I have another piece that was featured on Medium yesterday.
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.
I went to Catholic grade school in the 60s. It was customary to forego one’s morning carton of milk that, I believe, cost two or three cents and instead give over your pennies to the pagan baby fund. When we had raised the required amount of money, Sister would announce that the class had enough money to “adopt” a baby from Africa. These babies were not really removed from their families, but were baptized and given Christian names. We children voted on the names after several nominations were placed on the blackboard. After a show of hands, Sister would count up the hash marks next to each name. Some weeks later a certificate with the baby’s new Christian name would arrive and be proudly displayed in our classroom. I have no idea if the children were really called Christine Mary, or David John, or whatever it was that we chose. I don’t know if the money was an honorarium for the missionary priest who did the honors–or if maybe the money was used to bestow gifts on the child’s family as an incentive for converting to Catholicism, or if it bought fancy white baptismal gowns.
This practice seemed unbelievable when I recalled it years later as a grown-up former Catholic. It felt archaic and colonial, full of presumption and perhaps even harm. Crowd funding for foreign infant adoption makes the pagan baby racket feel like child’s play.
What I would like to say to everyone who is happily celebrating National Adoption Month is this: You are happy. Good.
Some of us are dying inside. This piece in the Huff Post by Mirah Riben explains it rather succinctly in rant-less fashion.
You might also want to read this. Tarikuwa Lemma is as eloquent as a poet about her own adoption.
And as if a National Adoption Month and a National Adoption Day are not enough, there’s now 4 million bucks recently crowd funded for an International Adoption Day (which was yesterday.) Here’s a quote from the article in Forbes just in case you’re too busy eating your Happy Adoption Day cake to read the whole thing: “The main obstacle to adopting a newborn child is the cost.” Checking out their website, I’m willing to concede that maybe these folks aren’t dealing exclusively in newborns, but where is the original focus of National Adoption Month? According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children, there are currently over 100,000 children in foster care who cannot be reunited with their original families. Is this crowd funding effort connecting families with those kids? Maybe, but it looks like international infant adoption is the focus.
So while you’re toasting to your happy family, know that I’m happy for you if you’re all happy. I know that some adoptions are good and necessary and healing adoptions. I’d just like a deep breath, a pause, a nano-second of silence in which the happy consider the gravity of the loss also associated with adoption.
Now party on. Festoon your house with balloons. I’m going to change my brightly colored clothes and find something black.
photo credit: New York Times
Begun in 1976 in the state of Massachusetts as a way of bringing awareness to the plight of children in foster care, it seems that designating a month to this consciousness has its heart in the right place. This year the focus is on sibling connections–which I hope means that siblings ought to remain together, rather than be separated by adoption. All of this is mostly good. I’d prefer a campaign that got more to the heart of things. Something like “Adoption: Designed for Children Who Need Families.”
National Adoption Month can be a festival of pain and frustration for people who’ve been separated from their loved ones through adoption when it’s paraded about as a fairy tale. Because it’s often not.
But there’s always plenty to read. Type adoption into the search box on Facebook and see what turns up. Check out the links under the take action tab in this blog. Keep your eyes and ears open, and ask yourself how often it’s really necessary to remove an infant from a mother simply because she is very young, economically disadvantaged, or lacks family support. Is that ever really necessary?