Why is it, when adoption comes up, that there are a majority of adoptive parents who will say “Well, what was I supposed to do…just accept that I couldn’t have a baby?” What do you want an adoptee’s answer to you to be ? Just take someone else’s kid ? I get that people want children, but is it another person’s job to supply a child for you ?
Life is not fair. If you didn’t complete your degree, do you say – what am I supposed to do ? Would other people tell you to just go and take someone else’s degree off the wall ? Why isn’t it your job, to give all of the money you have, to the people who are poor ? Or leave your current job, so someone who is unemployed can have it instead ? Would you take your dream home and give it someone who is homeless to live in ? How about that fancy car ? Should you hand the keys over to someone without one ?
Sometimes, life requires us to accept something that is true but that we sincerely don’t want to be part of our reality. Certainly, modern medical science does have some solutions that allow previously infertile women to conceive a child using assisted reproductive techniques. Not only is adoption in the process of being reconsidered and reformed but the medical approaches are as well. Not only are adoptee searches all the rage these days – and many of those searches have successful outcomes with the photos from these reunions making my own heart happy when I see them – but people who were conceived using donor sperm or donor eggs (or both) are discovering that the anonymity that was once standard, leaves them with the same black hole of genetic identity and lost familial medical history that adoptees in closed adoptions have been contending with since the beginning of adoption, which adoptees started pushing back against as early as the 1990s. Now donor conceived persons are pushing back against similar issues.
What sometimes gets lost in these conversations is that people are not inanimate objects like a university degree, employment, a person’s acquired wealth (whether by inheritance or hard work) or the home they bought to live in, the car that transports them wherever they want to go. Actually considering the reality that a child is not a commodity. In their desperate attempt to acquire a child to fill their own unfilled need, the humanity of that child and their birth mother is sometimes lost. That reality that these are human beings with feelings and emotions needs to be carefully reconsidered. You won’t die if you never have a child but you could utterly ruin two other lives in the process of taking someone else’s child – the birth mother’s and the adoptee’s lives – for the remainder of their personal lifetimes. Yes, reunions do relieve some of that long-held sorrow but you cannot recover or make up for the time or relationship development that was lost in the interim.
The origination of many adoptions is the traumatic experience of having a miscarriage. One miscarriage leads to another miscarriage – that of taking a woman’s baby for one’s own self. It is often an act of trying to overcome honest grief and sorrow by inflicting a lifetime of grief and sorrow on another woman. Our society condones this behavior by creating mythic stories that adoptees often call the rainbows and unicorns narrative of how wonderful adoption is. In truth it is not more wonderful than the realistic slings and arrows of everyday life and for some (the adoptee and the birth mother) wounds to carry forever. Some eventually experience a reunion with one another and while these are mostly happy stories (but not always), there is no way to make up for decades of life going on with different trajectories for each person.
If this society was a just one, we could be taking care of our mothers and our children instead of allowing money to drive the exchange of human beings to fulfill the thwarted desires of the people with the financial means to purchase a baby. Oh I know, most adoptive parents don’t view it that way. I know most adoption agencies and facilitators don’t want to view themselves from a perspective that they are baby sellers in it to make a profit. It is so easy for people to delude themselves with feel good stories.
I don’t have a lot of optimism that the profit motivated adoption industry will end any time soon. I am only heartened that some of us keep trying to make the point that children belong with the people who conceived them. Children need to grow up within the genetic, biological familial roots from which they emerged. Yes, sometimes parents die. This has happened to my own grandmothers – both of them – and we’ve lost more than one mom in my little mom’s group that has existed a bit more than 17 years now. We’ve also lost a couple of fathers too.
Orphans do deserve care within a family structure but there is no need to change a child’s original identity or name in order to provide for them. Some parents in our modern society get messed up – with drugs, with violence, with the criminal justice system. These people need intensive restoration into functioning members of our society. It is complicated and not a quick fix. I’ll readily admit that.
For adoptees and their original families, mourning can be deeper than simply grieving the death of a loved one. When our familial bonds are withheld from us so long, precious time is lost and never recovered. In my mom’s case, when she sought and was denied her adoption file, the state of Tennessee told her that her original mother had died a few years earlier. This devastated my mom and dashed all her hopes of a reunion.
With my dad, he never showed the desire that my mom had but when he died a half-sister was living only 90 miles away and could have shared with him real impressions of the woman who gave birth to him. When I discovered who his unwed mother’s participating lover was that conceived my dad, my dad was so much like him – sharing interests and appearance – I just knew they would have been great fishing buddies. That was a sadness for me as well.
Today, I read the story of a man who was adopted. His adoptive parents only admitted to his adoption when a sibling outed the fact. They never would give him more than the tiniest bits and pieces of information to his incessant questions. A letter his original mother wrote to him explaining her circumstances that was to be given to him upon his 18th birthday was not delivered to him until he had done an Ancestry DNA kit at the age of 30 and it was likely he was going to come into contact with his genetic relatives.
He was able to find and connect with his genetic sister through Facebook and through her be reunited with and visit with his original mother. She died just last week after too brief of a time of acquaintance with her. This has left him bereft for more reasons than her dying, which for anyone, regardless of the relationship they have with their parents, is admittedly a life-changing event.
His emotions are intense. He says –
I’m angry for lack of a better word that my adoptive parents withheld this information for so long that it wound up costing me time. Time I could’ve used to get to know my biological mom better and form deeper bonds with her. I may not have known her well but I love her and I’m having a hard time navigating the complexity of everything that I’m feeling right now. My genetic sister and I have made a pact to talk often and visit with relative frequency. I simply don’t have this kind of relationship with my brother through adoption.
If you are an adoptive parent, it is beyond cruel if you behave in this manner.
One adoptee wrote –
Does “forever family” rub you the wrong way?
I cringe EVERYTIME I hear it. So many of us were told this mythical thing exists, but then turns out we were always on some sort of weird job interview where there are no rules and the requirements of the job change depending on the mood of the boss, the boss’ family, or the boss’ pets.
I don’t think I ever had a “forever family”? Did you? Do you now?
When I finally became aware of my true biological, genetic family relations something dissolved in my feelings toward the members of my “family” that were only that due to adoption.
Does that mean I love the deceased grandparents LESS who were present in my life growing up ? No, it doesn’t mean that. I cherish my memories of the times I spent with them. They always treated us genuinely and from a sense of loving us.
Does that mean that my aunts, uncles and cousins by adoption don’t seem quite as real to me anymore ? That is true, though I acknowledge their humanity and that they are ALL of them good people.
Learning the truth about my parents adoptions and original family and re-connecting with the genetic/biological family I never knew all my life has meant more to me than I can possible convey to you in these brief blogs.
At the same time, there is this sad effect – I don’t feel like I belong to any of them. Truth. The adoptive family is no longer real family. The real family I have no life experience with and can only try to go forward with 6 decades missing.
No – family is not forever. My parents and my in-laws and my grandparents are all deceased now. Divorces have happened, children have grown up in different families, cousins have always been distant anyway. Where does one find family ? Only in those people who we sense are able to accept us just as we are no matter what.