“A Birth Mother Should Have No Rights”
Excuse me? Did you actually just say that?
Did you actually just say that once someone decides to give up their child they should have no right to choose the adoptive family, or to be involved in the child’s life? Did you actually just say that if someone chooses not to raise their child, then they should have no rights? Did you actually just say that the second someone chooses to give up their child that they should have no involvement in their lives?
Someone I love dearly said all of these things to me a while back. As she said it, I could feel my heart start racing and my anxiety increasing. How can someone say such horrible and inaccurate things? How am I going to protect my child from this type of language? Why don’t people understand the consequences of their words?
Clearly, we’ve chosen open adoption, and therefore we value the involvement of the birth parents (and extended birth family) in the life of our future child. In fact, we already value our future child’s birth parents and their relationship with our future family and we view them as part of our future family. We are taking the approach of:
Further, we believe open adoption is a choice, one that does not have to be made by the birth parents. We are not adopting through foster care where a child is removed from a home. Unlike the foster system, no-one is forcing a birth parent to place their child. We are adopting in system where the birth mother (and possibly father) will choose us and we in turn choose them. We believe in most circumstances adoption is the kindest, most selfless act that any birth parent can give their child. We also believe open adoption places high value on everyone involved, and ultimately places the highest value on the child who is unable to voice their own desires in the situation. Research has shown that the child will benefit from knowing their roots and everyone who loves them, and doing what is best for our child matters immensely to us. In fact, this is paramount in our minds.
So, given all of this, I was gobsmacked when someone said to me, in a matter-of-fact tone that birth parents should have no rights.
I am ashamed to admit that I did not correct the person who made the comment. I made a conscious decision not to, because right now we are just trying to get everyone on board with being part of our adoptive family. I know there will be times in the future when I can educate, and make it clear that this type of language is not permitted around us or our child. But, in that particular instant I decided that I also need to be cognisant that I cannot jump down someone’s throat every single time they say something wrong about adoption.
But, this does leave me questioning why someone would say something so hurtful and mean towards someone they have never met and towards someone who will forever be involved in our lives.
Nearly every person in our lives are excited for us to adopt. In fact, every single person from the nurse at my family doctors office to my in-laws, are excited for us, and often they have been more excited for us then we are for ourselves. But, what we’ve realized is that while they may be excited for us, most definitely do not understand open adoption.
We’ve been educating ourselves about open adoption. In fact, if I think back months ago, open adoption initially really scared us (and truth be told still does in some ways), but we’ve come a long way in our understanding and our desire to ensure we are part of an open adoption. We’ve been attending adoption information sessions, learning from other bloggers, meeting adoptive families, and reading adoption books. We’ve actively been educating and indoctrinating ourselves in the adoption world.
But, I now realize, no-one in our family outside of Mr. MPB and I are doing this. At the end of the day, this decision has been forced upon them. Ultimately, the decision to adopt is our decision and they just have to get on board if they want to continue to be part of our lives. So, because they love us they are doing their best to get on board. But, they are doing so without the knowledge that we have, and instead they are likely relying on their out of date, stereotypical, and often incorrect knowledge of adoption and open adoption, just like we did when we started down this path. Honestly, if I were in their shoes, I would probably have done the same thing if someone told me they were adopting.
But here the thing, this isn’t good enough for us. We know they mean well, but we also want them to be aware of what is appropriate adoption language. If not for our benefit, but then for the benefit of our child. Our child should never hear mean things said to them about their birth parents and the decision to place their child with us, because this was done purely out of love. And while we recognize that the world isn’t perfect and our child may hear hurtful things from people at times, we want to actively work to ensure they do not hear such things from our family and friends.
So where does this leave us? We want our families to be part of our lives, and we want our child to feel welcomed and loved by everyone. We feel as though we are walking a fine line right now – we want to be careful to continue to encourage support and involvement from our families and friends. We do not want to push people out by attacking them every single time they say something wrong.
So, what are we going to do?
We bought a copy of this book for each one of our immediate family members. While everyone has been excited by our decision to adopt, clearly, some of our family members are doing better than others at understanding and accepting adoption. While we cannot force them to actually read the book, we hope the fact that we’ve purchased it for them will help encourage them to read it and help them understand more about open adoption. Truthfully, I have not even read the book yet*, but we’ve had multiple people in the adoption world recommend it to us as a gift to our family members, so we took the plunge and bought multiple copies (amazon does not ship them immediately and I want them sooner rather then later).
Second, I will have to do a better job of stepping up and correcting comments like this one in a polite way. I will pick my battles based on the context of the comment, who is in the room, and how I’m feeling in the moment. Honestly, some days it is tiring to be constantly correcting people, and I will give myself space to have bad days because I do not have to be perfect, I just have to do my best. And, I guess the blessing of the convoluted adoption process is that we have time on our side and we can slowly indoctrinate our family and friends. We will use this time to continue to educate when appropriate and hopefully by the time a placement actually occurs, everyone in our family will have a deeper appreciation and understanding for open adoption.
* Note that I do plan to read the book myself before gifting it. If it’s good, then we’ll give them all away, if it doesn’t meet my standards (which is entirely possible) then we’ll simply return the extra copies.
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