At face value, the list you’ll find below is written most especially for the folks – as prospective adoptive parents – searching adoption-related keywords who find themselves landing here at musings:mamahood&more. Since I see your searches and know you’re here, I’ve got something to share with you that I, as an adoptive mother, believe is truly invaluable.
Yet much of this also will benefit those on the fringe of adoption – someone who knows someone who …, or someone who’s watched one too many Lifetime movies (just one is too many, by the way) and thinks they know all about adoption thankyouverymuch.
In either case, the list that follows is a must-read. For the former, there are things you must understand before you adopt. It’s that simple. Things that, for the good of the child you will love and should want to raise to a healthy adulthood, you must understand — and embrace. For the latter, consider this a crash course on some realities of adoption. Perhaps you will better understand its nuances and realize that no one person in an adoption is better, or more worthy, or more deserving of respect, or, or, or … than the other.
And although it feels like the words that follow surely were stolen from my own mouth, mind and heart while I slept, these truths actually come from Tina of Hearts Wide Open — she is both an adoptee and an adoptive parent. Brava to her for succinctly and smartly putting it all out there.
She describes her list as “ideas and concepts to reconsider during your wait.” With her permission, I’m publishing it here because I believe so very heartily in its message and its import.
1. She is not a birth mother if she hasn’t given birth or signed termination of parental rights. If you are ‘matched’ with a pregnant woman considering adoption, she isn’t ‘your’ birth mother and the baby isn’t ‘yours’ either.
2. Let’s give the terms original mother, first mother and other mother a fighting chance. Consider a woman’s feelings and worth and how you’re reducing her role when you call her ‘birthmother’.
3. Don’t ever breathe one single negative word about your child’s mother, father, state, country, race or culture. Not for any reason. If there are disturbing facts in the situation, state them plainly and support the feelings that may come. But don’t add commentary.
1. Tough, but the truth. No one owes you anything. Infertility does not buy you the right to parent someone else’s baby. This fact sucks, but there it is.
2. This isn’t going to win over any friends, but here it goes: God did not handpick or decide to have someone else get pregnant for your benefit. Believe me, I understand how it feels that your child is perfect for you, was the missing piece in your family, or is spiritually connected to you. That still does not mean there was a grand, benevolent or divine plan to have a misfortune befall a woman so a child could fulfill your family, or so that you could feel as though you are doing what your church teaches you is right. Children are not pawns. Neither are their mothers. Also, just because you believe that children ought to have a two-parent home in which the parents are married, this still does not earn you the right to dictate what ought to happen to that child.
3. Along these lines, later in life, do not tell your child he or she ‘grew in the wrong tummy’. Do not tell them that he or she was ‘chosen’. Do not tell him you were able to give him ‘a better life’. It’s a different life. You can’t know that your family and life would be better. [My added qualifier here: This, of course, does not refer to a child experiencing abuse.] Don’t go into an adoption without the implicit understanding that your family will be different than if you had children biologically. You are taking on extra responsibilities [My emphasis added]. This means that your child needs nurturing that encompasses their feelings which typically include, but are not exclusive of: lifelong feelings of rejection, insecurity, a certain ‘otherness’ and also feelings of grandiosity. Do you have a long-term plan to support your child if you begin to see these things creep up? Do not minimize the impact of adoption. (Yes, even if you adopted at birth.) If you could, ask any newborn baby who they want to be with. They want to be with that lady who sounds familiar.
4. Put your infertility issues in the past. If you are adopting straight out of your doctor’s stirrups, you are setting up a highly charged situation which can propel you into unethical behavior such as coercion of a pregnant woman. It isn’t appropriate for a woman to decide on adoption until after her baby is born, [and she should have] an advocate who is talking with her about all her options and telling her of the support available to her. If you have a serious broken heart and a houseful of baby stuff — that’s some serious danger! A child you adopt should not be put to work by being there to heal the serious and lingering pain of infertility. Besides, healing doesn’t work that way, anyway.
5. Do nothing but encourage honest feelings from your child about how they see their adoption.
6. Do not lie or misrepresent facts to your child. Adoption happened to your child and they had no say in the matter. Honor your child with the truth. Do as much as you can to obtain their original birth certificate.
7. If your child is old enough to know their name, which is probably younger than you might think it is, don’t change it.
8. Just because you see the world and people of color as being represented by a beautiful rainbow of colors does not mean the rest of the world does. The public can be a cruel place for your child. People say stupid and racist things. Be prepared for this if you have adopted a child whose skin color does not match yours. How will you teach your child tolerance while others are being intolerant?
1. Read Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherry Eldridge. [Edited to add: There are other such books worth a read – look hard for them. Some parts might be tough to read, but they are a necessity. One of Tina’s commenters recommends Outsiders Within to anyone involved in or considering a transracial adoption.
2. Don’t read books about how you can say and do things that will speed up the process. (Yes, there is a book like this.)
CHECK ON YOUR AGENCY:
Check with your state for any grievances or complaints on file regarding your adoption and/or placing agency. E-mail previous clients, find those not on the list given by the agency.
This is not a transaction. We are dealing with human lives. And, as beautiful as you might see the whole idea of adoption, for those of us who have experienced the many feelings of loss because of adoption, we ask you to consider the above.
Don’t strip away or deny what is real and what may be troubling for the others involved, namely your child and his or her mother. Please uphold the bond between mother and child. Celebrate family — the one you’ve created and the family that your child also has somewhere else.
If you can’t do these things, or at the very least, aren’t willing to examine and challenge your given ideas and even your core beliefs, then you probably aren’t ready to be an adoptive parent.