Adoption Ad During the Super Bowl

Toyota featured the story of Jessica Long, 13 time Paralympic Gold Medalist. Born in Siberia and due to a rare condition, had to have her legs amputated, Jessica Long has inspired people with her story.

Toyota tells through a reenactment how her adoptive mother found out that she would need to have her legs amputated.

“Mrs. Long. We found a baby girl for your adoption,” says a woman on the phone with Long’s onscreen mother. “But there are some things you need to know. She’s in Siberia and she was born with a rare condition.”

“Her legs will need to be amputated,” the woman adds as the scenes play out floating in water while Long swims. “Her legs will need to be amputated. I know this is difficult to hear. Her life, it won’t be easy.”

The commercial then shifts to Long winning a race as her mother watches from the kitchen table.

“It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing,” Long’s mom says. “I can’t wait to meet her.”

The commercial voiceover then adds, “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.”

During an interview with People magazine back in 2016, the swimmer said – “Winning gold medals is incredible and obviously it’s what I want to do, but there’s something so special about having a little girl who has just lost her leg from cancer come up and tell me I’m her hero.”

Clearly, it is her physical disability that informs Jessica’s identity much more than the fact of her adoption.

“It took me years to realize that if I act ashamed and I try to hide them people kind of react the same way,” she added. “But if I wear my shorts or a cute summer dress and I show off my legs and I’m willing to talk about it, people are engaged and they want to know about my story.”

The renowned athlete was adopted by Americans from a Russian orphanage at 13 months old. At 18 months old, her legs were amputated below the knees. In total, she’s won 29 gold medals, 8 silver medals and 4 bronze ones.

As a blogger, the only question that I had was whether any pro-adoption group helped fund the commercial or suggested the idea to Toyota. Just a hint of cynicism but otherwise, I love the story of overcoming life’s realities with determination. However, there may be no connection with that kind of organization.

In 2013, Jessica Long traveled with her younger sister to meet her birth parents, who were teenagers when Long was born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova. It was a three-day journey to her Russian adoption center and then an 18-hour train ride to what would have been her Siberian hometown. “Long Way Home” (the story of her journey) premiered on primetime during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

Jessica says this about her adoption – “When I first see my Russian family, I want them to know that I’m not angry with them, that I’m not upset that they gave me up for adoption,” Long said in the film, before a tearful, hug-filled reunion. “I think that was really brave, and I don’t know what I would have done if I was in her situation, at 16 and having this disabled baby that they knew that they couldn’t take care of. I want to tell her that when I see her that, if anything, I have so much love for her, my mom, because she gave me life.”

And I’ve learned a bit more of Jessica’s adoption back story – her teenaged parents were persuaded to give her up, with doctors telling the mother that she was “still young” and would be able “to give birth to a normal child.” This is disgusting. This is why so many kids end up in ‘orphanages’, not because they don’t have parents, but because of lack of support, ablism and/or poverty. And even sadder is this, her mother said, “Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to do so. In my heart I did want to take her home, and thought I would take her back later.” This belief that their child will return to them someday is a common occurrence in international adoptions.

There is of course, some questionable motivation when a car company wanting to sell more cars uses these kinds of themes. For those closest to the situations, it is absolutely a triggering commercial – hit notes on adoption, orphans, and a special needs person. At the same time, it is a perfect little story wrapped in a bow, delectable, and very palatable for the masses who gobble it up. General society and adoptive parents as well as the hopeful adoptive parents always love a “poor little orphan finds a home” story.

There is also a hashtag, #ToyotaWeDisApprove, trending on Twitter.

 

It’s Not The Same

From personal experience, I believe the biology matters more than the genetics.  The bonding that occurs when a baby grows in the mother’s womb, is kept close to her after emerging in birth and nurses at her breast for an extended number of months.   The love I experienced at the moment of each of my three children’s birth was instantaneous and overwhelming.  Unmistakable.

Certainly, children are usually easy to love.  The innocence and purity of their new lives unsullied by the travails of life’s circumstances.

An adopted child is never really “yours”.  That is a mistaken concept.  An adopted child is one you care for and in the best circumstances care for equally as you would care for a child that issued forth from your body but what is lost is not replaceable.

You may not love your adopted child “less” than biological children if these are also present in your home but the quality of love is different, it is not the same.

Most adoptive parents are afraid to admit this truth because they’re afraid people will judge them and think it means they love their adoptive kids less.   Deep down they know it’s not the same at all. They are lying to themselves to keep up the farce. It will never be the same love. It can’t be. And they can’t deal with admitting that.

Love ebbs and flows in all loving relationships, even between parents and biological children. You never stop loving your children.  My mom struggled with the challenges of my youngest sister all their lives.  My sister believed, even after our mom had died, that our mom hated her.  I know that is not the truth.  However, from my perspective on the outside witnessing, my mom didn’t accept my sister was the way she is.  My mom was always trying to make her what my mom would have preferred her to be like.  That was the source of the tension and conflict between them.  But love – I definitely know my mom did not stop loving my sister.

The connection between a biological mother and the child she gestates is different than adopting a child who’s life began elsewhere. In truth, it has nothing to do with loving them or not.  It has everything to do with hormones and biology.

So, biology does matter. It doesn’t mean an adoptive parent will treat their adopted children differently, or love them less but it’s not the same because biology does matter. You will never have the same relationship with your adopted children, that you have with your biological children. That’s the effect that biology has.  The bond is special and it simply can’t be recreated through adoption.