A woman who made the courageous but difficult choice of adoption for her baby has a message for everyone engaged in the abortion debate: Listen to birth mothers.
In a column at America Magazine, Tatum Hunter explained how she used to fervently avoid conversations about abortion because of her story.
Pregnant at 17 when she was a senior in high school, Hunter said she chose life and made an adoption plan for her son. Yet, for nearly 10 years, she said she kept her story quiet.
“’Coming out’ as a birth mother has been a healing journey for me, but it has not made the loneliness go away. In fact, it has made me painfully aware of the near-total absence of birth mothers in media, politics, religion, family, academics and medicine,” she wrote.
Hunter said she still has never met another birth mother in person. While she praised Christians for ending the stigma that once surrounded adoptive children, she said the same needs to happen with birth mothers.
“Reckoning with birth mothers in all their complexity is tough. So, we usually do not bother to do it,” she continued.
She confessed that her own story, her emotions, are complex and difficult. Honestly, she said she chose adoption: “Because I didn’t want to be a parent. Because I was too young to get an abortion in Ohio without parental consent. Because I wanted my community to accept me. Because I wanted to be a normal teenager again. Because I had dreams that didn’t involve being a mother. Because it was the best option available to me. Because I wanted my son to live, and I had the necessary support to make that happen.”
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Hunter said it was easier to portray herself as the “hero who marched out of the abortion clinic to give a wonderful couple a chance at parenthood” to Christian friends or to emphasize her religious upbringing when she told her progressive friends about her son.
But those stories were not the full truth that she now shares.
Hero or victim, brave or damaged, selfless or angry. I was a birth mother chameleon, shifting to fit whatever simplified storyline would make me sympathetic to my listeners.
And I really wanted those easy stories to be true. But how could I be a victim when I would never change my choice? How could I be selfless when sometimes I wish the whole thing never happened? How could I be brave when sometimes, I miss my baby so much, I cry really hard in the shower?
I felt I couldn’t mold my experience into something digestible for my parents, my friends, my partner, my coworkers and my son’s awesome mother, so I spent years stripping it of its complexity or hiding it entirely.
Hunter said adoption is positive and happy because it creates new family bonds through a “powerful love.” But it also is “a sad thing; a parent and child, whatever the circumstances, are separated.”
She urged society – especially pro-lifers and Christians – to “seek out and amplify the perspectives of birth mothers” even if their stories may be difficult to hear. She asked that people not stereotype birth mothers or make assumptions about their motives or experiences because each one is unique.
While talking about abortions, she said people need to hear birth mothers’ stories just as they hear about adoptive families and mothers who choose to parent their babies. Some birth mom stories may be difficult but they are powerful because they are real, and they recognize the complexities of human existence, she said.
Hunter said society can do better to support birth mothers as well. She encouraged churches and pro-lifers to expand grief support programs and resources for birth mothers and recognize that they should be treated with the same care as a mother who loses a child.