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« The Memory of Loss | Main | On Again & Off Again. »

January 26, 2010



It made me think of your blog. I really think that blogs like yours, voices like yours are necessary. If more people hear about the other side of adoption I think things will improve.

I never comment because it's difficult to write in english for me but i've been readi
ng your blog for a long time and it really made me change my understanding of adoption. People are receptive when I discuss about the way we see adoption if it comes up. (ie when they comment on celebrities adopting or when they want to "save" Haitian babies etc) Your blog really helps to analyse and see in a new light the narratives around adoption.Thank you.


I agree with you to a certain extent. It's something my husband and I struggled with when we decided to adopt. Already having bio children, we decided we didn't want to be anywhere near infant adoption b/c it felt like we would be taking an infant from an already long list of waiting, infertile couples. We wanted to be part of the solution for the millions of children who have been relinquished. So we adopted a special needs (albeit minor) toddler.
The truth is that even if there were no longer infertile couples needing birthmothers to choose adoption plans, there would still be parents who would have to choice but to relinquish. What about orphans that have lost parents to death or tragedy? Overall, I just think everyone needs to be diligent in educating themselves about the entire picture and all around best practices when it comes to adoption. Thanks for asking the hard questions. I think it compels people to continue down that education path.


"The truth is that even if there were no longer infertile couples needing birthmothers to choose adoption plans, there would still be parents who would have to choice but to relinquish."

And is there no way to possibly build towards a future where they COULD have other choices?


I think anytime someone else's loss becomes your gain, especially when the person who gains is the more priveleged or powerful, this has to be very diligently examined. I have been on the gaining end, when we adopted our daughter from Korea. I do not think that I understood this concept at the time, but I have read and explored this topic, at length, and am able to grapple with it, dispite its uncomfortableness. Adoption is about loss and all parties must be mindful of this, so it is so helpful to hear someone like yourself who has experienced adoption from multiple roles


Paula -- I do agree with this, and I have no illusions about the "brave and selfless" stereotype, either with my own first mom, or my adopted daughter's. In fact, I recently looked back on my own initial correspondence with my birth mom, full of "thank you for making such a difficult choice" language, and I sent my birth mom a long apology. It all sounds so condescending now. It opened up a new diaglog where she talked about how it wasn't a choice at all -- it's just what you did in 1965 when you were pregnant and not married. No other options were discussed.

I always cringe when I read blog posts that use language like "God's plan to expand our family" and "this child was meant to be part of our family." Adoption starts with loss, and while each family and child handles it differently, it certainly is something we need to acknowledge.


Wow! Just wow, I can't say anything more.


"The truth is that even if there were no longer infertile couples needing birthmothers to choose adoption plans, there would still be parents who would have to choice but to relinquish."

"And is there no way to possibly build towards a future where they COULD have other choices?"

What other choices? It seems to me that American birth mothers have every choice available to them--abortion, early marriage, single motherhood, and adoption. And statistics seem to say that most in America choose to parent. But still there are women who place their children for adoption. I do believe that no matter what options or choices are presented, without coercion, there will still be mothers who place their children for adoption.


Wow, what a post! I DO feel guilty because I know my daughter's birth mother really had no choice in her situation. It was hard information to digest as I had always assumed the "she gave her up for a better life" drivel. I have struggled with this info since searching for (and finding) my daughter's first family in Russia. I have struggled with wondering what I can do now - now that my daughter is already adopted, we can't go back, despite my new-found feelings about adoption. I am just beginning to wonder what I can do to help bring about change. At this point I honestly have no idea, but I hope one day to figure something out.


"I do believe that no matter what options or choices are presented, without coercion, there will still be mothers who place their children for adoption."

If they had support, they wouldn't *have* to. This is what the blogger is trying to say.

If you are pointing out that some children will always be unwanted, okay - but even then, very, VERY few mothers truly do not want or love their own children.


Now that's an interesting thought. Thanks for this post.


Great thoughts here!


I'm always fascinated by adoptive parents who bemoan the social welfare for women in the countries from which the adoptive parents have just adopted. They often say things like, "it's such a poor country," or "those poor women who have no options," or "I wish these children could know their birth mother," or other such statements that subterfuge the real issues. Yet, these adoptive parents fail to recognize that the very act of adoption holds them partially accountable for the very social system that they outwardly decry.


Very interesting thought. Unfortunately, as selfless as that would seem, if you were able to ask the child, they would much rather stay with their birth parents. (at least that is what my daughter who is adopted would say- and has said- most recently about the Brazilian boy in the custody battle). I do think even bringing children into a bad world which ours is becomes selfish. I feel this way because many of my family tragically died in war. Men women and children. Most people have children or adopt children for selfish reasons. I adopted from China thinking it was because of gov't policy. Now I know I kids are being kidnapped due to the demand from Westerners. So in spite of trying to make an unselfish choice (not bring a child into the world when others were already here needing me), I probably caused someone else to have their baby stolen. So... no easy answers are there? I do think it is/would be much better if rather than adopt babies, that people would donate money to support families so that they could keep their own kids.


This is a really great post, Paula.

I don't know where to start. My husband and I are "not like" a lot of adoptive parents, as our decision to adopt, albeit VERY sadly naive at the time, wasn't a result of infertility. Nor was it a result of wanting to "save" a child. Because we were so naive, I don't even know how to explain it. It was just what WE wanted. I realize how that sounds. We weren't out to save a child by any stretch of the imagination and no matter how uneducated I was in the beginning, I always said that it was a selfish decision - a desire to have a child, even though in a nontraditional way. We wanted to be parents, didn't care about biology (again, all about us) and felt like we'd provide a good home for a child (in the same way we would have if we'd decided to have biological children). My mom raised me with adoption in my heart and my husband, having come from a, hmmm, how shall I say it, not so great family, had no care about biology. He has no ties to his biological father, who left when he was five, or his step father, who essentially raised him but disappeared when he was 18, because they were too selfish to care about their children. So, to him, biology is meaningless.

As for the first part of your post, if I found out I was pregnant I wouldn't be happy. My husband had a vasectomy after we brought our son home so that I would NOT ever accidentally get pregnant. Actually, my husband would probably curl up in the corner and cry like a school girl because we have, in fact, gotten rid of the bottles and are finally getting out of the infant stage. :)

However, I'm not trying to make light of anything; I totally get that you're making a point and you're right - I wouldn't be happy with anyone who would have the nerve to tell me I should place my child with a new family once s/he was born.

I would NEVER feed my children the line about how brave, loving, selfless, blah, blah, blah their first moms were for their decisions. I cringe when I hear/read that other APs tell their children that or worse, believe it themselves. I cannot even imagine having to make such a decision. I would never be so patronizing.

Furthermore, I don't know the *true* reasons behind my children's first mom's decisions. I can read what I've been given in their paperwork, but I don't know whether those are the reasons.

And I could NEVER subscribe to the karma, higher power, etc. thought process. I cannot believe that God would want my children not to be able to live with their parents. I can't even imagine that. I cannot believe that God would want each of my children's mothers to abandon or relinquish them, or would want their situations to be such that they felt they had to do that. That's a thought around which I could never wrap my mind. I do not, however, believe that God wants anyone to suffer, so some of this stuff becomes too complex for me to try to understand (in many areas, not just adoption).

I truly believe that right thing to do, however "disadvantageous" to us APs, is to work toward a world in which women wouldn't have to make these decisions (or be forced into them). I know that many people, especially people who have been adopted, will disagree with me, but I do not believe that adoption can ever completely be eliminated. It is true that so many changes can be made so that adoption is far less common or less "necessary," but (again, I know this sentiment is very unpopular), the world is not a perfect place and there would be many, many social ills to cure before that could happen. I believe this from what I've seen with some relatives. A woman who has several children and who is a drug addict truly may not want the child she's carrying. Sure, if we helped get her off drugs, helped her get a job, helped her with child care, etc., she might be able to raise her most recent child, but again, the world isn't perfect. There are a lot of "ifs" in relation to curing all social problems, not just with adoption, and again, the world is not perfect. I also do not believe that every last first mom who placed a child for adoption is entirely regretful later. I would never speak for women who have been in this position, as it is something I could never pretend to fully understand, but I also don't believe that all first moms who say that they do not regret their decisions are lying or have not yet dealt with things. It this the norm? I doubt it. But I don't believe it's never the situation.

That being said, I sincerely believe that we can work toward helping women raise their biological children. THIS is where I struggle. I have considered things I can personally do to help further this goal and I WILL make an effort in the near future. I believe I will be able to make an effort in this country first and hopefully work to make a difference overseas eventually. My two children are my absolute priorities right now and I do not, especially after the last two years, have much more to give at the CURRENT moment. I'm giving it all to my young children, with very little left over for much else, lately. I will, however, have more to give of myself in the future. I've looked into career options, not just volunteer ones, to further this goal.

I'm finally getting to the main struggle I'm having. My husband and I made a choice and right, wrong, or indifferent, we are parenting two of the most amazing people ever born. They were born to other women, but because of circumstances of which I know little and choices my husband and I made, we now have the privilege and responsibility of raising them. We want to do the best we can. We want them to know how much we love them. We don't ever want them to doubt that. We want them to know we'll support them in life no matter what they feel and what they experience. We want them to know that we realize they have other parents and we're ALWAYS open to helping them find whatever information (or people, if possible) that they want. We want them to know that we'll never judge their feelings or be hurt by them. We want them to know that even though our naiveté may have led us to make the decisions WE made, that we're not sorry for OUR decisions insofar as what we have gained. At the same time, we are truly sincerely sorry for any pain or loss that they will experience. (This keeps me awake at night.) would they interpret any actions WE take to slow down adoption? It's a pretty strong juxtaposition, IMO. I believe that when they're older, they will completely understand that, but as children and young teens, in the process of developing self identity and confidence, that is a rather difficult thing to understand - we love you more than anything and wouldn't ever want to not have you in our lives, but we also believe that adoption isn't necessarily the right thing to do..but we wouldn't ever want to not have you as our children...even though maybe we didn't do the right thing. For me, and I was obviously not adopted, one of the most important things I knew growing up was how much my parents loved and wanted me. I realize that my children will have so much more to deal with than your "average" bio child, but I don't want to add to that by ever giving them the any reason to doubt how much we love and want them.

I don't know whether I've been clear about just a fraction of how I feel about all of this. I also struggle with this and a lot that doesn't help my (in)ability to communicate it. This comment incredibly long and convoluted (more like a rambling post I should keep on my own blog!), so please don't feel any obligation to approve it. In fact, it might be better if you don't. I'm just trying to sort through a lot of it myself. Thank you, as always, for sharing your thoughts.


I've been thinking about this blog all day. I will tell my son how much his first mother's loved him. I will say she performed this selfless act because the she was not able to care for him. I will tell him she kept him for a week because it was such a difficult decision for her to make. I will build her character up as much as possible, because when he gets old enough, he will be able to figure things out. Maybe if I build her up now, he may still think she might have loved him even after he has to processes the fact that he was left on the side of a deserted road amongst the trash.


I have a question for happymomof2....Do you know all that for sure?


I'm also curious whether you actually know all of that, happymomof2. This isn't meant to attack, and I in fact had this exact same discussion with another AMom friend of mine who intended to (but no longer will) tell her children something similar, but if you don't actually know all of that, how you can tell it to your son? And in the unfortunate event it's not true and he learns the truth one day, have you considered how he will perceive YOU b/c of what you told him? Not to mention how he will have to sort through years and years of mistruths that have helped shape his identity and who he is. It's enough for our children to have to deal with reality and truth and the situations as they stand.

Paula O.

I'm sorry I'm so late to the discussion.

First of all, I just wanted to remind everyone that I harbor no illusions that I'm somehow absolved of any kind of responsibility in my role in the adoption cycle, if you will. I don't have the answers - and obviously there are no easy clear-cut ones, but I think it's so important to have this kind of conversation - so thank you to everyone who has commented.

Laura, I hear and feel you on so many different levels. I for one like "long and convoluted" comments - I think we communicate in very similar ways. :)

happymomof2, as is with the written word, it's difficult for me to discern exactly what you're trying to convey, but I will humbly offer this: I hope that your son grows up knowing that he is the one with the right to lay true claim and have full ownership to all of his thoughts and feelings about everything related to his relinquishment and adoption, including what he feels and thinks about his first family and his adoptive one.


Laura, I could have been written your comment. We, too, were naive and adopted just because we wanted to (no fertility issues, no thinking of adoption as a ministry). I, too, don't regret our decision, but I'm so thankful that I have a better, deeper understanding of adoption now and of the role I played in it.

Mei-Ling, I too would love to live in a world where women don't "have" to relinquish their children. That being said though, as Laura stated, I also believe that adoption will always be around because we'll never live in a perfect world. I do believe that some women love and want their children and don't "have" to relinquish but choose to do so for a variety of reasons. I just don't believe that overall adoption is as simple as provide support and children won't be relinquished, don't provide support and they will. For some women in some countries, it might be that simple but overall I don't think it is.

I understand what Paula's post is saying and after hearing several adoptees and adoption experts warn about filling in the reasons for relinquishment, I'll not do that. I won't tell my son his mother was brave and selfless. I'll tell him what the paperwork told us, and explain that it's through the paperwork that we know this. And I can explain the social structure of Korea. If feel that's the best thing I can do for him, because as Paula said he has the ownershp over how he feels about his adoption.

esther aiken

oh my...I could write for hours...i am adopted, have an adopted child, and 2 born children, and several more steps. No one can ever figure out this big picture, becaue it is too huge...but yes, some mothers do not want their children. Some mothers do want
to and cannot...and we are waiting to build families....and the rest is fantasy, deaming, and reconciliation of what we are doing.

Love this blog, but just need to point out that not all birth moms are crying in their tea over the loss of their child. We, aws adoptive kids, might wish for that, but it isn't always so.



Wow. This was a fantastic post. It really made me think. Thank you.


This is a thought-provoking post, for sure, but I'm not sure it adds positively to the dialogue. The fact is that some birth mothers *do* give up their children for adoption to give them a better life. Some give them up because they are addicted to drugs and chemically unable to care about anything else. Some give them up because they never wanted to be parents.

While the argument is cute, I think it's clear that the reason why you and I don't go around advising our friends to give their babies up for adoption is because we can't even imagine the kind of poverty and lack of support that leads mothers to this decision. Would it be nice if we could overhaul our social services system completely and support every child in America? Yes. But that is not even remotely feasible.

I'm all for telling children the truth in an age-appropriate way and not sugar-coating to the point of robbing them of facts that rightfully belong to them. But I also think adoption is often an excellent solution, and making this bitter and ironic comparison serves no good purpose.

Paula O.

Elizabeth - I'm sorry it took me so long to publish your comment. I've been away from my blog for several days and just read your input. Again - I'm sorry for the delay!

Mei Ling

" The fact is that some birth mothers *do* give up their children for adoption to give them a better life."

The idea of this post is to point out how they should be supported so that they wouldn't *have* to give up their children for a "better life."

Because if that's the main argument, then we may as well evacuate India and Africa while we're on the subject - considering those are third world nations and obviously *anything* in America will always be economically and physically better.


Excellent post, and I am, of course, late to the conversation.

It bothers me that often times people see adoption as necessary so that others get an opportunity to parent. The rights of a child, not the opportunities of adults, should always be the primary focus in adoption.

The problem with adoption is that it does not largely operate to find homes for needy children. It serves to find children for parents who want them. Thus, a system has developed in response, to convince women to surrender children or to manage dependency with adoption rather than family preservation. The options and alternate choices are not there as people would think. If we completely reformed adoption and made it so that women had more choices and completely changed our focus to encouraging families to stay together, would women still surrender? Yes. But I would like to think that at this point in reform, we'd be seeking out parents for children, rather than perpetuating the current very prevalent practices of marketing to and seeking out women for surrender.

I have often wondered the same things mentioned in this post. I feel when others ask or expect a woman to surrender her baby, they are making an expectation of her that they would never want asked of themselves in that situation, or in any situation.

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