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Adoption Blog: Raising a Rainbow

Seeing Adoption from the Other Side, Part One

There are moments in every person's adoption journey that reshape our beliefs and challenge us to think of adoption in a new way. Befriending Jessica* was one such moment for me.

I was once like most prospective adoptive parents. To put it bluntly, I was baby hungry. My husband and I whipped through the adoption process to-do list: background checks, interviews, classes. To me, this was all red tape that was keeping me from what, or should I say who, would be mine, all mine. I spent days putting together a sleek adoption profile book full of beautiful photographs and detailed captions. "Ta-da!" our profile practically shouted. "Look how fabulous we are!"
I thought little about the loss that adoption would entail for our child's biological parents. I figured that they would give us their child and move on with their lives, happy to receive occasional pictures and letters and knowing that their child would have the best of the best.
Plus, my husband and I would be all the child would truly need. Bring on the beach vacations, the Pottery Barn nursery, and the slew of congratulations from family members and friends. In addition to those material benefits, we would, of course, be star parents: always patient, encouraging, and loving. Life would be perfect.
But the longer I waited for our first child, the more I began to think about the other, our child's biological mother. Each time our profile book was shown to an expectant mother, I found myself wondering how she was feeling and what she was thinking. Was she excited? Full of dread? Confident? Uncertain? Naturally, being told by our social worker that we weren't chosen, yet again, was difficult, but I knew that our disappointment could hardly compare to the crisis the expectant mother was facing.
During the 14-month wait to be matched with our first child's birth mother, I befriended a young woman named Jessica. She was in her mid-twenties and expecting her first baby. The biological father wasn't involved, and she was scared and uncertain. What was best for her unborn baby girl? Adoption or parenting?
The more time I spent with Jessica, the more I realized that she wasn't the birth mother stereotype that the media, society, and even adoptive parents throw around. Jessica was strong. She was going to college, and she had worked at the same job for several years. She was a talented artist, a dedicated runner, and a fantastic aunt to her darling and active nephew. One thing was clear: she loved her unborn baby dearly. She talked about baby names. She thought about how she could make parenting work. She was a mother long before her child was born.
When I met Jessica she had recently quit her job due to the discomfort of her pregnancy and the gossip she experienced at work. She wasn't sure how she could support a child without working multiple jobs. Then, of course, she would hardly see her child. The other issue was Jessica's education. How could she work several jobs, go to school, and provide the baby with all she needed? How well could she parent without the participation of the baby's father?
Jessica and I frequently discussed the pros and cons of parenting or adoption. There were many people in Jessica's life advocating for one choice or the other, but I attempted to remain neutral and, thus, supportive of her judgment. After all, she would be the one living with her life-altering choice. On several occasions, I wanted to scream at everyone to shut up and let Jessica be alone with her thoughts.
I realized that women like Jessica who are in crisis pregnancy situations aren't just going to "get over" placing a child for adoption. The loss will be grieved forever, no matter how open the adoption, no matter how many beautiful things and experiences the adoptive parents can provide the child, and no matter how much fluffy adoption terminology is used. The loss of a child, even voluntarily, is raw, cyclical, and ever-present. No holiday would ever be normal again. Nor would attending a baby shower or visiting a new mom in the hospital. Mundane activities like going to the store or watching television could lead to her seeing a pregnant woman walk by or a dad joyfully pushing his newborn in a stroller. All reminders of what could have been.
The evening after Jessica gave birth to her daughter, I visited her at the hospital. Jessica was still uncertain about her decision, torn between the caramel-colored baby with the silky black hair and the fragile task of parenting. The little girl was no longer safe in her mother's womb, tucked away from the influences of the world. It was time to choose. 
*Name changed to protect privacy

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This is so beautifully written, and a much-needed perspective around here.  I’m not bashing, just noticing how very heavy we are on the adoptive parent population, and how very light we are on the adoptee or first parent populations.  I understand why it is that way, I just also appreciate the balance of other perspectives.  Thanks for sharing this!

By Thalas'shaya on Saturday, January 07, 2012 at 7:48 pm.

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