Saturday, January 17, 2009

Adoption, Without The Platitudes

A friend was talking of another loss to adoption last week. She was enlisting the help of those who might be able to keep yet another young woman from losing her child. A 20 year old couple found themselves in "the family way" and succumbed to the pressure of self-serving adoption professionals and a couple hungry for a child they can pretend is their own. I say loss because although one couple will have a baby and adoption workers will have an income, a young mother will lose part of her soul and that's a permanent loss. She will struggle and suffer for the rest of her life, just as her child will.

This adoption is coined as "an open adoption" which means the adoptive parents agree to ongoing contact with the birthmother. Nice in theory, wonderful if it actually happens as that is the only way by which adopted children will feel a connection to both families, understand who they are and where they come from. However, open adoption is not legally enforceable so if and or when the adoptive parents decide they want the birthfamily out of the picture, they don't have to fulfill their obligations and promises and no one cares. The biggest problem with closed adoption is because so many things are genetic, growing up in a family not of your blood can be disconcerting and cause a child to feel apart from those called family. The continuing contact between adoptee and birthfamily also helps to lessen the intense emotional pain of the birthmother although that pain is never fully healed and will never really go away. It's the gift that keeps on ripping your heart out.

The vast majority of people see adoption through the rose colored window of outsiders not privy to the feelings of the parties involved. Some wayward girl gets herself into trouble, does the "right thing" by placing her child for adoption, provides a "gift" to the adoptive parents and life goes on merrily for all involved. Is that the storyline you believe? If it is, you're wrong. Dead wrong. That's the Juno storyline and it's the biggest line of bullshit still being spouted by the media while adoption professionals chuckle behind their hands while putting more money into their bank accounts by misleading pregnant women and couples wishing to raise a child and having to resort to adoption in order to do so. Here are some facts you may not be aware of. The vast majority of birthmothers do not have access to unbiased counsel. They are encouraged to sign adoption papers while still in the hospital and under the influence of medication. While different states have different time periods, the period during which an adoption can be revoked is between 1 day and 30 days so in the case that prompted this blog, the limit was 3 days. 3 days to make a permanent, life altering decision that will affect more people than the birthmother, child and adoptive parents. This birthmother was not made aware of that, as law requires she be, and because it is now 4 days past her signing of the papers the day following her child's birth, she can not rescind her consent. 3 days to make a decision of such import. Think about it...the lemon law when buying a car gives you 12-24 months to return it if you find you made a bad decision but when relinquishing parental rights in some states, you get 3 days to change your mind.

The adopted child loses the person closest to them without knowing or understanding why, during a time when that person is most needed. After 9 months of the mother being the baby's sole experience and the entirety of his universe, suddenly she's no longer there. The baby is left in a state of panic and loss so deep that it leaves a wound that the child often isn't even aware he has: The Primal Wound (

Adoptive parents who have desperately wished for a child of their own finally have the opportunity to parent believing that a baby is a blank slate upon which they can write their own story, their own image. Babies are not clay to be molded. They come into the world with their personalities largely intact. Personalities that are based on genetics. Interests, skills, needs that are embedded into their DNA and can't be altered to any noticeable degree no matter how much molding is attempted. Environment exposes them to things outside their inner self, it teaches them how to speak, how to read, how to function in society but genetics play such a large role that even handwriting is hereditary. Skills, interests, hobbies, all of these things are inherited, not taught. They can be influenced by environment, whether negatively or positively, but they won't disappear because the genes don't just die off if the adoptive family doesn't encourage the child to pursue those interests.

Adoptive parents also suffer a loss by not being able to produce a child of their own blood. I would never minimize that loss having had long, intimate conversations with a mother who still carried the pain of infertility, even after she was finally able to conceive, after she adopted my child. The pain of adoptive parents is splashed all over the media but why is it that the pain of birthmothers and adopted children is not? Just to make a point here, there are few couples who choose adopting a child over producing one of their own. Adoption is the last resort for them and I believe that says something. You decide what it means. The joy of adoptive parents is effected by the pain of another mother who will never be the child's mother again. A mother who will be ashamed, guilt ridden and profoundly depressed due to the loss of her child. The pain of the child who has forever lost his mother; the one whose heartbeat was his universe for 9 months. The one whose voice was heard, who nourished him, who gave him life and then left him alone and afraid in the arms of strangers.

Infant adoption is unrealistic and it's damaging. The fact that women are still being coerced into handing off their flesh and blood says something about our society, and it's not something good. While children languish in foster care, babies are becoming more and more a limited commodity. Now prospective parents go to China, Africa and the former Soviet Union to secure babies. By doing that, they don't have to worry about US adoption laws or those pesky birthmothers coming into the picture later on. They don't have to be concerned about the child finding himself through contact with his bloodline. Beyond the obvious differences in appearance, they can pretend it's "their" child.

I'm a staunch supporter of foster care adoption. I believe that if a baby or child is in jeopardy, that child should not stay in the possession of the mother but I also believe that infant adoption for the sake of appearances and closed records are is just one more thing that shows the seedy underbelly of American culture. I am a birthmother. My son is an adoptee. His adoptive parents struggled with infertility for 20 years before adopting him, having a child of their own and realizing that what they were told, the clay molding lie, wasn't the truth. Reunion has helped us all to heal wounds.

Talk to a birthmother. Talk to an adoptee who has found himself through reunion with his family of origin. Talk to either once they've reunited and discover the truth of the bond that can't be broken, and then see if you're still praising adoption and looking through those glasses.

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