Monday, January 14, 2013
Adoption: Tied Up With a Pretty Bow?
In the past two years, I have gotten very involved in the online adoption community. Having “friends” I have never met in real life is not something I ever envisioned for myself, but the support I have found has been invaluable to me. I enjoy the conversation, the shared joy, the support in struggles, and the differing viewpoints that educate me.
Recently, though, there has been a lot of accusation and hurtful words thrown about on different adoption sites. I don’t always enjoy the attacks from individuals who have been terribly hurt by adoption- birthmothers who were lied to and coerced during the Baby Scoop Era, birthparents who have had promises of openness broken by adoptive parents, and adoptees who have have disappointment and resentment towards either the adoptive parents or the birth parents. These individuals are entitled to their opinions, and my heart aches for them, especially if they were forced to surrender their children, or chose adoption with a promise of visits that never come. Neither of those things are right. Neither of those things happened or will happen in our adoption, though, so don’t project your hurtfulness onto Eli’s situation. I am fine with comments, emails, and debate. Just don’t propose that you KNOW for A FACT how Eli will feel as an adult. You might have much more insight than me, but you don’t know. Don’t forget, I’m not only an adoptive parent, I am a professional in the counseling field who has worked with adopted individuals and their families for years. My husband, a clinical therapist at a program for acute stabilization of teens with mental health needs, specializes in this even more than me. So you’re not telling me information I don’t know. Your story is valuable, and has weight in my eyes. I want to hear it. I just don’t want it screamed at me with accusation in ALL CAPS. If you want to write a guest post, let me know email@example.com. But don’t attack.
This brings me to the thoughts and reflection I have had this week. Many people hurt by adoption talk about adoptive parents “living in a dream world” or shouting that we actually hate and resent all birth parents for doing something we couldn’t do- conceive. I would like to speak from my perspective on this for a few moments. No, I don’t think we were ever presented at our agency, Bethany Christian Services, any picture of a neat-and-tidy-textbook adoption tied up with a pretty bow. I know Bethany is a national organization, and there are people with differing stories from differing states. I am talking about our staff, here in Western PA. It was never hidden from us that there is pain and loss in adoption. We are encouraged weekly with emails to attend groups, to hear panels of adoptees speak, to read certain posts or articles. Our social workers ask frequently about Eli’s birthmom, and show genuine excitement when they hear good news in her life. Yesterday, at a post-permanency group for adoptive moms, one social worker talked about the fact that she is for the children- whether the birth parents place, or don’t, or change their mind. She offered supportive ideas to a birthmom who is now parenting a one-month old. She shared with me ideas for caring for Eli’s birthmom during the hard times. And as to "hating" birthparents because they could conceive when I couldn't? That's honestly preposterous. That would mean I also hate 99% of my friends and family who have had children through birth. That's just not the case. I don't ever wish I carried my son through pregnancy. He is who he is because of his entire history, and I wouldn't change a thing about him, including how he came to us.
Of course there are hard times. As much as I am a cheerleader for adoption in the right circumstances, I would be in denial to say its not hard too. Recently hearing of several placements of babies online or through support groups, my heart aches and races all over again for those potential birthparents and hopeful adoptive parents. It brings up the feelings of loss, of excitement mingled with grief for a young woman I had just met. So no, we never received any gift of adoption tied up with a pretty bow. We received a real-life, beautiful, tragic, happy, sad, God-guided situation in our life.
As I was driving thinking about this all yesterday, I pulled into our childcare to pick E up. The past few days, there has been a young teen skateboarding on the alley next to it. E likes to watch him, so we stand and watch for a few minutes. This week, the boy came over to talk to us. He shared how he is making a video for YouTube about skating, and we started talking about if YouTube can make you any money. I told him that E was adopted, and I write an adoption blog, and that yes, I get a little bit of money from Google on occasion. His eyes immediately lit up as he gave Eli a high five. He said “Buddy! I am adopted too!” He then proceeded, in a rushing and halted manner, to tell me the whole story of his birthmom’s drug and alcohol use, the physical violence, and his eventual adoption by a family member. There was pain in his eyes, but also joy when he talked about his adoptive parents now. My heart ached for this child, who continued to play and joke with Eli for several minutes after sharing his story. I could tell that he needed to get it out, and probably doesn’t feel comfortable telling a lot of people. He asked me a lot about Eli’s story, and I shared more with this young kid than I have shared with any of you...I could tell he needed to know he was not alone. Eli’s story in no way compares to this child’s story, but I could tell he appreciated my honesty nonetheless.
So to say adoption is all terrible and tragic, or to say that it is all hearts and rainbows- are either correct? No. In the course of three miles from our house, I have personally met now six adoptive children. Three in great open adoptions, and three with stories like the one I just told. All appear to be doing great right now. And none of us parents are in denial about anything. Just because we cheer “we love adoption!!” doesn’t mean we are naive. We love the process that brought our sweet babies to us. There’s nothing abnormal about that. We can love lots of things that come with a cost. I love my education, but it was quite a sacrifice during the seven years it took me to earn it. One does not negate the other.
So please, continue to share, continue to be honest, and I pray for those of you in pain. But don’t suppose you know me, and don’t lump me into a category that you have designed.