sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help
We're now in the waiting stage. Chris just mailed off the very last batch of adoption "stuff" on Friday. The adoption facilitators will take the next few weeks to assemble our various electronic and print profiles. Once those are done, we wait for an expectant mother to choose us and the we proceed from there.
So, shouldn't I be over the moon with excitement and anticipation right about now?
Strangely, what I find myself feeling instead is...pensive.
Kind and very well-meaning friends say things to me like, "Wow! So that means that your baby is already getting ready to be born soon!"
Yes, this is true. Amazing and true.
But it also means that there is an expectant mother out there who is struggling under the weight of making the decision to give up her child to me.
She is suffering and that troubles me.
Maybe she is poor and feels she just doesn't have the resources to raise this child. Or maybe she already has other children and feels that the addition of this child to her family would be just too overwhelming for her. Maybe she is very young and doesn't feel ready for motherhood. Maybe she isn't young, but still doesn't feel ready for motherhood.
Regardless of what brought her to this point, she is thinking about putting her child up for adoption and I can only imagine what is happening in this woman's mind and heavy heart.
A number of people have said that they worry that I'm thinking way too much about the "birthmother" who is "making her own choice" and that I should just focus on becoming a mother myself.
But, tell me, honestly how can I do that? How can I NOT think about the suffering of this expectant mother?
Is it right for me to just set aside her feelings in favor of my own?
The adoption industry pretty much sells the idea that "birthmothers" (goodness, how I dislike that term) leave the adoption process and after a few years just "move on" with their lives and get over it.
But I don't believe that.
What woman could spend 9 months with a child growing inside of her and just walk away from that child and "move on"?
There must be grief - a lifelong grief that any woman would experience at having handed over her child to strangers to raise.
Shouldn't I have compassion for her?
Just as somehow she has enough compassion for me to give me the most precious thing she has - her child?
I think about it this way...
What if my sister had to give up a child for adoption?
What if it was my sister-in-law?
Or any of my friends or colleagues?
Wouldn't I want the adoption industry and the adoptive parents to look out for my sister or my sister-in-law or my friend or colleague?
To be compassionate with her and to treat her like a human being who is fragile and has feelings and who is suffering as a result of having to make this decision?
And so I think about this woman who is out there right now struggling to make this decision for herself, for her child and, ultimately for Chris and me. I am thinking of this woman who is the mother of the child that Chris and I will eventually raise. This woman who is someone's sister, someone's friend, someone's daughter and who will soon be related to me and my family because Chris and I will be raising her child.
So I would like to be compassionate, but to also move beyond compassion to action.
As strange as it may sound to others, I believe that this woman should have the opportunity to know her child and not to be left to a lifetime of wondering and grieving. And that this child that will become ours should have the opportunity to know her mother from the start of life - not 18 years later "in reunion" with all of its attendant life-altering disruption and confusion - to actually have a life-long relationship and to hear directly from the source the why of her adoption. I believe that our child should not be left with a lifetime of wondering about her biological mother and family.
Moving through our child's life with honesty, openness and integrity and without secrets and lies seems to me the best way that we can be a family - And very likely this means navigating new, non-traditional and possibly awkward, uncomfortable and challenging situations and relationships.
But I believe that we should do this...
Without fear of the unknown.
With compassion for each other.
Will this become our reality?
I don't know. There are so many variables, but in my mind and heart I am committed to working with Chris and the mother of this child to see how we can best move forward through this adoption - for the good of everyone involved.
The world of adoption and compassion...
Based on my limited experience so far in the world of adoption - one of the things that has shocked me most is the incredible amount of judgment out there and the awful, awful lack of compassion that many women seem to have for each other...
- Adult adoptees who are furious at their biological mothers for giving them up for adoption.
- Adult adoptees who judge their biological mothers as selfish for walking away from them and often judge their adoptive mothers just as selfish if not more so for adopting them away from their biological families.
- Biological mothers who rage against women struggling with infertility who pursue adoption as a means of becoming parents.
- Biological mothers who are angry at the children who they surrendered to adoption who don't want contact as adults.
- Biological mothers who rage against the adoption industry for its manipulativeness.
- Adoptive mothers who are angry at the biological mothers that want more or even any contact with the children they surrendered for adoption.
- Adoptive mothers who are angry with their adult adopted children for wanting more or even any contact with their biological families.
- Adoptive mothers who judge biological mothers as terrible for surrendering their children to adoption.
- The list goes on and on.
Why is it that we can't simply recognize that we ALL come to adoption from a place of deep hurt and pain?
How can I look without compassion at a woman who has been struggling for years to get pregnant and become a mother? How can I - or any woman - not feel for this woman who has been struggling with the pain of infertility?
And how can I look without compassion at a woman who gave up her child for adoption (for whatever reason!) and is suffering because she has spent her life regretting her decision and/or wondering and worrying about that child? Doesn't she deserve our compassion, too?
Or what about the adult adoptee who is battling to get her original birth certificate, to find her biological family or is in the midst of an awkward and disruptive reunion? Shouldn't we feel for her suffering?
I do, but it doesn't seem to be that way for many in this topsy-turvy world of adoption.
There is a distinct lack of compassion on all sides.
What surprises me most is not just the lack of compassion, but the downright surplus of anger and viciousness that exists out there - especially in the adoption blogging world. Women from all sides of adoption spend time villainizing, demonizing, judging, denigrating, and disparaging each other with a cruelty that dismays and saddens me to my very core.
And at the heart of this cruelty and viciousness there seems to be a sort of "my pain is greater then your pain" mantra out there in the world of adoption.
Is your pain greater than mine?
Is my pain greater than yours?
I don't think so.
Wouldn't it be better for all parties in the world of adoption if we acknowledged that we have ALL struggled in different ways? Wouldn't it be healthier if we tried supporting each other instead of tearing each other down?
I guess what bothers me most in all of this is not the "my pain is greater than your pain" thing, but the fact that quite often the women in this world seem to view each other as thoughtless, selfish creatures who are incapable of compassion or thinking of anyone beyond themselves.
How can we think that about each other?