Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Not To Be Repetitive ...

But I've got another movie post for you.

Thanks to mom Santa, N got a movie gift card in his stocking this year. For us, this is a really awesome gift (as was the gift card to O'Charley's). See, we don't have a lot of money for extras, and when we want to go out without the kids, money becomes a big problem. To go to a movie, you have to pay the sitter (2 hour movie, 15 minutes of previews, 30 minutes round-trip traveling, 10-15 minutes of getting there early, and 15 minutes of "show sitter the ropes" time = $35, and that's just for a 2 hour movie). You also have to buy tickets (2 adults = $18). So, we're looking at $50-$60 just to spend a bit of time in a theater. I cringe to think we might want to add dinner or even theater popcorn to that.

No wonder we so often choose animated kids' movies ... it's cheaper just to bring them along. (And hey, Enchanted was damn funny.)

But with the magic of a gift card, the expense of the theater is shouldered by that wonderful little piece of plastic. So we went out last Friday night and saw the movie Juno.

DISCLAIMER: Although I don't think this post will ruin the movie for you -- it's pretty clear what the plot is from the previews -- I will be discussing a few specifics. I'm really not going to reveal much, but you may want to wait to read this until after you've seen the movie. And trust me, you should definitely see the movie.

Juno is about a 16 year-old girl who gets pregnant after sleeping with her best friend. She decides to have an abortion, but then can't go through with it. Instead of keeping the baby, she opts for giving it up for adoption. This all happens in about the first 15 minutes. The movie is really about following Juno through her pregnancy, and showing what it's like to be not only a pregnant teen but an adoptive parent hopeful as well.

This movie hit home for me in a way that it won't for many people. See, I found myself in the same situation at the same age. Pregnant at 16. It's an enormous, terrifying, overwhelming place to be in. And just like Juno, I was a "good girl" (although, unlike her, my boyfriend was a loser that I would have been much better off without). It shocked just about everyone, I think, who heard about me. It shocked the hell out of me, that's for sure. Looking back, I don't know why I was so surprised; I don't know how I had convinced myself that I wouldn't get pregnant. Hello ... unprotected sex = pregnancy ... duh! (It also equals STDs, and I can say that it is only by the grace of God that pregnant was all I got.)

Juno experiences that same feeling, that shock of, "Oh my God, it's not real, it's not real, that's not a plus sign, it's not real, oh my God, no no no nononononoooooooooooooooooo!" But she gets past it pretty quickly and decides on abortion with relative ease. When that option becomes unacceptable to her, she grabs onto adoption and holds it with both hands, no looking back.

I was very much the same. I considered abortion, but never very seriously. I don't know why, honestly, because obviously I didn't have extremely high morals at that point. But I just couldn't do it. Oddly enough -- or maybe not so much -- keeping the baby was also never a serious consideration. It just wasn't going to happen. That pretty much left me with adoption.

Just like Juno, once I settled on adoption, there was no going back. From the moment I chose my child's adoptive family (and my first choice was *it*), the baby was no longer mine. I was just growing it for this lovely couple that couldn't grow their own child. I gave birth a month after I turned 17, and I never once regretted that I didn't leave the hospital with a baby girl in my arms. She wasn't mine. I could never give her what she needed. She already had parents, two wonderful people, and my place was only to say goodbye and walk away.

You have no idea how many people thought I was being cruel to "give away" my child. *I* had no idea that my choice was going to be regarded with such scorn. Honestly, the mindset of most of the people in my life was that keeping the baby, finishing high school through a continuation program, going on welfare, and letting my parents raise my child was perfectly acceptable. Or Jesus, go get a quick abortion, because even that would be better than "abandoning" my baby at birth. I was stunned at the number of people who honestly believed I was making the wrong choice, not only a bad one, but a horrible, heartless one.

I can say now, with complete certitude, those people are ignorant jackasses.

I do, however, have to allow them a bit of slack. You see, society, for all it's advances, is still in the dark ages in regards to adoption. I don't know why, but considering the fact that adoptions themselves have changed quite a bit, it's amazing to me that society still regards adoption as the least-favorable, most difficult, often worst choice for a young pregnant woman and her child.

I don't understand.

I don't understand why it is considered easier to get an abortion, when it has been proven that so many women who have abortions often have psychological fall-out for years afterward.

I don't understand why it is less of a stigma to rid yourself of an unwanted child than it is to carry that child to term.

I don't understand why anyone would feel it is better to stop a life before it starts than let a child be raised by someone other than the biological parents.

I don't understand why anyone believes giving a child to an adoptive family is wrong and cruel; that life with biological parents is always the best option, even when that life includes things like welfare and food stamps, never feeling equal to your peers because your are so poor, watching your mom work two or three jobs to pay the bills because she dropped out of school after she had you, and knowing your dad took off before you were born because being a teenage father wasn't part of his life's plans.

I don't understand.

For those of you thinking I must be exaggerating, that everyone knows giving a child up for adoption is selfless and wonderful, think again. I had every one of these things and more said directly to my face.

Then, of course, there are the women who think they really are doing the right thing by encouraging (or pushing, or demanding) the pregnant girl to get an abortion. They say, "Well, *I* couldn't go through with adoption, that would be too hard, so this teenage girl certainly shouldn't have to shoulder that burden," when in reality, they have no idea what choice would be the most burdensome to the girl. Encouraging an abortion just because *you* think it's easiest is beyond absurd. Who are you to decide what is going to weigh on her conscience 1, 10, 20, 50 years from now? Who are you to decide what's *easiest* for someone else?

And please, do NOT spew that rhetoric at me about adoptive children missing a piece of themselves, or feeling abandoned, or wishing they'd never been born. Ever heard of open adoption? Look it up. Open adoption wipes out the issues caused by old-school adoption, when the child could, and often did, have unanswered questions about his/her bio parents. Plus, for the birth parents, open adoption offers so much flexibility. You choose from "I'll tell you everything you need to know, contact me if an issue comes up, but I don't want updates on the child" to pictures and letters to actual visitation (which is what I have). The pregnant mom gets to decide what her comfort level is, then she chooses a couple who agree and are comfortable with the same.

Do all teenage pregnancies end in a life cycle of poverty and parent-absenteeism? No, of course not. But statistically, that is a very common result - actually, the most common result. Do all adoptions, especially in regards to open adoption terms, work out as wonderfully as mine did? Again, no, of course not. Adoption isn't a guarantee of a perfect life. It's a chance. Sometimes it's the *only* chance a child gets.

Is it easy? Hell, no. Giving a child up is never easy. But it doesn't have to be as difficult as it once was. If more people would research and actually *learn* about adoption, I believe it would become more acceptable to society as a whole. In today's world, adoption falls into a wicked catch-22. It's not a common choice, so people don't know much about it. People don't know much about it, so they don't consider it as an option. People don't consider it as an option, so it's not a common choice.

See the cycle?

More people than I care to count told me that, "Once your baby is born and you hold it, you will change your mind. After all, that baby is your own flesh and blood." Um, no. I chose my child's family when I was four months along, and I never wavered. I never even thought "what if". Because, you see, I love her. I love her with all my heart. I love her so much, I couldn't keep her. I couldn't do that to her.

And you know what? I made the right decision. My baby girl has the perfect family who loves her more than anything, and a life that is so much better than whatever I could have cobbled together for her. Do I miss her? Of course. She *is* my flesh and blood, and there will always be ties between us.

Sure, I've wondered over the years what it would have been like if I had decided differently, or changed my mind as so many thought I would. It's been hard at times, knowing that my firstborn was growing up somewhere else, somewhere that I wasn't. But my daughter has a mom, and it's not me, and she is more lucky for that than she knows. She also has her dad, her sister, her grandparents. Her aunts, uncles, and cousins. She has her parent's friends, the ones who are so close they are just like family. And she also has me. She has my husband, who loves her deeply. She has my children, who adore their big sister. She has my parents, my brother, my best friends. She has the biggest family of any child I know. She is surrounded by love.

That's the beauty, and perfection, of adoption.