In my (admittedly limited) adoption reading, I have frequently come across stories wrapped round in shame.
Allow me to qualify. First, many of the stories I have read are older stories, sometimes decades old. Second, the sense of shame does not emanate from the adoptive families, the adoptees, or (really, deep down) the birth parents. Rather, it seems to come from outside. From society. From (well-intentioned but mis-guided) agency workers. From parents or extended family or friends.
I get the feeling that, for years, the general mind-set has been to struggle through the adoption and then to forget that it happened. Adoptive parents are seen as "rescuers" of their adopted children, as if they have stooped to raise the child. "Oh, that's so kind of you," friends say. [No kinder than biological parents "stooping" to raise their biological children. All parenthood is simply Love.]
Adoptees who begin the search for their birth parents have been faced with closed case files which can't be opened. They aren't allowed to search for the knowledge of their own historicity. It has been deemed, by some authority, better for all involved if the information remains secret. And so, questions remain unanswered. Stories and histories remain unshared. This is not fair.
It's not fair for the birth parents either. Lately there has been a rise in awareness of the grief women suffer after having an abortion. (For many years, the question that such grief could be present was overlooked and not investigated.) I believe the experience of a woman who gives birth and places her child(ren) for adoption is similar to grief after abortion. Not that her loss is exactly the same as a woman who has lost a child through abortion, but the grief of these birth mothers is certainly present, and it has been overlooked. Forgotten. Neglected. For too long.
My impression has been that, after giving birth, these mothers are told, "it's over. forget about it. it's a mistake that you don't have to think about anymore."
A mistake. I admit that her pregnancy may have been unplanned, but Life is never a mistake. As a future adoptive mother myself, I cannot accept that the child I am meant to have through adoption is a mistake.
I don't want to turn this into a debate about the pros or cons of open adoption in all its many and varied forms. But I will say, I am shocked that the shame surrounding the adoption process has persisted so long. The pain an expectant mother feels when she decides (for whatever reason) that she will place her child for adoption should be an opportunity for her community to support her. Especially in these days of legalized abortion, her choice for Life should be praised and commended.
The blessing that adoption exists, and that life can continue and thrive, should be a cause for joy, in spite of the grief. The grief will not vanish if the shame is lifted. But if the birth parents are allowed to grieve, if the child is allowed to know his history, if society can show true charity in the face of "mistakes" and embrace adoption whole-heartedly, the pain and sorrow will be lessened. It can be shared.
I am proud to be part of someone's adoption story. I am only at the beginning, and I have much still to learn, but I am excited and humbled that an expectant mother, somewhere, might choose me to be the mother of her child. I want my child to know his birth parents, to know how much he is wanted and loved, from the first moment of his life. I will gladly tell him the story of how he came into our family. I will tell his friends and his friends' families.
There is no shame in the Love revealed in adoption. It's time "society in general" comes to grips with that.