Return within 30 days if not absolutely satisfied

Found by way of Jezebel…Yvette Maguire, a 39 year-old florist in England, gave an interview to the Daily Mail explaining her startling decision to return her adopted 2 year-old son to foster care after just two weeks with him.

…once at their home, Ben seemed to settle in quickly, delighted by his cheerfully-decorated nursery crammed with toys and clothes. But within hours of welcoming their son into his new home, Yvette admits she was overcome with waves of anxiety about what she had done.

‘I was completely overwhelmed,’ she admits. ‘On the outside I was doing all the right things – looking after him, playing with him, hugging him – but inside I felt only turmoil.

‘I have a very strong memory of looking at him in the first couple of days that he was with us, and thinking: “He didn’t come from me.” I felt no bond with him whatsoever.

‘I loved him in the abstract, but not inside. Clearly I hadn’t expected this to happen, or I wouldn’t have spent two years struggling to reach that point. But whenever I looked at him I was reminded only of my own failure to be a biological mother.

‘I don’t think I had grieved properly for the fact that I would never have my own children, and now it was coming back to haunt me. But at the same time it was the most horrible feeling – how could I not love this adorable boy I had waited for for so long?’

Not surprisingly, despite the fact that the toddler is now doing well with a new family, Maguire’s decision didn’t sit well with many of her friends and family members, and she is currently getting her ass handed to her in the comments section of the Mail‘s webpage.  Further not surprisingly, many of the comments are a variation on “what kind of woman would…” and accusations that Maguire is cruel and selfish.  Despite my snarky title for this piece, I feel for Yvette Maguire, and as painful as the decision must have been to return her adopted son, especially considering that her husband immediately bonded with the boy, it was unquestionably the right decision.  The child, who had already been neglected by his birth parents and was bounced between four different foster homes in his short life, needed a mother who was ready to accept him and love him as her own child unconditionally.  Yvette Maguire was not suited for that task, and it seems likely she never will be.  It doesn’t make her a bad person, despite society’s perception that it’s unnatural.

It may seem strange, but it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I learned to acknowledge that the so-called mothering “instinct” doesn’t come to easy to all women, if ever.  While I love my daughter fiercely, and loved her before I even held her in my arms for the first time, I had to learn much about mothering that’s supposed to come naturally.  Though I’ve been told that I’m good with kids, I don’t have this magical skill that automatically detects why a child is crying.  I don’t speak a special language or have some sort of Pied Piper-like hold over them.  I just like kids, most of ’em at least, and they seem to like me, probably because they acknowledge me as a big, goofy SpongeBob SquarePants-watching kid myself.  There’s nothing instinctive or biological behind it, it’s mostly luck and a willingness to make an ass out of yourself.  I know plenty of men who have the same effect on children.  I also know some men who are very decent human beings but would make terrible fathers, yet you never hear anyone being chided over a lack of “fathering instinct.”

To all the people criticizing Yvette Maguire’s decision, I ask this: what should she have done? What would have been the better choice? Should she have just waited for the bright shining moment when she suddenly realized that she really did love her son after all? Should she have just gone through the motions and put on a good show? How long should she have waited? Until he was four? Six? Twelve? Yes, it’s likely the boy will have some abandonment issues for the time being, but he’s more liable to act them out by being anxious and clingy until he feels secure with his new family.  If she were to wait until he was, say, ten or so, he would have been burdened with a lifetime of insecurity and self-loathing, and undoubtely issues with trust and women.  No child should grow up in a home where he or she feels unloved, believe me, I know that of which I speak.  Children are more perceptive than we realize, if this had gone on much longer it wouldn’t have just been Yvette Maguire who realized there was something wrong in her relationship with her son.  Yes, it was a selfish decision.  It was also a very smart decision.  There are issues she needs to work on with herself, problems that should have been apparent during the adoption process, before she can be ready to try adoption again.  Perhaps she may never be ready, or it may not even be an issue of readiness, but a realization that she never wanted to in the first place.  This is okay.  The important thing she needs to understand is that it’s okay to not want to be a mother.

When it comes to parenting, we all seem to know what’s best for each other.  When someone decides they don’t want to have children, either because they don’t think they’d be very good parents or they just plain don’t like kids very much, they’re told that they’ll feel differently when it comes to their own child.  The logic of getting over the notion of not wanting to have children by having a child is completely lost on me, but there you have it.  When a couple is unable to conceive a child naturally, they’re told “well, you could always adopt,” as if it’s as simple as going to your local Target and picking out a baby.  Adoption is a grueling, ego-battering process in which you and your partner are essentially judged by a third party for your suitability to be parents, unless you have lots of money to throw around, in which case anything goes.  Women are expected to know right away what to do the moment a crying newborn is placed before them, and to love every poopy diaper and piercing wail, because it’s what we’re meant to do.  Society is still shocked and appalled when women openly discuss the need to be away from their children for a little while, or using the TV as a babysitter, or occasionally relying on McDonald’s for dinner if we don’t feel like cooking.  Whenever I hear about or see women with four or five children, who homeschool and joke about how they haven’t had a night out alone with their husbands in six years, and possess for all the world a serenity rivaling that of the Blessed Mother herself, I don’t think “Wow, what a woman,” I think “How much Xanax is this lady popping every day?” And yet, this is still the ever-efficient, never complaining ideal.  Clearly there is something wrong with me here.

I love my daughter, but for a long time, and even now on occasion, I was convinced that I was always doing something wrong, or at least not as good as it could be done.  I wept when I couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding, because I failed at something so “natural.”  Going back to work three months after she was born instilled a sense of both pride in my independence and guilt for that pride.  When I had to rely on medication to help her through the hell of colic, rather than my own soothing touch and voice, I wondered if I’d ever get the hang of this mothering thing.  I guess I did eventually, as my daughter is alive, well and nearly as tall as I am, but I am far from perfect, and I decided a long time ago not to have any more children, for a variety of reasons.  I suspect that as Angelina Jolie continues to be treated as a sort of secular saint by the media for essentially mothering a softball team’s worth of children, it’s not likely that women who lack the childbearing urge are going to be warmly accepted by the world at large any time soon.  Better that you should have those kids and go through the charade of wanting them in your life, because it’s what you were meant to do.


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