Self Indulgent Adoptive Parents

The lead-in to today’s blog expresses an opinion about this couple in my “all things adoption” group.

This is such a self indulgent, sad article to read. It was all focused on what they wanted, conveniently wrapped up as “Gods plan.” They wanted African American twin boys?! They treated adoption like a menu they could pick from, tailor made to suit their requirements. The part that was particularly telling was when she said “one birth mom got in a car accident on the way to the hospital and was in a coma, it was not looking good for us.” An expectant mother has an accident and goes into a coma and all she could think about is – it wasn’t looking good for us?!

This adoptive parent has a huge following on Instagram and regularly uses her children’s stories and adoptee status to promote the brands she partners with. I often wonder what will we hear from these children (and there are many cases of adoptive children being used to promote adoptiove parent platforms), when they grow up.

In one of the comments is a screenshot from the adoptive mother. I don’t even had words for how self-centered the adoptive mother is and yet obviously aware of what is happening to the birth mother – all at the same time. Here are her own words about it.

“The day I posted about bringing the baby home, I explained that those few days in the hospital were hard. There were so many comments on my remarks about why it was hard.”

“Here’s why – two pictures were taken that day the baby was born. One is of me holding the baby with tears in my eyes with the birth mother being held by a nurse because she has tears in her eyes also. I will admit that I was crying because my baby was finally here and yet, I knew at the same time that someone else’s heart was being torn apart.”

What kind of insensitivity acknowledges this so matter of factly. To the adoptive mother’s perspective, the birth mother is only crying because she knows her baby is “where she is supposed to be” (and that is with the adoptive mother – which is plainly NOT, in the natural order of things, true).

She admits that “adoption is every emotion in the book” but admits that “those few days while the baby and the birth mother both remained in the hospital were hard” (and I would suppose, hardest on the birth mother).

She is keeping those pictures for the baby when she is older so that she can know that her original mother’s heart broke. Though the adoptive mother’s perspective is – “so the baby’s heart would not have to be” ? Really ? Staying with her original mother would have been heartbreaking for the child ? This is what entitlement looks like – your baby is better off with me because I am better than you.

The adoptive mother admits that adoption isn’t fair and that it’s hard but she still claims it is beautiful and personal – and like all adoptive parents want to believe – a selfless act on the part of the mother.

Closing The Gap

When an adoption has already occurred and given the importance of identity issues, what is an adoptive mother to do when the original mother doesn’t respond very much to efforts to reach out and keep that mother connected with her natural children ?

This was a question in a group I belong to this morning.

Some good advice that came from another adoptive mother was this –

Educate yourself on issues of generational poverty vs privilege and learn to identify what pushback actually indicates.

Get out of your bubble and be willing to have genuine relationships with people who are not like you.  (All of us in this polarized society could actually benefit from that advice.)

Humble yourself.

I remember an issue that came up.  My youngest sister gave up her son for adoption.  She gave me a lock-box full of mementos that illustrated her experiences and thinking at that time to deliver to her son someday as I was the contact in a registry somewhere.

It did come to pass.  As he read some letters out loud to his adoptive mom on their way home from our first meeting in person, she was startled to hear that she had some attitudes towards my sister.  She admitted later that she probably was projecting feelings of superiority.

Not to dismiss that the woman has done a fine job of nurturing my nephew.  She was very supportive of him when he was seeking to know who his true father was (turns out my sister lied about that one but indications from certain post-birth contacts indicate that she actually did know the truth).

Definitely, class differences can be intimidating.  In fact, this was mirrored to me growing up by my two sets of adoptive grandparents (yes, both of my parents were adoptees).  One set was well-off, socially prominent.  The other set lived in capable poverty.  I say it that way because they seemed to manage the situation without complaining.

When this class difference exists between the adoptive parents and the original parents (which is quite common or else the original parents would raise their own child 99% of the time) subtle messages are transmitted such as –

We are better than you and we know it.

Which can leave the original parents feeling they have to walk on egg shells.  They know the adoptive parents have all the power and money to do what they want including withhold information and contact if they so choose.

Fragility Self-Test

Before you decide to adopt or foster a child, consider your own emotional state.  Here’s some help for contemplation.

1. Do I feel defensive when an adoptee, former foster youth or birth/first mother says “adoptive parents tend to…?”

2. Do I feel angry when people tell me I benefit from adoptive parent privilege — that the adoption industry works in my favor, or that my socioeconomic class and/or race enabled me to adopt?

3. When an adoptee, former foster youth or original mother talks about adoption, do I feel defensive because they’re describing things that I do or think?

4. Do I feel angry or annoyed by the above questions?

5. Do I have a history of embracing hopeful or adoptive parent behavior that I now feel ashamed of, so I need to show people that I’m no longer “like that”?

6. Does saying “not all adoptive parents” or similar phrases make me feel better when someone calls adoptive parents out for some perspective or behavior?

7. Do I expect an apology when I feel like I’ve been unfairly accused of poor adoptive parent behavior?

8. Do I feel better when I say, hear, or read, “every (adoption) experience is different?”

9. Do I try to convince adoptees, former foster youth and original mothers that they’re wrong about adoption by pointing out people from their position in the triad who agree with me?

10. Do I feel the need to talk about my own hardships (such as infertility, a “failed” adoption, or a difficult childhood) when an adoptee or original mother talks about their pain?

11. Do I think the adoption community would benefit if people stopped talking about the hard stuff, were more supportive, learned from “both sides,” or focused more on the positive?

12. Does being told that something I say, think, do, or otherwise value is harmful make me want to shut down, leave, or express my discomfort/displeasure in some way?

13. Do I feel the need to state that I have friends/family who are adoptees or first mothers when someone points out my problematic behavior?

14. Do I feel the need to prove that I’m one of the good ones?

15. Do I feel that my opinions and perspectives about adoption should be given equal weight to that of an adoptee or original mother, that I have something unique and important to contribute to the adoption conversation, and/or that it is unfair to be told to listen more than I speak?

16. Do I feel the need to defend myself on any of the above points when commenting in a discussion?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are dealing with adoptive parent fragility. Take time to reflect on why you feel the way that you do. Take time to listen to adoptee and original mother perspectives.

Adoptive parent fragility is a hindrance to healing because it prevents adoptees/original mothers from being able to engage with adoptive parents in honest conversation, without also having to bear the burden of catering to adoptive parents’ emotional comfort.

At its worst, adoptive parent fragility can cause an emotionally unhealthy situation for adoptees/original mothers because of the power dynamics and the weight of being responsible for the adoptive parents’ feelings, while not being allowed the same consideration to express their own.

There is also the weight that comes with people that you care about lashing out at and abusing you (verbally, emotionally, and/or digitally).

If we cannot talk honestly about the issues surrounding the traditional adoption industry, then we cannot make progress towards creating a healthy reform.