What did I do? Signing “termination of parental rights” papers is the legal term I learned decades later.
At the time I think I was “signing adoption papers”. It didn’t feel like terminating something. It felt like I was relinquishing, so that she could start being cared for properly, by people more worthy of her. Relinquishing is a fancy word for giving up. Somehow “giving up” your child for adoption sounds to others that your child is a “gift”, as though the person is a possession, which is an unconscionable notion in our modern society. My personal experience of “giving up” was losing, quitting, resigning, abandoning all hope for myself — without extending that hopelessness to my child. I held hope that she would be loved, cherished and cared for the way I had been convinced I was incapable of.
The way I described it at first was that I “didn’t get to keep my baby”. She was “adopted”. She went out into the big big world that I was not to be a part of, where capable, successful people lived.
I tried experimenting with terms – “gave her up for adoption” sounds like I put her on an auction block. Too crude. “Placed her for adoption” sounds like placing a book on a shelf as if it was a casual tidying up. After I started blogging I tried “lost her to adoption”, which makes me the victim.
The word that fits for me right now is “sacrificed”. I tried that word out years ago with Joy. When she responded that she was the one that was sacrificed, it felt quite brutal. And yet that still feels like what happened. She was the victim, sacrificed to the gods of opinion. The flesh of my flesh, sacrificed.
It gets rationalized by the worthlessness of the mother. I turned away from the world that declared me lacking. And now I’m coming back, because there’s really no other world. We’re all in this together, where sacrificing one’s children to “superior beings” is a huge step above infanticide. But it’s still inhumane!