Becoming Juno: A Story Of Adoption
October 9, 2015 #sfgfamily
By CollectivePress
By Kelsey Quesenberry
Kelsey is a Binti Birthmother Advisor where she mentors expectant women considering adoption and also mentors adoptive parents throughout their process.

I saw the movie ‘Juno’ in 2007, right when it came out in theaters. I was fifteen or sixteen at time (I couldn’t even remember when the movie came out, I had to google it) and saw it with my best friend at the time. I remember thinking that Juno was the kind of girl I wished was and tried to emulate without much success. Cool name, witty, and wonderfully snarky. Ellen Page was cool. I was just getting over my miserable mean girl with an attitude middle school phase. I was still trying to maintain that snark, without all the bite. Juno seemed to be that girl.

I didn’t really know what Juno was about before going into the movie. I just knew my friend wanted to see it. The idea of teen pregnancy however, was not something new to me. By the time I was four, my first nephew was born, and the stream of nieces and nephews hadn’t slowed down after that. By the time I was sixteen, I had more nieces and nephews than people had siblings. The count at that time was 5 or 6 (again, I can’t remember who was born when) all born to my young sisters (I have a total of nine nieces and nephews now, ranging from ages 3 to 20). At sixteen, I was a sophomore in high school and already had several pregnant classmates so the idea of Juno being pregnant was not shocking to me.

However, the idea of her choosing adoption for her child was.

Like I said, my sisters starting having babies young, and it was never a question of parenting. Even my oldest sister, and her many problems, didn’t really consider adoption. My parents, younger then with a four year old of their own, took on parenting my oldest nephew. And then a year later, his brother. My sister told me, many years later that she wanted to do a placement plan, but my father was very staunch in his belief that family stuck together and wouldn’t let her go through with it. This previous action of my father would come up again when I was deciding to place my son.

The adoptive parents in Juno freaked me out, honestly. Vanessa seemed anxious, and to someone completely uneducated about adoption (I don’t think I ever really thought about it outside of my immature parameters that abortions were wrong and adoption was clearly the answer), she seemed creepy and neurotic. Mark, the adoptive father, seemed immature and creeped me out on a different level.

I didn’t understand why Juno couldn’t keep her baby with her parents help, like my parents helped (aka took over and raised) my then seventeen year old sister’s children. I also didn’t understand, even then, why Juno would choose to have a closed adoption. Where she wouldn’t be able to see her baby. My idea of open adoptions were even limited, I didn’t really know the word for it. I just remember watching Juno and hearing her say how she’d like it be like the olden days, dropping the baby on a doorstep and being done with it. It struck me as unbelievably cold.

Until, four years later, I found myself in the same situation. Sitting in a hospital bed, tired and spent, being asked about what kind of adoption I would like. I remember thinking I couldn’t deal with seeing this baby, knowing how much better off he was, and how unfair it was to him and myself to keep his unfit mother in his life. I tentatively agreed to pictures and letters for the first six months, with one letter and pictures once a year after including a visit once a year. I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep up my end of the bargain.

I wasn’t even sure what these pictures and letters entailed. Would I write back? Should I write back? Did I send them pictures of my own? Selfies taken with a crappy cell phone because I was too camera shy to have others snap pictures of me. The very few pictures I had of myself and Zach over four years, because we both preferred to turn the camera to other things? Was it weird that I sent them pictures, clearly taken by my own hand? I had no idea. When the letters started, I wrote back diligently for the first two months. Filling them in on my mostly non-eventful life, unsure if they really wanted to hear all this information.

Juno never dealt with this, just a few tearful moments after giving birth, and then everything was fine. She was with the boy she was meant to be, her baby presumably happy with her new mom. In my very limited experience, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming feelings I experienced afterwards, trying to swallow it. I had to be cool, like Juno. I had to be cool because I could feel the foundations of my relationship with Henry's birth father, Zach changing and shifting into an uncertain future. I had to be cool because my very, very unsupportive family was counting on me to be otherwise.

Maybe they would have respected my decision more if I chose to cry in front of them.

It was a hard pill to swallow, and so quickly. Juno had wrapped up everything in a 96 minutes. I can’t help but think if all adoptions could wrap up so neatly in under two hours, how nice that would be for the hurting women I now counted myself amongst. Unfortunately as I was finding out more and more, life was not like the movies. I was not Juno MaGuff. My adoption was not an off screen moment. It was full of anger, resentment, tears, guilt, and an understanding between me and Zach. He had been so solid, so strong and reliable throughout the whole thing. Shielding me as best he could from family who turned toxic.

He was the only part of the process that wasn’t confusing. We understood each other, what needed to be done. Any questioning we had was done in the few moments of privacy we had. Between the moments where his mother assured us we were doing the right thing, the times my family burst in, crying, angry, telling me about their dreams of my deceased father who thought family should be with family. We didn’t get to have a quiet moment like Juno and Pleaker, crying and curled around each other.

Juno didn’t show her in the future, how she dealt with placing her child, whether or not she changed her mind on her adoption arrangement (which even though it’s a movie, I hope she did because I think open adoptions are better for everyone involved), how the decision to place her child affected her future. Whether or not she began to doubt herself in every decision like myself and many other birth mothers face. Did her inability to parent make her feel that she wasn’t good enough in her other everyday decisions? In the early days after coming home to Zach’s efficiency bedroom apartment (because my mother said she would not take care of me when I left the hospital) while he was at school, I wondered what Juno’s life turned out to be. What mine would turn out to be. Did she put on a brave face for those around her, to show that she wasn’t weak? Would I be able to face life as cool, as witty, as snarky as Juno?

It’s been four years, and I’m still working on cool and witty. I’ve always had the snark, although at times it’s too much or not enough. I’m much more confident in my decision, in my relationship with Henry, who looks so much like Zach and has his personality. A sweet, and smart little boy. I opened up my adoption arrangement with Mike and Amanda, much like I wished Juno would. We email often, and send pictures (even my horrible selfies), and get together when we can. They supported my decision to move across the country, ensuring that we would still make time for each other. There is no pressure, only understanding. They get when I don’t reply to every single email, when it becomes too much and I need a break from trying to sound positive. They keep me in the loop, endlessly dedicated to me knowing Henry and for Henry to know me.

My son’s parents are kind, warm, funny, good people. Henry gets to have pizza parties with nuns, and go to every surrounding amusement park in the summer. His parents encourage and embrace his interests (lately it’s trains and superheroes. They even drove out four and a half hours to take him to several train museums). All the things I would have wanted to do as his mother if I had been older and in a better place.

Making this decision was the easiest and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Easy, because I knew it had to be done. I had never approached a decision with such a clear, and undoubting mind. Hard because others didn’t want me to, because the selfish part of me wished I didn’t have too. But doing so, I was able to use it as a motivating experience. I moved away from toxicity, slowly working on healing relationships. Over the last four years, I’ve done as much as I can to help other birth parents, to educate those who were like me, and didn’t know anything about adoption except what they saw in Juno. I write about my adoption experience on my blog and I’m a Binti Birthmother Advisor where I mentor expectant women considering adoption and also mentor adoptive parents throughout their process. I’m also an active participant on birthmother forums for expectant women and birthmothers.

So I’m not Juno Macguff. I wanted to be like her when I was sixteen years old, but I never imagined myself in her situation, pregnant and unable to parent, trying to figure out what to do with my life. We’ll never how Juno turned out (until the inevitable remake/sequel, of course) but I think I’m doing pretty okay.​
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§ Kelsey Quesenberry
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