Sitting across the table from a young woman who recently placed her infant son with an adoptive family, I noticed a tattoo on her inner wrist. “Tell me about that tattoo,” I asked. I was already amazed by her strength and composure. For someone who was deep in the throes of grief and sharing a life history of use and abuse from men, the inked word “Queen”along with a small crown seemed like the perfect metaphor for who she really was.
“I got this when I was with this other guy. He was the King and I was his Queen. So we got matching tattoos. He’s gone, but most of the time when I see this tattoo I don’t think of him. I just think of how strong I need to be and how strong I can be.”
While I was thinking this over, she went on to show me the inside of her other wrist. “This was my first tattoo,” she said. “I got it when I was a teenager. My mom signed for it and even paid for it.” This tattoo was simply a beautiful script with the words “Love yourself.”
“Are you able to follow that advice?” I asked. Her reply was honest. “Sometimes. But sometimes it’s hard.”
Taking on the role of “post placement specialist” has challenged my counseling skills, my patience, and my reserves of empathy. Yet it has been the greatest privilege and honor I’ve ever had in over 30 years in social work.
Women who have placed their babies for adoption have drawn on reserves of strength most of us could never find. My goal is to help each woman start to build back that inner reserve, step by step, bit by bit.
Queen. Love yourself. Women—we deserve to be treated with the respect due a queen. But if we don’t love ourselves first, it will be difficult to accept that respect, much less to expect it.
For birth mothers everywhere, you have my utmost respect. For adoptive mothers everywhere, you are also able to claim that title. And for all of us engaged in adoption, remember to love yourselves.
Queen. Love yourself.