Saturday, May 30, 2009


I had an interesting encounter today. A complete stranger shared a very personal part of her life with my sisters and me. It was kind of like the movie Rashomon...I had 4 different views of the same topic. I don't think anyone didn't say something that wasn't mildly offensive to someone else, and yet there was no real distress because the atmosphere was one of sharing and learning.

The topic? Adoption.

The participants? My oldest sister(OS) - the fertile one, my second sister(2S) - adopted two girls from China, me - not quite infertile/not quite fertile, let's go with ART survivor, new person(NP) - birth mother.

NP was discussing the topic of education and preparation of kids for real life. I guess she felt pretty comfortable in our family circle (although she seemed like the type of girl who doesn't feel uncomfortable anywhere), because she detailed the story of how she was pregnant at 20 and was pressured into giving her child up for adoption. The story was both sad and hopeful at the same time - because from a certain perspective you could see the hand of God or fate or what have you in all of her descriptions. However, even though she wanted an open adoption (or maybe a semi-open adoption - I'm not sure about the particulars), she hasn't been able to have one. Because the adoptive parents were Evangelical Christians, details of her lifestyle became unpalatable to them, and they have obstructed contact between NP and her daughter. She may have downplayed her lifestyle, but it sounds fairly typical of a 21 year old living in a new (and big) city. It sounds like she wants a bit more involvement with her child (and the birth parents), but it didn't sound like a huge imposition - perhaps an email account where she could receive updates and pictures. It was clear that she understands that not being able to have your own children is painful, but this pain is ephemeral to her. It's not real, and she can't process the depths of despair that infertility can bring. I think the most interesting point she made was when she was discussing the selection process, and how all the prospective parent could do was describe what things they could give the potential child. I can understand how difficult it must be to try and translate how much you will love a child into a sales pitch for a birth mom.

OS made a couple of the kinds of comments that infertiles hear all the time, that are really annoying, but understandable from someone whose procreation was relatively easy. It was pretty easy to tell that this was of interest to her, but she has not experienced anything that would make this comprehensible to her.

2S had mentioned reasons for adopting from China in the past, such as low disease rates. However, today, she said the main reason they chose China over domestic adoption was because they didn't feel they would be able to cope with the option for birth mothers to change their minds about the adoption. They were not capable of giving back a child that they had opened their hearts to love. Then 2S told a story of one of her patients, who was accompanied by both birth mom and adoptive mom on an office visit. She said that birth mom and adoptive mom were actually arguing over the plan of treatment.

I jumped in there with my insensitive comment about how birth mothers really have to know themselves very well before deciding on open adoption. They really shouldn't have the right to interfere in medical treatment, in my opinion. If you can't give up that kind of control, then you either need to parent your child, or step away completely. Otherwise, it makes it seem like you're treating the adoptive mother like a nanny who is taking care of your child while you're busy with your life.

My mom was also there, and while she is normally very judgmental, her only comment was to wonder why NP had opened up so completely with us. I think I may have taken the wind out of her sails, because I told her that while I was surprised by the openness, I thought it was great. NP's situation was not ideal, but it was nothing to be ashamed of, and maybe if more people were open about adoption the way she is, it would be a much smoother road for both birth parents and adoptive parents.


  1. Sounds like a very interesting dialog!

  2. I don't think your comment is insensitive. That is a big issue I have with open adoption. I have read about similar situations as your sister describes quite a bit. I feel like pictures and updates are one thing but being involved in major decisions etc. is odd. You gave up your child for a reason, you were unable to care for it. You shouldn't be making the decisions. It's like being mom and having someone else pay for it and take all the bad stuff...

  3. It's always interesting to get an 'insider' view. I provide that view for some people on IF, and I'm sure they wonder why I'm being so open...

    Also, you perfectly phrased why I'm terrified of open adoption. I'm afraid I would be viewed as the 'nanny'...even though I know that is not true, that is exactly the picture of fear in my mind.

  4. There was a period when we were starting the adoption process, and the prospect of writing those parent profiles, of selling ourselves to some unknown person, just...well I couldn't do it.

    It's interesting how people who've never had fertility problems just do not get it.

  5. Great post, very insightful. I am glad that NP felt comfortable to share her story.

  6. thats really interesting. I always wondered how involved the birth mother really could be, without interfering with the adoptive parents. It seems like a fine line.

  7. Interesting. Really interesting.

    Personally, I find it vaguely bemusing to ponder my own change in perspective now I have children after IF, albeit just as infertile as ever.

    It's odd, but that sharp edge to it is gone, even thogh I swore I'd always remember EXACTLY how it felt, I find I can't. Odd.


  8. I bet NP does understand the despair of giving up her child, whether she expresses it or not.

  9. I don't think your comment was insensitive. We have considered adoption and we would adopt internationally so we would not have an open adoption. I'm not totally against open adoptions but it's certainly not a flawless system. I have seen happier individuals who were adopted internationally - they have love from their adoptive family and they also have the culture from their home country. I could never raise a child and love them "as my own" (to me, DNA does not matter. It's who loves you that matters) only to have someone swoop in. Others may disagree with that statement but I stand firm with it.

  10. Well, I've yet to adopt, but I've certainly done the profiles - very, very tough! I have to say that I did feel like I was trying to "sell" ourselves. It was extremely humbling to say the least. Also, I find it interesating that NP chose evangelical parents who have managed to push her out of their lives for whatever reason. Our profile has been purposefully not shown because we aren't Christian church going people. You have no idea how many times we were not considered because of that.

    Some birth mothers say don't want any contact at all and change their minds and vice versa. Every situation is different of course. I've accepted that open adoption is best for the child, not for the parents. However, I'm not open to "co-parenting" either. To have the pieces of the puzzle of where they came from genetically are important, particularly healthwise. I can't speak further on that subject because I haven't lived it. You just have to set your boundaries and be honest.

  11. I just came across your blog because of a great comment you left on another blog I like to read. We have adopted and each situation is so incredibly unique. I am blessed enough to have two biological children, and then received the selfless gift of an adopted child. I realize that I am the most blessed person in the world. But also feel that I have the unique ability to assure birthmothers that there is absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in the way a mother loves her child, whether he/she is biological or adopted. Also, there is NO DIFFERENCE in the bonding process, or strenght of bond between adopted and biological children. Love truly is stronger than all. Adoption is truly the most selfless act, and I will never ever take that gift for granted.