I was thinking last night about the position parents by birth are forced into by some in adoption, both adopting parents and professionals. The position doesn’t make any logical sense when we are talking about normal human emotions we all have, or capable of feeling in the same situation.
They are happy to have chosen adoption, and any grief seems to be compensated by knowing they created a family, they have little to no regrets, and they’d choose adoption all over again. They see adoption as beautiful. They only speak in glowing terms about adoption and downplay any tough feelings as not so bad, because it’s so worth it. These are the first parents held up as the exemplars by adoption agencies, asked to write their stories, are the ones interviewed, quoted from. They are the ones allowed to speak in the adoption world, they promote adoption. They are the ones hired by adoption agencies to be ‘birthmother mentors’ to expectant mothers, who will only become a ‘birthmother’ if they sign the papers. The same ones that show up on ‘birthmother panels’ to speak to prospective adoptive parents, which may create an expectation of how their ‘birthmother’ will feel, act.
They must need counseling, because they don’t see the beauty of creating a family at the cost of their own. They obviously consented to the adoption, so why are they struggling with feelings that shouldn’t exist because they choose it, no one forced them to sign away their rights. Instead of grieving their losses, they should celebrate the gain of another family. They need to deal with whatever they are feeling because they are making others uncomfortable. They are relegated to the segment of those ‘few’ who had a bad experience, had a bad professional, they are an anomaly, because, others don’t feel that way, most birthmothers today don’t feel that way.
What makes it okay to need a mother (and/or father) who lost their child (because that is what happened, regardless if they signed the papers, and/or if there is openness) to a predefined, required, mindset when you are talking about an unspeakable loss? Why can’t a first parent hold dueling emotions like the rest of us? Why must they always only see/feel the good, never the bad? Why must they be the only ones that aren’t allowed to up one day, and down the next? Why must they believe adoption is best, better than they would be? Where is the humanity that people can’t see that having chosen adoption, doesn’t make the loss any less? Why isn’t it okay to vehemently state that they wouldn’t have chosen adoption, if they’d felt there was a viable alternative? Why does the last statement make people think they are against every adoption? Why is saying adoption should be the last resort bad? Why? Why can’t we see them capable of holding regrets, grief, peace at knowing their child is loved, happy, and still sad the adoption had to happen? Why can’t we see them speaking out as education that not all professionals act the way they should, not all birthmothers will be able to tell the parents who adopted their child, how they really feel, because sometimes, too much honesty, closes the adoption.
Why can’t it be both/and? Why must first parents be held to a different standard?
To me, when I hear first parents talk about having no regrets, or grief, I hear they didn’t want their child. That’s my lens as an adoptee, and a mother whose baby passed away. When I hear first parents struggling over not having been able to see a viable path to parenting, but wanted to parent, that child was wanted, I hear warmth, despair over what happened. When I hear about being worn down in many systematic ways to follow through with ‘the plan’ it makes me mad, it should make you mad too. When a first parent turns to a professional to help them go through their options, the assumption shouldn’t be that they willingly chose adoption because they sought out a professional to help them. The assumption should be that they turned to the professional to help them during their crisis. I believe that professional has a duty to do no harm, and that means, first, looking to every way of helping the parent, parent, and only when every avenue is closed, should severing the child from the family be looked at. Yes, that last sentence was blunt, probably makes some reading this cringe, it was intended to do that. To strip away the pretty picture and stating the stark reality, adoption severs the child from their family. Adoption can be a good solution, even the best solution. It also comes with a steep cost to many. Never forget that, and if you are honest, don’t you think you’d be grieving the loss of parenting your child the rest of your life? Different levels of grief over time, but grief nonetheless. If you feel that way, then don’t expect first parents not to feel the same way you would.
I leave you with this snippet from a paper you need to take the time to read if you think I’m wrong.