Baby Love

CMP72 asked what I thought about Baby Love, by Rebecca Walker (over to the right, in the extra-outdated category called “I’m reading,” which I created and then forgot all about.) It’s been a few months since I read it, but it’s still haunting me, so I’m glad she asked.

I like Rebecca Walker, and have for a long time. She was a sort of 3rd-wave feminist icon for me – someone only a few years older, with a famous feminist mom and knack for boiling down complicated issues into something a little simpler – but not over-simplified – and very much real in the day-to-day, rather than theoretical, sense.

Baby Love is about her experience in getting and being pregnant and becoming a mom. She has already experienced parenting in her previous relationship with a woman whose son was young (maybe 6?) when they got together. She played an active role in his life and has continued to do so even after her relationship with his mother ended. The mutual love and respect between Rebecca and her stepson is obvious.

But growing her own child is a different experience for her, and that takes up a lot of the focus of the book. She had me in her internal debates about how to be a feminist mom and how to be a feminist partner. She had me with her slow discovery that she was able to love another human so much more fiercely than she had ever known before – even before she actually met her baby.

Where she lost me was when she said (I’m paraphrasing): I don’t care what anyone tells you. You cannot love any child as much as you love the one you give birth to.

As an adoptive parent, I spit nails when I read this. I’ve never given birth to a baby, and I’ve never been a step-parent or a foster parent or anything similar. But like me, she’s only ever experienced parenting from one perspective. Despite this, Rebecca, who generally seems so careful not to presume that her experiences are shared by all, suddenly seemed empowered by her pregnancy to make an enormous sweeping statement about how is for all parents.

Remember that scene in the beginning of The Royal Tenenbaums, where they show the kids’ childhood? The dad insists on introducing his daughter as his “adopted daughter” every single time.  I thought of that scene immediately when I read what Rebecca Walker had to say about this.

I could rant and rave about this in a way that probably would be absolutely scintillating for you to read, but instead I will only say this: I can’t believe when I look at my son that he didn’t come out of my own body. I mean no disrespect to his first family by this, and it’s not that I ever forget their presence or their role in his life. It’s just that for love or money I cannot imagine being any more bonded to this kid.

Parents of any stripe or parents-to-be: what do you think?

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12 Responses to Baby Love

  1. Lo says:

    I haven’t read the book, but I think the statement (on RW’s part) is crap. I am already deeply in love with the baby in my wife’s belly. I think my love for a biological child of mine (which I hope to have) might be a little bit different, but more?? No. If that is how RW felt, she has every right to be honest about it. But the generalization is crap.

  2. shannon says:

    Well I have step-parented and I loved that child too. I was quite willing to make a lifetime commitment to him but his mother wouldn’t let me.

    I think Rebecca Walker sucks donkey balls for this and I couldn’t read the book when I heard about that bit.

    And I agree with Lo, Miss Rebecca needs to cop to her own shortcomings in loving someone other than her bio-kin in an inferior way, not project them on everyone in the world.

  3. pinkpoppies says:

    When I first heard about this book, I too was interested. Then I read a few reviews, and was more than a little taken aback by her statement. For the record, I am a straight woman, and I struggled for years with infertility. Adoption wasn’t a last resort, but it was an option. The one thing I never feared (and there was lots for me to be afraid of throughout my journey to parenthood) was being able to love my child, howsoever he/she arrived in my life. I was, and still am afraid of how easily we can damage kids, and I try my best to be a good mother, but loving them, never a question for me. And as others pointed out, my feelings are my own, and not to be generalized to all, something I think Ms Walker missed along the way.

  4. Dawn says:

    I’ve got one of each and I can say unequivocally that I love both of my kids absolutely. I feel the same white-hot panic when I think of either of them (god forbid) getting hurt. I have the same button-bursting pride when I watch them tackle a challenge and overcome it. I feel the same deep, heart-wrenching gratitude to get to have them in my life. The fact of her adoption is as much a part of her as Noah’s blue eyes are a part of him — they are irrelevant to the discussion of how much I *love* them but are inextricable facets of loving them.

  5. Jenn says:

    Well I’m no parent at all but that sure sounds like a pretty ridiculous generalization that certainly should not have been made. It sounds like she empowered herself to speak for all mothers, which is kind of out of control.

    Measuring love is a silly concept anyway. I’d jump in front of a bus for my brothers or Hester Willa. But they’re not my kids, so I guess I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  6. Lisa V says:

    When they very first came out, it caused a shitstorm over at a little pregnant.

    To me Walker is clueless, and knows not of what she speaks. All she knows is that she loves her child more than her partner’s child. And how nice for that poor child to read that. I really wish she would have said step-parenting vs parenting. Adoption is parenting. I think some step-parents may distinguish in relationships, but not all, so I’m not going to make another generalization.

    I have four kids, two of them through adoption and two of them through birth. I love each of them differently for different reasons, but not one of those reasons has to do with how I became their mother. I would lay down my life for each of them. They are the dearest beings in my life. I love them unequivocally.

  7. I can almost hear the tone in each of your voices when I read what you’ve written here. I love it – it echoes exactly how I feel about this.

  8. cmp72 says:

    Honestly, I struggled to finish reading the book and I have lost a lot of respect for RW. Her thoughts on “true parenthood” were offensive, and I am not yet a parent–step, adoptive, or biological. The other standout element for me was the self-indulgent writing about her complicated and conflict-ridden relationship with her mother.

  9. DS-L says:

    I have two bio and one adopted — ditto Lisa V. ditto Dawn. Walker clueless and I won’t read the book.
    DS-L

  10. FosterMommy says:

    I haven’t read the book (and now have no reason to), but I did read another of her books and I’m not surprised by this at all. In her book about growing up biracial, I felt she put a lot of crap onto “being biracial” that really belonged to “having crappy parents”. She generalizes and naval-gazes a little too much.

  11. Polly says:

    At the risk of being redundant (and repetitive!) I want to chime in and say that while I’ve not birthed either of our kids, I, like so many above, would hurl myself in front of a bus, or a train, or a homophobe, to protect my kids from harm. Very, very hard to see how the quantity of love would be upped by having birthed them. The quality? Something visceral? I’ll never know. But it’s visceral how deep I love them.

    When I first met a woman who’d birthed one kid and non-bio-mommed another (carried by her partner), I was very heart-warmed to hear just what several of these sisters above me have said. That even when you have both experiences to lay side-by-side, there is no point in rummaging around for a quantitative or qualitative difference in how you love them, since there is none. My mother outlaw (my parter’s mum) birthed two and adopted one and says the same.

    Why draw the distinction? And why generalize it? That’s definitely the question I share with so many who’ve commented. And it’s definitely why I did not rush out and buy Ms. Walker’s book. Even though I’d been a fan before.

  12. Lilymane says:

    I will add my voice to the chorus. I will particularly echo Polly because I think she’s on the money to ask why generalize or draw a distinction. What possible purpose is achieved by voicing such a polarizing and subjective opinion as universal fact? I love my children – the ones I birthed, the ones another woman birthed and I get to raise. I love them each differently because they are very different people but I love them each with every fiber of my being. If Ms. Walker wasn’t able to be fully open to parenting her previous partner’s child then I think that shows up her lack – a lack I don’t think she is entitled to foist off on others. We have these issues from the top down and the bottom up in my household: my partner Bet was adopted. Issues of what family means, what love means, and what parenting is all about (biology aside) are at the heart of almost all of our serious discussions. I feel sorry for Ms. Walker and I feel gratified to hear such passionate and thinking denials of her assertion. Yet another thought and feeling provoking discussion on your blog! I will be back often. Peace.

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