Editor’s Note: I was about ten when my mother led my Brownie troop on a trail-marking expedition in High Point State Park (NJ). Nearly twenty of us, along with three adults, divided into three groups: One to mark the trail, one to follow it, and one to clear away the markings as they followed the second group.
My mother led the first group along the path, on what was supposed to be a two-hour hike; we were to wind up back at the parked cars that held our post-hike refreshments. Instead, Mom took a wrong turn, and led our troop several miles up the Appalachian Trail (which runs from Maine to Georgia).
Three hours later, we were still hiking. Exhausted. Hungry. Thirsty. We sat down to wait for the two other groups to catch up … and one of them eventually did. (In their excitement, the second group had obiterated the carefully laid trail, so there were no marks remaining for the third group, who simply gave up and returned to the car to wait for us.)
Another hour passed, and finally Mom decided we would make our way to the interstate for help. So there we were — a dozen bedraggled, hungry, whiny tweenagers and two adults who were doing their best to hold it together — huddled by the side of the road somewhere in upstate New York, trying to bum a ride. (Sadly, there was no “hitchhiker” badge in the Brownie Hand Book.)
Finally, some vacuum salesman from Poughkeepsie gave my mother a lift back to her car, and a full six hours after we were originally supposed to have returned, we pulled in to the school parking lot. This was in the days before cell phones, and by that time parents were frantic.
We had less than half our troop at the next meeting. But it wasn’t so bad: I had a story that stayed with me for life.
These past two weeks I feel as though I’ve been hiking that Appalachian Trail again — this time as the leader. Trying to read the signs, to point the way for those who follow, and to keep “my troops” (my own family) safe and happy and well-fed. And these two weeks, I feel as though I’ve allowed myself to wander far afield.
The purpose of EMN is — and always will be — to support the mothers of adopted, foster, and special-needs children. Our vocation is not an easy one, and most of us have enough ugliness and pain in our lives that we don’t need to go looking for more.
And so, it’s time to get back on track. The other two sides of the adoption triad — natural/birth mothers and adult adoptees — already have plenty of places where they can go to address their needs and wants, and to express their pain and loss.
This site … is for extraordinary mothers. Our hopes. Our struggles. Our faith. Our journeys. If and when other voices chime in, their comments should reflect an understanding of the needs of mothers of adopted, foster, and special needs kids.
And so, let’s head back to the parking lot, shall we? Here’s a guest post from “Mighty Mom” to lead us there — to remind us of the realities of adoption from the ADOPTIVE parents’ point of view. (My notes are in brackets).
I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up much. It seems to me you’ve gotten a bunch of adult adoptees who have not faced that their being adopted was the result of a decision their mothers made, because of the place their mothers were at the time.
Each person has to make their own decisions in this life, and birth mothers must, like the rest of us, do the best they can with what they have at the moment. In many cases, the decision birth mothers make is a painful one — too terribly painful to face [decades later].
Just as adoptees need and deserve to be treated gently and with great love and grace, so too do the birth mothers. And so do adoptive parents.
I would like to explain a bit about my experiences with trying to adopt. My information comes from personal experience and the experiences of my friends who are adoptive parents or trying to become adoptive parents.
Anyone who wants to adopt a child in America is automatically going to be pushing a boulder UP a mountain. There are many many more parents wishing to adopt than there are babies available, thanks to the ease and acceptance of abortion. [Editor’s Note: The NCFA “Adoption Factbook IV” estimates that in 2002 there were 17 domestic adoptions for every 1000 abortions.]
Many parents choose to adopt from the foster system or choose babies that have special needs. These paths are easier [in the beginning] because the baby/family ratio is bigger. For those that do not feel adequate to handle these paths, they must become contestants in a ruthless beauty pageant.
After the home studies and such are accomplished and you are deemed “worthy to adopt” by the authorities, you endure the process of finding a baby. This can be done through an agency or independently… in the end it amounts to much the same thing:
A pregnant lady (the one and only judge in the adoptive parent “beauty pageant”) decides she wants to put her baby up for adoption, then interviews as many families as she chooses … and takes as long as she likes to make a decision between them, even playing one against the other.
While she’s deciding, she can negotiate with any or all of the families she’s debating between, these negotiations include paid medical and living expenses. Most prospective parents will take the birth mother’s assurance (an assurance they are desperate to hear) that they are to become her baby’s parents, and will give her anything she asks. Really, what other choice do they have?
The problem is, there are NO guarantees, and NO recourse if the birth mother decides not to give her baby to this family. She’s under no obligation to give any of that money back. She simply takes the baby … and leaves the adoptive parents with the debts, crushed and wondering if they could possibly survive this kind of agony.
This is what adoption looks like from the other side of the waiting room — a very different view of that “vultures hovering over a pregnant girl.” Instead, you see a woman string along 3 different families, promising her child to each….gathering “gifts” from each….over the course of 6 months.
[The sympathy, of course, is with the “poor mother.” Of COURSE she should be able to change her mind. Of COURSE she should raise her own child if she is able to provide a stable, loving home. However, this “badge of motherhood” is not a license to manipulate and deceive those who are in some ways just as vulnerable as she is.
Many prospective parents choose International Adoption simply to avoid this kind of scenario. Not to exploit some poor woman in another country. But to offer a child whose prospects are limited the chance at a good life.
America has a lot to offer, and we are wealthy in the eyes of the world. If I were to bring a child from another country…a poor and underdeveloped country… into my home, I could offer that child opportunities that they would otherwise never have.
Many people who live in poor countries outside of the USA still see us as the land of milk and honey, the American Dream, the land of opportunity. When a mother is unable to provide for her child all the things he needs just to survive, it takes great courage and sacrifice to let that child go. She does it to give him or her the opportunity for a different, and what she hopes will be a better, life.
Of course, most children that are adopted and brought into America are not living with their mothers. They scratch out a living in overcrowded orphanages or foster homes. These children survive, but most often they do so without the individual love that a mother and father shower on their children. I hope that one day God allows me to take a child from an orphanage and bring it into my home to be loved.
[Once the child comes home, and the family begins to form a bond with that child, the gap between the vision and reality of parenthood can be a great one — even greater than biological parents experience.
[Adoption is a lifelong experience that extends from infancy to young adulthood. And so, in addition to the misgivings most new parents experience, adoptive parents go through life wondering if they will ever be able to live up to the promises they made to the birth mother, to the child, and to themselves.
[Yes, we can provide that child with all the comforts money can buy — but do we have within ourselves all we need to give this helpless soul all the love and support he needs? Can we ever hope to be truly “his parents”? Or do we have to resign ourselves to be a distant second best, good enough to change the diapers and kiss the boo-boos and teach the ABCs … and just waiting for the day when his “real parents” can reclaim their prize, or he gets old enough to accuse us of ruining his life?
[This is the reality of adoptive parenting. The divine love we are called to imitate … always involves a cross. And because we are no more perfect than any other parent, there are times when we fail to love as perfectly, as selflessly, and with as much detachment as we ought. It is then we learn the meaning of family as “domestic church” — a group of people, united together as children of God, who help one another all the way to heaven.
[In discussions about adoption, it is so important to remember that each side has its story — that there are winners and losers on each side of that triad. Birth mothers who are honestly struggling to do the right thing … and those who out of immaturity or plain selfishness exploit others, even their own child. Adopted children who love their adoptive parents for the sacrifices they’ve made for them, and those who turn their grief and loss on the only readily available target. And adoptive parents who become so obsessed with parenthood that they make themselves willing pawns in the hands of unscrupulous profiteers, and those who just do the best they can to find a child who needs them and give themselves wholeheartedly to tending to the needs of that child … the child they believe God has chosen to fill their empty arms.
[So often these past few weeks I’ve heard the idea that “Adoption is not about finding children for families, but finding families for children.”
[Actually, it’s about both. Each side has a void only the other can fill. If that were not true, there would BE no adoption. And children would suffer for it. Many children ARE suffering and dying because their “natural” parents did not have the courage to do the loving, the courageous, the lifegiving … the RIGHT … thing.]
Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your story.