Starting On a Foundation of Loss
I read a post on the subject of adoption and the concept of a single story. The post talked about how the idea of a single story cannot be extrapolated to represent an entire population, using adoption as the specific example. Rather than me paraphrase, I recommend reading the post yourself on The Adopted Ones Blog (and watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk too, it’s worth it).
While, I was struck by the idea that no-one would expect a non-adoptive family to share the same birth story, so why would people think that adoptive families and children should all share the same story? Throughout history there is always a dominant narrative, often written by those with the strongest voice (and usually the deepest pockets) or those who won the battle. Yet, if you dig deeper, there are many, many untold stories and a much wider reality then what is often portrayed in popular media.
But honestly, that’s not my point today. What I want to share is actually 6 words this blogger shared with me in the comment section. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these words since I reading them a few days ago. This means Mr. MPB has had to listen to me verbally think through it which in turn means that I needed to write about it. So, now its your turn to follow my thoughts, if you so choose.
“…adoption starts on a foundation of loss…”
This comment has really resonated with me, as I think about the 3 sides of this comment. (Note that in this post, I am only speaking to open adoptions, not closed adoptions).
1. Most Adoptive parents turn to adoption after years of loss.
This is really the only one of the 3 sides I can truly understand and relate to, as it is the group that Mr. MPB and I belong to.
My initial thoughts were about why, when and how adoptive parents choose to turn to adoption. Mr. MPB and I turned to adoption after 5 miscarriages / 5 losses. In my research it has been made clear to me that the vast majority of people turn to adoption after struggling with infertility of some sort (I do acknowledge that this isn’t the case for everyone, and some people choose adoption for other reason). For the infertility crowd, regardless of the exact timing of our decision to adopt, the vast majority turn to adoption after they suffer financially, physically and emotionally through intense infertility treatments and trauma and the grieve of losing there assumed family. Once the loss has become great enough, we start to look at ways to overcome our problematic biology that stands in the way of our dreams to become parents.
For us, we began exploring the choice to remain childless, the choice to turn to a gestational carrier / surrogate or the choice to turn to adoption. We have spent months investigating and researching every potential option and trying to figure out what is best for us. We’ve been searching our hearts and our souls to try to figure out what our preferred future is. We realized very early on our choice to adopt extends beyond us, so we’ve also spent months thinking about what adoption means for the adopted child, and the birth parents and even our extended families response. We think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing our homework and really understanding the benefit and long term values of a healthy open adoption. (That said, I also fully acknowledge we are just at the beginning of the adoption journey and we have a lot more to learn along the way). And I suspect most perspective adoptive couples are very similar to us.
2. Birth parents turn to adoption for a number of reasons, but end up at a place of loss as they place their children with an adoptive family.
I firmly believe the decision of a birth mother (and possibly father depending on the circumstances) to place a child with an adoptive family is usually the greatest gift that they give to their child. I make the assumption that typically there are reasons that they cannot care for them adequately and they want to provide the best future possible for the child.
Yet, to actually sign the paperwork, often within hours or days of giving birth, means they go home without a child. With this one act, birth parents must face losing such a significant part of themselves, their child and their future. I cannot even begin to imagine this type of loss.
3. Adoptive children often start life without an instant bond, and many live their lives are started out of loss.
And there is a third party, that has no decision making power in this process that will live the lifelong consequences of the loss of the birth parents and the adoptive parents. The adoptive child. The adoptive child starts life in an incredibly interesting way as they are transferred from their birth mother to the adoptive parents. Their very beginnings are that of losing a close an intimate bond with their birth mother, the bond that all children who are not adopted begin instantly.
And from there, they will likely have a lifetime of questions to which the answers may not be easily accessible sometimes even in open adoptions. I believe open adoptions provide the potential for answers more so then a closed adoption, but I know it’s still not perfect, and often the adoptive child will have questions throughout their lives that won’t have easily accessible answers, or any sort of answer at all. For example if the birth father is not in the picture, there will also be something missing as there will be no family history, genetic history or relationship with the birth father. And the birth mother may choose not to be a significant part of the child’s life, and the adoptive parents may also choose to limit contact if it is an unhealthy situation.
All parties in the adoption process come together through loss. And when you think of it this way, no wonder adoption is so hard! With adoption, from the very start every single person involved is facing fears, loss and love. Typically the second the pregnancy starts there is concerns and the second the adoptive parents turn to adoption there are concerns.
Whereas with a more stereotypical planned traditional family, usually they start from a place of joy, excitement and love. The very second the pregnancy is confirmed there is excitement and love, and the second the baby is born this continues.
Fear / loss and joy / excitement are two very different foundations to build a family on.
Yet, I also cannot help but point out that I believe both typical family and adoption family (including birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted child) all build their families from a foundation of love. And, I cannot help but hope that the foundation of love is the most important aspect of building any family, and should ultimately mean more in the long run. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that with love everything will be perfect, for an adoptive family or a traditional family. Life isn’t perfect, adopted or not, children may not be happy with their parents, parents may not be happy with their children. But, I do hope that so long as love is the main building block at the very foundation, a family, any family, is setting itself and the children up for the best possible future.
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