I did some SUPER AWESOME stuff today:

    1. Showered
    2. Checked mail
    3. Ran a load of laundry
    4. Wrote a blog post (this one!)
    5. Did a WHOLE BUNCH of BREATHING
    6. Drank water
    7. Debugged some code
    8. Looked for a child’s shoes
    9. Made change
    10. Packaged up some eggs
    11. Talked to a guy on the phone
    12. Corrected a prescription with the doctor

    PLUS…get ready…I refrained from having any of my children dismembered!

    I can feel your admiration coming right through the internet! Email me for my PayPal address!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Career Inequality No More – Obama Will Pay You to Be a Super Model!!!My Profile

  • carboncopy March 11, 2014, 9:47 am

    It is sad that we think abortion is so normal and acceptable that we think someone deserves credit for not doing it. Sick.

  • Not Burger King March 11, 2014, 6:55 pm

    [Note: The author of this comment asked to have it removed. Since other’s had already commented on it, I removed her name, but she was not satisfied and asked that the entire comment be removed. Generally speaking I don’t edit comments as it disrupts the flow of discussion and causes readers to distrust the content. In this one case I agreed to do so because she had left very personal comments. I apologize and thanks for understanding.]

  • Monroe March 11, 2014, 11:16 pm

    Not what I thought you were saying. You are so right!

  • Kerrigan March 12, 2014, 9:56 am

    ***One other comment I needed to make was about comparing being grateful to a birth mother for giving birth to an adoptee instead of killing them to “being “grateful” that the guy who just mugged me and stole my car did’nt also slit my throat.” To me this is not an accurate comparison. Mugging and car theft are crimes, being an unwed mother is not.***

    How about this, then, “But to me that’s kind of like being “grateful” that my husband only screwed around with the babysitter and didn’t also screw around with our next-door-neighbor.”

    I swear there was a post about illogic on that somewhere here. ???

  • Not Burger King March 16, 2014, 4:55 pm

    Alison…Would you please remove my posts from your blog. It does not have the spirit that I thought it would and I would rather not have myself or my words associated with it. Thank you.

  • Oregonian March 17, 2014, 12:54 pm

    i am lds and i think the lady up there talking about preexistence is lds too. i just want people to know that is not lds teaching at all. we dont believe we picked out kids in heaven and we dont believe people promise in heaven to sin on earth so other people can have babies. thats not what the church teaches and i really hate it when other mormons say stuff that makes us look crazy.

    im sorry thats how you were raised and you can believe what you want but since you are at least in your 20s now, from your story, you are old enough to research and find out what real doctrine is. i hope you dont teach that to your kids.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 17, 2014, 1:05 pm

    Not Burger King, since people had already responded to you, I changed the name so you aren’t identifiable.:)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…I Want My PopcornMy Profile

  • Not Burger King March 17, 2014, 5:18 pm

    To Oregonian. I never said I was LDS nor did I claim that my personal beliefs and feelings were LDS doctrine. And if you are what being LDS/”Christian” is all about…I want no part of it. Especially as, from what you wrote, you consider women who put their babies up for adoption as sinners. That alone makes me even more grateful to have been raised the way I was so spare me your “pity”. I don’t need or want it. And by the way…you don’t need any help…you seem to be doing well all on your own.
    Alison…I ask you again….please remove my original post from your blog. I want no part in what it is becoming and I want nothing to do with these people who do nothing but tear other people down

  • Cherish March 17, 2014, 6:47 pm

    Wow, so people come and comment and then you take down comments because they don’t like it? Not cool, Allison! :(

    Not Burger King, I have studied religions at a graduate level and LDS are the only ones who make those kinds of claims about “pre existence.” And I mean EVER EVER EVER. And when you start talking about choosing spouses and kids and stuff, it’s all very Saturday’s Warrior. (I actually wrote an undergrad paper about that Mormon phenomenon.)

    Not sure what you mean by Oregonian saying that putting kids up for adoption was sin. I read your (now removed post) to say that people in heaven PROMISED to get pregnant out of wedlock so your parents could have kids. (Let’s be honest, that’s where almost every adopted baby comes from.) I know that the LDS church does say it’s sin to have sex outside of marriage, so that was the sin I understood her (him?) to be referring to.

    Rather than call names of people who post here, why not just be willing to have a conversation. That’s what everyone else is doing.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 18, 2014, 12:02 am

    Cherish, sorry to be annoying. I felt the circumstances were unusual enough that I broke one of my cardinal rules by manipulating the comments. :/
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…70% Off Entertainment Coupon Book + Free ShippingMy Profile

  • K March 22, 2014, 11:17 pm

    Wow. Calm down peeps. :o) I like this post. I think it was a little bit confusing to get the point of what you were trying to say. I had to read it a couple of times to feel like I understood it enough to agree or disagree. Maybe that’s why people are being funny about it. They didn’t quite understand it? It’s hard to imagine disagreeing that we should expect human decency. But really, there is not harm in being grateful that people are decent, right? We can be grateful about that without being over-the-top praise-gushy. Like, I think it’s OK to be grateful you weren’t aborted as a fetus. Just like I’m grateful when people obey traffic laws, even though I expect it, I’m still grateful. I’m even grateful you took a shower. :o) That way I don’t have to smell you. Even though I don’t know you. You’ve sat by the person in church who didn’t shower, right? I’m sure they have their reasons, and I try to be patient, but I am grateful for people with good hygiene, even though I expect it. Hope that makes sense.

  • claudia March 24, 2014, 7:13 am

    Yes, I would be grateful for not being murdered by my birth mother. In this sick society where sex is more important then morals, a lot of kids are misdirected in their lives. Many get pregnant and can not support the baby. Giving their baby to adoption is a loving and very difficult decision. It is a decision that will be with them for the rest of their lives. But on the same note, a decision of killing will be with then for the rest of their lives also, with one difference, by giving their baby for adoption they have the hope that the baby is with a good family and happy. By killing their baby, their conscience eventually starts to fell guilt and many become depress and end with their own lives. The truth about abortion when comes to the mother’s health is very sad. So, by giving their baby for adoption, they not only are giving their baby a chance, they may be saving their own life of a sad death.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 24, 2014, 10:37 am

    claudia, honest question: Have you ever told your mother personally that you are forever grateful she did not suck you into a sink? Have you told her you were grateful that she didn’t burn your arms with cigarette butts? How about that she didn’t chain you to the floor and starve you or pour pepper in your eyes or sexually assault you or prostitute you?

    All of those are things that some parents have really done. Whether you were adopted or not, makes no difference. You still have a birth mother, right?

    Once we get to a point as society where abortion is so ACCEPTABLE that we think it EXTRAORDINARY and CONGRATULATORY for parents to do otherwise, we are as corrupt as we can be.

    My point being that NOT KILLING BABIES should be NORMAL, TYPICAL, and EXPECTED.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken TacosMy Profile

  • Michelle December 16, 2015, 4:52 pm

    Well gee, I guess there was nothing heroic about my choice to give birth at age 12 in spite of having been raped. Being exiled from my home and destroying the shape of my ribs and back pelvis to accommodate the child, and carefully reading through letters of families who could take good care of the baby that was half me, half my rapist was surely no sacrifice whatsoever, and the lifelong sadness because I miss him and wish I could have known him is also nothing, right? The toll on my body, mind and spirit along with having to say goodbye to somebody I loved are the sacrifice, not the “golly I could have aborted him” schtick. This, along with the adoptive mothers assuming we’re all crack whores has made me quite sad. You don’t know what happened to the woman who had you. She may have been just a little girl. I read this today, as my son is 25 years old. I can’t help wondering what he thinks/feels, if he thinks of me at all. In a way I hope he doesn’t because I don’t want to have to tell another human being “You were conceived in violence against a child”. You have fun with that whole LIFE thing your mother did, in spite of whatever circumstances she may have endured, and view it as “life VS abortion”, ignoring the toll it took on a human being who loved you enough to admit she could not give you what you needed.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 16, 2015, 11:09 pm

    Michelle, I’m sorry you don’t approve. I’m glad you chose to allow your son to live.

    To be clear, I actually do know some of the circumstances of my birth. I’m not sure why you would assume I don’t. I know my birth mother had a child she gave up for adoption before she was married, later married, had “children” (though I don’t know how many), and that I was born after she and her husband divorced. She was long an adult, if that matters.

    That aside, I think it should be a given—unless we have two actually competing values (which is true in less than 5% of the cases)—that a baby should be allowed to live rather than be violently killed. I realize that can be difficult and problematic for others, but I still think their life takes precedence.

    I recommend this article addresses that addresses fact that having the baby—even in a very trying circumstance—is generally better for the birth mother as well:

    For example, it is commonly assumed that rape victims who become pregnant would naturally want abortions. But in the only major study of pregnant rape victims ever done, Dr. Sandra Mahkorn found that 75 to 85 percent chose against abortion.[1] This evidence alone should cause people to pause and reflect on the presumption that abortion is wanted or even best for sexual assault victims.

    As for your insinuation that I have ignored the toll it took on my birth mother, I hope you will step back and read what I actually wrote rather than responding with such anger and defensiveness. Here are paragraphs two and three:

    When I had Jessica (our oldest child) I got a sense, for the first time, of how hard it would be to carry a baby for nine months and then just walk away. A relief, perhaps, and a resolution, too. But I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be mind-bogglingly difficult for anyone with a heart.

    My entire life I’ve been grateful that my birth mother allowed me to grow up in an intact family.

    In spite of all that, I don’t think human beings should be expected to express gratitude that they weren’t violently dismembered and sold for parts. Or had their heads crushed and their brains sucked out. Or had poison injected into their hearts. I think, rather, they should be able to expect a bit of respect and consideration even if their lives bring hardship and heartache to others.

    I assume you have not yet been violently ripped limb from limb and tossed in a refuse bin. Given your intact personhood, do you spend much of your day saying, “Holy cow. I’m so glad the landscaper didn’t come in and throw me in a wood chipper today!”? Or do you just assume that other people will allow you to remain alive and with attached appendages? I’m guessing the latter, but if you want to claim otherwise, we can discuss it.

    So, yes, I’m very grateful to have been raised in a wonderful family. But I had a right to life.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Do Mormon Women Oppose Priesthood Ordination? ReduxMy Profile

  • Michelle December 17, 2015, 2:03 am

    Alison,
    Yes it was a huge assumption on my part to think you “don’t know what your birth mother endured”, and for that I owe you an apology. I tend to forget that other people (people who are not me) sometimes have the good fortune to see their child grown and )hopefully) happy.
    I did read your article. I think it’s silly when people don’t read an article and comment anyway. The thing is, your article is named “Why I am not all that grateful to my birth mother” and it focuses on abortion. I think it’s really, really sad that children and adults are expected to be grateful not to have been aborted. There are other options such as being adopted into the family with the birth mother or being raised by friends or generally placing the child in a safe place but I guess some people don’t think about that. While I don’t have any children I don’t know if it’s easier for women who have some to give one up or not. I’d think not, but what do I know?
    I do think rape victims should have the choice to abort but fear that would lead to a “Well I will just claim I was raped and that way I can get an abortion without judgment” situation. I chose not to, and I believe you when you say most agree with me. It’s none of that child’s fault I was raped, nor does my age play into whether or not he has a right to live. I could have died giving birth and I knew that but I made my choice. I am not a hero by any means. I am a woman who made my choice and have a hard time living with it, myself. Thank you for telling me about your birth mother. I am glad you were raised by an intact family. I was not, however a Mormon family took me in for a couple of years and they were lovely, kind people. I have never considered myself lucky to have been given life. In fact I have wished I were aborted but that’s from the standpoint of a planned child for whom abortion was never considered. I appreciate your reply.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 18, 2015, 3:18 pm

    I tend to forget that other people (people who are not me) sometimes have the good fortune to see their child grown and )hopefully) happy.

    I’m unsure what you are referring to. My adoption was sealed. My birth parents have not had any contact with me nor I with them. We were just given a bit of information about the situation (it was a private adoption in Provo, Utah).

    The thing is, your article is named “Why I am not all that grateful to my birth mother” and it focuses on abortion. I think it’s really, really sad that children and adults are expected to be grateful not to have been aborted.

    And that was exactly the point. :) I had a right to life just like every other human.

    It’s none of that child’s fault I was raped, nor does my age play into whether or not he has a right to live. I could have died giving birth and I knew that but I made my choice. I am not a hero by any means.

    On this we disagree. :) While I don’t think any child should be told they must feel grateful for being allowed to live, I absolutely commend those who go through a pregnancy and delivery—particularly when their there was not consensual sex and also to those who do so and then allow another family to raise the child. In addition, I do think that the mother’s life is an equal value that must be considered. You are a hero in my book.

    I am a woman who made my choice and have a hard time living with it, myself.

    If you are willing to share, why is this difficult for you? I can imagine wondering and worrying about the child or feeling a great loss. I hope it is those things and not the idea that you did something wrong. But I hope this is the kind of pain that you see as doing an amazing good for someone as well.

    I have never considered myself lucky to have been given life. In fact I have wished I were aborted but that’s from the standpoint of a planned child for whom abortion was never considered.

    Michelle, I most sincerely hope that this will be a temporary place in your life. Your life is valuable beyond measure and a gift from God every bit as much as your child’s. If I can be of assistance, please contact me.

    Much love.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Nose and the StewardshipMy Profile

  • Michelle December 18, 2015, 4:30 pm

    To put it simply I am concerned about his feelings. I hope he does not feel abandoned or unimportant.

    I mistook the info you gave about your birth mother to mean you met her… you got details and I am glad you did. I wish all adopted people could have some information, if they want it.

    I do not always or frequently wish I hadn’t been born, however this time of year is difficult. If you have time and the inclination I would appreciate your prayers. Thank you for hearing me out. I’ll never feel like a hero but it’s a nice compliment and I appreciate it.

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