Adoption: Culturally Trivialized!

I’ve been mulling over the Bognar post on Lilith for a week now. I absolutely share her surprise at the depiction of adoption as anything but a fundamentally positive act. I, too, am surprised when I hear adoption viewed as other than a win-win — at least I am in 90% of the cases. The other 10% – those that involve children from countries without a concept of adoption – leave me with a lot of mixed feelings still to sort.

Ambivalent as I may be about that 10% of adoptions, I am 100% certain that I’m unhappy with the way adoption is trivialized in our culture. More and more, news items about adoption treat the adoptive family as more a foster family or babysitting entity. The”real” mother will look for her “lost” child in time and, when she does, those “nice” adoptive parents will back off. 

Where do I begin?

  1. I did not steal my children away in the middle of the night. In fact, it was their birth mother who made the painful decision to make an adoption plan. She specified her terms and we met them. She relinquished her parental rights because she judged that it would be in the best interests of the baby she loved.
  2. I am not a temporary parent. I am not a foster mom. I am not a babysitter. I am the mother of these children. Call me “real,” call me “adoptive,” call me what you will. These children are my family. I live my life with them at the center.
  3. My children have lived their lives and planned their futures in the protective bosom of this family. They view this as their permanent place in the world because that is what their birth mother requested and what we happily agreed to.
  4. If my children want to search for their birth mother, I will assist them in every possible way. That is their decision. It is the one decision that is theirs to make in their adoption experience.
  5. It is not up to the birth mother to search for her child. She made what she considered to be the best choice for her child at the time. She needs to respect all that has gone on since that day. Her child will search for her if he/she chooses. The choice is theirs – not hers.

The media has always shown a negative view of adoption. From the baby in the basket on the steps of the police station, to the “real” parents arriving at the door for Stuart Little in that movie, to poor Harry Potter living under the stairs in the home of his wretchedly unfair Aunt Petunia, the life of the orphaned and adopted is not a happy one. My kids and I can laugh at those depictions but those depictions form the basis for what their friends know about adoption. No wonder their friends are so pleasantly surprised when they come to my home and find a mom – not Cruella DeVille and Cinderella’s stepmother rolled into one!

More disturbing to me than the depiction of adoption in film, is the current trend in news coverage of adoption. Most recently I read a news item about a woman who was reunited with her daughter who had been lost for 22 years. I read the article because I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must have been to have her daughter kidnapped. Turns out, she hadn’t been kidnapped. She’d been adopted!

Please understand that I am not trivializing the role of a birth mother or the pain she feels at making an adoption plan for a child who grew inside her womb. There can be no easy way to make such a monumental decision. I am eternally grateful for that decision, but as wrenching as it is, once a child is adopted, the family unit for that child is the adoptive family. Forever. That sense of permanence is as important to the child as it is to the adoptive parents.

Would it be nice if the media stopped trivializing adoptive families? Would it be nice if they began to recognize adoptive families as more than a sort of temporary holding place? Absolutely! Until they do, I’m not holding my breath. But I am getting more and more aggravated.

Related Post:
Adoption: Culturally Persecuted

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