I wrote his late in 2012 as a guest post for a blog that is now in hiding. Got told this again today on Twitter so went to find it, and saw that it was down. So getting it back up!
A Perfect Adoption by the Books
People often say to me, “I’m sorry your adoption experience was so bad, but not all adoptions that bad,” or something along those lines.
I usually find this kind of comment dismissive, but rather than focus on being insulted, I point out that, in truth, the relinquishment and subsequent adoption of my son was actually picture perfect. I am a perfect example of exactly what adoption is when it works just as it is suppose to.
Adoption When Things Go Right
I was 18 when I became pregnant in 1987 and 19 when I relinquished. Out of high school, but struggling with college and life. Dysfunction, but not insanely horrible middle class, blue collar upbringing in suburbia. Living a rather unhealthy lifestyle, making poor choices, but I had good intentions, just a lot of inexperience and a too positive outlook tempered by questionable self esteem. A relationship I shouldn’t have been in produced the pregnancy and there would be no wedding, but just a blue eyed boy with a shock of black hair nine months later. My reasons to place my child for adoption still stand today as “acceptable”: too young, not ready, uncompleted education, unmarried.
My agency was progressive, welcoming, ever so kind. Adoption was in the middle of re-marketing itself from the shame filled enterprise of the BSE to what we know of it today. Nineteen eighty-seven was right in the middle of the crossover years, like a bad marriage- something old, something new.
It was a traditional closed adoption, but I got pictures for the first year. I didn’t meet the people who would be my son’s parents but I picked them from what they called a “parent profile”. I didn’t know their names, but I was given photo albums filled with smiling family. I had a counselor that I liked, we talked about how hard adoption would be for me and only the strong can be determined enough and how good it could be for my son. The hospital staff was prepped, my experience; gentle; I held my son, we took pictures, we said hello, we said goodbye. No one held a gun to my head, I signed the papers, convinced I would be one of the strong, the selfless, the better mother and sacrifice tears for my son’s betterment. I knew the agency was good, adoption had changed, I was lucky and now, my son would be, too.
And we were, really. My life is good. I went back home, went back to school, lived the life I was supposed to. I moved, married, had another son, divorced, lived the life of a single mother, married again, had two more kids. We have a house. I work from home. I love my neighborhood, my town. I am grateful for my friends, my extended families.
And my son? I found him when he was 15, the oldest of three- the two boys adopted, the youngest daughter IVF. Living with parents that clearly loved and provided, big house, opportunity..exactly what was supposed to happen. I contacted the agency, wrote letters, got an update with pictures, saw his face. They sort of opened the adoption, such a kindness, but no identifying information, everyone’s happy. Six months, 9 days before his 18th birthday I contacted him through MySpace and he called me mom. He is welcoming, accepting, wonderful. His life was good, we rejoiced in reunion. We are now 8 years in, and we never really had issues, it’s always been smooth.
Adoption: and They All Lived Happily Ever After
This is the way adoption that a 1987 adoption is suppose to play out. If I had the opportunity to have had an open adoption and was told that was best for my son, I would have done that, too. I’m sure we would have had some measure of success there too. But no matter how perfectly my son’s adoption played out, no matter how perfectly we executed our roles and did the right thing with the best of intentions, no matter how happily ever after, it does not change the reality of what is left. The perfect execution of an improper act does not make the act any less wrong. It does not undo the damages done.
What does a perfect reunion of a perfect adoption look like?
Don’t get me wrong, I know I am lucky. I know I have it really good, but I am still always wanting. My son is now 25 and lives hundreds of miles away. For the first time in my life this is actually “normal”. This is no different than if he had gone to college and stayed away, a grown up in his own right, as he should. So sometimes, I let myself pretend this is what our story is, normal as if I had patented him.
Of course, I didn’t and those years are gone.
I have never again seen my son on his birthday, though he did come to my 40th. He came to my wedding, but I worry if I will be welcomed at his. We have never spent a holiday together as I refuse to count Birthmothers’ Day as a real holiday. My youngest children think him as a god, yet still ask if they can email him, beg him to visit. When they talk to him, they get so crazy excited, it’s both heartwarming and breaking in one fell swoop. We texted, we talk, there are never enough visits. Life is busy and I am lucky if I see him once a year, but when we do its great. I mean really great, and then I go home and stalk the Internet for new pictures of him. As I write this, I realize that it sounds like an open adoption of today. We know we are the lucky ones, right?
But no matter how perfect it all was, is, can be…I still see so much that just shouldn’t have been, so many things I was never told about adoption that were important. I still know I was used by an industry that only wanted what was best for them. If it was best for my son then at my wedding, I would not have heard, again and again, how my Max told guests that it was the first time in his life that he didn’t feel like a freak; he fit in. The perfect adoption means you never stop juggling the feelings of happiness that you can provide something of value to your child combined with the deep disparity that you should never have had the right to deny him with what he needed in the first place. I could have parented and it would have been worth it.
No Matter What; Adoption Hurts, Continues to Hurt
I believe my youngest son looks a lot like his oldest brother. He is ten now, but I have never seen a picture of Max at that age. I have no idea what he looks like from ages 1 to 14/15. Someday I hope to, but Max will have to make that happen. I have never met his adoptive parents and they did not opt to correspond with me directly. I was asked, would I find it painful to see pictures of my child from the years lost?
Yes, it very well could bring tears to see the proof of all that missed watching him grow up. Yet, what I have learned in the past 25 years, is that there isn’t really any way to avoid some kind of pain and loss in adoption. It hurts me that I have not seen them and I have no idea if my oldest son and his younger brother look alike at the same ages and it will hurt to see them: Hurts if I do, hurts if I don’t.
No matter how perfect the outcome, it still hurts. The only way to avoid the hurt is to avoid adoption, and it’s too late for that, for me.
The adoption of my son was perfect, I did everything the “right” way and still; the adoption of my son caused unnecessary pain and was wrong. This is way I speak out against adoption today. It’s not because I had a “bad experience”, it’s that it was a “good experience”, and yet there are too many tears and the worry never stops.