Friday, January 17, 2014

Downton Abbey - the idea of having options

I am still (!) coughing up stuff out of my lungs. It is less and less and color and thickness are showing signs of improvement but I am tired of being ill.  Nasty bug whatever this is.

Being ill I'm watching a lot of t.v. and catching up on Season 3 of Downton Abbey - in episode 4 we revisit the story of Ethel.  Ethel was a maid at Downton Abbey during the war while they were housing war officers there.  And she caught the eye of one of the officers and had his child.  He was not interested in taking on responsibility for the child, she was fired in disgrace, and then he died.  She introduced the child to the paternal grandparents and it did not go well.  In Season 3 she asks Isobel Crawley (she is the mother of the man who will inherit the estate. It is a complicated relationship if you don't know the story.) to help her contact the child's paternal grandparents, the Bryants, again.  She has decided that it will be best for the boy to ask the grandparents to raise him.

It is very interesting to me.  Isobel Crawley is a middle class woman who feels that this drastic step is unnecessary and although she does make contact the Bryants she encourages Ethel to reconsider.  Mrs. Hughes is the head housekeeper at Downton and was raised on a farm.  She feels that Mrs. Crawley misinterprets the options available to Ethel and is wrongly optimistic in encouraging Ethel to keep the boy.  Mrs. Hughes instead supports Ethel in her decision to send her son to live with his grandparents.  I found the exchange between the three woman very interesting because as an adoptive mom I find people often judge my children's birth mothers.  Especially when the children were babies.  But in my opinion those who sat in judgement could not wrap their heads around the idea of a life where letting a child go is in fact the best decision for the child.  And I agree with Mrs. Hughes, it is because the life of those who sit in judgement has afforded them options that the children's birth mother did not have.

It is a very small side story, quickly overlooked in a season where other babies are born and Lady Sybil dies in childbirth.  But it is one that stuck with me because in my world I still see stories like these.  I am not particularly socialist and I am a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of person, but I am also self aware enough to know that I was given many opportunities simply because I was born where I was born and into the family I was born into.  For various reasons I was always very aware of the potential for unplanned pregnancy and was careful to keep myself out of that situation, but even if I had found myself unexpectedly pregnant I would have had choices.  Simply because I am a middle class American, with an education and job prospects and lucky for me a family that would have helped me out.  I am always sad when people feel the need to judge my children's birth mothers.  They do not know what choices were or were not available to them.  They do not know what life for these children might look like if the birth mother had made a different choice.  

In my perfect world a mother would never have to choose to let her child go and children would always be wanted. 

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