Up until I relinquished my son for adoption, I had a pretty rosy view of adoption as a whole. However, I am ashamed to say, I only really thought of it from a hopeful adoptive couple’s point of view. When I did think about the concept of adoption, it was usually when I would hear of a friend or family member hoping to adopt because they could not have children of their own. I would feel terrible for people who had adoptions “fail” and I never considered it from the mother’s viewpoint or the adoptee’s viewpoint. I do not think I was any different than the average Joe who has never had a personal experience with adoption. I believe that the average american with no connections to adoption has a fairly preconceived notion of what adoption means to the people who are living it every day, if they ever think about it at all.
The current Veronica Brown and Baby Desirai cases (among others) have given many of us the opportunity to comment and educate the average Joe about what adoption truly means to the birth mother and adoptee. I can not say I am grateful for the opportunity because of the awful circumstances surrounding these cases, but I can say that it gives me some hope for opening up a dialogue with society at large.
Throughout my travels around the interwebs, commenting on articles, reading others’ comments, I seem to encounter the same basic idea from the average Joe over and over again. It is the idea that birth mothers who seek to educate others about corruption in adoption need to “just get over it”. The underlying assumption is that we, as birthmothers, made our choice and need to move on with our lives.
Do Birth Mothers Ever Truly Move On?
In the spirit of having an open dialogue, I want to address the idea of moving on with our lives after relinquishing. Personally, I have “moved on” with my life the best way I can. I am married, raising 3 children with my husband who I adore. I am active in the school system, volunteering my time and resources as much as I can. I attend school myself. I am not lying in bed everyday, immobile from the sadness of losing my oldest son. I am not wallowing in self pity. From all outward appearances, I have moved on. The grief I feel from my adoption experience is not something that I am ever going to be able to forget. Moving forward with my life does not mean I forget what happened or forget the child I gave up. It is the same with a parent who loses a child to death. They move forward through the pain, but they are never going to forget their child. To expect more from anyone who loses someone close to them, whether that is through death, adoption, drug abuse, and so on, is to expect more than any human being can manage.
A huge part of being able to move forward through the grief is helping and educating others about adoption issues. My adoption experience was not part of the baby scoop era of adoption nor was it a part of the current open adoption trend. I would categorize my experience as being a fairly normal, run of the mill, everyday experience of birthmothers. The “normalcy” of my experience is exactly why I try to educate others on adoption issues. If my “normal” experience left me feeling like this, then everything I was told is wrong. I can not stand by and watch others encourage mothers to give away their children under false pretenses. The prevailing view of adoption by the average Joe needs to change.
Does a Birth Mother Really Make a Choice?
Part of the problem when birth mothers talk about adoption issues, is this notion of choice. We made our choice, we should live with it. We made our beds, we have to lie in them. We are at fault because we did not research the issues. We should have thought about all of that beforehand. When I write about coercion and mis-truths in adoption, and how the corruption involved in adoption negates any real choice, I think it is a hard concept for most people to grasp. It is just too abstract if you have never been subjected to anything like that. I am going to attempt to use an analogy, which I hope will make it easier to understand.
Mr. Smith is experiencing a medical issue. Let’s say it’s a tumor. Mr. Smith has been told by their primary care physician that the treatment for the tumor is either surgery to remove it or chemotherapy. Mr. Smith is referred to an oncologist whom they have never met, but the Mr. Smith assumes since an oncologist is a doctor specializing in cancer that the doctor will be an expert in their field. Mr. Smith been told that this specialist will discuss his treatment options. It is reasonable to assume prior to meeting with this specialist, that the doctor is going to use his experience, his expert knowledge, statistics, medical research studies, medical journals, etc. to recommend the best treatment for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith has his appointment, the doctor recommends surgery to remove the tumor and explains in detail why it is the best course of treatment. The doctor also explains why chemotherapy is not the right option and gives Mr. Smith statistics to reinforce his recommendation against it. Mr. Smith chooses to have the surgery based on his expert doctor’s recommendation.
Mr. Smith has the surgery, and develops some fairly severe complications because of it. Mr. Smith finds out later that the doctor presented false statistics, misrepresented the outcome from chemotherapy treatment, withheld vital information about the possible complications from the surgery, and made a great deal of money by performing surgery on Mr. Smith.
Based on this, would the average person say that Mr. Smith ever made a real choice? I would say no, Mr. Smith was never given accurate information and therefore he could not have made an informed, true, real choice.
Now, let’s go back and replace “Mr. Smith” with “Miss Jones”. Let’s replace “oncologist” and “doctor” with “adoption professional”. Let’s replace “tumor” with “pregnant”.
Miss Jones is pregnant. Let’s say it’s unplanned. Miss Jones has been told by her gynecologist that her options are to raise the child herself or to give the baby up for adoption. Miss Jones is referred to an adoption professional whom she has never met, but Miss Jones assumes since an adoption professional is a person specializing in adoption issues that the adoption professional will be an expert in their field. Miss Jones has been told that this adoption professional will discuss her options. It is reasonable to assume prior to meeting with this specialist, that the adoption professional is going to use their experience, their expert knowledge, statistics, adoption research studies, medical journals, etc. to recommend the best option for Miss Jones and her child. Miss Jones has her appointment, the adoption professional recommends adoption and explains in detail why it is the best option. The adoption professional also explains why raising the child is not the right option and gives Miss Jones statistics to reinforce the recommendation against it. Miss Jones chooses adoption based on the adoption professional’s recommendation.
Miss Jones gives her baby up for adoption, and develops some fairly severe complications because of it. Miss Jones finds out later that the adoption professional presented false statistics, misrepresented the outcome raising her child, withheld vital information about the possible complications from the adoption, and made a great deal of money by facilitating the adoption.
Based on this, would the average person say that Miss Jones ever made a real choice? I would say no, Miss Jones was never given accurate information and therefore she could not have made an informed, true, real choice.
If a person with a life altering medical condition can reasonably assume that a medical professional is going to give them accurate information about their treatment options, shouldn’t a person consulting an adoption professional be able to reasonably assume the same thing about their options?
In real life, there are regulations and repercussions for a doctor who would engage in such practices, including professional ruin. I would expect the doctor in my little scenario to be sued for malpractice and I would expect Mr. Smith to win that lawsuit. There are little, if any, regulations and repercussions for an adoption professional who would do the same. In fact, the scenario I presented above is dead-on accurate for my experience, and an accurate portrayal of many adoptions.
Now, let’s throw in a healthy dose of positive adoption language heaped on Miss Jones and a dash of being in the position to have to consider the hopeful adoptive parents’ feelings and you have the current adoption system in the United States. Does that sound like an informed choice to you, reader?
I know this blog certainly doesn’t get a ton of average, uninterested in adoption, readers, however it is my hope that this oversimplified analogy can shed a little light on the meaning of choice in adoption.