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.