Monday, October 25, 2010

For Shame

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.


  1. Anne, this is a beautiful, open, and insightful reflection.

    (and the photos are not bad either ;0) )

  2. thank you, Paul :) I figure a big contributor is ignorance, so the more people who know, the better.

    glad you like the photos--I had lots of fun taking them!

  3. Great job Annie. You put things into words so eloquently! The decision to give up a baby is one of the hardest decisions anyone will ever have to make. It should be commended for the bravery and self sacrifice that it took to choose life. Amen! I will be praying for your baby's mommy, and all mother's who are facing this decision. Amen!

  4. thanks, Summer :) I appreciate it!

  5. great post :) i agree completely.. ignorance is a big part i'm sure. i can't wait to see what new niece or nephew this process brings into my life! i can't wait for you and taylor to be parents :)

  6. this is so touching and beautiful! I pray every day for mothers - past, present, and future, and their children, especially those who are only a glimmer in God's eye, that this type of compassion and lifting of the shame will become commonplace, so that we can all rejoice at what a miracle the gift of life truly is!

  7. oh seester, how I love to read your heart!! You truly put your heart into all your posts and I am so blessed to be part of your life and all the stories you are part of :) you have insight and wisdom beyond your years, and you are going to be a great mother - one that will forever celebrate the life she has been given, however it is given to her! lagbb

  8. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I posted a quote and link from my Facebook page.

    All the best,


  9. Thank you, Jennifer! Entering the world of adoption has been so exciting for us. We can't wait to meet our baby :)

    Looking forward to your book--looks like it will be fabulous!

  10. Yes, the photos a magnificent ;-) Very well put. These are all things I never thought about before. When you say that adoptive parents do not stoop to rescue their children any more than biological parents would. It struck me. In a sense though, we all rescue each other in salvation. Children add unto their parents salvation and parent add unto their children's salvation, and in adoption I would think a third person is brought into the fold of grace and salvation. It's a beautiful symbiotic things. I am so excited for you two. Andrew and I think you can borrow Kristiana for practice until she turns three (you know for all the tantrums and potty training and all). Then we will all come for a visit next fall and pick up K-dawg.

  11. All the photos are of Renee's kids, btw, folks :D and they are, truly, magnificent (the kids, at least!).

    It is true that we all rescue each other. We all effect salvation for one another, and the family particularly so. Adoption is just another way to grow the family :) a little larger family, perhaps, when birth families are included, but beautifully grown, nonetheless.