It’s not like a sweater: Why you shouldn’t ask a pregnant woman for her baby

This week, something on Postsecret really bothered me. One secret told the story of a generous shopper who purchased over $300 worth of Christmas presents for a fellow shopper whose credit card was denied. A second secret was from a mom who, for the second year in a row, couldn’t afford to buy her children Christmas presents. In response, three people wrote in offering to donate so that her children could have presents to open Christmas morning. A third secret was written by a woman who was lying to her employers about taking time off for a funeral so that she could get an abortion (left). In response, a woman who could not have children wrote in asking for her baby.


Hi Frank – My husband and I are not able to have children. Or at least I’m not. I had my 2nd ectopic pregnancy the day before Thanksgiving and they took my last fallopian tube. I would love to get my contact info to the poster of the abortion secret in case she changes her mind and considers adoption. We would make amazing parents!

This really bothers me. It’s as if the emailer is talking about a plate of food, asking, “Hey, are you going to eat that?”

I realize that my interpretation of this exchange is colored by context of the first two secrets about giving to families in need, but the juxtaposition is striking. Good samaritans donate money, food, clothing, toys, and shelter. They give scholarships, grants, even buildings. But a baby is not charity or something you can donate. A baby is not something you should ever ask of someone — especially of someone who has already made the difficult decision to terminate her pregnancy.

First of all, it is not the responsibility of pregnant women who don’t want to have a baby to provide babies for couples who can’t have their own. Adoption is not some sort of magical solution where pregnant women who don’t want babies can just give them to women who want babies but can’t get pregnant and everybody wins. In one episode of Sex and the City, Carrie’s boyfriend asks, “If Miranda doesn’t want the kid, can’t she just give it to Charlotte?” Carrie responds, “No, it’s not like a sweater.”

Adoption is a choice, yes, and it is the right choice for some, but it is not any easier or any less emotionally devastating of a choice than abortion for a pregnant woman. Let’s not forget that giving birth involves drawing out the emotional turmoil for nine whole months, not to mention the physical challenges, medical risks, and ya know, having to hand over a squishy infant that’s been a living part of you for nine months.

Nor is adoption a magic-happy-fun-time solution for couples who can’t conceive or carry out a pregnancy naturally. The adoption process is just as emotionally trying as struggling with IVF or surrogacy — just ask Alicia who recently shared a heartbreaking story of her adoption that fell through six days after she and her husband had begun taking care of the infant they thought was to be their daughter. I have a lot of respect for birth parents and adoptive parents, partly because this is not something everyone can do. And it’s certainly not something anyone should ever expect anyone else to be able, or willing, to do.

Clearly, the woman who responded to the secret is hurting and I can empathize with her. For those who want children, not being able to conceive, carry, and give birth to a child can be absolutely devastating. But just as she is suffering, so is the writer of the secret. Pro-life factions would like us to believe that Pro-choice women get abortions like they get their teeth cleaned, but the reality is that abortion is difficult and emotionally painful even when the woman is sure of her choice, and even when she doesn’t regret it afterwards. So, asking a woman who has already chosen abortion to reconsider because other women would give anything to be able to have a baby, is an especially cruel variety of guilt trip.

For some reason, women’s bodies become public property the minute they get pregnant. Strangers feel like they have the right to reach out and touch their bellies, or police what they’re eating or what they’re doing. It seems this is true even for pregnant women who choose abortion — who may never get to the point where their pregnancy shows, but who are still being made to feel like they owe someone something. In this case, a freaking baby.

Sometimes I wish I could be a guardian angel for women who choose abortion. I wish I could envelop them in my big angel wings and protect them from the hate, the judgment, the protesters, the politicians. I wish I could wrap them in love and they would know that someone out there supports their choice, and trusted them to make that choice in the first place. I wish I could protect them from the kind of guilt that comes from unintentionally tactless emails like the one above.

Asking to adopt a pregnant woman’s baby might make good television (it’s a running plot arch on this season of Parenthood), but in real life it’s a bad idea. If you’re looking to adopt a baby, go through the channels that will link you with pregnant women who have already chosen adoption and are looking for great parents just like you. But if a pregnant woman chooses abortion, have some compassion and leave her the fuck alone.


  1. I agree with your thoughts regarding the email on PostSecret, Leah. As a weekly reader of the site for the past 7 years I found this email to be very tactless. However, I’m not here to debate anything you said, but ask your opinion. You brought up television and how they use pregnancy and adoption as a captivating fix-all storyline, so I’m curious as to your thoughts on Glee’s storyline regarding Quinn giving up her baby to Idina’s character. Be it that Glee has become such a pop-culture phenomenon, do you think the adoption was portrayed as an unrealistic solution to an all too common problem today? Especially considering the impact this show has on younger generations.


    1. Thanks for your comments, Cassaundra! I do think the Glee storyline was a bit simplistic, but then again, so are most of Glee’s storylines. I have to be honest about the fact that I haven’t really been watching Glee much this season so I’m not totally sure of what’s going on right now (last I saw, Quinn was trying to steal back her baby?) and I’m not sure how well I can answer your question. I remember being annoyed that after the adoption happened, Quinn’s character seemed totally fine and they sortof abandoned her storyline for a while and that seemed strange.

      A while ago, I wrote a post about why writing pregnancy plotlines are easier than abortion, or even adoption:

      It’s all right there: the classic beginning-middle-end plot, plus the opportunity for growing baby belly montages. Lazy writers love to write about the girl who finds herself pregnant, decides to keep the baby, learns a lot about life while she’s pregnant, and then gives birth. They are especially fond of hospital scenes with 20 people crowding around the happy new mother. And then fade to black. What happens after the baby comes home from the hospital, well, that doesn’t fit into the formula. Neither does abortion or adoption. Read more…

      Looking back on what I wrote, I think adoption does actually fit that plotline. You still get the sortof beggining-middle-end but at the end, the girl gives up the baby to loving, deserving parents and it’s all hunky dory. But just like the “happily ever after” business with romantic comedies, we don’t see the reality of what comes next. I know it’s kindof funny to point to reality tv, but I think Caitlyn and Tyler’s experience on Teen Mom demonstrates that the story doesn’t end when you give up the baby.

      I’m not sure if I answered your question… but hopefully gave you some more food for thought?


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