Is it Ideal?
I have been thinking lately about whether my son’s adoption is a good example of the ideal adoption today. I mean, I wasn’t coerced, I went into the adoption feeling this was what I had to do, but that was my own decision, not one of the agency or my church or my family. I relinquished through what I consider a fairly ethical agency, they made it clear my choice could only be truly made after the baby was born and gave me what most people out there would consider options counseling. I was given a diverse group of people to choose from to parent my son, and when I chose a couple I was able to get to know them before my son was born, yet they never overstepped, they didn’t buy anything and made sure I knew that until the night before our son went home from the hospital, while in the hospital they visited but asked me if they could hold him, if they could take pictures, they treated me like I was the Mother. And once he went home with them, they have been nothing but welcoming of me as part of their family. It hasn’t always been simple or straightforward, but family never is. My son will know me, and his parents will never put pressure on him to feel (or not feel) a certain way about me. And my son has a copy of his original birth certificate in a vault someplace to look at if he wants to.
So when I hear now from adoptive parents or agencies about how adoption is better today, how women aren’t coerced, about how openness helps the child, about how we are putting the child first, I know for agencies and AP who believe this, they would probably point to my adoption of a classic example of how adoptions are better. Mine is an example of it being better, of it working.
So if every child placed into the world of adoption today had my son’s experience, if every birthmother out there had mine, should we as a society be satisfied with the state of adoption?
My answer is no. There are many things which aren’t okay about my son’s experiences, which we shouldn’t settle for. First and foremost, my son’s “birth certificate” says his “Mother” is a man. Having his birth certificate sealed, an amended one put in its place isn’t okay. Today adoptees fight to open records, but the fact amended birth certificates exist in the form they do is ridiculous and at the root of the problem. Until every adoptive parent, every birth parent, every agency is fighting for no amended birth certificates, adoption as a whole has a big problem.
But it’s not just that, there is also the fact prior to relinquishment I was living in a fantasy that my son was guaranteed a better life because of this sacrifice I was making. I’m not sure if this idea in my head was something people told me, or of my own making from pop culture, or what, but even if it wasn’t my counseling that put me in that mindset, I do think my counseling should have helped relieve me of that fairy tale. The fact the hard truth about adoption is being glossed over for both PAP and emoms is not okay, we need to know the hard truth that many adoptees experience loss even when placed in infancy and if we choose adoption we have to acknowledge and help them through that loss. But when we aren’t told about that loss, then we aren’t able to fully understand the choice we’re making.
Then, there is the issue with so little help for families traversing the path of open adoption. My agency which will not accept PAP applications if the parents are not really interested in openness, yet has nothing in place to help families deal with it after placement. When I talk at my agency about how often we have visits I tend to get surprise from the staff there, they tend to treat me like it’s rare, and honestly I have no idea if it is or not, because aside from families I’ve met through blogging I don’t know any other family living in an open adoption. I don’t think M&P know any that look anything like ours. How do we expect openness to succeed in the long term if we aren’t providing examples of it? How can we expect more from families if the agencies expect only the most basic updates and maybe a visit once a year or so?
The fourth is harder for me, but I do feel someone who entered pregnancy in my position – I was emotionally capable and ready to be a parent but I didn’t have the financial and societal support to help me raise a child and was left on my own by the birth father – someone like me should never have to face placing. The issues I faced was not being able to afford health care and day-care, no paid maternity leave, and a fear of losing any steady income because of accrued debt, these scared me, and being a person who qualified for no aid because I made a little too much money to be considered poor, I felt there wasn’t any option for my son to thrive in the environment I could give him. To me, its one thing if you’re not ready or not interested in parenting, but it’s a whole different place if you just don’t have the support you need. We as a society should respect biological ties enough to find ways to preserve families in situations like mine. And instead of having people say “I will fight for your family to get to a better place and you to raise your son” they said “it’s so great you’re giving your son a better life”.
The thing is, for my son’s parents and I, the decisions in front of us that we have made I do believe are the best for my son, I do think we are doing the best we can – but there are so many bigger issues that exist, even when we do the best job we can. And to fix those, we as an adoption culture need to acknowledge that even when adoption works the way it’s supposed to – both before placement and after – there are still major faults in the system, systematic problems that impact adoptees. So even when you are making the best choices that you can, it still doesn’t seem good enough.