Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is it ever clear?

Adoption is a topic that confuses me and consumes me.

If you would have asked me three and half years ago about adoption ethics, I would have scratched my head and said, "HUH?" Followed by, "Oh! You mean like making sure the birth mom gets counseling as she waits to give us her baby?"


I recently viewed a blog of a matched adoptive family. The blog features a photo of "their" future child's ultrasound and the name of the baby. They already have ordered a book for the baby's Adoption Celebration Day for all guests to sign. And the date of the celebration and the baby's name is already engraved on the book (which there is a photo of on the blog). There was a baby shower, specific to the unborn baby, complete with nursery items with his future name and a cake featuring his name. They have stated that "our birthmother" lives in a specific state (state is named).

This couple seems perfectly nice, but the disclosure of very personal details and the in-utero photograph on a public blog, for a baby not even born yet, is astonishing to me. I want to scream at them, THAT BABY ISN'T YOURS. If and until the expectant mother signs consents, that baby isn't theirs. And I want to smack agencies for allowing any of these ideas to be truths in the eyes of waiting adoptive families. Where is the education? The ethics?

Adoptive parents often blindly trust their chosen agency. After all, professionals know best, right? And it's a lot of money a couple is putting in on top of trust. So the alliance with the agency begins, the trust begins, even if it isn't earned, well researched, or well thought-out.

Where is the true compassion and respect for this woman who is pregnant? Where do the ethics stand? And what about the adoptee, the unborn child, who cannot right now speak for himself?

As I became more experienced in adoption through reading, online discussions, friendships, and personal experiences, I found my adoption beliefs becoming both more concrete and more blurred.

The truth is, there are no easy answers. And dare I say, many times there are no perfect answers or right answers.

I've been reading the blog of the young woman on MTV's 16 and Pregnant, Ashley Salazar, who chose adoption, then decided to parent after her baby had been with the adoptive parents for a few days, and then after a month of parenting, Ashley returned her baby to the adoptive family. Talk about torture. Ashley's baby, Callie, is over a year old now, and Ashley blogs about her raw emotions as she lives with her decision to give Callie back to the adoptive family.

I've been re-reading one of my favorite adoption books, The Girls Who Went Away. If you have never read this book, it's an absolute MUST read. It will blow your mind. The book consists of stories by women who placed their babies for adoption before Roe v. Wade; this was during a time when there were two options for an unmarried, pregnant young lady. 1: Get married and say the baby was premature. 2: Give the baby up for adoption. Can you imagine a world like that? Single parenting is normal now. Women have options. But guess what? The adoption system as a whole, 30/40/50 years later, is still really screwed up. There are issues, major issues, heart wrenching issues that adoptive families, biological parents, and adoptees deal with.

And you know why I think that is? On one hand, yes, there are corrupt, unethical agencies and individuals who are manipulating moms into placing their babies. But on another hand, it's because adoption, at the heart of it, isn't natural. Housing and bonding with a baby for forty weeks and then giving that child to two people who are essentially strangers just isn't natural.

I'm often asked why I have my girls. This question comes to me in various forms. The annoying, "Why didn't her parents want her?" (Oh no, she didn't just ask me that...) Or, "Why couldn't they keep her?" Or, "Why did they give her up?" Or, the vague but clear, "What's your daughter's story?"

These reasons are deeply personal, and furthermore, I don't necessarily know the whole story and concrete answers. I'm not sure I need to know or want to know. My heart is already so full and heavy with adoption contradictions, that I'm not sure I have room for much more.

Fessler's book offers some interesting insight into the perspectives of birth mothers. One birth mother shares, "You hear about people's lives being touched by adoption. It's no damn touch. I mean, that just drives me nuts. You're smashed by adoption. I mean, it alters the mothers' lives forever" (97). Another birth mother wrote, "That baby is with them [the birth mother] every breath they take, every second of their lives. Every prayer, that baby is with them forever" (132). And finally, a part of the book that haunts me, is a birth mother who wrote, "I will never have peace. I will never have peace" (173).

Despite my conflicting feelings, I continue to torture myself with more reading. :) I'm addicted to learning. I can't help it.

I also just finished reading The Third Choice: A Woman's Guide to Placing a Child for Adoption by Leslie Foge and Gail Mosconi. I didn't read this book to confirm our choice to adopt. I read it to learn more about another side of adoption, the birth mother's perspective. (Note: This book was written by adoption professionals, not birth mothers). I did learn that open adoption can help take the sting away from insecurity regarding the child's well being with the adoptive family: "Some early critics of open adoption expressed concern that birthmothers would not be able to handle the ongoing relationship with their birthchild and that the openness would make it more difficult to separate form the child. In general, we have not found this to be true. As a matter of face, in the vast majority of open adoptions in which we are involved, birthmothers are actually able to separate more easily because they can see for themselves that the child is safe and happy and that the adopting parents love the child as their own" (25). Interesting. This seems to be the case in both of our adoptions---that the hardship of placing the children with us is always present, but there is trust and security in our relationship because of our openness. I never thought about this as a potential benefit of open adoption, but I digress....

This is a mess of a post. I'm not sure I have a point.

What I know is that I'm thankful for my daughters, for their biological families, and for the life God has blessed me with. I'm not sure this whole adoption thing will ever be clear. I'm not sure it needs to be. Perhaps it's just too much for a person to grasp. Or perhaps humans are just too corrupt to ever get the truth if it slapped us in the face and said, "I AM THE TRUTH!" I don't know.

My heart aches for the women who placed their babies (long ago or recently) and will never have peace. I'm not sure one can have peace about something as unnatural as handing her baby over to another family FOREVER. I would hope that with time, there's grace, there's understanding, there's self-awareness, there's productivity, but peace, I'm just not sure that can happen.


  1. I stumbled upon your blog a couple days ago when searching for Willow Tree figures for multi racial families....I have read several of your posts about adoption now, too. I am a birth mother to an 8 year old boy. He was adopted at birth, & it is an open adoption. It has been ONLY a blessing through the years, & I've always been at peace about it. As a Christian, I've always felt he was created by God exactly for his [adopting] parents. They are a family, they were always meant to be.
    It has never dawned on me that people ask the adopting parents as many personal questions as they ask the birth mothers. It never ceases to amaze me the boundaries people don't even see while they cross them. We are part of a unique world of people, and no matter how we try to explain it to "outsiders", they won't ever understand fully, the answers to their own questions.
    There IS never a day that goes by, that his face doesn't pass through my mind at least once. But the memory has never once been accompanied by regret. There has always been peace.

  2. Your honesty is refreshing and validating. Write more! :)

  3. In answer to your question, is it ever clear? I And no because adoption is not natural.

    Concerning the blog you referred to: It amazes me that people go into matches with the mindset that this is their child! When we had our failed placement, disruption, whatever you want to call it, we KNEW that that could happen. I don't know how you could not know that that could happen when you have no legal rights to the child. Also, when we were chosen for that baby (cold was here) and mom did not want to name her, we still did not call her by any specific name. It was too risky to get that attached knowing that mom could reappear (she went missing after choosing us to parent her baby who was in the NICU and born at 30 weeks) and decide to parent. And, as you know, she did reappear and baby went to state foster care. We did the same thing when our daughter was born. "Baby Girl" was her name for quite awhile. The blog you are referring to is simply a train wreck.

  4. Great post...I love your contemplation and exploration of the hard places. Your questions and research will make me a better adoptive parent. We are in the middle of our homestudy :) Again, keep sharing :)

  5. I had read this post a couple of days ago and just re-read it. I'm still floored by the blog you mentioned. When we had our ordeal in January that baby had a name given by his mom, we were going to keep that same name. I knew without a doubt that no matter who parented that baby his name would be the same, it was his name. But in my mind I could not refer to him with that name. I could not connect a name to a baby that was not mine. On our other failed placement we had a name in mind, but still didn't really connect it to a baby, it was just a name. I just don't think that kind of behavior you mentioned is healthy, or maybe they are in denial?

    I guess I really don't have a point, except that I still think that is strange. And I wonder what will happen to them if the mom parents?

  6. I am in complete agreement with you, adoption is not natural! I don't think I have EVER heard an adoptive parent say that though.

    I think the openness in adoptions now can only aid in the healing process for birthmothers. Unfortunately I was not able to heal with all the not knowing in my closed adoption. My heart did not feel any peace at all until I found and KNEW about my son.

    There are many things that I know now that I wish I had known then. Like adoption does not end the day of placement, the feelings of longing and missing my son will last for a lifetime and will never go away. There is always a piece of my heart missing because it went with him.

  7. So true! This was an excellent post! People need to read this!!!


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