17 September 2013

The imbalance of responsibility in Adoption

This is a new thought I have had so please bear with me as it is still in the process of completely forming in my head.  (The brain is a bit slow at the moment, so much going on IRL - ie outside adopto-land).

The discussions about infertility and adoption of late have given me a lot to mull over.

After posting my previous blog and receiving a comment on it, something clicked for me and that is there is an extreme amount of imbalance in how "responsibility" is placed in adoption.

The discussions regarding the "misplacing of blame on adoptive parents" etc has made me question why people view calling people to account for themselves in that way is so terrible when really all I am doing is redefining boundaries and lines that should never have been blurred in the first place and trying to find a balance between all parties involved.

In this world, we have this desire to 'fix' things.  To make neat and tidy packages out of situations we feel are messy.  And infertility is one of those situations.  It is messy in that it involves pain, heartbreak and loss.  It isn't something society is comfortable sitting with because we know there isn't really a proper solution for it - ie we cannot make an infertile person fertile again although I am sure it has been tried.  So society 'we' searches for the next best thing.  Ahh, a young woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy.  Who better?  Society deems her as not in a place to raise her child and so the two parties are pitted together to create a "neat" and "tidy" package.  Mother has baby, goes on with her life (supposedly, at least that is what society wants her to do) and the couple suffering infertility have a baby.  'Problem' solved!  Society breathes a sigh of relief and moves on.

BUT and this is a really huge BUT... it DOES NOT work.

In doing this, the responsibility of "fixing" an issue that actually CANNOT be fixed, ever, is placed on the shoulders of women in their most vulnerable time and also onto their children.  And in this, society absolves these couples suffering of ALL responsibility, making allowances for them, and giving them what they want because this situation must remain 'neat and tidy' at all costs.

In my previous post I linked Claudia's recent blog which raised a phenomenal amount of comments.  Over 300!  In these comments, those fighting adoption and calling sufferers with infertility to account for their own pain, we were compared to the KKK, Mein Kamf and racists.  However when mothers of adoption loss or adult adoptees quote passages about injustice from Martin Luther King for example and talk about human rights violations we get slammed from EVERYWHERE.  We are not allowed to speak up.  Our voices are stomped on by society in general because by speaking out and drawing attention to the fact the "neat" and "tidy" solution actually has caused a bigger mess and is NOT a solution, it places responsibility back onto society and they really don't want that.  Because it forces them to accept there are things in life that simply cannot ever be fixed.

Calling people to account or to own their pain is not actually being nasty.  It is not being mean.  It is doing something sufferers of all different traumas are asked to do the world over.  It is not saying they have "to get over it".  NO WAY!  But it is saying they need to recognise their are boundaries to how we relate to people even when we suffer.  We cannot use our pain as an excuse to go out and cause harm.  And regardless of where you sit with adoption, making allowances for couples with infertility to cause an unnecessary separation between a mother and her baby, is allowing them to use their pain to cause harm.  It is allowing that pain to spill over from their lives and into the lives of a stranger's family.  That isn't okay.  It is wrong.  And this needs to be recognised and understood by those pushing couples to adopt instead of helping them learn to live with their pain.  Rather than creating a demand for unavailable infants, rather than asking couples to shift their personal responsibilities onto the shoulders of someone in a vulnerable position, there needs to be recognition that infertility causes untold pain and heartache and there is NO fix for that.  Even adoption is not really a fix, merely a distraction, but it doesn't fix infertility.

Just as I was sitting down to write this and was checking Facebook as I often do, a blog post written by Adoptive mom Margie popped up and so I headed over to read it.  I really appreciate this post she has written and it raises some more very interesting points.  Head over and have a read as I feel this issue is so much more than infertility vs fertility... adoptive parents vs natural parents.  You can find it here.

I am going to leave this here for now.  Like I said, this is still part of a long thought process that is going on in my head so I may pick this up again some other time.  In the meantime, I will end here.


  1. I think the saddest comments from prospective adoptive parents I read are how they are devastated when they "lose" a child to a mother or father who wants to parent his/her own child.

    They post about their heartbreak, their shattered dreams while never for one moment having any consideration of how the mother/father would have felt if they had lost their child to adoption. The mother who knit her child in her womb suddenly becomes the selfish woman who chose to "parent" her child and kill their dreams.

    I have sympathy for the infertile woman but not to the extent that her wishes and desires come at the expense of crushing a family. Melanie Capobianco comes to mind. Her heart is breaking, so Veronica, Dusten and his family must give up their hearts and their lives to make her happy. When an infertile woman can demand to rip a child from her family then we see the true catastrophic emotional damage that infertility causes. However sad that this is, the innocents should not be made to suffer.

  2. "I have sympathy for the infertile woman but not to the extent that her wishes and desires come at the expense of crushing a family. Melanie Capobianco comes to mind. Her heart is breaking, so Veronica, Dusten and his family must give up their hearts and their lives to make her happy. When an infertile woman can demand to rip a child from her family then we see the true catastrophic emotional damage that infertility causes. However sad that this is, the innocents should not be made to suffer."

    THIS!! I so totally agree with you. And yet somehow, when we point this out, we are told we are being cruel or somehow "shifting blame". No. It is not shifting blame to remind people of the natural boundary of their situation. That is reality. But in adoption it is taboo to point that out it would seem.

  3. I've been thinking the same thing, as I watch the Veronica Brown case. I do feel sorry for the Capobiancos. Infertility sucks. I don't even have a problem with them seeking to adopt. We live in an imperfect world, and sometimes, biological families can't care for their children, for whatever reason. Maybe it's drugs, abuse, mental illness, or extreme poverty. But Veronica's family could care for her. This is where my sympathy for the C's ends. If they had given up when Dusten entered the picture at 4 months, I would have felt sorry for them, for losing a child they loved. Then they could've grieved the loss of Veronica, moved on with their lives, and found another child to adopt, one who actually needed a family. Isn't that what adoption is supposed to be? Giving a family to a child that needs one? Veronica has a family. I don't think the C's were monsters for wanting to adopt. Wanting a child is natural. Wanting a child, and being willing to take one at any cost makes them bad people.

  4. Adoption isn't a fix to infertility. I never felt it was. I don't view Cadet as some bandage to heal my pain. And he's not a distraction or a commodity to be haggled over. My husband and I frequently talk about the Baby Veronica situation, and both of us are baffled by the Capobianoco's behavior and general lack of compassion. They give adoptive parents a very bad name!

    I agree with you that adoption doesn't fix anything, and often it can make things worse. But I am curious (and I seriously mean NO disrespect here), what are some women supposed to do instead? I look at Cadet's first mom. She was an educated woman, in her late 30's, who landed in jail for doing some bad things. She had no family ties, no friends (besides other criminals), and no hope of getting out of jail before he was 2 (and possibly longer). So she was given a choice...Cadet would be placed in foster care or she could choose a family for him via adoption. She had experience with foster care and didn't trust the system, so she gambled and placed him for adoption with us. Was there a better choice for her? For Cadet? In an ideal world, perhaps yes, but we live far from an ideal world.

    I full-heartedly agree that changes to the adoption industry need to happen. Legally enforceable adoption agreements, open records, full disclosure of adoption trauma, longer waiting periods before finalization, and so on... But there will always be women who feel they shouldn't/can't parent. At what point do we recognize that giving an adult the right to choose what's right for her is a powerful thing in its own right?

    Do I feel I am to blame for ruining MsJ's life by adopting Cadet? No. She was making really poor decisions long before I came along. Do I wish that Cadet didn't have to be adopted? Yes. I wish we lived in that perfect world where kids stay with their parents, even if that means I never got to be a parent.

    Forgive the rambling comment...I hope parts of it made sense anyway.

    1. Hi rainsthoughts,

      I know this reply is a long tme in coming and partly that is due to the fact I wrote one out which I had thought about for a very long time and then lost it as I was posting it in some glitch! To say I was unhappy is an understatement lol. Then life simply became to busy and I didn't have time for which I apologise but I have wanted to come back because this deserves my time and a response.

      Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      When I say adoption is a band aid fix to infertility, I am not applying it to personal situations although I can see why you take it personally. I mean it in a general context - as in society. I believe society likes 'neat' packages and so shoves people together sometimes to 'fix' things that cannot be fixed. I don't mean that people are actual band aids.

      As for your personal situation, I understand what you are saying about Cadet's mother and yes, she was making poor choices before you got there and you are not responsible for those, she is. I am not, in any way, saying anyone should take responsibilty for another's poor choices. Just as I say it isn't a mother's responsibility to give her baby to someone unable to have a child, it is also not their responsibility to account for poor choices made by a mother.

      As for adopting kids whose mothers are a mess? This is where I see a problem. Right in this current time, adoption seems to be the only way for a child to have complete permanence in a family's life. But for them to gain that, they must lose their other life. Their family to whom they were born into and to whom they will have life long ties (even if they are not desirable). Heritage. Identity. These are all important things in a person's life and nature is just as important as nurture. I simply cannot accept that part of what adoption is. I just can't. (And I am talking about the legal aspects of adoption here, not the side that is wanting to give a child who needs one, a home) So no, I am not saying you were wrong by adopting Cadet but I also don't like the fact it was the only way. Does that make sense?

      I guess also, I am applying my posts in a general sense to infant adoption where the mother only needs some support. I guess I don't get why a child can be supported without the mother because I do see them as a pair. One really cannot have the child without the mother. In situations of abuse and prison, there is a difference and a different approach needs to be applied. Most of my blogs are aimed at the majority of infant adoption that is simply demand which necessitates a supply even when there is none.

      But as for the rest of my post, yes, I do believe there are many cases where choosing to adopt can take focus away from the dealing with issues. There are some adoptive parents who have dealt with their issues pre adoption and these are usually the ones who go onto form better relationships with their child and reach out to the original family. They are also far and few between. And so for many out there, I stick to what I say. For many, not all, adoption is a distraction. That is when we see the 'paper pregnant' crap, adoption fundraisers and the like. Where people try to apply the usual ways of having a family to adoption which is frankly, disturbing.

      So I hope some of that makes some sense? Not even sure if you will see it now given the time that has passed but I wanted to reply anyway.

    2. Why does it have to be adoption? If a mother is in difficulties (illness, prison, addiction, whatever), why can't her child be placed with legal guardians, with the expectation that the child will return to his mother should circumstances allow. If not, then the child remains until adulthood. Why this either/or? A legal guardian should have the same responsibilities as an adoptive parent (no subsidies or tax breaks that natural parents don't receive), but with the understanding that she is NOT the child's mother. These scenes of ripping a young child out of the arms of her adoptive parents to return her to her mother are disturbing and unnecessary. Why can't there be a gradual transition? Again, it's that either/or dichotomy, which is so unnecessary. Why can't all these adults be part of the child's life?

  5. I love this post as well as the thoughtful comments by Adoptionvictimswithavoice, Anonymous @ 2:44 and rainsthoughts. Myst I am going to be mean to you right now but I feel that you have such a strong empathy for what others are going through, such a strong desire to please, that you end up sacrificing your own happiness or at least end up apologizing a bit too much for your own opinions. I used to be like you, so I know! You have owned your pain, Myst, in more than good measure - it is not too much to ask that people suffering from infertility own theirs as well. None of us are entitled to raise a child - but those of us who give birth to new life definitely get first preference. Don't you ever apologize for your thoughts, my dear


    1. Thank you Jay :) I get what you are saying! It is something I have always struggled with but I am slowly learning. Also learning my opinions are valid but there are ways to express them without coming across as though I am personally attacking another person - difficult to do at times when steam is coming out of my ears, lol! :-)

  6. I am so very sorry for the horror of what you experienced. It sounds like your empathy was used against you when you were very vulnerable. And your trusted religious community turned against you when you needed them the most and were isolated from your family.

    What was misinterpreted in that (insane) discussion over on "musings" was that:

    (1) I have no connection to adoption and
    (2) I will never have any connection to infant or toddler adoption. This is true both in my nuclear family or with my close relatives (siblings.) My siblings know they could count on me to take care of any children. Their children will always be taken care of my me and my partner. Furthermore, no one in my extended family has had any connection to adoption.

    I was put off by the rhetoric directed at those people who suffer from infertility. My _biggest_ pet peeve are people who assume that I want their child or other people's children because I cannot biologically have my own child.

    I never called anyone a racist.

    Someone asked, if when they accused infertile people of bad behavior, did they really need to qualify their statements every time with the phrase "infertiles who adopt" or may they simply generalize with the word "infertiles?"

    Was is appropriate to ay something like the following without qualification:

    "Infertiles are selfish, entitled people." Or, "Infertiles are vampires who want to suck the blood of babies." (Quote from that comment thread.)

    It is not appropriate (or accurate) to state without qualification that "Infertiles are selfish entitled people." Is is appropriate to say the following: "People who suffer from infertility, and who choose to adopt unethically, are selfish, entitled people."

    I mentioned that if it turned one's stomach to substitute another word for "infertiles," such as "the disabled," "African Americans" or "the gay community" without qualification, then, oh my yes, that is a sign that what your phrasing is going to be offensive to all people with infertility, and not simply those involved in the adoption community. For example, it sounds horrible to say "the selfish blacks" or "the selfish gays." Likewise, it is not correct to say the "selfish infertiles."

    After that experience I concluded that there appears to be misdirected rhetoric (if not anger) directed towards people who suffer infertility in general. But it is probably mostly misunderstandings due to the inflamed rhetoric that results from the way people speak on the internets. I am assuming that people are not mad at people with infertility who have nothing to do with adoption. (But, honestly, I'm not sure. There was some stuff I read in my introduction to "adoptionland" that made me think all people with infertility were immediate suspects and possible "adoptors," guilty of unethical thoughts, and baby lust, until proven innocent.)

    I was called a vampire, and I was told I wanted a "womb wet baby." By the way, I have to say that phrase is hilarious. My partner burst out laughing when he heard that, as he knows just how repulsed I am by that idea. I am not a baby person. Not everyone who suffers from infertility desires the acquisition a stranger's infant. Some people are literally repulsed by the idea. (Me!)

    I am sorry that I got involved in the discussion and I am sorry for any pain I caused. I think firstmothers are a vulnerable, traumatized population, and I wish I had not engaged. I have regret because I do not want my rhetoric to cause anyone any further emotional pain.

    I apologize sincerely for any pain that I caused with my own, inflamed rhetoric.

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for taking the time to seek me out and comment :) It is really hard on blogs and forums at times to get one's point across, especially when they differ, without falling into the trap of attacking so I too apologise for my approach.

      Yes, the things you were called were simply inappropriate and unnecessary.

      In regards to the discussion of couples who suffer from infertility, I know not all couples adopt or even seek to adopt. Some of our dear close family friends are couples who would have loved to have children and didn't because they could not but chose to involve themselves in the lives of children through other means.

      My own personal comments here on my blog and over at Claudia's were aimed at a select group and are based on 16 years of experience with said select group. It isn't like I decided that because one couple were like that then all were the same; no, sadly, I was to meet hundreds more over the next decade and it actually shocked me... so I started to speak out because I saw more mothers and children become separated when all they needed was just a little support. And in some cases, it really was just a little support.

      Thank you again for your apology. It is appreciated.

  7. I've now read both of your infertility posts. I really agree with rainsthoughts. I never felt that anyone else needed to "fix" my infertility. I took a long time to deal with the issues and the pain from my infertility.

    Yes, I know a lot more about adoption now, than I did before. But I didn't cause this adoption to happen. My daughter would have been adopted by someone. Her birthparents weren't able to care for her. The circumstances that made them feel that way haven't changed, if anything they've gotten worse. My daughter is going to have to deal with that loss. I wish she didn't have to. I wish that her birthparents weren't dealing with loss and that they had been able to parent her. I do own my pain, I dealt with it and the loss it meant.

    My daughters birthparents made decisions that caused my daughter to be placed for adoption. Perhaps if there were a better social safety net in place, she would be with them. I agree we need serious reform in adoption - we need to remove emom expenses, all forms of coercion, ridiculously short revocation periods, different laws in each state, amended birth certificates, enforceable openness agreements. I can support you all day long in those discussions and battles. I respect you and what you've been through. I'll stand with you in calling out the Cs in the baby Veronica case as well. I'll be glad to join you in a fight for ethics in adoption and trying to create a more child centric process. And maybe, I'm not even in the category of APs you're referring to. I don't feel that I fit who you are describing, although I know those people exist. I do encounter them.


Comments are on. Polite, respectful discussion is welcome. Abuse will not be tolerated. Thanks :)