An Adoptive Mother’s Story: Guest Post from Mighty Mom

Editor’s Note:  I was about ten when my mother led my Brownie troop on a trail-marking expedition in High Point State Park (NJ). Nearly twenty of us, along with three adults, divided into three groups: One to mark the trail, one to follow it, and one to clear away the markings as they followed the second group.

My mother led the first group along the path, on what was supposed to be a two-hour hike; we were to wind up back at the parked cars that held our post-hike refreshments.  Instead, Mom took a wrong turn, and led our troop several miles up the Appalachian Trail (which runs from Maine to Georgia).

Three hours later, we were still hiking. Exhausted. Hungry. Thirsty. We sat down to wait for the two other groups to catch up … and one of them eventually did.  (In their excitement, the second group had obiterated the carefully laid trail, so there were no marks remaining for the third group, who simply gave up and returned to the car to wait for us.)

Another hour passed, and finally Mom decided we would make our way to the interstate for help. So there we were — a dozen bedraggled, hungry, whiny tweenagers and two adults who were doing their best to hold it together — huddled by the side of the road somewhere in upstate New York, trying to bum a ride. (Sadly, there was no “hitchhiker” badge in the Brownie Hand Book.)

Finally, some vacuum salesman from Poughkeepsie gave my mother a lift back to her car, and a full six hours after we were originally supposed to have returned, we pulled in to the school parking lot. This was in the days before cell phones, and by that time parents were frantic.

We had less than half our troop at the next meeting. But it wasn’t so bad: I had a story that stayed with me for life.

These past two weeks I feel as though I’ve been hiking that Appalachian Trail again — this time as the leader. Trying to read the signs, to point the way for those who follow, and to keep “my troops” (my own family) safe and happy and well-fed.  And these two weeks, I feel as though I’ve allowed myself to wander far afield.

The purpose of EMN is — and always will be — to support the mothers of adopted, foster, and special-needs children.  Our vocation is not an easy one, and most of us have enough ugliness and pain in our lives that we don’t need to go looking for more.  

And so, it’s time to get back on track. The other two sides of the adoption triad — natural/birth mothers and adult adoptees — already have plenty of places where they can go to address their needs and wants, and to express their pain and loss.

This site … is for extraordinary mothers.  Our hopes. Our struggles. Our faith. Our journeys.  If and when other voices chime in, their comments should reflect an understanding of the needs of  mothers of adopted, foster, and special needs kids.  

And so, let’s head back to the parking lot, shall we? Here’s a guest post from “Mighty Mom” to lead us there — to remind us of the realities of adoption from the ADOPTIVE parents’ point of view. (My notes are in brackets).

I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up much.  It seems to me you’ve gotten a bunch of adult adoptees who have not faced that their being adopted was the result of  a decision their mothers made, because of the place their mothers were at the time. 

Each person has to make their own decisions in this life, and birth mothers must, like the rest of us, do the best they can with what they have at the moment.  In many cases, the decision birth mothers make is a painful one — too terribly painful to face [decades later].  

Just as adoptees need and deserve to be treated gently and with great love and grace, so too do the birth mothers. And so do adoptive parents. 

I would like to explain a bit about my experiences with trying to adopt.  My information comes from personal experience and the experiences of my friends who are adoptive parents or trying to become adoptive parents.

Anyone who wants to adopt a child in America is automatically going to be pushing a boulder UP a mountain.  There are many many more parents wishing to adopt than there are babies available, thanks to the ease and acceptance of abortion.  [Editor’s Note: The NCFA “Adoption Factbook IV” estimates that in 2002 there were 17 domestic adoptions for every 1000 abortions.]

Many parents choose to adopt from the foster system or choose babies that have special needs.  These paths are easier [in the beginning] because the baby/family ratio is bigger.  For those that do not feel adequate to handle these paths, they must become contestants in a ruthless beauty pageant. 

After the home studies and such are accomplished and you are deemed “worthy to adopt” by the authorities, you endure the process of finding a baby. This can be done through an agency or independently… in the end it amounts to much the same thing: 

A pregnant lady (the one and only judge in the adoptive parent “beauty pageant”) decides she wants to put her baby up for adoption, then interviews as many families as she chooses … and takes as long as she likes to make a decision between them, even playing one against the other.  

While she’s deciding, she can negotiate with any or all of the families she’s debating between, these negotiations include paid medical and living expenses. Most prospective parents will take the birth mother’s assurance (an assurance they are desperate to hear) that they are to become her baby’s parents, and will give her anything she asks. Really, what other choice do they have? 

The problem is, there are NO guarantees, and NO recourse if the birth mother decides not to give her baby to this family. She’s under no obligation to give any of that money back. She simply takes the baby … and leaves the adoptive parents with the debts, crushed and wondering if they could possibly survive this kind of agony. 

This is what adoption looks like from the other side of the waiting room — a very different view of that “vultures hovering over a pregnant girl.” Instead, you see a woman string along 3 different families, promising her child to each….gathering “gifts” from each….over the course of 6 months.

[The sympathy, of course, is with the “poor mother.”  Of COURSE she should be able to change her mind. Of COURSE she should raise her own child if she is able to provide a stable, loving home. However, this “badge of motherhood” is not a license to manipulate and deceive those who are in some ways just as vulnerable as she is.

Many prospective parents choose International Adoption simply to avoid this kind of scenario.  Not to exploit some poor woman in another country.  But to offer a child whose prospects are limited the chance at a good life. 

America has a lot to offer, and we are wealthy in the eyes of the world.  If I were to bring a child from another country…a poor and underdeveloped country… into my home, I could offer that child opportunities that they would otherwise never have. 

Many people who live in poor countries outside of the USA still see us as the land of milk and honey, the American Dream, the land of opportunity.  When a mother is unable to provide for her child all the things he needs just to survive, it takes great courage and sacrifice to let that child go. She does it to give him or her the opportunity for a different, and what she hopes will be a better, life. 

Of course, most children that are adopted and brought into America are not living with their mothers. They scratch out a living in overcrowded orphanages or foster homes.  These children survive, but most often they do so without the individual love that a mother and father shower on their children.  I hope that one day God allows me to take a child from an orphanage and bring it into my home to be loved. 

[Once the child comes home, and the family begins to form a bond with that child, the gap between the vision and reality of parenthood can be a great one — even greater than biological parents experience. 

[Adoption is a lifelong experience that extends from infancy to young adulthood.  And so, in addition to the misgivings most new parents experience,  adoptive parents go through life wondering if they will ever be able to live up to the promises they made to the birth mother, to the child,  and to themselves.

[Yes, we can provide that child with all the comforts money can buy — but do we have within ourselves all we need to give this helpless soul all the love and support he needs? Can we ever hope to be truly “his parents”? Or do we have to resign ourselves to be a distant second best, good enough to change the diapers and kiss the boo-boos and teach the ABCs … and just waiting for the day when his “real parents” can reclaim their prize, or he gets old enough to accuse us of ruining his life?

[This is the reality of adoptive parenting. The divine love we are called to imitate … always  involves a cross. And because we are no more perfect than any other parent, there are times when we fail to love as perfectly, as selflessly, and with as much detachment as we ought. It is then we learn the meaning of family as “domestic church” — a group of people, united together as children of God, who help one another all the way to heaven.

[In discussions about adoption, it is so important to remember that each side has its story — that there are winners and losers on each side of that triad. Birth mothers who are honestly struggling to do the right thing … and those who out of immaturity or plain selfishness exploit others, even their own child. Adopted children who love their adoptive parents for the sacrifices they’ve made for them, and those who turn their grief and loss on the only readily available target. And adoptive parents who become so obsessed with parenthood that they make themselves willing pawns in the hands of unscrupulous profiteers, and those who just do the best they can to find a child who needs them and give themselves wholeheartedly to tending to the needs of that child … the child they believe God has chosen to fill their empty arms.

[So often these past few weeks I’ve heard the idea that “Adoption is not about finding children for families, but finding families for children.”

[Actually, it’s about both. Each side has a void only the other can fill. If that were not true, there would BE no adoption. And children would suffer for it. Many children ARE suffering and dying because their “natural” parents did not have the courage to do the loving, the courageous, the lifegiving … the RIGHT … thing.]

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your story.      

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This entry was posted in Adoption, Extraordinary Moms, Uncategorized and tagged by hsaxton. Bookmark the permalink.

About hsaxton

Heidi Hess Saxton is an adoptive parent of two children, and converted to Catholicism in 1994. She is adoptive parent columnist at CatholicMom.com and CatholicExchange.com. She also writes for the Parenting Channel at AnnArbor.com. In her spare time, she is finishing up her Master's thesis at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

13 thoughts on “An Adoptive Mother’s Story: Guest Post from Mighty Mom

  1. I would like to reply to your article because I was the person who referred to “vultures” circling a pregnant woman or girl (with very bad spelling). I never suggested that adoptive parents in general should be cast in this light. I am, after all, an adoptive parent. I was responding to the post from Kim, who said. . .and I’d really like you to consider the sense of this:

    “Also in my country we don’t do a lot of things that are done in America in regards to advertising for children or enticing pregnant women to come into agencies. I could be wrong but I don’t even think we have adoption agencies in Australia. Adoption is treated as a non profit activity and mothers are encouraged to parent rather than relinquish.”

    So that’s my issue. You mentioned the word “pageant” and Kim used the word “enticement.“ I think these two words are part of the same problem. I think the system needs reforming so that pressure to relinquish goes down, advertising and enticement go down, and a child is not a lottery prize. I specifically made reference to the Australian law because I think it allows the mother slightly more than two weeks to make up her mind. If these laws turn out to be successful, we should be following or at least studying that example. Would you not want to know that your child was utterly free to be adopted? That was incredibly important to me.

    Heidi mentioned to me recently that a delay of this kind could “make it that much longer before the child got to bond with his or her ‘forever family’.” That is true, but it’s not the end of the world. As a parent of a child who was 12 months and 2 weeks when I adopted her, I’m not convinced that the 2-week rule in Australia is going to be all that damaging. There was not a single child in our China group who was under 6 months. We all did OK.

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  2. Thanks, Jessica. I guess I’m less sanguine about the idea of leaving a child with his mother if she is already so uncertain of her ability to parent that she is seriously considering adoption. With International Adoption, the dynamic may be somewhat different for the simple reason that (as I understand it) children available for adoption abroad are generally not living with their parents, but are placed in foster homes or orphanages. In the U.S., they would be living with a mother who may be suffering from depression or have other serious problems. My daughter, for example, was left to scream for hours on end because her mother (by her own admission) was too depressed to get out of bed. I got her at six months — she rarely cried at all. She still has high anxiety and fear issues, even though (as the counselor pointed out to me) she is obviously attached to us. How a child is treated in that first year, in the pre-verbal stages, can have lasting effects.

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  3. all I will say is that the pressure to relinquish is not to entice a woman to give up the child for adoption. It is to entice a woman to NOT have an abortion. To show her that there is another option available and the need for those enticeing advertisments will not go away until abortion is outlawed.

    The beauty pageant, however, is formed by and for the birth mother. Adoptive parents have to lay their lives open publicly in order to be deemed “good enough” both by civil authorities and birth mothers and the result of this is the beauty pageant, of which the birth mother becomes the judge. I became very bitter at one point because it hurt me to think that this person who by her own admission cannot raise her child is the same person who is going to say whether or not I’m “good enough” to love and raise the child. Another reason we will look overseas.

    And Heidi, stories like your daughter’s make me fighting mad. Thank God she has YOU.

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  4. Well, you’re looking at a moral quagmire here then because the impetus to adopt should be solely about supporting a child who is totally adoptable and not about being somebody else’s moral compass or baby saver. If the tide against abortion is going to turn, it’s not going to turn that way and may even put some folks right off adoption, which I believe has already happened if I’m reading the signs correctly. (For the record, I am not a Roe v. Wade fan.)

    It’s interesting. The government of China selected our children for us. The door opened and there they were. It does avoid some of the problems about which you speak. I find the elements of “contest” in the domestic system quite replusive. A lot of people since have asked me if I chose, and by now I wouldn’t even have wanted to.

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  5. “adopt should be solely about supporting a child who is totally adoptable and not about being somebody else’s moral compass or baby saver.”

    SoloMama, this is where you and I have a significantly different viewpoint. Why “should” adoption not be about caring for children who would otherwise die, or encouraging their mothers to choose life? Offering adoption as an alternative to abortion is the most loving thing anyone could do not only for the baby’s sake, but the mother’s as well.

    There are so many groups of post-abortive women now who are expressing what a horror abortion is, how they deeply regret making the decision to end their child’s life. Howmany of these women take abortion as the “easy way out” — and discover (too late) it was a trap?

    I think this would make a good separate post … I’ll link to some of these groups.

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  6. Could you define what being an”Extraordinary Mom” means? I really do not understand whatsoever the idea that one should love one’s parents because of their sacrifices. Or if you are in pain and grief why reaching out to the person you call “mother” for understanding and help would be considered making the parent a “target” for their grief. The people I love are people who treat me with respect and dignity, who listen to me and who show me they care about how I feel and are non-judgemental about who I am as a person. They don’t require adulation and thanks. They don’t expect anything in return for their love. They show me love in these ways and I return the same love and respect to them naturally. But if I am being required or expected to be appreciative of their sacrifices, that casts a different light on the relationship. That is what adoptees often feel from their “extraordinary moms” who go out of their way to “save a life” and seem to need the affirmation from “their” adoptee for the “sacrifice” they have made, which the adoptee never requested or asked for. Most thinking and feeling human beings find being made to feel beholden or subservient to another distasteful and oppressive. Why can’t you just be ordinary moms?

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  7. Pingback: O Solo Mama

  8. Heidi, Heidi, Heidi…

    How incredibly, heart-wrenching sad that a mother depressed six months after giving birth is not able to find the medical and psychological support she need to fight off postpartum depression or even more serious chronic depression without having to lose her child.

    Clearly you did NOT save this child from death by abortion. The abortion/adoption “choice” only exists for the first trimester. The vast majority of women in a quagmire deciding to parent or surrender are well past that.

    I have been a part of support groups and email lists for mothers who lost children for adoption over the past 40 years and researched the subject intensely. The fact is that very few of those who relinquish considered abortion.

    It is very cruel for adopted persons to constantly hear that they had a greater chance than any other human being of being aborted! Pro-lifers seldom consider that awful consequence of their public campaigns. The vast majority of human beings throughout time were born “accidentally” – whether parents were married or not! Not every unintentional pregnancy is considered for abortion! The vast majority simply accept it.

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  9. Mirah, Mirah, Mirah:

    Your comment is so offensive and wrong on so many levels, I refuse to post the entire thing here. Let me simply refer to a few of the BLATANT errors here.

    The fact that I do not choose to publish the horrific details of my children’s relinquishment, for their sake, does not give you license to make wild assertions that you have NO RIGHT to make. If simple depression was the only problem, the children would still be with their birth parents today. If you cannot admit that there are children whose parents are neglecting and abusing them, and who deserve to be protected from these “parents,” then you are either incredibly naive or willfully ignorant.

    In 2002 there were 17 domestic adoptions for every THOUSAND children aborted. FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND children are now being raised by the state because their parents were unable or unwilling to do so. These families have access to a wide variety of services — my kids’ parents had three years to work their plan. Just how long are we supposed to wait for these “poor parents” to get their acts together?

    What I find cruel is people like you who intimate that the parent who chooses to relinquish rather than abort is somehow failing that child. I’m not saying that relinquishing is easy. It’s not. But sometimes it is the most loving option available.

    What would Jesus do? “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus himself was adopted, by Joseph, who took Mary and Jesus into his home and protected them. There are times when we can and should support a struggling family. There are also times when more serious intervention is required, for the good of the child.

    “Pro-lifers,” as you call them, raise awareness of the realities of abortion because abortion is a multimillion dollar business that exploits women. (Only first trimester? Are you KIDDING ME?) Read the facts.

    More than 1.3 MILLION children died last year because of a “choice.” 1.3 MILLION children whose mothers felt they could not raise them. As a society, how did we reach a point when we decided these children were better off dead than being raised by another family?

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  10. I’m with you on the principle that some parents should not/cannot raise their kids. The ability to produce a child is not a sign–necessarily–of ability to parent. The fact that your kids’ family of origin had a plan, and assistance with it, speaks to this. So does the number of kids in foster care.

    Relinquishing is not failure but it needs to be a well-considered decision.

    Still reluctant, though, to draw much of a connection between abortion and adoption because, as has been said before, those terminating usually terminate without dithering. Something I didn’t know is that women are getting abortions earlier and earlier:

    “According to recent government reports, abortions are occurring earlier, when the procedure is safer; increased access to medication abortion can help accelerate that trend.

    “’For a long time, nearly 90% of abortions in the U.S. have taken place in the first trimester, but in recent years, women having an abortion have been able to do so earlier and earlier in the first trimester. Currently, more than six in 10 abortions occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and almost three in 10 take place at six weeks or earlier,’ says Rachel Jones, lead researcher on the new survey. ‘Medication abortion, which provides women with an additional option early in pregnancy, clearly reinforces this very positive trend.’”

    http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2008/01/17/index.html

    Ok, so that definitely suggests to me that the women seen by the adoption agencies are those who have already decided NOT to terminate. They are self-selected. Since that is the case, pro-life forces working in the adoption arena should be forgetting about that issue (in my opinion) and trying to follow best adoption practice.

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  11. I guess I don’t find it particularly surprising that women are getting their abortions earlier and earlier, as you say. It’s much simpler to rationalize in those first few weeks that “it” isn’t really a child, but as a “blob of tissue,” before she sees the first heartbeat, or can make out the outline of his fingers or her little head. Instead they rush through a decision that they may very well spend the rest of their lives regretting.

    However, I don’t agree that we should just throw up our hands and give in to the holocaust. This is all the more reason that women do need to be reminded of the dignity of every human life, and that their fertility is not a disease to be treated but a gift to be embraced. The scars from abortion can last a lifetime, even when the decision is made on impulse. I write more about that on Friday.

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