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Is it Ideal?

November 11, 2012

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.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2012 5:19 pm

    YES.

  2. November 12, 2012 1:59 am

    there are SO many important points here, I want to share it all around.

    I always told myself I’d have a really hard time adopting a child whose parent/s chose to place simply due to lack of support or resources. I recognized the privilege we had of choosing adoption to build our family, and of course the loss for everyone involved. but I didn’t want resources to be the only thing keeping our child’s mom from raising him/her. it highlighted a broken system, as you’ve so eloquently pointed out here. it’s not really a “choice” when you don’t have viable options.

    ultimately we were relieved when it was clear that our daughter’s mom did have real options. no one told her she shouldn’t parent; no one said her baby would be better off with another family. she had support. and while it’s not about me at all, I think the fact that she could have parented made it easier to embrace the situation as one I could live with. (of course how my child will process this, I can’t know.)

    people say adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and I agree in so many cases. we need safety nets to help single mothers do the work of parenting if that’s supposed to be a real “choice.”

  3. November 12, 2012 2:13 pm

    I loved the clarity in this post too. Like luna, I reassure myself that ours was as “ideal” as an adoption could be, in that Mara’s parents got support from the state and chances to change what needed to be changed to keep her safe. That’s not to minimize how hard it is to parent in poverty, but once a child is taken into foster care, poverty is not supposed to be a reason to prevent reunification. I wish this were the policy in infant adoptions too.

  4. November 14, 2012 6:12 am

    Thanks for this post. I am living this, and by the looks if it, the reasons for W’s APs closing the adoption are right here, in your comments by other APs.
    This is what women need to read who are considering placing. If they are doing this under the circumstances you have pointed out here, they will have a decision to be quiet about their frustration about why they feel that they had no choice, or lose the ‘privilege’ of being allowed to see said child that they will give away. Because the reality of someone living on ‘the other side’ in grief, anguish, and strong contempt for the system that didn’t provide ‘full disclosure’ of what adoption really means for the adoptee, is just too much for the APs to bear. So, unless the parents of adoption loss push all their very real ‘negative feelings down and pretend that they are fine, they run the risk of not being allowed to take full advantage of any scrap that they will be allowed to have of their child that the felt they had to give away.

    • November 14, 2012 8:04 am

      I have to disagree, I have made it abundantly clear to M&P that I’m not parenting not because I didn’t want to but because I felt I had no choice, I have laid my grief on the table, and they aren’t always super comfortable with that grief but they accept it and accept me. Honestly, I do find when I’m spending time with my son, I am enjoying him and not thinking about adoption, but we have now had several conversations (when my son’s napping or during adult conversations) where we’ve talked about how difficult things are for me. I’m not saying all APs would react as M&P have, but some would.

  5. Diane permalink
    November 14, 2012 8:59 am

    I am not sure that searching for something you term “ideal” is in any way a progressive solution to the transparency and support issues of adoption laws. I see that you are American so can only assume these were the laws in place there. I am an adopted child from Australia in the late 1970′s and I can tell you that the conditions were absolutely abysmal in comparison. Most young birth mothers were on highly toxic drugs during their birth experience, in the worse case scenario, they were also forcefully restrained so that they had no idea if their child was a boy or a girl. More worse case scenario is that they were given absolutely no support from the hospital staff or counsellors even though a small benefit existed for single mothers at the time. Most of the adoption negotiations were done in Catholic Hospitals run by nuns who were informing the young girls they they had made a mistake and need to put the past behind them and get on with their lives. The girls struggled with this and had no-one to turn to. They had four days to sign the adoption papers after the birth which is why the help of high level amphetamines came in.
    At the time I was born, I was not issued with an original birth certificate. I was an unnamed child until my adoptive parents took me from the hospital 17 days later.
    There is endless information and statistics I can tell you about but you can access a recent report by the Australian Government here that acknowledges the damage done and is trying to make amends for it. From what I can tell there are now public counselling services for all parties involved but that’s about it.

    http://www.originsnsw.com/nswinquiry2/id12.html

    A huge chunk of my history remains untold and possibly unwritten with no legal methods for me to claim my birth rights.
    Yes, the system is flawed, but we cannot go back now and systemize over what could or would be ‘ideal’. I don’t believe there is such a thing. Your experience to me sounds very transparent and wholly empowered. You seem not to see it that way and I understand you may be harboring mixed feelings of how to negotiate all that information at such a young age. I also believe it’s a women’s right to make a decision about not having a child if she choices not to, regardless of financial situations that support or deflect that ideal. That said, there were absolutely no support systems, financial or otherwise for young mothers of this generation. Things have improved and I do believe that transparency, support and choice are the three key points that have made/or are making adoption negotiations more bearable these days.

    • November 14, 2012 10:14 pm

      A mother’s financial situation not being supportive of her parenting *is* coercion. If a mother feels there is any outside reason that she cannot parent, it is coercion. It is a different matter if she’s known from day one she never wants to be a mother and, upon spending time with her baby post-birth, still feels that way. I suppose you could call it coercion by way of psychological issues but that’s about as far as you could go. And the baby needs to be raised by people who want it around, so in that instance an adoption situation is understandable.

      But the vast majority of domestic adoptions in America are NOT of children who were not wanted by their parents. They are of children whose parents felt forced out of parenting by circumstance, and often multiple circumstances.

      And yes, we had experiences here similar to those in Australia. If you have not read about our Baby Scoop Era, you should.

      And finally, saying it is ideal to leave original birth certificates unsealed is like saying it is ideal to forbid murder. We are not talking about perfection here. We are talking about basic human rights. Adoptees are not property. I have no objections to an adoption certificate being issued and treated as equivalent to a birth certificate–but adoption is not giving birth, and falsifying legal documents should always be illegal.

  6. Barbara Thavis permalink
    November 14, 2012 10:59 am

    Infant adoption will not be free of coercion until several conditions are met. First the pregnant woman considering it needs to get the information about the loss adoptees and their mothers face throughout their lives. The mother has to realize that they are not giving their child to a better life, but a different life that has a high cost to the adoptive person. Second, the mother should be encouraged and supported to get a plan in place that allows them to parent. This should be the focus of the pregnancy, not picking out suitable alternate parents. Next the mother should be encouraged to take her baby home and nurse the baby, if possible, for the first six weeks. My take is a newborn infant is too fragile to separate from their mother at birth. Just as we wouldn’t induce delivery of the baby at 30 weeks gestation just because it would survive and perhaps would be more convenient for the mother, we shouldn’t separate the baby from it’s mother at it’s most vulnerable time on earth. After this time if the mother has no interest in parenting a suitable family can be found quickly. For heavens sake they are standing in line to get babies. This is the only way, in my opinion, an ethical adoption can take place.

  7. susiebook permalink
    November 16, 2012 12:25 pm

    “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.” Ah, yes. I remember this. It’s especially bitter to me now, of course, since at the time, the agency and PAPs encouraged this belief—and now our situation is such that we worry about Cricket not because of what we don’t know, but because of what we do. This: “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’” is true, and it’s poison.

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