In my last post, I made passing mention of people who felt that it was an optional extra to read what they were giving an opinion about before giving said opinion. It may not have been clear from that brief comment that this was the bit that I objected to by far the most in the whole Parking Spot Wars shebang.
The rest of that post was just a case of “OK, our opinions differ and here, for the record, is mine”. But when it comes to people sounding off about something they haven’t bothered to check out for themselves – well, that’s against my principles. I really wish I could be sure I wasn’t being a total hypocrite about that, but, of course, the odds are against it, because it’s bloody difficult to remember to check out the data before jumping to conclusions, and I’m sure there are plenty of times I’ve omitted that step myself. But it’s still a Bad Idea. The fact is that second-hand stories do get garbled. If you haven’t checked a source out for yourself, all bets are off as to whether you’ve picked up anything like an accurate impression of what it says.
The particular reason why I’m commenting on this now is because one of the people who commented on my last post admitted to not yet having read Karen’s blog, but didn’t let this stop her from expressing an opinion that Karen might be too bitter to be ‘in the right place emotionally to adopt’. She was concerned that the fact that Karen still wanted to go through pregnancy, or at the very least to get treated in the same way as pregnant women, might mean that she was seeing adoption ‘as a consolation prize or second best’.
Apart from the general ‘giving-an-opinion-without-reading-it-for-yourself=Bad’ concept, here are my more specific thoughts on that.
Firstly, having actually read the blog in question, I would say that Karen has now been in the right emotional place to adopt for so long that she’s getting cabin fever from being there. And she’s still stuck with staying there for an unknown number of months before being able to move on to the next and much more fun place of actually being a mother. So, quite apart from anything else, she is rather understandably frustrated. That comes through in a lot of her posts (to put it mildly), but it isn’t the same thing as bitterness.
Secondly, I can understand that the idea of adoption as second-best can be, rightly, a major sore point with a mother who’s happy with having adopted. But I think that the main reason for that is that it gets confused with another common, but entirely different, belief – the idea that an adopted child is somehow second-best. And I think it’s very important to realise that there’s a difference. The means aren’t the same as the end here. If you really wanted to experience pregnancy and birth, then adoption is a second-best – not because the child is in any way second-best, but because the way of getting that child was.
Reading Karen’s blog, and the other amazing infertility blogs out there, has taught me (among other things) that fertility is not a single loss but a whole collection of linked losses. The absence of motherhood is far and away the greatest of those losses, and that’s the one that adoption is a path out of – in spite of her infertility, Karen will eventually be a mother, and there will be nothing second-best about that. But she still won’t get to be pregnant, to give birth, to breast-feed, or even to experience the first few months of her baby’s life (her daughter will be at least six months old, and probably older, by the time she’s given to Karen). And, because those are things Karen wanted to experience, not getting to experience them is a loss for her, and one that should not be lightly brushed aside.
These things have different levels of importance for different people – the person who commented on my blog apparently wasn’t bothered at all by missing out on those experiences, and that’s nice for her. (I wish I could think of a way of saying that that sounded less sarcastic, because it was sincerely meant – I genuinely am glad that this unknown woman wasn’t bothered about that aspect of adoption.) But that doesn’t mean that they are going to be unimportant to every woman. I know that they were important to me, and that if I had not been able to get pregnant, I certainly would have felt that I’d missed out on something in my life, though I have no doubt that I would have loved whichever child I would then have gone on to adopt just as much as I love the one I was lucky enough to give birth to. I’ve realised how important it is to recognise that difference. Karen’s love for the daughter she will get next year will not be any less for her grief over having missed the chance to give birth to that daughter. It is perfectly possible to feel both emotions simultaneously.
But, thirdly – I don’t think Karen is exactly bitter, any longer, over having missed out on the chance to be pregnant. I think the main issue for her now, apart from her frustration over having to wait so long for her daughter, is not so much over adoption being ‘second-best’, but over having to live in a world that sees not only adoption, but the adopted child, as second-best.
Karen has had to deal with this in all sorts of ways, and will spend the rest of her life dealing with it in all sorts of ways. The post about the perks of a pregnant woman was a joke, and clearly meant as such. The experiences that inspired it – the times she’s told other people she’s adopting only to be met with blank looks or commiserations or none-of-your-goddamn-business questions instead of with the congratulations that would be automatically considered her due if she had, instead, announced a pregnancy – are no joke. Adoption leaves you dealing with the torture of the clueless. It leaves you dealing with an endless succession of “But what about her real parents?”, and “Couldn’t you have your own children?”, and “Well, if you’re adopting, that means that now you’ll get pregnant!” and so many other subtle denigrations of your motherhood, so many assumptions that an adopted child is just a fake, borrowed, fertility aid.
Karen faces a lifetime of dealing with this sort of ignorance not only on her own behalf, but also on behalf of the very real child to whom she will, some day in a few months time, become a very real mother. I’m bitter about this on her behalf, and I haven’t adopted and probably never will. If Karen is managing to deal with this without any bitterness at all, then she’s a better woman than I am.
So – if you want to pass judgement on Karen or her blog, read that blog first. Actually, even if you don’t want to pass judgement, read her blog anyway. For one thing, unless you’re more than usually clued up about adoption you’re likely to learn quite a bit from it. For another, it’s a bloody good read.