Educating Future aMoms

The young lady featured with me in the photo above is my friend E.  I met E 11 years when she came to the United State as an au pair.  My then husband and I hosted her for 13 months. During those thirteen months she helped care for my son and provided me with much needed sanity, fun, laughs and love.  She wasn’t my first au pair, nor was she last, but she was definitely one of the best.  She became a member of our family.

E came back to visit us a few weeks go. We hadn’t seen her in eleven years. She is now 30 years old, owns her own home and is a mother to her own 8 year old son. Having her with me, again, for two weeks caused me to feel nostalgic and reflect on how blessed I was to have her in my life, how much she helped me, the love she gave my son (and still does only now he is 15 not 3!).  My son is now a wonderful soon to be 15 year old boy and I am quite confident that I have her (and our other au pairs) to thank, in part, for who he is. The love and care they gave to him when I was not able to (due to working a demanding job) will never be forgotten and in fact, is seen, daily, in his smile and  heard in his voice.

As nearly all things do, her visit caused me to reflect on adoption. There is no obvious connection to cause me to think adoption. She is not adopted, not a birth mother, not even aware of the American concept of adoption since in her culture – Swedish by nationality and Iranian by blood – it is more foreign to her than the USofA.  What caused me to think adoption is the very fact that she HELPED me raise my son.  She did not take him from me, did not claim her as her own, she helped me, the mother, raise my child.  That thought made me think of adoption, more specifically, reform and family preservation.

I focus most of my personal efforts on helping young mothers, expectant mothers, avoid the adoption industry. I donate to organizations that support them. I even sell jewelry and donate proceeds to those same organizations.  Helping mothers, vulnerable mothers, is ONE side of the coin, or better yet, one facet of the blood diamond trade. I work to cut off the supply.

Adoption is said to be a woman on woman crime. our sisters take our babies and close the adoptions and permit the amending of birth certificates. Oh sure, the larger landscape includes adoption agencies, men, doctors, religious officials. I get that but if you boil it down to what might start an adoption proceeding? You may find an infertile female, one of us, your sister, daughter, niece, who feels she is entitled to the child born to another, to your child, or your grandchild.

Here is the looming question.

Can we truly make progress in adoption without teaching the current and future young women (tweens, teens, college students) about the reality of adoption?  Or are we? Is someone addressing this demographic?  If you are the mother of a young daughter, right now, what are YOU doing to change the notion that if you cannot have your own child it is a wonderful thing to go and take the child born to another and claim it as yours and yours alone?  Can we make any progress with this future demographic if the media and society at large continues to push the adoption Kook-Aid?


12 Thoughts.

  1. Lots of thoughts and reactions, tried to type them out several times, but struggling with where to begin. However, the overall theme of my response is that there isn’t really one demographic – among young women, or among prospective adopters, so it can’t be addressed solely via teaching “If you cannot have your own child it is NOT a wonderful thing to go and take the child born to another and claim it as yours and yours alone.” So many aspects of how children come to be placed differ from domestic private adoption to foster care adoption to international adoption (and even within international, it differs from country to country). And motivations among prospective adopters differ as well. For example, it just isn’t going to work using the above strategy to try and educate someone who can reproduce to their heart’s content, but believes that God is calling them to save a heathen soul from a 3rd world country orphanage. And the demographic of young women I work with (low income, first generation, inner city college students) don’t even consider placement as an option; from their perspective it’s something that happens only when a mother is incapable of parenting (i.e. extended family petitions for custody or child protective services removes a child). However, I would suspect that young women in white, conservative middle America would carry a different perspective. So the nature of the supply and the nature of the demand isn’t uniform.

    • I suspect you are correct PB but I dont want you to be. I so want to live in a world where women do not commit this crime against other women. You also bolster my belief/efforts in cutting off the supply. Educate, support mothers so they never consider giving up their children. Yet, with that, I also realize that will only make the supply lesser and the tactics even more devious. Just makes me sad that women do this to each other.

  2. I think it’s super important to be teaching the downsides of adoptions to my sons, as well as the young women of their generation. While I attempt to impress upon them the important of not getting anyone pregnant accidentally, after your post I realize they only see the glamour of my life after reunion. I find it hard to teach them about the negatives without seeming to bash Grandma, Grandpa and Nanny C. This post has given me much to think about, as your posts always do. Thank you for that. You help me be a better mom by making me acknowledge my truths, rather than hiding them so everyone else but me can heal.

  3. I fully believe that cutting off the supply is the answer. Empower women both socially and financially and you empower families to stay together.

  4. When I first started working at the university 16 years ago, the counseling/health centers would get an occasional promotional item and pamphlet from Spence Chapin, hoping that we would refer students who were facing unplanned pregnancies to them. We weren’t a good source – our students either choose to parent or to terminate. We got dropped from their marketing list; haven’t heard hide nor hair from them in many, many years.

  5. Another thing that makes me think that cutting off the supply is the answer: in foster care and international adoption, there is often a disconnect between “separation of mother and child” and “placing a child in another family.” If you would have suggested I felt entitled to another woman’s child back when I was in the process, I would have looked at you like you had 3 heads, because the chid I was adopting was separated from his family many months before I ever entered the picture. In fact, I found the whole domestic adoption/prebirth matching scene disturbing, and wouldn’t have touched it with a 10 foot pole. But in my eyes, I was adopting a child who had no home -we were a family that wanted to parent a child, and this was a child that had been relinquished, and therefore needed parents. Now, of course, over the years I have come to learn a great deal about the many ways in which children come to be placed in orphanages, some of them highly unethical. But as a prospective a-mom, and I think this is still true of many prospective a-moms, the knowledge wasn’t/isn’t there.

  6. I have to echoe Psychobabble: when we began to research adoption 12 years ago due to a medical issue of my husband’s, I would have ( and honestly still do if I’m being direct here ) reacted strongly against the notion I was helping myself to another’s woman’s child. In our case, both adoptions via Internation Adoption, were of toddler/preschool aged children, long removed from their families. We were not the causal reason for the breakdown of their family but rather a piece of putting “a family” back together for a child and a family together for us too. (I will honest about that also).

    It is true we know more now. We have done 2 successful searches and better understand the undercurrents and tragedies that led to the dissolution of our children’s overseas families all those many years ago.

    In this country I do see a shift, though subtle; I think more women are choosing to raise their unplanned children but like the above commenter, I do believe that there will always be some who do choose adoption for personal reasons or whose “experiences” simply don’t fit a one size structure. I see adoption leading more towards familial in the decades to come. What I don’t see is asking others to support these mothers financially beyond the social supports that already exist unless its voluntary in nature. I just don’t. Over the years we have been confronted numerous times on blogs and asked why we simply didn’t donate our adoption expenses to a struggling mother. Its like apples and oranges. That question could be asked of everyone. If we all answered the call there wouldn’t be poverty, social injustices, inequality, etc. It has to come from within too. A young or otherwise vulnerable mother (and their families, including the fathers) needs to fight like hell to keep their family in tact if that is their wish. No one will grant 3 magic wishes and make it so. Even if we all wish it was the case. I just don’t see our society becoming something its not.

    To summarize, I do think your voices are being heard but overcoming the biases of sociatall viewpoint on adoption is steep. Especially so when you hear from people affected by adoption who do share positive stories and have not been affected by the same level of grief as others. For now, those stories will be the most sought after as they tell the narrative Adoption Agencies and others wish to sell.

    P.S. For the record, we too would never have considered a domestic adoption given the constructs of how it was and is today…….it always felt too manipulative, even when we yearned for a child. I’m not sure I see this as a war of women against women, but rather a war of words and narratives and which viewpoint ultimately dominates. Just my 2 cents.

    • . Over the years we have been confronted numerous times on blogs and asked why we simply didn’t donate our adoption expenses to a struggling mother. Its like apples and oranges.

      I always find this suggestion humorous myself. For what brings most, if not all, to adoption is a desire to help themselves, build their own family. They are thinking about their needs not the needs of a woman. They want a baby, a child, one to call their own, not to help a mother. Definitely apples to oranges.

  7. LL and PSB – Thank you for your comments. Like PSB the other day I have many thoughts running through my head but struggling to articulate them clearly and in a manner that doesnt come across as confrontational. I am struggling a bit with a few of your statements. When I struggle to understand it usually means it stirred something up for me so I take a breather and think about it. So I will be back later when I have clarified things in my own head.

    One question I do have: Are you suggesting me, you, we as individual females can do nothing to change the dominant discourse until say some other larger body starts changing it? It feels like a cop out to me if you are. “Oh, we cannot change adoption nor are we responsible for it until THEY change it.” I think more micro. Conversations I have with my niece, with a neighbor, with a babysittter. Claud had a great thread on her blog the other day speaking to her 13 yo daughter whos friends (also 13 yo girls) wanted to adopt! Squee it so lovely and dreamy! At that point, Clauds daughter or an adult in the room/area could have balances the view a bit. Scarlet could have shared what it is like to be a sister who lost a brother.

    It has to start small with me, you, every reader on this blog IMO that believes in change. In addition to any larger efforts that might be going on.

    I find it hard to believe that changing dominant discourse is going to change a woman’s desire to have a child. You ladies can speak to that far better than I can . Maybe Moms did not have the knowledge, didn’t want the knowledge, went international versus domestic (that seems like some sort of knowledge. but because THOSE moms or country don’t want their children?). Does desire to parent really diminish your ability to think critically? And if it does, then seems to me (as noted by PSB) we should focus on cutting off supply as women will do whatever they have to, with whatever level of knowledge they have to get themselves a child.

    As for woman on woman war? There is murder and there is involuntarily manslaughter – or in this case – women slaughter.

    More to come. Thanks again.

  8. Hi Suz,

    Yes, a lot to take in and often times it truly is difficult to adequately express ourselves through this medium only.

    I think with regards to changing hearts and minds, I was speaking to your portion of the post that asked if the ‘kool aid’ was too poweful to cause meaningful change. In that way I think the dominant discourse will need to be altered or viewed in a more balanced way before change trickles down. But I do believe, like you, that change does happen in small ways, discussions, choices, etc. each and every day. In the discussion Claud had with a young girl, by Mothers from all sides of the adoption triangle sharing their experiences and being validated; by First Mothers telling their stories of coercion or perhaps of choice or even something in between; by Adoptive Mothers correcting fallacies where they come up with relatives, strangers in the store, etc. BUT most of all making certain their (adopted) children understand its okay to feel and share their experiences regardless of whether it is would be perceived as good or bad. Actually I hate that we have to even categorize something as “good or bad”…..if its how they feel, then its how they feel ~ no qualifiers necessary.

    I think in part too I was sharing that I don’t fit neatly into the construct either. I am not infertile ( in fact am mother to two children via adoption and 1 biologically). We chose IA initially because it seemed the “break” between parent/child had already occured. We were not saving a child but were intent on finding one that maybe needed a family just as we desired to be a family with children. Now this is really simplifying Internationa adoption and not representative of the vast emotions and nuances that do exist but it does explain in part our motivation to look overseas.

    Am I implying that we do nothing to help erase the misconstructions of the narrative now? No, not at all. But sometimes words are just that ~ words. They can be powerful but without the intent to follow through or truly understand all the players, the words lose efficacy.The change we hope to affect here in this country is happening, albiet slowly. Looking at other countries, that change becomes even more complicated and tangled.

    I agree that simply changing the language of adoption and how it is perceived won’t stifle an infertile couple’s desire for a child but it might bring about the change in women who are currently willing to relinquish their children; if they understand the full ramifications. I also think myself and the commenter above are proof that adoption as it stands now (domestically) does cause some of us to pause and reconsider, regardless of our own desires for children. That is something ~ a start perhaps? They have to be more of us; in fact I know there are!

    I think my point was that often it is suggested that if only infertile couples donated their monies/savings towards a struggling family or adopted from Foster Care, the demand for infants would cease; that hardly seems likely too. Add to that the occasional woman who truly does wish to place their infant for adoption and its difficult to begin to ascertain someone’s intent without benefit of a crystal ball. More needs to be done to keep things on an even playing field. Mothers who are considering relinquishment need full support and the full story. Period. Mothers considering creating a family through adoption need to understand the consequences for all involved.

    I don’t know if I have helped to clarify my thoughts at all, but I felt it was important to try. Thank you for letting allowing me a voice here.

  9. Suz, I’m not sure if you were specifically responding to LL’s comments, or if there is something in what I’ve written that you’re struggling with. if so, please let me know.

    Re: your question about changing the dominant discourse, I have those micro level conversations all the time. Absolutely, it’s critical. But in all honesty, if I reflect on my own mindset back in the day, I don’t believe it’s going to be sufficient, for a bunch of reasons. One of these reasons can be illustrated by my own mindset back when I entered the adoption process. “THOSE moms or country don’t want their children” wasn’t even remotely a thought. What I believed (unlike what I believed regarding the domestic private adoption world), was that family preservation was just not a cultural possibility for those kids who were living in institutions in the country we adopted from. So the thought was more like “family preservation was not possible for this child, and since no in-country familiies had come forward to adopt, s/he was cleared for international placement.” And that’s as far as my brain went. No critical thinking above and beyond that. That’s what the discourse was telling us, that’s what the agencies were telling us, and back in the day, as much as I’m a die-hard information junkie, there just wasn’t access to voices indicating otherwise. back a decade ago, info was gathered from books, a couple of self-selected listservs here and there (those were still somewhat “cutting edge”, I believe), and agency websites.

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