Recycled Child (100% Post-Consumer Content)
I'm going to try to stay rational through this one, because I don't want to spoil it by going off on any rants. It might be hard, but I'm going to do my best. I apologize in advance if I succumb to The Rage along the way. It's also going to be a pretty long one, so you might want to get some chips and a drink. It's okay...I'll wait.
The basic gist of this one has been tumbling around in my head for quite a while, but the time just never seemed right to write it. But earlier this week, my friend Tamsyn pointed me toward Clueless in Carolina, whose "About Me" includes the following: "I am adopted myself, and contrary to popular wisdom, love my parents very much and consider myself ridiculously lucky." I thought to myself, Yes! Fucking A, YES! Someone else who feels like I feel! Someone else who gets it!
I've mentioned it a few times, but not really made a big deal out of the fact that I am adopted. I was adopted in a closed adoption at 25 days old. Five and a half years later, my sister was adopted in a closed adoption at 2 months old. I've always wondered if I should write about it, but it always seemed like a weird topic for a blog entry. I don't really feel like I need to parade my adoptedness around. It's not like I deserve recognition or need special treatment. To me, adoption is how I joined my family. It's not really a big deal. Making a big fuss over it would, to me, feel like a non-adopted person expecting a pat on the back for being born. Besides, who would care about my adoption story, right? Well...seeing Clueless in Carolina's "About Me" made me realize that I do have some things to say on the subject after all.
The last time I visited her blog, her fantastic writing didn't even register (even though it should have), because I was following a link from A Little Pregnant. The original uproar was about breastfeeding and the fact that a speaker booked by the La Leche League [Tricia Smith Vaughan / Tricia Shore / "the Comic Mom" (She's really not very funny.)] had made some inflammatory remarks about breastfeeding, birth control, IVF, postpartum depression, and adoption. I don't really feel like linking to the article she wrote about adoption, because just looking at it makes me feel like my head's going to pop off and fly around biting people (See? The Rage.) If you're interested, you can find it by Googling her name and "No More Mommies?" I'm not really down with having it sitting around on my page, though.
The day I read it for the first time, I sat at my computer in disbelief, feeling my blood pressure going up, speechless with outrage. Few things incense me like the feeling that someone is presuming he/she can speak for me. TSV was adopted as a child, and from cursory reading of some other blogs about the uproar, it sounds like her biological mother was pressured into giving her up in the 1960s. I appreciate that she feels betrayed and that to her, adoption was an ugly thing. I emphatically do not appreciate her crusade against all adoption. How dare she condemn my parents, my family, my childhood, my goddamn fine upbringing (other than the swearing. Sorry, Mom), my sister's childhood (because, dude. Don't mess with my sister, or I'll mess with you right back.)? I emphatically resent her unwillingness to appreciate that I do not feel betrayed, that I do not feel that I am a part of an "artificial family," that I don't think my adoption was a sin in the eyes of God. I wish I was being hyperbolic, but I'm not. Here are some things she had to say about adoption (all underlining added for emphasis):
"Many Christians oppose the idea of two women or two men forming a supposed family by taking someone else's children or paying someone to incubate a child or being impregnated with some anonymous father's sperm. I don't know why the religious only seem concerned when this family tampering occurs with homosexuals. Why does anyone, religious or not, think that forming artificial families is acceptable?"
"Many adoption agencies allude to Moses as the first adoptee, creating the illusion that adoption itself has somehow been sanctioned by God." I'm sure TSV cleared this all up by chatting personally with the Big Man. Especially seeing how pissed off he was about Joseph raising a child that was not biologically his own...oh, wait...yeah, that's called ADOPTION. Good thing God's son didn't have to grow up in an unsanctioned artificial family! That sure would've fucked things up!
"Breastfeeding by a baby's true mother is so natural and helpful to the child that I can't help but wonder why babies are whisked away, often immediately after birth, and the mother is discarded like last month's magazines." I'm not going to get into the breastfeeding angle, because I don't have any authority there. I have to speculate, however, that the reason the babies are "whisked away" is because in situations where the birth mother has chosen to give her child up for adoption, it's less painful for her than making her nurse and bond with a child that she cannot or does not want to keep.
Also, I think it's condescending to minimize what must be an excruciating choice, and often a choice made out of love, by saying the birth mother is "discarded," as if she played no part in the process. Though I'm sure there are many exceptions, I do feel that there is something noble and ultimately deeply rooted in mother-love that motivates some birth mothers to give up their babies so that the babies might have a better chance at a good life. To take on what must be a deep hurt for the sake of a child they might not have wanted, but have taken steps to ensure will be cared for. My birth mother and my sister's birth mother were both 17 years old when we were born. I'm sure their choice was not an easy one. I'm also grateful to the depths of my soul that they made their choice.
"When Moses was an adult, he "went out to his people and looked on their burdens." (Exodus 2:11) Note that the people referred to here are the Hebrews, not the Egyptians who raised him. Imagine this scenario in today's adoption world, in which most states seal truthful birth records and falsify the birth certificates that we adoptees must use." I have no problems with the fact that my birth certificate states that I was born to my parents. In my family, adoption was treated as a perfectly normal way to join a family, just as normal as being born, so it just makes sense to me that my birth certificate should reflect that.
Once again, I appreciate that TSV's adoption was a negative experience, but do not lump me in with you by saying things like "we adoptees." You do not speak for me. You do not speak for my sister. There are hundreds, thousands, millions of us who like being adopted. Please do not denigrate that because you haven't experienced it. I don't condemn TSV for being upset about her adoption, not even for crusading against the kind of apparently forced or coerced adoption that her birth mother was pushed into. In return, I would like it very much if she would refrain from condemning my adoption.
"The truth is that while we have many people who may function in a parental role in our life, we all only have one set of true parents, one mommy and one daddy. Sometimes we are separated, physically, legally, emotionally, or a combination of these, from those parents. Parents, however people like to deny it, can never be replaced. Only when we realize that every child has only one mom and one dad will the idea of "two mommies" become the absurdity that it should be." Again, not touching the anti-gay rhetoric, because RAGE.
Pardon me, but I fundamentally object to the notion that someone is my "true" mommy because she got pregnant and I was the result. I possibly even more deeply object to the notion that someone is my "true" daddy because he got some girl pregnant. If the "true" daddy is an asshole and leaves the "true" mommy, is it right and "sanctioned by God" that the baby can never again have a father, a dad, that the baby can never be lovingly raised and supported by a good, caring man, because God only wanted that baby to have one dad, even if that dad was a horrible person, or just not a good fit with the mom? Fuck that sideways. I would never presume to know what is right for someone else's child. I would never presume to say that a child abandoned by his or her biological father (or mother) is just out of luck. I would never presume to pretend to know how God feels on the subject. (You know, God, who let that lousy false father Joseph pretend to raise his son.)
"Recycling children via adoption has not always been so popular: Prior to 1900, "the general trend . . . seemed to be to attempt to keep mother and child together" (Costigan 28). Even in the early twentieth century, "several states and municipalities passed laws attempting to prevent the separation of mothers and children, and requiring mothers to breastfeed their children for at least three months" (Costigan 30). With so many benefits, emotionally and physically, for the breastfeeding child, this arrangement still seems to be the one that is truly in the best interest of the child." Recycling children? Okay, that's so patently absurd that it's hilarious. I actually LOVE the idea that I'm recycled. It's fantastic! As for the rest of it, I can only address the assertion that legally requiring women who truly do not feel that they can handle motherhood to raise their babies is a good idea, or that legally mandating that women must breastfeed is positive by succumbing, briefly, to a rant: FOR SERIOUS, IS SHE OFF HER FUCKING NUT? That about covers it, I think. Let's move on.
"Parents are created at natural conception and do not change throughout a child's life." Holy crap! I've been living with strangers my whole life!
"In our brave new society, we refuse to believe such permanence. Parents are interchangeable; children are recyclable. If God does not bless us with a child, we cheat. We covet and take someone else's eggs or their child or we sidestep God and go to a fertility doctor who can help us concoct the family we want, selecting for sex or other characteristics if we like. Children are no longer looked upon as a blessing, but as a right. If we are not blessed with any, we believe that we have every right to obtain one, by any means possible." Do you see how this is the last person I'd want to speak for me? Gah. Just, gah.
Now we're getting to the really juicy parts, the parts that made me tremble with anger the first time I read them:
"With stranger adoption, we take children from their natural families and place them with families that aren't their own, asking everyone to pretend that these children belong in those families. ... The next time you become angry at a couple who claims to be "two mommies," ask yourself how often you've capitulated to the rhetoric of this brave new world, how often you've called someone who's never given birth and passed along genes a mother, or how often you've looked at an Asian child with two people who are clearly not her parents and believed that they are family."
After going off on some bizarre tangent about how we'll soon be in a world where all babies are grown in artificial wombs and there are no mothers, she closes with this brilliant gem: "As we head toward this brave new world, let us not blame only homosexual activists for leading us away from true family. The people who approved of stranger adoption and who sat silently while fertility doctors performed their hocus pocus to create babies in a test tube are now reaping what has been sown. When mothers cease to exist, we will have only ourselves to blame."
Ho. Lee. Crap.
Again, let me reiterate that I respect TSV's right to object to forced adoptions, to hate her own adoption experience. However, I am somewhat infuriated over the thought that there's any chance someone might think she speaks for all adoptees, that she speaks for me.
(GOD, this entry is way too long...is anyone even going to read this far?)
I finally decided that it's time for me to speak for myself. I can't change the minds of people like TSV, but I can add my voice to the clamor. I can express how I feel so that there is no room for anyone to ever assume that I agree with the bitter, angry, anti-adoption rhetoric that seems to come up all too often when adult adoptees find a forum. I figure the seeming prevalence of anti-adoption stances over pro-adoption stances probably comes from the fact that people who are satisified with their lives have little reason to get all spun up and rant on the internet / in the media.
So, I'm spun up, and I've ranted on the internet. And here is my personal adoptee manifesto. I don't speak for anyone but myself. I don't assume that anyone feels the way I feel. I can only speak for myself, and I'm the only one who has a right to decide / express to the world how I feel.
I love my parents.
I love my sister.
We are a real family.
We are a good family.
My parents are not perfect people, and they're not perfect parents, but they truly have always been the best parents they knew how to be. Turns out they're among the best parents I know. I've never looked at my friends' parents and wished mine were more like theirs. My parents were and are great parents. If I could choose any parents in the world, I'd choose them in a heartbeat.
I do not for one second believe that God made them infertile because he didn't want them to have children. (I sometimes wonder if they were fated to be infertile because my sister and I were the chidren they were fated to have, and because they could only have us by adoption, but that's a whole 'nother ramble for another time, probably.)
I do not believe that they loved us any less because we were not their "true" children. I do not believe that I love my parents any less because I am not their "true" daughter. If I loved my (supposedly not "true") sister any more fiercely than I do, I would tear apart at the seams.
Do I think my parents ever wondered what it would've been like if they'd had biological children? Sure.
Do I ever wonder what my birth mother was like? Sure. What she's doing now? Sure. But I don't have any interest in tracking her down, or in having her track me down. More than anything, I hope she is at peace with her decision. I wish there was a way to be sure that she knows that her decision blessed me with a wonderful life, a wonderful family.
But that's it. I don't feel empty. I don't feel abandoned. I'm not angry. I'm not wistful. I'm not hiding a deep, abiding hurt with a veneer of sunshiney optimism. Believe it or not, I HAVE NO ANGST about being adopted. I am a blissfully happy adoptee. After all, I have always known, with complete certainty, who my true parents are, and that they truly wanted me and wanted my sister. They have been there with me, every step of the way. And I am so, so, so very lucky to be their true child.
(If anyone is still reading at this point, thanks. I truly, truly appreciate it.)
Just Finished: Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: the quirky history and lost art of diagramming sentences by Kitty Burns Florey
Reading: In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
Playing: disc one of the Grateful Dead's Reckoning