The decision to place my child up for adoption was pretty much an immediate one for me. At the time of my pregnancy, I was so broke, I had defaulted on not one, but two student loans and multiple credit cards. I was single. I was a playwright living with roommates (I still am). None of this spelled “awesome time to raise a kid.” And while identifying strongly as pro-choice, I didn’t want an abortion. The only option left was adoption — preferably, I hoped, to a nice gay or lesbian couple.
And I did find the gay couple of my dreams. They live a 15-minute walk from my apartment. They wanted (and still want) as open an adoption as I wanted. I see them and my son about once a month — and five years later, he’s becoming quite the amazing little man.
In terms of adoption stories, this is basically the best-case scenario; I’m delighted that everything happened the way it did.
It’s not that I didn’t ever have moments of doubt that I was making the right call; I definitely did. It’s not that I didn’t go through debilitating grief when I said goodbye to my son; I literally collapsed when he left the hospital without me. But while I had many moments when I thought, “I am definitely going to go with this adoption thing,” not once did I ever think, “I am definitely going to be the one to raise my son.” And there has never been a point when I thought, “I wish I could go back in time and change my mind.”
So why does it make me feel so guilty to admit that?
The societal pressure I feel as a birth mother is twofold and contradictory. On the one hand, I’m not supposed to want to insert myself at all. I’m supposed to step back and let the adoptive family blossom while I fade into the background. (My son’s daddies, by the way, have never even remotely expressed this desire; this is purely a pressure I feel from the larger world.) I’ve lurked in online adoption forums where I watched adoptive parents practically yell at each other not to let the birth parents into their lives. The fear, it seems, is that the birth mother (specifically the mother) will want her baby back — despite the fact that such court battles are, statistically, exceedingly rare.
On the other hand, I’m supposed to want my baby back. I’m supposed to stay up every night regretting my decision. Because what kind of awful woman could possibly be at peace with someone else raising her child? I’ve even seen this attitude from other birth mothers — women who unlike me were forced to relinquish against their wills. According to them, if you relinquish a child willingly, you’re a terrible person and dooming your child to a life of misery.
In general, I’m a no-regrets kind of person. This even goes for the experiences about which I can objectively say, “Yeah, that was a terrible idea.” I make a concerted effort to learn and gain everything I can from every awful thing that happens, because otherwise, it’s just random badness — and that seems so wasteful.
But relinquishing my son doesn’t fall into that category. I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions of my life. And yet I am terrified to admit that because some little part of me thinks that admission makes me selfish and evil.
In his five short years on earth, my son has gotten to learn American Sign Language, tumbling, swimming, African dance (which he did not care for) and probably a ton of other classes I’m forgetting. Not because his fathers are obsessive over-schedulers of his time, but because they’re giving him the chance to explore his interests. These classes would not be happening if my broke ass were raising him.
And in those same five years, I’ve been able to do amazing things too, like travel the world doing theater and start my own business as a life coach. Again, this would not be happening if my broke ass were raising him. As much as it gives me anxiety to admit, because I think you’ll all look at me as a self-serving monster-woman, there are all kinds of incredible things about not raising a kid.
But those aren’t the reasons I know I made the right call. I knew I was making the right call even before I signed the paperwork. I could tell from the minute I met them that John and Peter were the right parents for my child. From the day I met them to the afternoon my son went home with them, I never once had any hesitations about them as parents or as people. And I still don’t.
My son — our son — is amazing. He’s curious, silly and kind. He’s one of the most well-behaved children I’ve ever met, but that doesn’t keep him from asking for what he wants — which is usually ice cream. And he’s being raised with an overflowing network of love. Who could ask for anything more?
Deep down, despite whatever guilt or pressure I may feel from the outside world, I know that my decision was the best possible thing for my child. It’s a nice side benefit that it happened to be the best thing for me too.
A version of this story was originally published in September 2017.