Today is the last day of November, also known as National Adoption Month, and I feel like pouring myself a glass of champagne and then maybe crying into the bubbles. Originally created to call attention to plight of children in foster care, National Adoption month is a particularly harrowing time for birthmothers who are bombarded by media accounts of adoption that don’t reflect the birthmother reality or perspective. National Adoption Month was never meant as a platform for touting infant adoption or foreign adoption or crowd funding for adoption, and I dare say that anyone involved in the foster care system is unlikely to be so delusional as to promote adoption as one big happiness fest. Yet, all of that has somehow elbowed its way onto the stage of National Adoption Month.
And now it’s over. Of course as the media spotlight dims, all of adoption’s worst practices will carry on behind the curtain and the fight against them must continue. Education is key. I’ve only recently found my voice as a birthmother, and in the coming year, I hope for the courage to speak out when the opportunity arises. I’m most grateful to Carrie Goldman and her series 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days as a venue to tell my personal story. “Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series featured guest posts by people with widely varying experiences,” and there’s an awful lot of good reading to be found. My essay, in case you missed it, can be found here.
Oh, and did you know that tomorrow is National Pie Day? I think I can get behind that pretty wholeheartedly.
State Teen Birthrate Dropped to Lowest Level in 20 Years my Los Angeles Times proclaimed earlier this week. Time Magazine ran a similar article a couple of months ago reflecting the same trend nationwide. My heart always takes a little leap when I spot headlines like these. Oh good! some lame portion of my brain concludes. My son and I rode the peak of the adoption wave when he was born and relinquished the summer of 1970. When I read about the decline in teen birthrates I interpret this to mean that there are fewer girls cowering in foster homes hidden in the Iowa countryside, dreading the day of their child’s birth. And while this is most likely true, the demand for babies is still high. The faces and the places have changed, but there are still plenty of birthmothers walking around with empty arms.
The ruckus over Artyom has mostly settled, but I can’t stop thinking about foreign adoption.
I met a woman once–a writer. I was deeply involved in working on my birthmother memoir, and she was writing a book about the the adoption of her two children from Guatemala. We treated each other delicately when we spoke. I assumed her children were orphans.
Then came the conversation when she told me that she wanted me to know how much she appreciated birthmothers in general. “I’ve gone back to Guatemala to see my children’s birthmother,” she said. Then I think she told me that she gave her some money and that the birthmother was very poor and had other children. I couldn’t quite organize anything articulate to say. I mumbled something. I’m not sure what.
I know someone else who has a child from a foreign adoption. I like him very, very much. He’s honest and brave. He’s sweet and smart and has had way more than his share of hurt in this life. I think he told me his child’s father is still alive. I’m almost positive that’s what he said, but there’s something that happens to my brain during conversations like this. I can’t think or hear or begin to hope to say anything smart.
Here is how I wish foreign adoptions would work in the case where the child has a birth parent who is still alive: I would call this sort of adoption The Miriam Project.
The adoptive parents would adopt the parent(s) and the child. And/or sponsor some major life-changing event in the birthparent’s life. Like education, or job training, or provide an upgrade in healthcare and living conditions so that the birthparent could take the child back after a year or two of intervention in whatever sad thing has pushed the parent to the inevitable-seeming breaking point where parting with one’s child seems the only answer. I imagine the American family adopting a foreign child. Like many households, both the wife and the husband work. They need child care; they need the general support and love that all families need to survive. The birthparent(s) could be part of that support network and be supported as well. Blended families are the norm now. Why not blend in a birthparent or two? Like Miriam taking care of her baby brother.
Of course there are the true orphans. But how do we know if there are really no family members who want them. Remember Haiti?