I Wish I Hadn’t

I wish, I wish, I wish…I wish I hadn’t adopted.

~ Donald Craig Peterson

Like a majority of families who’ve adopted children, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the surprises. You know, the chaos inside Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The manipulation and triangulation inherent to attachment disorders. The invisible insanity associated with developmental trauma.

When the bad seemed destined to overshadow the good, I quietly questioned my decision – as well as my worth. It wasn’t exactly the wonderful life that I expected. What would have happened to your children if you hadn’t opened your home and your heart? If you hadn’t adopted? I’ve given that “what if” question serious thought more than once. The possibilities are dark – when envisioned through real stories of children that were never given a chance.

He goes on to detail what each of the 6 children he adopted would have experienced, at least as he imagines the not unbelievable outcomes for each because it is the fate and outcome for some children in the system. Clearly, he still believes in adoption. He admits – They were never perfect children and I was never the perfect parent. But together we meticulously and mindfully built a forever family in every sense of the word.

He writes – “My three youngest sons (22, 23 and 24) still feel safe after 20 years in my care and appreciate living under my roof. They desire independence yet aren’t ready to take on for the world. Someday perhaps.” And I am happy to read that his perspective on parenting is much like my husband’s and my own – we don’t care if our sons never leave their childhood home nor would we trap them here. We’ve said as much directly to them.

Donald Craig Peterson has stories to share about his successes as well as learning experiences in raising his six children to adulthood. It has been his goal to convey unconditional love throughout the years. He understands the ups and downs of learning challenges, special education, psychotropic medications, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, sexual abuse, juvenile justice, residential placement and more. His blog is here: https://adoptingfaithafathersunconditionallove.org/.

Related Issues

Two articles came to my attention yesterday that I believe are related. One was titled The Baby Bust: Why Are There No Infants to Adopt? The subtitle was – Declining birth rates and other factors make it difficult for hopeful adoptive parents to create their forever families. In my all things adoption group, it has become obvious to me that many prospective adoptive parents have become more than a bit desperate.

I actually do believe that the Pro-Life movement is driven by the sharp decline in women either not carrying a pregnancy or choosing to be single parents. Our society’s norms have changed since the 1930s when my parents were adopted.

The other article was Why is the US right suddenly interested in Native American adoption law? In this situation, laws meant to protect Native Americans who have been exploited and cheated out of so much, including their own children, is being challenged by white couples wanting to adopt as being a kind of reverse discrimination against them.

So back to the first article –

The number of adoptions in general has been steadily declining over the years. U.S. adoptions reached their peak in 1970 with 175,000 adoptions tallied. That number had fallen to 133,737 by 2007. Seven years later, the total sank further to 110,373, a 17% decrease.

Reports of a 50% or more decrease in available birth mothers are coming from adoption agencies all over. As a result, some agencies have folded. Those still in operation are compiling long waiting lists of hopeful adoptive parents.

Even so, the demand for infants to adopt remains high. The good news is also that fewer teenagers are becoming pregnant. Teen birth rates peaked at 96.3 per 1,000 in 1957 during the post-war baby boom. However, with the widespread acceptance and use of birth control, there has been a dramatic decline in the teenage pregnancy rate.  This rapid decline in teenage birth rates was seen across all major racial and ethnic groups. 

Estimates indicate that approximately half of the pregnancies in the United States were not planned. Of those unintended pregnancies, about 43% end in abortion; less than 1% of such pregnancies end in adoption. Adoption is a rare choice. The pandemic shut-down also reduced places where meetings could occur that tend to lead to casual encounters, which often result in unplanned pregnancies.

On to that second article –

A 1978 law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA tried to remedy adoption practices that were created to forcibly assimilate Native children. Last April, an appeals court upheld parts of a federal district court decision, in a case called Brackeen v Haaland, that found parts of ICWA “unconstitutional”. The non-Indian plaintiffs (mostly white families wanting to foster and adopt Native children) contend that federal protections to keep Native children with Native families constitute illegal racial discrimination, and that ICWA’s federal standards “commandeer” state courts and agencies to act on behalf of a federal agenda.

The thinking that non-Indians adopting Native children is as old as the “civilizing” mission of colonialism – saving brown children from brown parents. In fact, among prospective adoptive parents there is a dominant belief that they are actually saving children. Native families, particularly poor ones, are always the real victims. A high number, 25-35%, of all Native children have been separated from their families. They are placed in foster homes or adoptive homes or institutions. Ninety percent are placed in non-Indian homes. Native children are four times more likely to be removed from their families than white children are from theirs. Native family separation has surpassed rates prior to ICWA according to a 2020 study.

The fact is that there is a dark side to foster care. Some state statutes may provide up to several thousands of dollars a child per month to foster parents, depending on the number of children in their care and a child’s special needs. Why doesn’t that money go towards keeping families together by providing homes instead of tearing them apart?

It Was Not The Easter Bunny

That baby was not brought in a basket by the Easter Bunny. Though I love this one . . .

“I think I’m the Easter Bunny.
I don’t know where the eggs come from,
and I have no idea why I feel a compulsion to hide them.”

Sadly, some adoptees are actually found in a dumpster. It can be hard to understand the world we live in. I believe in Reincarnation and so the Easter Story about Jesus represents an interesting twist. He died but didn’t have to go the usual route of being reborn a baby. However, birth and death are both necessary to human evolution and continuance. Death clears out life that is no longer viable. I (for one) am grateful there is a way out and that I won’t be stuck in a body that is more like a tortured living hell for eternity. I believe each generation of new human beings improves on the previous version.

The stork did not bring babies to a family’s home either. A common meme when I was a child in the 1960s. I heard the birth mother profiled in American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser – the latest in reveals related to adoption talk about “no sex education.” The birth mother says she didn’t know how babies were made. I think I remember my mom saying something similar – that her mother didn’t talk to her about sex. No wonder these women ended up pregnant in high school.

I came of age with early 70s Feminism. Heard a snippet last Sunday on NPR Witness History about Our Bodies, Our Selves. There wasn’t a transcript but I did find something about that extraordinary effort in the NPR archives. The book was the first comprehensive book on women’s issues ever published by women for women.

By middle school, I had boyfriends. And I had been given the nice girls don’t do that (have sex) until marriage talk by then. I’m certain my mom’s only intention was to save me from repeating her own experience. About that same time, I discovered that I was conceived out of wedlock. Clearly, the message had been delivered to me that woman had the sole responsibility of preventing an unwanted pregnancy because I was angry at my mom but not my dad and I think that is why.

Heck, while I may have had more of a birds and the bees talk than my mom had by high school, I didn’t even know how to find my own vagina to insert a tampon. I’m certain that my own young daughter may have questioned my sanity when I felt compelled to demonstrate for her where to find her own. She probably knew much more by then than I gave her credit for. I remember her once saying something about boys having been “dirty” for years by the time she was in middle school.

Happy Easter. Happy Spring Renewal. Happy life ever returning and reminders that it does.

The Blind Side

I have not seen this movie but after reading a critique of it in Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility, I won’t watch it.  Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for her performance.  The Blind Side is a movie based on the true story of a Memphis family, the Tuohys, who take in a poor homeless black boy.

Sandra Bullock plays the surrogate guardian of Michael Oher, a real-life African American pro-football player for the Baltimore Ravens who escaped homelessness and found success playing in college.  It is a “white savior” movie.  Some critics are torn by its depiction of race. Many critics are drawing comparisons to “Precious,” a controversial film that explores the struggle of an obese, abused African-American girl. Opinions on “The Blind Side” are similarly mixed.

The film has been accused of pacifying Oher, molding him into an unrealistically noble and non-threatening “black saint.”  In the movie, Oher takes on the trappings of a stereotype that emerged in the 1950s (when white, liberal filmmakers sought to change negative perceptions of African Americans). Ultimately that take is a patronizing one.  He is never angry and shuns violence except when necessary to protect the white family that adopted him or the white quarterback he was taught to think of as his brother. In other words, Michael Oher is the perfect black man.

“Our films are loud, overbearing and ultra-violent or they are uncomplicated, heart-wrenchers, which jerk at tears in a manner which they have not earned,” judged Ta-Nehisi Coates.  There are few black people shown in that middle space, in that more human world between the extremes, he concluded.

The kindest assessment is that The Blind Side uses a double metaphor – alluding to both a football player’s vulnerability and racial color blindness – to dramatize how people can overcome race and class barriers to achieve their fuller humanity.

I believe DiAngelo’s criticism was the dis-empowered way Oher is presented as though only this white woman could save him.  I really can’t judge the Tuohys.  Michael Oher, the NFL player who was portrayed in the 2009 drama, told reporters he feels that the film has negatively impacted his athletic career by putting extra scrutiny on him.

“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Oher said. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field.  This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football.  It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”   At a media event just prior to Oher’s 2012 Super Bowl win with the Baltimore Ravens, he told reporters that he was “tired” of being asked about The Blind Side.

What Will The Future Bring ?

I’m not good at predicting the future.  Sometimes I misread my intuitions.  Even so I trust a kind of momentum and tendency in Life to bring about whatever my heart desires the most as well as protect me from my fears and misunderstandings.

I’ve been writing this blog daily for almost a year now.  It amazes me that I usually find something to say.  Certainly, my journey over the last two years has been remarkable.  Not everyone affected by the erasing of their personal history is able to make the progress I have.  My compassionate sympathy for all of those who like my own mom have been rejected when they have made the attempt.

What made the difference for my own self ?  I believe it has been a combination of undeserved luck and persistence not to give up.  Doors have opened in almost miraculous ways at times that I did not see ever coming into my own reality.

What kind of advice can I give others ?  One is to educate yourself as close to reality as possible for stories and delusions do not serve the individual or collective good.  Another is to be gently persistent.  Furthermore, if someone becomes upset with you, try your best to understand where they are and allow them to work through their own wounds and traumas at their own personal speed and willingness to accept.

I am grateful for all the progress I have made so far.  I have no idea where I will find myself next on this journey but I do have some hopes, goals and dreams.  I wish you all the best of good fortune and protection for your vulnerable parts as we journey together into the next new decade and the next yet best to be and hopefully with not too many hurts and disappointments.