“Bridges” is a short story. It’s brand new, and it’s published here.
This story is not about adoption per se. But it is about lies. And secrets. And about reunion. If you want to read more pieces, both fiction and nonfiction, about adoption, you can find them here.
And speaking of lies, secrets, and adoption, here’s a shocking new piece about adoption from South Korea. So many parents told lies about their children. So many children told lies about their parents.
“You would see 70 or 80 babies in the infant’s nursery, and then, one day, 20 or 40 would be suddenly gone,” he said.
Adoption. Anti vs. Pro. I don’t want a line in the sand. I’m not pro-adoption, and I don’t want to be anti-adoption either. But. Please read on.
My boyfriend died of lung cancer in June. We’d only been together for five years, so there was a lot I didn’t know about him. Dan had been at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, while I was a boy-crazy 8th grader at a Catholic school in Iowa. Even before that, if I have the timeline correct, he’d joined the Freedom Riders and had gone down to Mississippi. An old friend of his told me that while he was down there he was arrested and taken to jail. “Are you black or white?” Dan was asked over and over again as they were preparing lock him up. Dan, a Korean-American, wouldn’t answer the question, but as the questioning got more aggressive, Dan finally went with white. He was jailed anyway.
I’m telling this story as an introduction.
Why I’m not pro-adoption
I do not imagine ever aligning myself with the folks who call themselves pro-adoption. But, I might be in favor of some adoptions. But the label pro-adoption would need to be dissected and arranged in such a way that it didn’t mean unnecessary adoption. I might be in favor of some adoptions if it didn’t mean secrets and shame and sealed records. If it didn’t mean child trafficking or endangerment or taking children from poor single mothers and giving them to couples with a bigger bank account. I might if family preservation came first and foremost.
I don’t want to be anti-adoption
But I don’t really want to be anti-adoption either. Not straight across the board. I acknowledge that there are children who need to be removed from their biological parents–at least temporarily. Still, adoption is no guarantee there will not be abuse. I acknowledge that there are children in orphanages and in foster care that need families. Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy elaborates on the anti-adoption label in her ESSAY from Portrait of an Adoption and pretty much covers everything. So, yes, if I have to choose, I’ll have what she’s having. But only if it’s served up like that.
Reform of the adoption industry is absolutely necessary. But I don’t like the line in the sand. I’m guessing that a lot of the people who label themselves as pro-adoption don’t really want to associate themselves with the corrupt practices present in adoption today. Or at least I hope not. So I wish they wouldn’t say they were pro-adoption without writing an essay defining it.
Strength is something we seek. Taking a stand is admired. Fervent seems like a nice adjective. But maybe we all have to stand together in the middle of the hurt and confusion explaining every little thing to one another, listening as hard as we can.
The death of Edward Hirsch’s son has inspired a book length elegy. The article, “Finding the Words,” in the August 4th issue of The New Yorker, begins:
In October, 1988, my friends Janet Landy and Edward Hirsch flew to New Orleans to adopt a boy who was six days old. He was collected from the hospital by their lawyer, who brought him to the house where they were staying. Waiting for her, they stood in the street in front of the house. For several days, they worried that the mother, overcome by love or by guilt might want the child back, but she didn’t.
Later in the piece we learn, “Hirsch had a cousin who was a lawyer in New Orleans, who put him in touch with the woman at his firm who sometimes handled adoptions. In August, 1988….the lawyer called and said that a young woman had approached a colleague.” This is all we are given regarding Gabriel’s birth and his birthmother. Perhaps this is fitting since the story is about Hirsch’s grief and the book-length elegy that grew out of his suffering over the death of his son. But from my perspective as a birthmother, even as I followed the trajectory of Gabriel’s life and of Hirsch’s profound sorrow over the loss of him, a piece of my heart lay lodged in that first paragraph with the woman who had given up her son.
An excerpt from the elegy
Hirsch describes a section of the elegy he wrote as being extremely important to him:
I did not know the work of mourning
Is like carrying a bag of cement
Up a mountain at night
The mountaintop is not in sight
Because there is no mountaintop
Poor Sisyphus grief
I did not know I would struggle
Through a ragged underbrush
without an upward path
Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders
Hirsch’s recognition that never ending grief over the loss of a loved one as a common experience connects the reader with an abiding truth. But I couldn’t help but wonder if he ever thought of the woman who might still imagine her son walking the earth, whole and healthy. She (and the rest of Gabriel’s birth family) has suffered a loss more terrible than his relinquishment, only she doesn’t know it.
I do not mean to say that Hirsch’s grief is any less because his son was adopted. I don’t mean that at all. I just can’t help imagining a mother thinking daily of the boy she gave away. And how, now that he has rounded the corner of official adulthood, it might be a good time to search for him. Perhaps, even though she did not merit a mention in the New Yorker story, Hirsch does give her a nod somewhere in the elegy. I hope so. She has been carrying her bag of cement since Gabriel was six days old.