Monday, September 20, 2010

Response to 'Not My Normal Modus Operandi'

Do you read Valency? I do, and one of her recent posts knocked some things loose in my head for me. I started to write a response, but it quickly became too long, so I'm posting it here.

Valency wrote this in response to a reader's comments on her post : ...I am just so astounded that adoptive parents would even discuss how much their new acquisition “costs”, especially in an open setting like a blog, all laying out there for the whole world to read. And then to whine about how it is robbery and put them in an unfair moral dilemma????? Say what?

What follows is my response to Valency.
I think that some APs who do so have convinced themselves that they are entitled to parent. They resent their infertility. They feel frustrated, depressed, hopeless, impatient, and very sad. I know I did; I felt all of those things. Except entitled. I never felt that. I spent eight years in the crippling grip of infertility, and never once did I think that I 'deserved' a child or that someone 'owed' me a child or that another woman should just 'admit that she's unfit and give her kid up already' - sadly, all things I have heard (or read) PAPs say.

I haven’t yet been able to sort out how much of that attitude of entitlement is pure self-absorption and how much is cultivated by the adoption industry, whether intentionally or not. PAPs hear an awful lot from industry professionals about their (the PAPs) needs, desires, dreams, fitness to parent, choices, etc., and VIRTUALLY NOTHING about the needs, desires, dreams, fitness to parent, choices, etc. of first parents.

My daughter’s first mother was something of a mythical creature to me for a long time post-adoption, and I’m not a shallow pea-brain; I’m educated, insightful, and compassionate, but I was told zero about her except for some basic stats when we got The Call. We had waited years for The Call, and we were consumed by our joy and anticipation. It was shamefully easy NOT to think about first mother. The baby is here, the baby is real, the baby is ours! M (first mother) had never been made real to us. The role of first mother had never been made real. It had never been made to be more than a means to our end. (I feel sick re-reading that, but it’s true.) We were never directed or even encouraged to explore the adoptive experience from the first parent perspective.

In fact, the adoption professionals who spoke with us gave no indication that there was an “adoptive experience” at all for first parents. It was all about us and what paperwork we needed to complete and what appointments we needed to make and what monies were due when and to whom. Heaven knows, I was grateful for the support we got… we didn’t have a clue what we needed to do or how to navigate the logistics and legalities of adopting. But I noticed that my questions about first parents were dodged with “We’re handling everything with them” or “She’s fine.” I pressed, and I was redirected. I pushed, and I was reassured. “We’re handling everything with them.” “She’s fine.” And I accepted that they were and she was. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the first mother experience and wouldn’t presume to know what a first mother might need, so I trusted the professionals. I wanted to do the “right thing” for my new daughter’s first mother, and I got the message that the “right thing” was to let the pros handle it. So I took myself off the hook.

I learned a lot over the next 3 ½ years, and I plan to stay on the hook for the rest of my days. My son’s first mother was real to me before I met her. Real to me even before we got The Call. My earliest thoughts were more about her than the baby.
Why is she doing this?
Has she talked with other first mothers?
Has anyone explained to her how her feelings may change as time goes on?
Is she making this choice because she wants to or because she thinks she has to?

I questioned whether or not I even wanted to adopt a second time. The experience this time was all about a woman who had chosen not to parent – I wanted to spend time with her and explore the roots of her decision, her relationship with first father, her thoughts of the future, her family, her needs, her emotions, her questions, her options, her journey, her strength, her conviction, her time with her child – and not at all about us wanting a second child. Honestly, not at all.

So, where am I going with all of this? I’m not sure. These thoughts have been ricocheting around in my head for a while, and I was prompted by Valency’s recent post to type them out and hope to find clarity staring back at me.

It's not yet.

I can wait.

There are a few more things I want to say:
• Every adoption professional I have personally spoken to or worked with has seemed genuinely compassionate and ethical. I don’t believe that any of them are knowingly malevolent or unethical. I have heard of some, but never encountered any.
• I can’t call to mind any APs or PAPs who are intentionally offensive, insensitive, thieving, womb-robbers. None that I know personally. I have found some on the internet, so I know that some are. My point is that many of us aren't.
• I support adoption as an option for first mothers/fathers who do not want to parent. (And yes, they exist, and yes, it’s terribly sad, and no, I can’t imagine being an adoptee that learns that about their first parents.)
• I think it is immoral for any state to make it easier for someone to adopt a child than for first parents to raise a child.
• I think it’s crass and insensitive for PAPs to complain about the cost of adoption or to conduct personal fundraising campaigns to defray their adoption expenses. JMO.
• I am deeply grateful to my children’s first parents for teaching me. I love you.

Click here to purchase Sally's , What I Want My Adopted Child to Know: An Adoptive Parent's Perspective, in softcover, hardcover, or e-book formats.

Sally Bacchetta
The Adoptive Parent
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Reagan's Mommy said...

I completely disagree with the opinion that it is inappropriate for PAPs or APs to complain and/or discuss openly the cost to adopt. I also feel as though fundraisers are perfectly acceptable. Many families have already spent thousands on ART or have chosen not to spend thousands on ART and instead go straight to adoption. IF is unfair, the fact that most insurance does not cover ART is unfair, the fact that fertiles don't have to come up with thousands just to become parents is unfair. Life is unfair - yes, I know - but helping others through that unfairness where you can is perfectly appropriate in my eyes. Helping someone fundraise for the cost of adoption is a great thing. The APs still have the cost of raising that child to take care of on their own. JMO

Cassi said...

*** I am deeply grateful to my children’s first parents for teaching me***

I have to admit, when I started to read the above line I was bracing myself to read the same old "for making me a mother" or something along that line. I now, with my head hung low for assuming, can only say WOW!

I think you are right in the question of how much of it is self-absorption and how much of it is what they are learning, being given, being told, by the adoption professionals they are working with.

It's interesting to me how in so many situations, a woman considering adoption is given all kinds of insight to the hopeful couple. Their struggles if they were unable to conceive, their heartbreak if they have experienced a "failed adoption" their sadness and loss over the long wait for a child of their own.

I know, for me, I was very much encouraged to know and feel the adoptive parents heartache and desire for a child. I was never told "We're taking care of it" or "they're fine." Instead I was told intimately of the struggles they had faced and the pain they had gone through.

It's an interesting dynamic how that works for both sides who are trusting the adoption professionals to be as honest and ethical as they can be.

birthmothertalks said...

A very interesting post. I don't think adoption agencies want people to think of the first parents. That is just my thoughts though.
I don't agree with people raising money to adopt but it's not me to say so. I can just choose not to support that. I been thinking of starting a way to donate for Meld. But I kind of feel like it wouldn't get the support as the adoptive parents do.

Mei Ling said...

"I don't think adoption agencies want people to think of the first parents. "

In a lot of societal perception, the terms "poor", "unintended pregnancy" and "poverty" are all used interchangeably with "do not want to raise."

And that is so very wrong.

Anonymous said...

"I am deeply grateful to my children’s first parents for teaching me."

Thank you Sally, for such a lovely post. I know of many adoptive mothers just like you whose eyes are eventually opened and can see the pain of adoption, not just the pain of infertility. I appreciate your measured and thoughtful response here on your blog.

To Reagan's Mommy - Your observation is unflinchingly correct: life isn't fair. Mind you this is coming from the Book of Melynda, Chapter 3, verse 18, but I just think that talking about how much you spend on purchasing a life is just crass, be it through adoption or ART or any other method. This is a real live, flesh and blood, thinking, feeling, emoting human being we are talking about, not a new car or a puppy. Step outside the pain of IF for a moment and really think about what it would be like for that child-now-adult to stumble upon a website detailing how much their parents had spent on them, along with resentful comments about how "unfair" it was and what a "moral dilemma" (not your words, another woman's) it threw them into.

Does it make your stomach as queasy as it does mine? I worry about the effect such a discussion would have on a child-now-adult...and after all, it is adoption is about that child (who grows into an adult), right? Right?

Once again, all of that is my opinion, take it for what it is worth.


Mei Ling said...

@Reagan's Mommy:

I can see on my adoption papers exactly how much my parents paid for me. It actually sends chills down my spine, and no, not in a good way.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, thank you. I have always been uncomfortable with bloggers who talk about the "cost" of adoption. Frankly I'm appalled any goverment can allow money to change hands in the first place. In our case - in Canada - it is illegal to pay anything to the adoption agency or the first mother. We were not even allowed to give her a gift. It is sickening to me that anyone should profit from adoption. And you're right, adoption is extremely has taken me 7 months to come out of the elated fog I've been in, but yes, I now realize the pain associated with finally having our baby.

Kim said...

I agree with you on the fundraising. It's not like we AP's are going on a missions trip or something - where we would be doing something to help a community and are just asking for sponsorship while we do it. We're getting to be parents! Who asks for sponsorship for their hospital bills when they give birth?

Ditto on the "glad I found you" by the way - now we're THREE that I know of! :)

Amanda said...


I came across your blog when you posted on the tainted halo post as well as my own blog. I just want to say thanks for writing me. But your words made me a little bit sad. I have been told more than once that my words have shed light on the biggest fears of adoptive parents- that theier children, despite having the best in life, would STILL feel the loss of adoption. I've had a good life, even a great life. I was raised with mature, educated and thoughtful parents who supported me in every way possible, and who, when it was time for me to reunite, graciously allowed me the time and space that I needed. I never felt out of place, or unloved. Even my extended family is wonderful. I fit in perfectly with them, and my life has been fulfilling and wonderful.

But being an adoptee can suck. If you read a bit more of my blog, it will give you a better idea about where I am coming from. I am in a fairly reunion, but it's been a rocky ride.

From what I can see, Sally, you are a thoughtful, educated, and compassionate woman. And thats why I know you will understand this next statement I am about to make, which basically summarizes my adoption experience:

Being my parent's daughter is easy....being the daughter my firstparents gave away is not.