Guilt in Adoption–Why Love and Welfare Aren’t Enough

Wow. I just spent way too much time reading posts on another blog–one written by a birthmother. A disgruntled birthmother. And while reading her story in its entirety explains a lot about where she is coming from, what I really want to talk about is contained here and here. The first post is about how she thinks domestic adoption should be changed. The second is how she feels it should be changed.

Without going into great detail, she feels that all domestic adoptions should go through Children’s Protective Services–because government isn’t involved enough in our lives. Her proposal is that all women considering adoption should be required to attend mandatory brainwashing counseling, in which they would be told all of the “risks” of adoption (by the way, choosing an adoption for your child does not cause secondary infertility any more than adopting fixes infertility–the lifestyle (i.e. sexual) choices that lead a person to become pregnant outside of a stable relationship are frequently compatible with STD’s, which can lead to fertility issues), and then handheld through exactly what government handouts they might qualify for if they were to parent. If, after all of this “education,” they are still misguided enough to want to make an adoption plan, they would not be able to sign away parental rights for, I think it was at least a week, after which there would be a six week revokation period, with an additional two week extension possible. Assuming she hasn’t changed her mind during this two month period, she can then choose adoptive parents, who would be forced to sign a legally binding open adoption contract, giving the birthmother absolute right to visitation. Wait, you may be asking, “What’s going on with the baby during this two month waffle consideration time for the birthmother?” Well, foster care, naturally. Because allowing a birthmother time to be pressured into parenting change her mind is more important than giving a child stability in the first couple of months of his or her life.

There are two main reasons that I am so disturbed by this line of thinking (OK, more than two, but I’m trying to limit my reaction here). First, everything about this is centered on what “feels good” for the birthmother. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think that the feelings of the potential adoptive couple should be the focus. I DO think that potential adoptive parents should be protected much more than they are. I do not think that it should be legal to ask PAP’s to financially support a pregnant woman in ANY way before a child is born–allowing financial support can put too much pressure on the pregnant woman to choose the adoption, as well as (and I think probably more commonly) leaving the PAP’s open to being financially screwed by con artists who have no intention of ever considering adoption. But, without a question, the person whose best interest should be protected is the child.

A very popular line of thinking that I have encountered is that adoption is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” And that, with help from the government, a woman can get through the “temporary” problems and life will be hunky dorey. I’ve experienced too much of life to even begin to believe this. When Sean and I married, we joked that we were bucking family tradition by not having any children first. It has effected several generations in his family. As a result, I get to see it on every level–from the infants of teenage parents to the adults that were raised by them. It is not temporary. Being raised by someone who is neither emotionally or financially ready has life-long implications. At 30-years-old, my husband is still effected by his parents’ lack of their own youth. I have watched friends whose children were more emotionally attached to their grandmothers than their own moms because their mothers weren’t ready to lose their teenage social life. Youth and lack of finances may be temporary, but their effects on young children are not.

This leads me to my other concern–adoption guilt. I think that it is sometimes easy for adoptive parents to feel so much love for their children that they become guilty over what they perceive as depriving the birth parents of that joy. I have a completely open adoption. I am fully conscious of the fact that, four and a half years later, my son’s birth mother and her family still feel great pain over the decision she made. I honestly don’t know if she would change that decision if she could. I feel great sadness over what she has been through–but not guilt. I have no question that he would have grown up surrounded by love. He also would have been cared for financially. He would not, however, have the same stability in his life that he has now.

Is adoption the “ideal” situation? In a lot of ways, I suppose not. But we don’t live in an “ideal” world. If we did, all children would be conceived in a stable, loving relationship with the guarantee of two committed parents that would remain a consistent, positive influence in their lives. Sometimes, families end up more like patchwork quilts. You pick up the scraps and make something beautiful. And make no mistake about it, adoption is a beautiful thing.



Filed under adoption, Soap Box

8 responses to “Guilt in Adoption–Why Love and Welfare Aren’t Enough

  1. “First, everything about this is centered on what “feels good” for the birthmother.”

    Actually, you are incorrect. Many first moms do NOT want their children in foster care at all… they prefer direct placements into adoptive homes. Many first moms do NOT want to wait until after the child is born to pick an adoptive family… they want to pick ahead of time.


    Ask yourself this, okay? If your sister/mother/daughter/best friend (think about the woman you love most in your life) got pregnant, how would you want that woman to be treated?

    Would you want her to get accurate information–good AND bad–about her choices, or would you want people breathing down her neck hoping she’d place, feeding her skewed information? You know, when you get your WISDOM TEETH pulled, the doctor must inform you of the tiniest, most remote risks–like dying from anesthesia–yet we allow women to relinquish their children without ANY discussion of increased rates of depression, PTSD, and suicide? If your daughter was in this situation, wouldn’t you want her to be aware of those risks?

    As for the state… I agree, in its current form it would never, ever work. The thing is, this model DOES work in another country: Australia. Oh, I know, I know, Australia is much different from the U.S. But this is my ideal… not something I think we can achieve in a few years… so am I not allowed to dream big?

    Thanks for the link and discussion. I do hope you’ll continue to read, not just my blog, but the ones on my blogroll, too. There are actually many of us–biological parents, adoptees, AND adoptive parents–who very much believe in drastic adoption reform and want to see the money eliminated from adoption, and want to see family preservation emphasized FIRST.

    Happy reading!

  2. Mixed Nuts

    There are a few things that I should probably clarify. And a couple of things that I should add that weren’t included in my initial post, but will give subtext to some of my comments. I didn’t start my blog to be any kind of an activist–I just think that I have a lot of experiences to share as a mother of a(transracially) adopted son, with biological children and experiencing another pregnancy. This was just meant to be a stream-of-consiousness sort of thing. I was already contemplating what I see as a culture of forced guilt upon adoptive parents when I found your posts and, well, here we are.

    First, I was not refering to all birthmothers when I said this was about what “feels good for the birthmother.” I was referring specifically to your recommendations. I am very aware that prebirth matching is driven as much by the desires of many birthmothers as it is by adoptive parents. And there are many adoptive parents who would do away with the practice, too. I was honestly grateful that our match period was only one week–that was stressful enough.

    As for the subtext–please understand that I don’t go into anything in life without researching. Completely. During the four years that I considered adoption, I read books, surfed the internet, went to chat rooms for both adoptive parents AND birthmothers. I also did something that few potential adoptive parents get the opportunity to do. I was a volunteer for an adoption agency (something I’m guessing you won’t particularly like). Ironically, the agency I volunteered (and eventually adopted) through is one that you mentioned specifically in your posts–LDS Family Services. And while you are correct that the stance of our religion is absolutely that a child should be raised in a two-parent home (and I believe that our society would benefit from more people thinking this way), you weren’t completely accurate in how you portrayed that in regards to adoption practices at our agencies. Certainly, girls who are LDS are aware that the official stance is that the first/best option is to raise their child, with its father, as a married couple (where possible), and that the second best option for the child is adoption. But, having gone through the agency’s outreach training, and having been present with birthmothers and social workers, I can guarantee you that protocol is to also help girls realistically explore parenting by themselves–including budgeting, potential resources within the family, and potential resources through government aid. I realize that this isn’t how it works in every agency, but you seem quick to conclude that it is. I agree that unethical agencies should be dealt with swiftly and severely–I just don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    In regards to your question about how I would feel if someone in my life had experienced an unplanned pregnancy: Been there. Recently. And I think the only thing that she didn’t get a lot of information or encouragement about was adoption. Which brings me to another one of the things I left out of my initial post. I am truly disturbed that we live in a society where it is becoming more socially acceptable to abort than to make an adoption plan. This week, you commented to a girl seeking your advice that she should absolutely not consider adoption under any circumstance and that, if you found yourself in a similar circumstance again, you would choose abortion. My son’s birthmother was encouraged by some to make that choice. I can’t look into his beautiful face and not be furious at the thought that someone wanted to deny MY CHILD the chance to live his life so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

    You mention that potential birthmothers should be informed of the possible emotional repercussions of choosing adoption. I absolutely agree. They have a right to an informed decision (not one that tries to bully them one way OR the other). But why doesn’t anyone ever want to mention that women who abort are at just as much risk for these same emotional outcomes?

    So, how do I think that potential birthmothers should be treated? As adults. With respect. Without being made to feel guilty, or ignorant, for their choices–INCLUDING if that choice is to place a child for adoption. They should be given the choice of when that placement is to be made. They should be allowed to choose a couple beforehand if that is what they truly want. They should be offered professional counseling that is without bias. They should be given the respect that every intelligent person deserves.

  3. Welcome to the fray. Although Nicole has her points, not everyone speaking in terms of “reform” and “family preservation” is willing to have conversations with adoptive parents that don’t require full flagellation in advance.

  4. Mixed Nuts

    LOL. That brings up something else I didn’t include in the post–I did my homestudy teach-you-how-to-be-adoptive-parents classes at my local department of Children’s Services (my agency was too far away). Anyhoo…left me with plenty of opinions about “family preservation” and “reform.” As in, “Our main objective is to preserve biological families. Now, let’s look at photos of what happens when we fail.”

    No question–there is always room for improvements. Especially the kind that keep the best interest of the child in mind.

  5. You know the funny thing is Sandra, I just a few days ago got an email from an adoptive parent who delurked to me saying that she was very grateful to read a first mom blog that did NOT blame adoptive parents or spew hatred toward them.

    Flagellation? No, I don’t want anyone flagellating themselves.

    Mixed Nuts… you seem to have missed the point of my earlier question. If a woman you were very close to WAS inundated with information on adoption, but was ONLY presented with positives–no risks–and then she chose to relinquish based on that info, thinking there were no long-term negatives–and THEN found that some of the long-term negatives applied to her, after placement… wouldn’t you be a bit upset? Would you think she’d been treated fairly?

    LDS Social Services has some serious issues. Even the language on their website is atrocious. I’m sure that, like with Bethany, various offices offer various qualities of services to expectant moms. But at the root of the organization, there’s a problem–for both agencies (and not just those two, either).

  6. Quote: As in, “Our main objective is to preserve biological families. Now, let’s look at photos of what happens when we fail.”

    No question–there is always room for improvements. Especially the kind that keep the best interest of the child in mind.


    Oh, forgot to say… I seriously hope you are not trying to compare voluntary infant relinquishment with foster adoption. They are two totally different ball games. The typical mother who voluntarily relinquishes a newborn would not abuse or neglect her children if she parented.

  7. Mixed Nuts

    No, Nicole, I really don’t feel like I missed your point. I am beginning to wonder, however, if you missed mine. As I said before, there are unethical agencies and they should be dealt with (actually, this is a bit of a sore spot today, since the practices of unethical agencies are causing additional red tape that is keeping my nephew in an orphanage EVEN LONGER). I don’t think they are in the majority. And I don’t think that even the unethical ones are as one-sided as you paint them. But you honestly leave me with the impression that you feel that anyone who doesn’t advise a pregnant woman to run like hell from the concept of adoption is being unethical.

    And that is where I am getting discouraged in this discussion. I am more than willing to have an exchange of views, but I’m beginning to feel that you are intentionally ignoring many of the things I have said and coming back to the same point–one that is based on the assumption that all adoption agencies are willfully feeding pregnant women a stack of lies to trick them into making a “bad” decision. I recognize the fact that nothing I say will change your opinion on this topic.

    I would be interested in your response to what I have seen in four generations of teenage parents (literally from infancy to grandparents–heck, maybe even great-grandparents if suspicions are true). Or your justifications behind the abortion advice.

    As far as the CPS comments, no, I wasn’t drawing that comparison–it was more a commentary on the organization that you feel, in an “ideal” situation, would facilitate your plan. BUT, since you brought it up, I do think there is something worth looking at. In both situations, the assumption is the the birth family is automatically the “ideal” situation, even if they need to be “fixed” first. Also, in the 28(?) hours of training that it took me to become certified to foster parent, we talked a lot about what the main stressors are that lead to abusive situations. Some of the biggies? Lack of support, lack of financial stability, lack of stability in general–many of the things that are frequently present in young, single mothers. Does this mean that someone will become an abuser because they choose to parent? Absolutely not. Given the known stressors, though, I would be really interested in the statistics regarding what percentage of parents involved with Children’s Services are raising their children on their own.

  8. Nicole,

    On the flagellation thing …you may not, but we all know those who can’t approach an adoptive parent without a bull whip in one hand, a cat o’ nine tails in the other and major demands that we fall to our knees and prepare to do penance … and like it!

    When called to account for such outrageousness, the response is always “reform!” or “family preservation!”, meaning “stop adoption now!”, completely ignoring the legions of children for whom adoption has been the best possible option.

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