We watched the show NCIS last night, it has been one of my favorites for years, although other than Mark Harmon, I couldn’t tell you who the actors are, or even most of their character names (I looked them up so this post makes sense). I like to be entertained and the writers make it so that you can’t figure out who the guilty party is within the first few scenes. Over the years, I’ve watched characters come and go, but to me, the show has staying power. (Spoiler alert – after the break I talk about last nights episode.)
A while back, adoption made its début into one of the smaller underlying storylines with Abby finding out she was adopted, a late discovery adoptee who meets her brother, the writers handled it fairly well. Last season, Palmer (assistant to the medical examiner Ducky Mallard) and his new wife decided to start the process to adopt a new-born. You can imagine my thoughts about having to watch that storyline, in one of my favorite entertainment shows. As it was an underlying storyline for a minor character, the odd update to the adoption process was minimal at best, and easy to ignore, most of it anyway.
The being Matched with a “Birthmother” was hard to watch, I assume the excitement shown is pretty normal as you want to become parents after all. Watching it was surprisingly hard though, even knowing it was simply a made-up storyline, it still triggered feelings in me. The feelings that despite how happy one family would be, a child would lose their family, a mother and father would lose their baby, a family would lose a family member. I can’t see the excited side, without also seeing the loss side, simply because, I hold the place in the center. Why I try hard to ignore real stories of people going through the process, because to gain, others must lose.
Other updates about the adoption were dropped into episodes, simply referring to her as “The Birthmother”, no mention of her as a real human being with a name, no angst that their happiness would could at another’s expense, the character was came off as simply that of an incubator that would make their dreams come true. Neither was there any mention of the father of the baby, or other family members and the impact of adoption on them. I want to assume that was simply because it was an underlying storyline, but there was no attempt by the writers to have Palmer to talk to another character of conflicted feelings of pain that goes hand-in-hand, the loss to many, the concerns on how the baby would deal with being adopted. All that would have been fairly normal for that character, seeing as how last nights episode had Palmer practicing changing diapers on a doll under Ducky’s attention and timing.
Last night was also when the baby was born. The racing to leave for the hospital. The returning looking dejected that the now “Mom” had decided to parent. The returning of baby shower gifts. Every time I heard the expectant mother called “The Birthmother” in the different episodes, it reinforced how wrong it is for the adoption industry to use that term pre-surrender, and that it must stop.
And even though it was just a made-up storyline, that pre-birth matching and hospital attendance is now part of story lines, shows how common it is in the real world. It reinforced my distaste for pre-birth matching, coupled with being at the birth. I know for some on both sides, it is a good thing. I also know that it creates an attitude of entitlement to the baby, which can also be seen as both a good, or bad thing. I understand it is person dependant, I also know it can be abused horribly by creating intended, or unintended pressure on the mother to sign the surrender papers simply because of the relationship created. I don’t like it because of the potential for harm. Adoption is one of those situations where caution needs to be the ever-present default setting, and for some I don’t think it is.