Supporting People in Adoption, in Life; What Does it Mean?

Choices of the damned; Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Decisions, Choices, and Emotional Support

For Amanda and her excellent questions

What does it mean to “support” a person? What does it mean to support a decision they are making when you don’t agree with it? Does that automatically mean that you are not supporting that person? Or does it mean that you support the person, but not the choice?

One of the Birthmother Support groups had that a similar question thrown out the other day and it got me thinking. While the discussion there was more about mothers with negative views on adoption being able to  have support from mothers with opposite experiences, we hear this a lot  in different adoption communities. So, I have been thinking a lot about these questions and about my own personal answers.

When I think about my own relinquishment and I could not tell you who “supported” it and who didn’t. I guess in public view, I was “supported” because no one told me it was a really bad idea, but no one, except of course the adoption agency, said it was real great idea either. I don’t think anyone knew what the hell to do or what to say, so they just followed my lead and “supported” whatever I wanted.  Based on that definition of “support” I wish someone had been really “unsupported” of the adoption and given me a hard time!

My mother comes closest to that. The night before I was about to leave for Boston, she pulled out her infamous , and this is word for word because it was burned into my head;

“My mother always a said that charity begins at home and I don’t understand why you are giving away your baby to strangers when your aunt and uncle keep trying to have another child…”

I see now  that it was a last ditch effort on her part  to try to keep Max somehow in the family, to keep that connection. I only heard what I wanted to at that time and was angry at her for  trying to sabotage my plans at the last minute. I was already feeling beholden and grateful to the agency and couldn’t image disappointing them by not arriving on the plane the next day.  I would say now that my mother did not support the adopting out of her first grandson, but did not have the skills  to counter the affect of the agency already, but instead of keeping up her point, she stopped speaking to me at all the entire time I was pregnant in Boston which made me feel even more alone and unsupported. It’s really a shame, because I am pretty sure IF I had remained home or MAYBE if we had talked more, that MAYBE I would have not relinquished.

But instead of continuing to support ME poor choice and all, she withdrew from the whole situation that she could not support. In the end,  I went and did the exact opposite of what I believe now she wanted.

How Do We Support a Person, When We Dislike Their Decisions?

I think that maybe too many of us act like my mom did and that really doesn’t help.

I know it’s a weird line in the sand; you want to help the person you care about, but you hate what they are doing, and so rather than be truthful, we withdraw and say nothing.

Or maybe we say our piece, tell them what we think they should be doing, and if they don’t listen  after once, twice, three times, we cut them off.

I know I have done this myself a few times with the idea of letting them sink or swim, or thinking it’s tough love and  that you did all you could and now they need to figure it out. I know  It’s hard to keep listening to the same problem faced, over and over again, while you know the “answers” and it seems like IF ONLY this person would just LISTEN to you, then it would be ok. I know that  it can feel terribly hypocritical, something that I am very sensitive to and avoid at all costs, to  continue to contribute by even listening, that maybe somehow we are “enabling” a person to continue with their mistakes.

I don’t really think sink or swim, tough love, or figuring it out  is “wrong” , but the withdrawal for the person, I think is.

Don’t Like My Choices? I Don’t Like Your Support

Before Rye and I met, I had a housemate name Heather. We had been friends for over 10 years at that time. We had met on a job and were really close. Like close enough that I was her labor coach when her daughter was born. We saw each other through  two failed relationships and my son, her daughter, Heather and I all lived in my house.

Now, when Rye and I first started dating, he was not suppose to be long term. He had plans to move to the west coast and so the relationship  had a time stamp on it. Heather decided early on that she did not like him. He reminded her of her ex and she was actually a bit of a bitch about it. Since Rye wasn’t going to stick around anyway, I let it slip figuring that it wasn’t worth making an issue out of it, but I was wrong  on both counts; he never moved and she never really got over her dislike of him even when we ALL live in the same house for the next two years.

Now, there were a few times she tried, and many times Rye tried, but it still was yucky at times knowing that people were not really liking each other. When Rye and I decided  to and conceived Scarlett, I figured that she would use the opportunity to move, but instead she stayed until Scarlett was like 8 months old. On top of that, for their own screwed up reasons, my neighbors, who I HAD been good friends with and had INTRODUCED Heather to, also decided that Rye was “no good” and the three banded together. No longer was I invited to dinners or parties and they were all rather mean. Sometimes the neighbors were REALLY mean and caused even more stress, but I couldn’t talk to Heather about it.  Eventually, she finally moved in with a boyfriend  (who WAS a jerk apparently.. shows who has the ability to find a good guy!)  and basically NEVER SPOKE TO ME AGAIN. I tried to keep the friendship, even after all the crap went down, but eventually gave up and now she is one of the few people on my “someone I used to know” list. We look right past each other when we cross paths in public. It’s sad and makes me angry still.

I use this as an example because clearly she did not like my choice in men and made it clear to me, but I didn’t listen. I will even say that sometimes, in our early days, when I was full of pregnancy hormones and Rye was still adjusting to like as a responsible partner, the relationship was hard and even not the healthiest and I am sure she could see that.  But, instead of saying something like “I’m really worried about you. I worry that this isn’t a good  choice of a man for you.”  She made us BOTH the enemy and choose to check out of the friendship completely.  While she wasn’t even “wrong” in her feelings, but she was REALLY wrong in how she went about “supporting her friend”.. me. Now obviously, 13  years later, she was wrong about Rye, but what if she wasn’t? What IF Rye was no good and it took me a while to see that for myself? If I HAD  “come to my senses” and needed help, she was no longer there for me.  That’s no support.

I Don’t Like Your Choices, But I Still Support You

I do understand that it’s a hard role to be in.  I have friends that have ended marriages. I don’t LIKE seeing marriages end. Sometimes, I see the purpose and agree and sometimes I don’t understand the reasons.  Sometimes I can even see where the person I am supporting contributed to the damage to the relationship, but I try really, really hard not to judge. I am not there in the relationship. I do not know everything that has got them to this point. It’s NOT for me to say, so I shut up.

If the person is talking freely with me and asking what I think, I will share, but it’s usually  as non-judgmental as possible with lots of questions.. Do you think that maybe it this.. I wonder if things would be different if that, etc.  Like I said, there have been a few break ups where I just don’t get it, but I’m noting going to ever say  “I don’t like what you did. I don’t think you tried hard enough. I think you threw in the towel too soon so I can’t  talk to you anymore because you didn’t do what I think you should.”

On the same token I have been on the other end where I think a person should STOP trying. I know people who keep allowing themselves to be in the same position over and over again. It’s really hard when they have hope and you KNOW they are just going to get hurt again. Of course, we want to prevent them from feeling that pain because we care about them, but sometimes, all we can do is stand by and watch them do it.  I have heard many people say “I can’t watch this anymore”  and they remove themselves from the situation, but that’s really not support either. It’s more like “conditional support” I’ll support you as long as you do what I think you should.

I Don’t Think I Know How to Support Birthmothers Who Have a Positive View on Adoption

As I write that, I am already finding reasons why that is untrue.

I actually have a really good real life friend who has a polar opposite view point of her son’s relinquishment and I can still completely “get” her and know where she is coming from. She respects my views and I her’s. While we know our views are different, we are also on different points of the journey. I have a good 10 years on her.  I don’t push her to be the I the same place where I am. And there is no judgment that either one of us is “right” or “wrong” is just is.

Maybe that’s the key to real support for another person?

I used to think that every time I met another birthmother online, that I had to somehow convince them to make them “see”.  I wanted them to know that they were duped, to make sure that they understood that adoption is not this nice “loving option” and they whatever adoption agency they had did not have their best interests  at heart.  No matter how “right” I believe I am, no matter how much I can back up my truth with facts, most of the times it ended up being a big argument. I usually got dismissed with a big “sorry you had a bad experience, but not everyone is like you; get some help, get some meds, get a life” .  So quickly, I learned what didn’t work. You can’t drag a person to your reality. They kick and scream and I can’t say I really blame them.

I did the same thing when I was called out for my happy adoption “I have no regrets” story. Now for me, I am grateful that a whole bunch of wonderful, older, more experiences Baby Scoop Era moms called me out and pissed me off. At that time, angry as I was, they opened a door and I was able to slowly walk through to the other side, but it didn’t happen right away. I retreated from them all, stop engaging, and just started reading and listening.   Whether I was “ready” or not is moot now.  And while it was a bitch slap of reality for me, I still took my time.

Supporting the Birthmother Without Supporting Adoption

While I find it harder to say “I am glad you had a positive experience” , I AM really glad that another mother is NOT miserable. I am glad to hear when an open adoption IS working out as promised. I just have to find that personal fine line where I can say that without feeling like I am endorsing adoption or making it seem like I believe in the institution.  I see pictures posted of cute kids, from updates or visits , and still, right now, I feel sad because I hear the love  and loss and I dislike the separation of mother and child.  It’s not that I don’t support the person, nor can I be that hypocrite and condemn them for the same choice I made, but I will still admit that I have trouble supporting the opposite VIEW of the entire adoption industry.  Like if you insist that it’s a loving option, right now, I check out. If you see that the industry has issues, but you lucked out, I’m much better.

It’s still a work in progress.

So that’s more of how I work this angle now.  I don’t try to convince anyone that I am right and they are wrong. Like the marriages turned to divorce, who am I to judge? I am not there in their lives. I am not on their journey. I can believe all I want about adoption, even in my heart that I know it is true, but they are not at that same place I am now or ever. I can’t tell if they are ready for the bitch slap.  And sometimes, considering that we know how incredibly hard and painful it is to see the true realties of this “choice”, is it right to make another person feel this way on MY timetable?  They have to get to this place on their own..all we can do is wait for it.

Right now, even when confronted with “Adoption Equals Love”,  I just say  “You might not always feel the same. Here’s the door when you are ready to walk through” .  Kind of like revisiting the “no”; it’s revisiting the “yes” as in YES, Claud was right.  I admit I have a problem and I DO like to be right, but I don’t think withholding support is the right way to get people to see that.

I can’t make them open the door, I can just make sure that they know we are here on the other side waiting. Perhaps real support is just catching someone when they fall?

I close with this quote from Jennifer who keep coming up with the excellent status updates, I think it I fits here:

“It may not always be easy to be rational, logical, morally sound, as well as empathetic, compassionate, forgiving, and just, still, it’s a balance that we must ever endeavor to uphold if we are to fully and honestly, convey, genuine love.”

I end with more questions. How do you deal with supporting a person when you just do not agree with the choices they are making or share their views overall? How to we keep the doors open so they have a place to go when  and if they do come around?

 

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

7 Comments on "Supporting People in Adoption, in Life; What Does it Mean?"

  1. “It may not always be easy to be rational, logical, morally sound, as well as empathetic, compassionate, forgiving, and just, still, it’s a balance that we must ever endeavor to uphold if we are to fully and honestly, convey, genuine love.”

    I think this quote sums it up perfectly. It really does come down to love. I deal with some of this stuff a lot when it comes to certain family members. I don’t always agree with the choices they make, and I worry that they may ultimately end up regretting their decisions, or that their choices may cause them harm. People in general don’t respond well to criticism, so I always try and make it clear that my intent is *not* to criticize…I’ll say “Look, I love you…and I respect that this is ultimately your decision to make, but I’m concerned because x, y, z”.
    If a person knows that you’re coming from a place of love, they’re much more likely to be receptive and to listen to what you’re saying.
    Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re going to change their mind…but at least then you know that you did what you could…and they’ll know that they can trust you to be honest with them.
    Sometimes, supporting a person means NOT supporting their actions…I know someone just said this same thing to you on FB, and it’s completely true. When we see a friend doing something that is causing them harm, we don’t just sit back.
    There may be times when speaking up puts the friendship at risk, but in those cases, the relationship was likely fragile to begin with. As long as you’re respectful and compassionate, I think you’re doing exactly what a friend should do.

  2. God this is so beautifully prosed i can’t believe you made me cry again. how in the world do you do this? I pray everyone with these concerns and issues can read this. How well you convey that you don’t tell them what to do, punish them for their choices, walk out, when you almost do. look at your words, you almost do. heck, the whole world does. and in fact walking out is effectual. if a marriage of two completely misserable people were stuck out to the end …. like you said, you stand back and watch the heart ache. But I so disagree with you. lol so very much want to say don’t refrain from telling what you know. having people try to find where their heart is isn’t the same as knowing out right that the stories are not true. that young inexperienced people made decisions based solely on advice that was completely false. but what does a person do when they announce i am bringing family to just watch your train wreck. delay a train wreck. to have to remain standing, forcing one foot in front of the other while your heart is torn from you why should anyone have to fake that more than once in a life time. how will they feel down the line when they meet cases that never should have been? at least if we say you maybe didn’t get told the wole truth young people can decide that they have more to base a decision on than a billboard. you are wiser than anyone i know, (i think lol) say just once what you think and after they have all the information decide if you will support. If i could keep just one person and the world from going through what i did, i would.

  3. where there is a flame someone’s bound to get burned you gotta get up and try and you think it s all about the timing. wish there was a book

  4. Wow! Just wow! I’m sitting here nodding my head in agreement. Your words resonate so strongly with me. The most distressing thing is that many of the women who will one day say “Claud ws right” just don’t have the time they need to come to that awareness before they lose their babies.
    I also agree that coming from a place of love and concern (so it’s about how you give the message, not just what the message is) is more likely to help people see the light. It’s such a hard line to walk when you want to scream and yell and stamp your feet to convince them to turn back and run as fast as they can. You have an amazing way with words.

  5. Interesting mention of the discussion on that FB group about mothers who have negative experiences being able have support from others — there is a bias in the majority of “support groups” against any mothers who have had a “negative experience,” including this group that you mention on FB. Example from its description:

    “We want this to be a safe place for birthmoms…”

    Message from this: Mothers are not welcome, only those who consider themselves to be “former mothers.”

    “… who have placed their children for adoption…”

    Message from this: Natural mothers who have not “placed” children for adoption, i.e. any mothers who were coerced/forced to surrender, or who didn’t have a choice, etc. are not welcome. Coercion removes freedom of choice, thus removing any choice, and “placing” implies a freely-made deliberate choice.

    “… so if you have not placed or are not an expectant mom thinking about placing please do not ask to join.”

    Message from this: Negative experiences are not welcomed, only positive ones, so please don’t bother applying unless you actually chose adoption with no coercion or pressure what-so-ever.

    • It’s actually NOT a bad group. Granted most of the moms are of the younger set, but it’s not as hard cut as you have interpreted it. The moderators are NOT on the “adoption equals love” kool aide driners and there is plenty of room for the truthful “OMG this SUCKS’ education. I have never had a problem there or gotten my hands slapped at all for posting truthful posts and sharing the hard stuff.
      Bottom line; they are still mothers who are suffering the loss of their children.

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