Both Genders Drive Adoption

For some time now, my husband has been making use of old photos to create slide shows as a screen saver. I enjoy looking at these . . . memories. One of my current favorites is of my husband lying on his chest looking at our oldest son as a 3 month old infant lying on the bed. They are both smiling at one another. Clearly, there is a real connection between them, an energy. And it is true, while my husband does honestly love both of his sons, he does a lot of work around our farm with the older boy. They seem to be in-sync so well. Of course, the older one, now 21 years old, is more mature but over the last several years, they have replaced roofs, planted trees and both worked for the 2020 Census and could share stories each night when they got home. Just as I saw with my in-laws respect for my husband’s opinions, there is a respect on my husband’s part for each of his sons’ perspectives. It is a beautiful thing to see. For my part, I am inspired by both of them and who and how they are developing into maturity.

Becoming a father came at the right time for my husband in his own maturity. When we first married (my second marriage), he was not interested in having children. He was glad I had been there and done that – so no pressure on him. And it is also true that because I gave birth to my daughter at the age of 19, I had already known motherhood. Indeed, she has made me a grandmother twice. She was there for me each time one of my parents died (only 4 months apart) and through the challenges of being the executor of their estate, including giving me the benefit of her expertise in real estate selling and negotiating the final contract with a buyer.

Even though my early motherhood was a good experience for me, I was totally blown away when after 10 years of marriage, my husband did a 180 on me and wanted to become a father. Unfortunately, it turned out that age had produced in me secondary infertility and we had to turn to assisted reproduction and an egg donor to have our sons. 20 years ago, no one saw inexpensive DNA testing and the matching sites 23 and Me as well as Ancestry becoming so popular in use. Fortunately, we have handled the situation of having two donor conceived sons as well as any ignorant parents could (both had the same genetic sources and so, are true genetic and biological siblings). By handling the situation, I mean we have always been honest about their conceptions with our sons. They really did need to become older to understand the details. Getting their DNA tested at 23 and Me (where their egg donor also had her DNA tested) gave us the opening to fully describe the details, which does not seem to have troubled them at all. Before we had theirs tested, I also gifted my husband with a kit from 23 and Me.

For me, having lost the privilege of actually raising my daughter when she was 3 years old due to my own poverty and her father’s unwillingness to pay child support (and even so, he ended up paying for her support by raising her himself) – these second chance opportunities to prove I could mother children throughout their growing up years has been a true blessing for me. Experiencing motherhood now has healed much – including a decision to have an abortion after my daughter’s birth and the subsequent discovery that I carried the hep C virus – thanks to pre-treatment testing related to my oldest son’s conception. (BTW, this week I will finally complete, after living with this virus for over 20 years, a very expensive treatment regime which required a grant for the co-pay as well as Medicare Part D because otherwise, I still could not have afforded to have that virus treated).

All this just to share that this morning, I was reading an accusation about infertile women driving adoptions. One woman noted this – “we seem to be letting the guys off scot-free. The dudes who want a Daddy’s Little Girl or to play football with their own Mini-Me. I am not saying that childless woman are not a huge factor in the adoption industry, but I am saying that we live in a patriarchy and men also have a macho thing going on from birth … carrying on the family name, the stereotypical being the breadwinner for their very own brood instead of watching other guys’ families from the sidelines as a failure. And sometimes it isn’t the woman’s inability but the guys’ faulty minnows and that is definitely a macho & emasculating situation that they can rectify by sheer force (IVF or adoption are ways no one else will really be the wiser if they keep these secrets). They can be saviors and still be Daddy Dearest at the same time win-win.”

I know that in the case of infertility, the “blame” is statistically equal – one-third of infertility cases are caused by male reproductive issues, one-third by female reproductive issues, and one-third by both male and female reproductive issues or by unknown factors according to the National Institutes of Health. Clearly in our case, because 50% of each of our son’s DNA clearly establishes that their father’s sperm did the deed, the problem was my age. We didn’t start our efforts until I was already 46 years old.

Pioneering A New Way

I remember clearly in 1978, when Lesley Brown made reproductive history delivering the first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization.  I had become a mother myself in 1973.  While good news of medical capability for a lot of infertile couples, never did I dream at the time that these developments would become significant in my own life.  The technique raised moral and medical alarms 42 years ago but is commonplace today.

When my husband of 10 years wanted to have children, we diligently tried using ovulation prediction to enhance our chances.  I was devastated to learn via a news report that our odds of conceiving were very low because I had grown too old, my eggs had aged along with me.  I remember going to the witness tree where my husband and I were wed in 1988 and cried.  He should have married a younger woman.

The nurse practitioner at my general practitioner’s office was counseling me about my cholesterol levels when I mentioned that we were trying to conceive.  I remember her words clearly, “I’m not saying you are infertile, but at your age, you don’t have time to waste.”  She referred me to her own OB/Gyn as a specialist in such issues.

We saw my very last “viable” egg on ultrasound at our first appointment with him.  He tried a hormonal boost but it failed to produce a pregnancy.  He also told us there was another way.  I began to research that way.  I found online groups for support and information.

When we discovered I was positive for hepC in a routine series of pre-conception lab tests, that doctor dropped me.  However, my OB/Gyn said my co-existing with that virus should not preclude me having children (he had experience with hepatitis in Asia during his early intern training).

We found a donor for ourselves and she has been a gem for serving couples to become parents, participating in the conception of both of our sons.  Happily, they are 100% siblings with common genetic foundations.  It isn’t perfect, genetically she is their mother and I am not.  That has taken some getting used to.  No one else could be more their mother either as they grew in my womb and bonded with me there and during breastfeeding for the whole first year of their life afterwards.

Because of divorce and being a financially struggling single mother, I lost physical custody of my genetically related daughter to her father and step-mother to raise.  I really thought of myself as a terrible person for not raising my own child.  Because of my sons, I now know that is not the truth about me.  Since learning about the trauma related to mother-child separations in adoption, I also realize what my husband and I did to overcome infertility was the next best choice for conceiving our family.

 

The Role of Midwives

I became interested in midwifery when I became pregnant with my oldest son.  In the early 2000s, it was still illegal to practice midwifery in Missouri.  After I had both of my sons by caeserean to avoid passing on a hepC virus to them, I lost touch with the movement.  It was disappointing with the older boy to accept not birthing him at home using the Bradley method which my husband and I diligently studied.

I do believe that for simple common healthy births, a midwife is a wonderful addition to a family’s experiences.  I did become convinced that midwifes are exceptional people.

In some cases, midwives become involved in births with a mother who is planning to relinquish her baby for adoption.  A midwife may be more compassionate about the grief that separating a baby from its mother will undoubtedly cause.

Unresolved grief will have an impact on the life of any woman who relinquishes her baby.  It appears that mothers involved in an ‘open adoption’ will not suffer as extremely the many adverse effects that mothers who have been involved in closed adoptions do.

A midwife needs to identify and develop the skills needed when caring for a mother planning to relinquish her baby. These include adopting a non-judgmental approach, being an effective listener, offering choices about every aspect of care and offering interventions known to help a bereaved mother.

A midwife should also see to it that prospective adoptive parents are not allowed to be with the mother as she is birthing her child.  They should support a period of time for the mother and baby to bond after birth.  Some women given a private amount of time to be with their baby will decide not to relinquish the baby.  Women should never be coerced into doing so by agreements they made before birth.

These are some of the reforms that could be initiated to lessen the wounds suffered by both mother and child due to adoption.