Monday, January 28, 2008

Responding to AnnMarie

AnnMarie left a long comment on the previous post. You should go read it before you read this.

Okay? Everyone back?

All right. AnnMarie, I want to give you a thoughtful response. The first thing I want to say is that absolutely nothing in my argument suggests that only biologically related people should get married. To think that adoption is not in every way a wonderful thing is not to support incest. I gotta tell you, I'm not sure where that came from. I'm a little concerned about what I might have said that could be misconstrued that way.

Second I should also say, just to be clear, am not going to talk about abortion or contract pregnancy/surrogacy. They are different topics. Though I do have positions on at least one of those issues, I don't think that anything I have to say about adoption hinges on what either of us thinks about abortion or contract pregnancy.

Third, I am not opposed to adoption nor do I think that adoptive families are bad. I don't think that adoptees are necessarily scarred or doomed or any such thing. I too know adoptive families that are happy families and adoptees who are no more psychically damaged than the rest of us.

I certainly think it would be good if everyone who wanted to get pregnant could. Infertility can be, in your words, devastating. But here's the deal. Adoption is not a treatment for infertility. Adoption is about finding parents for children, not about finding children for parents. Your infertility and desire for a child does not mean that some other woman should have to bear a child she cannot parent, or far worse, be coerced into relinquishing a child she could parent.

Let's pretend that we came up with something that would make a HUGE difference in unplanned pregnancies over night. Someone invents this perfect contraceptive which has no side effects and is available to everyone, even men. No one gets pregnant unless both partners want to have a baby. Artificial insemination is still possible. We continue to debate the ethics of contract pregnancy. The point is that no one gets pregnant by accident. Of course sometimes terrible things happen to people after they are pregnant. Every now and then there is a baby born who needs new parents, but because of this fictional and marvelous contraceptive it is suddenly rare.

I think that would be a wonderful world.

And it would be a world in which many infertile people would have to find a way to deal with the devastation they experience.

I think Dawn used this example once, or a version of it. Imagine that there weren't enough hetero men for all the hetero women. Not all, but certainly many, of the women always imagined that they would grow up, fall in love, have a beautiful wedding and live happily ever after. When they grew up though it just didn't happen for all of them. A certain number of them are alone and some are devastated by that loneliness. They say that it is not fair. The women who got married aren't more deserving than they are. They too deserve to be happy.

What do we say to them? We offer them comfort perhaps, but what else? If I am married and (in this alternate universe) the sort of woman who can attract lots of men easily, I am not somehow selfish if I don't divorce my husband, or at least tolerate him having affairs, in order to ease the loneliness of other women. I may agree with the lonely women that the world is unfair and they did nothing to deserve to be lonely. And that is where it stops. There is nothing else for us to do to comfort them.

AnnMarie, I in no way want you to feel badly about loving your daughter. I expect that you love her and rejoice in her as I love and rejoice in the presence of Carl, David, and Evan in my life. Our lives are made richer by them.

Though the institutions of foster care and adoption have made our lives unimaginable better, it is not about us. Foster care and adoptions are necessary to find new parents for children who need them, and if by some miracle there are no children who need new parents that would be a good thing.

Even if it means that you and I do not get what we want.


  1. Yondalla, I just wanted to tell you how much I admire the clarity and the precision with which you make your points.

  2. Well said Yondalla.

    I also want to clarify, because I was the one who said I would give up being my children's mother, if it meant that they had never had to suffer the great losses they have with being removed from their birth family - - that my kids understand exactly what I mean when I say it to them.
    Not that I wouldn't want them or that I would give them up at any point in this reality but that I recognize and honour their losses and sometimes overwhelming pain and their wish that they had never gone through all the upheaval that they have.
    My daughter has often said that she wishes that she had grown in my body because then it would be easier for her because adoption is hard.
    She is all of 8.
    That there are children who need families is true.
    That we should all work together to help prevent the situations that make that happen is also true.

    She is eight

  3. "It's not about us."

    That's really all there is to say, isn't there?

  4. I agree, adoption is not a treatment for infertility. Good for you to say so.

  5. faithful reader2:28 AM

    Given the previous comments this one is probably ashes to Newcastle, but I think the key here is just to try to avoid generalizing about the experiences of the most powerless partner in the process, the one with the least agency--the child--especially since none of thus appear to be in that group. In the best of all possible worlds, the first parents want to have their child adopted and the adoptive parents are perfect and delighted to receive this gift and the adoptee never experiences any serious problems. Even so, that *doesn't* mean it isn't a loss for the adopted party, even if they have a great life and are basically happy. Not least because our society is really invested in things like genealogy and "knowing where you came from." For some adoptees, adoption is a mostly positive experience and for some it is a mostly negative experience and for most it seems to be somewhere in between. You can neither predict nor control, when you adopt a child, what that experience is going to be. (This is not a matter of ingratitude or some other unreasonability on the part of the adoptee, either: for if we have any right in this world it is to speak honestly about our feelings and experiences).

    Another example: my best friend in college lost her mother to cancer before she was three. She has no memory of her mother that she can call her "own" memory, only memories where the content is filled in by others. She grew up with her father and six siblings, she had a classic midwestern childhood, lives a successful life. That doesn't prevent her, at every transition in her at which she is reminded of this basic fact about her identity, from grieving about it. She will always have lost her mother. No one can ever fix that--no matter how good things were afterward.

  6. I agree that adoption is about finding families for children not children for families.
    Adoption has really changed my outlook on life. It is such a blessing to form a family through adoption. There is also a great sadness that come with it. I mourn my daughters birthmother at every milestone. It is not something I expected and very difficult for me to talk about.

  7. Anonymous7:19 AM

    I intended to post a response to AnnMarie's comment, but your post says everything I planned to say, and more articulately than I could have said it. I'm a PAP who came to adoption through infertility, so I'm sympathetic, but to me the *least* compelling argument for adoption is the potential pain of infertile couples.

    It's only within the last century that human beings have had any semblance of control over our fertility; sometimes I think it's gone to our heads.

  8. I also agree! In USA seems like domestic baby adoption is a business. AND I AM SORRY IF IT MAKES ANYONE MAD, but if it is safe, In my opinion, the best place for a child is with her biological parents. Doesn't matter if the bio parents have only high school and the adoptive parents are physicians and lawyers.
    The best place for them is with ther biological family (when safe, of course).

  9. Oh my goodness! I never meant anything at all about incest. Never even crossed my mind. I was just using an example of non-bio people being in the same family. Oh my goodness. Please drop that part completely. I'm horrified that I was misread in that way. :(

  10. Okay Annmarie! I understand better now. I did, by the way, not think that you were promoting incest. I thought you were accusing *me* of having a position which required me to insist that no one could get married unless they were already married. I'm glad to understand that you were just trying to make an analogy.

    And just to be clear on this side, I don't think that your comments support polygamy either! We are both trying to find dramatic examples to make our arguments clear, aren't we?

  11. Okay, now that I've actually read everything ;-) I can comment further. To start from the last comment before mine, but relates to the rest of it: Why is it inherently better/best to be raised by biological family? What does a biological tie have to do with it? That's part of what I was trying to get at with my post. There are all sorts of people who are great parents who aren't biologically tied to their children. Just because our current culture puts great importance on looking like our parents and being related to blood--that's not a good enough reason to say it's best. There has to be something more than that to make it so important.

    And why is it so bad for someone to give birth and not be the parent? Just because it causes pain doesn't mean it should be gone from the world. (I would argue the absence of any pain would mean we'd be in heaven so what's the point? Then we wouldn't have to argue this point, because everyone would have exactly what they wanted at all times and life wouldn't be anything to argue about ;-) )

    If in a perfect world, some people cannot have bio children who want to have children (a specific assumption obout a perfect world, tho you could argue again this wouldn't be a perfect world)... people who are biologically capable of having children have children, whether they want to raise them or not. And people who are not biologically capable of bearing children can still raise them. Perhaps I'm just operating under different assumptions of "a perfect world."

    While the line is that adoption is about finding families for children, it has to start with families who are looking for children. No one becomes an adoptive parent without wanting to have kids. While adoption isn't a treatment for infertility, it certainly is a solution for those of us who don't want to be childless. Maybe I'm just more honest than others in the adoption world, but I'm willing to admit that I'm selfish. I want kids. That's why I adopted. (Actually, I think that's why they say we should adopt, not for altruistic reasons but because we want kids than we can have biologically.)

    Maybe it's because I come from a different place about the conception of kids. I don't honestly think it would be fantastic to have a contraceptive out there that absolutely prevented pregnancy in the way you describe. I think it would be sad to not know all the fantastic people I know who weren't conceived at the exact point in time when both parents wanted to conceive them. I think an awful lot happens fortuitously. (I happen to know that both my brother and I were not expected, not to mention all the people in my family who were adopted or also unexpected additions to the family.) I don't see anything imperfect about this at all.

    You've given me more to think of and I can't wait to share it with DH--esp the contraceptive idea--and see what he thinks, too.

    Off to think some more....

  12. Okay so its funny that this topic comes up, its something we have been talking about in my Sociology course I'm currently taking.

    I'm a gay man that will never have children of my own genetic makeup.

    Nor would I try to find a surrogate mother to pursue that goal knowing how many children there are in the world without two loving parents.

    That being said - I wouldn't be using adoption to fill the void of not having my own children but rather use adoption to fill the void for the child not having loving parents. With that would come the validity of having children of my own.

    An I find it a bit disconcerting how the idea of going into a situation like adoption with the idea that the child is going to solve all your dreams of having a family.

    I would much rather children stay in a safe environment with their own parents.

    So yes...thats my .02

  13. Wow. I am adopted and I have adopted kids. I agree adoption is not a treatment for infertility ... but I also feel Annmarie's statement about adoption being a solution for childless couples is also accurate.

    There are people who look to adoption in order to create their families. There are people who look to adoption as a means of helping children find families.

    We all have our reasons and motivations behind anything we do, from giving financially to a cause to boycotting companies who operate against our beliefs. Neither is right and neither is wrong.

    NO child should be removed from a family who is loving, responsible and safe. That doesn't mean rich or educated. But in those cases where the first family is either not safe or the mother determined -- for whatever reason -- she could not parent, adoption is an excellent option.

    I would not be who I am without being adopted or adopting my children. The other options available for me and my children where to grow up in an orphanage (me) or be bounced around and separated from each other in foster care (my kids). Not much for "family."

    I have suffered from the loss of not knowing biological family and feeling rejected. And my children do too, although I am able to provide them with biological connections and answers to their questions. We all have received/do receive counseling to help us with those issues.

    But there's no guarantee with biological chlidren that they will not suffer from loss. Nor a guarantee to parents that children will grow up happy and healthy. Adoption does not change that in the parent/child relationship. In fact, I think because we are aware of the losses suffered, adoptive children and adoptive parents often are better equipped with supports than biological parents often are.

    While I mourn the loss of biological family, I also feel genetics does not make a family. Being loved, having my needs met, and being safe are what defines a family. Because the people who raised me did those things, they are my parents. Just as I am the parent of my children.

    In a perfect world, we wouldn't need to debate any of this.

  14. Carmel2:34 PM

    It sounds like we are trying to solve a problem with a swift generalization. its like saying that in a perfect world instead of having world hunger people would just not have to eat or in a perfect world instead of fighting for gay rights or kids commiting suicide rather than coming out that everyone would be straight. I don't think that is what Yondalla believes but by saying that a perfect world only has children who were born and raised by biologically families who wanted them, it discounts the families who found happiness in other ways. I am not a perfect nuclear family and it can offend when it is assumed that the world would be perfect if we all were. When a person is deemed infertile a unimaginable amount of grief follows, it seems odd that we are deemed selfish if adopt a child and are happy that it is an option. A man with a failing heart is not selfish for wanting and praying a new heart? Should he feel guilty when he gets one?

  15. "A man with a failing heart is not selfish for wanting and praying a new heart? Should he feel guilty when he gets one?"

    Well, I think he should be aware of the loss that someone else will have to suffer in order to get that heart. And I would hope that he would mourn that loss even as he was grateful for the gift he had received.

    In the same way that it is the kids needing parents who are most important, not the parents wanting kids, and in a perfect world no kid would be in a state of needing new parents... We try to save someone's life before we give his/her organs to a waiting recipient.

    And to continue the messy metaphor--there are situations where someone can donate a kidney or a piece of liver or bone marrow, and there is no/less trauma, which I think we could compare to surrogate mothers (in Yondalla's perfect world), and then there are traumatic situations where someone dies and then someone else gets to live, and in a (more) "perfect world" where we could save the life of every person injured in, for example, a car accident, I think that we would celebrate that, even if it meant that people waiting for organ transplants would no longer get them.

  16. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Another foster & adoptive parent here. I enjoy your blog, Yondalla, but I, like some others have been wondering about your need to weigh in so heavily on this. I always support a good philosophical debade, but really, what's your purpose on this one? It's not that you don't make some fine and valid points, you do. But you also neglect to differentiate between difficult systemic and deeply personal issues. I think that's why I'm experiencing your posts on this as judgemental and hurtful.

    What follows is a series of thoughs, some of which are probably quite tangential to your argument.

    Isn't it part of life that sometimes good things happen, sometimes hard things happen, and often, there is overlap between the two? Who are you, or anyone for that matter, to say what is right and wrong in situations like these.

    I wonder why you chose to have biological children? I'm sure that whatever your reasons were, part of it has to do with wanting those relationships for yourself. I think that's normal and honest and healthy, and it's no different for people who choose to adopt through foster care.

    Have you ever felt so in love with you children that you couldn't imagine your life without them? Have you every known that you were meant to be their mother and they were meant to be your children? How would you feel if someone told you that it was socially and politically wrong for you to feel like that. My daughter's birth mother was a child when she gave birth. She followed Safe Haven guidelines, brought her baby to a safe place and asked that someone take care of her. I get that your point is that in an "ideal world," this wouldn't have happened. Maybe so, but that's not a message I want my daughter to hear. That her life, as it is, somehow is just not right. She and I believe that we're in each other's lives for a reason and for us there's perfection in that.

    I also can't help but notice that you make a distinction between how Annmarie feels about her children and how you feel about your biological children (since you said that you're sure she probably loves her kids as much as you love your foster kids). What's up with that?

    I maintain a belief that things happen for a reason. Some time ago my partner and I decided to expand our family again through foster/adopt (for some selfish and some less selfish reasons!) We welcomed a newborn baby and had him for a short lifetime. When the courts decided to return him to his bio family, we were devastated. It didn't help that they were in no way meeting their case plan and that for 15 years all 8 of their children have been in and out of care. He went home to a very unsafe and unstable environment. Heartbroken and worried as we were, and still are, we believe that he was with us for a reason and we gave him what he needed at a critical time in his life. I have come to believe that maybe he is where he needs to be now. Even though all of the facts tell me that this was not the right decision, maybe there is something I just don't understand. After all, who am I to judge?

    Do you think I really need to be reminded that this is not about me?

    Noone would argue that it's good or right or ok that our current reality is that we have thousands of children in foster care in this country, but that is the reality. This is a systemic issue and one that I actively work to change in my community. This is not inconsistent with the fact that I want to adopt again. I want that for myself and for my current and future children. That is a personal choice for me and my family and even though it means that we interact with a tragic system, I refuse to bear the burden of guilt or responsibilty. When I read your posts, I am left questioning not the validity but the value of your points and I wonder why you are so compelled to have this as a soapbox issue...

  17. I have read these comments and am kind of overwhelmed with what I want to say.

    I am a former foster child. I agree that it would have been 100% better if I could have stayed with one of my bio-parents. But my mother is not well. She is/was not capable of taking care of herself, much less her children. And my dad, well, let's just say that long term responsibility is not his forte. Was it better that we were in foster care? 100% yes. Would it have been even better if things could have happened (social support, financial support, medication, etc) so that we could have lived with a bio-parent? Also 100% yes. Did I suffer a loss in order to be in a healthier relationship? Yes I did. I'm more years out of living with my mother than years in, and I still grieve not only my lack of a relationship with her, but the pain, damage, and loss of childhood I had as a result of living with her.

    There is a key difference between what is the ideal and what actually is. Yes in Yondalla's scenario, no one would get pregnant unless they wanted to. But that's just it, it's a scenario. I find it's better to focus on the actuality of the world. There are children who are in danger and need to be removed from that danger. Whether that is through services for the family, foster care and/or adoption.

    In Judaism we have two concepts that are fundamental. The first is that every person has free will. That we make our own choices. The second is "Hashgacha Pratis", loosely translated as "Divine Intervention". It means nothing happens in this world unless G-d deems it so. That leaf doesn't move unless G-d preordained it to do so. The can of coke doesn't tip over either. My typing this sentence.

    Yondalla is going to say they are paradoxical, and I agree they are.

    But I find solace in the concept that yes, my mother has free will to choose to beat her children or not, and free will to get meds for her illness or not, while at the same time, I know that G-d wanted me to live this life. That it was preordained that I would get these parents, these foster parents, this husband, these children, etc.

    On a side note, as many of you know, I'm remarried. My children, who are anomalies in my neighborhood, talk all the time about having "two tatties (daddys)". My husband Sky, treats them like they are his own, they call him "our tatty", and for the most part they are well attached to one another. It's a beautiful thing. But it doesn't stop them from feeling pain or crying to me about how they miss their bio-dad, and how they wish he was in their lives more.

    Sometimes a situation can be good yet painful at the same time. Having a loving father figure is good. Missing your bio-dad is painful. My job is to try and help kiss those painful boo boos and try to make them less painful.

    Dawn Friedman talks alot about the "primal wound" that Madison sometimes seems to feel about her own adoption. I used to not believe it. But I see that my own kids feel that same type of pain in regards to their own absent bio-dad. I recommend you all read what Dawn has to say about this.

    I think there's a multitude of issues/arguments here and they need to be sorted out rather than just multiplying over one another.

  18. Perfect world, reality, adoption...hmmm all food for thought.

    Thoughts from a foster family, right?

    I think, after reading and re-reading that my thoughts center around one reality for me.

    Five of my eight were adopted through foster care. All of their birth parents were addicts. There is a part of me that wishes my services as foster/adopt parent were no longer needed. AND I wouldn't trade in any of my children.

    Also, AnnMarie, there are lots and lots of children available for adoption that need families. Check with your local STATE adoptions agency. Plenty of foster kids to fill hearts. (I do not mean any malice here)


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