Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Adoption Divide

I attended a pool party yesterday at the home of my friend, Sarah. It was an annual event for biracial families and transracial adoption families. I helped start the organization that holds this event over 10 years ago to socially support such families. As I sat and watched kids of every shade of the rainbow splash around in Sarah's pool, I was reminded how the group was really two groups. One with interracial couples trying to raise their children in a hyper-racially sensitive culture, and one with couples raising adopted Black or bi-racial kids. Each group really has vastly different needs and concerns. I sat next to and chatted with a young couple hoping to adopt a child who wasn't legally cleared for adoption. Their story sounded like a heartbreak waiting to happen. I became more and more uncomfortable listening to thier conversation with other adoption families, getting advice and trading stories. Not because I was pregnant, but because I was a birth mother myself. I was a young college student, and mother of two, who gave my baby up out of a sense of survival. The baby's and mine. I certainly could have had an abortion, but I chose instead to interrupt my life and my children's lives for nine months to grow and birth this baby and make sure to the best of my ability, that he had a good home to go to. It made me uncomfortable to hear them make not unkind, yet somehow judgemental statements about the birth mothers of thier children. Are all birth mothers irresponsible, promiscuous, hard drinking, drug totting, disasters waiting to give birth and dump the kid so they can go back to thier former ways? Thats often the impression I get listening to adoptive mothers. Where is the gratitude? Why the demonization? Perhaps I'm too sensitive on this issue. After all this is one of my issues waiting in the wings to be dealt with. I do feel apart from these women. What have I to offer them? My whole life is devoted to a passion that women who can't or choose not to give birth have no connection to. I don't even know how my message sounds to them. It's not my intent to alienate them, but I'm concerned that I will. Their children will get born some way and they do have a stake (if not a say) in how they get born. This issue is a difficult one for me (especially since I spent so much time in this blog whinning about even being pregnant). There is a distance between adoptive and birth mothers and I don't know how that bridge is gapped.


Arielle said...

I love your blog - I'm excited to follow this journey of yours!

This post was especially interesting. I don't know the answer to this divide you speak of (and have seen myself) but I wonder if adoptive parents subconsciously "demonize" birth mothers to make themselves feel better about the process. I believe adoption is a wonderful thing, but I think it might be healthier for the adoption society, both birth mothers and adopted parents, to realize that their is a sense of sadness, of loss, as well as happiness. Someone's new child is another mother's loss. And maybe adoptive parents (again, subconsciously) need to make the birth mother an unfit parent in their own minds in order to feel better about that fact, that another mother is experiencing loss.

Just a thought, from someone who is neither a birth mother or adoptive mother. I don't think it's *good* in any way to demonize or be ungrateful, but I can see how it could be a coping mechanism. I certainly hope that, if I become an adoptive mother someday, I will be profoundly grateful for a fellow mother's selflessness.

Laborpayne said...

Thank you Arielle,for your comments. Upon reflection perhaps I'm being to hard on adoptive mothers. I don't know anything about the struggles of infertility or the horrors of the adoption process. I got this email from a friend who was also at the pool party. Mary is a wonderful woman and she and her husband have 3 birth children and 4 adopted children. I don't want to err on the side of being overly sensitive and undervalue the amazing contribution of women like Mary who open their hearts and their homes to children who desperately need one.
"Thanks for your words about adoption. If the couple you spoke of were foster parents I can understand a little of their bias's about birth mothers but only if they have taken in a lot of kids. I do have to be reminded of the birth mom's lives and wishes. I put it subconsciously under so I don't have to tell my children everyday or warn them that they may have the same tendencies. How crazy is that? For my part I am on a crusade to change the view of adoption and birth mothers. Whenever anyone says a child was put up for adoption I correct them and say they were chosen for adoption or their birth mom chose to give their child a life better than one she could provide. Choice! In our case 4 of ours had their parental rights revoked but their actions made the choice. Yes, birth moms need to be blessed and you are wise to say so. Thank you. I know nothing about blogs but I like reading yours and the ceremony sounds fabulous. Love, Mary"
When I gave my baby up, I knew I was doing the best and the rightest thing- never a doubt in my mind. But it is still the hardest thing I've ever done. I think of it like donating organs. I expect the recipient to be profoundly glad but tempered by the knowing that their gain came at some else's greatest loss.

lisavc said...

Hi! me again, lisavc, the australian girl - Regarding your post 'the adoption divide'.
I recently was reading a blog by a woman who is married, has 1 12 yr old son, a husband, and who is pregnant with her 3rd child by the husband (the boy is'nt his) and is choosing adoption for this child, as they did for the other 2.
I cannot understand this. They're married. They don't want any more children, Why on earth does'nt he get a vasectomy? why don't they keep one?
What does it say to their 12 yr old that they keep giving away his siblings?
They are directly involving the 12 yr old , allowing him to help choose a family for the latest unborn.
What also appalled me was how awful she was about potential adoptive parents. Going on about how they make themselves out to be all cookies and cream.
I had my first at 15 yrs old. I was very lucky that I did'nt have to adopt him out. My mother would've preferred it but my father would'nt hear of it.I was single and in the small town I lived in it was unheard of for an unmarried girl to keep her baby.
I saw the heartache of a friend who's parents insisted on adopting her daughter.
I saw the ostracisation of other single, pregnant girls.
I walked down the street and did'nt even try and look ashamed, as they expected me too. I was'nt a bad girl. Just a misguided one.
So there are 2 sides to every coin I suppose. the birthmother on that blog is not, in my opinion a decent person. But I know I was, and I could have easily been in the position of having to adopt out my son.

Laborpayne said...

Dear Lisavc,
It is rather shocking to hear of a married couple placing, though I know it happens. I even got a sincere offer of adoption with this pregnancy, back at the beginning when I was in shock and depressed about it. After some time to get used to the idea, of course we are delighted to be welcoming a new life into our home. I applaud your courage at 15. I too was 15 with my first child and had to face the scorn and dissaproval of my peers and elders. I'm proud of how you handled yourself. By the way, I enjoy the art on your blog- I've always loved photos and collages.

greasy joan said...

Wow -- I didn't know you were a birthmother too. I'm an adoptee, my husband is a "birth" father. I found my birthmother in 1995 and my husband's daughter found us last November.

I wonder what you think of all the Pre-and perinatal psychology folks and what they say with regards to adoption. I shared a room with Suzanne Arms at a convention once and we had some very memorable conversation about that subject.