Hey friends! I hope you are having a fine morning. I’m up early thinkin’. You ever do that? Something wakes you up and gets all over you.
I’ve been having conversations the past month about perspective in adoption, and I think we need to have a perspective shift. Not all of us. But some of us.
There needs to cease to be the idea that adoptive parents do birthparents a favor and birthparents do adoptive parents a favor. Favor is indicative of debt. They are parenting my child and now I owe them. She placed her child with us and now we owe her. We did her a favor and now she owes us. I did them a favor and now they owe me. YUCK! Adoption is not a favor.
If you are still reading, thank you. I hope you hear me in this. When I sit down with women making an adoption plan, most of the time there is a sense of “they are helping me out tremendously.” I think that’s a problem. It elevates the prospective adoptive parents to a pedestal, where they just don’t belong.
Why? Because they are just people and they are going to fall off of that pedestal. I know plenty of adoptive parents who want off of their pedestal, knowing that they are not perfect. I have also known adoptive parents who say “she is giving us the best gift.” This is also a problem. It elevates birthparents to a place of pseudo-holiness and doesn’t give her the opportunity to regret “doing the best thing.”
Navigating open adoption is hard enough without having one party starting seemingly on unequal footing. If you really take the time to look at it, both the prospective adoptive and expectant parents are on equal ground pre-placement. Likewise, both adoptive and birth parents are on equal ground post-placement, or they should be. We need them to see that they should be.
You may say, “But they aren’t. Pre-placement the expectant parent has all the power of what will happen and post-placement the adoptive parents have all the power of what will happen.” I wonder though how this little adoptee will feel growing up knowing he is the power? That he is the bargaining chip? I believe that most adoptees just want to be loved, like everyone else. How do we achieve that for them in domestic infant adoption? How do we work to make adoption relationships ones that are for the benefit of the child in a tangible way?
I believe we start with seeing adoption differently. I had the privilege of spending some time with two women who are on the corporate staff at Bethany Christian Services recently, and one of them said to me, “We shouldn’t call it open adoption; we should call it adoption relationship.” Yes, yes we should. She is absolutely right.
We need to change the language there. It’s not just semantics; it’s attitude and perspective. If adoption openness agreements are as unique as the individuals making the agreement, then lets stop talking about ‘openness’ and start talking about relationship. If your love relationships begin with a checklist or an agreement to how often you will contact each other, there is a problem. We should see adoption that way too.
I know, I get it. You have to start somewhere, but a list of how often you want to get/give updates is the wrong place to start. When I sit with women and talk with them about “openness” they usually have no idea what they want it to look like, and who can blame them. My question, then, is “What do you want this relationship to look like?”
If I were reforming adoption I would set a standard of relationship where everyone going into it on any side knew that you are two sets of parents coming together to form a love relationship in the best interest of one (or more) child(ren). That would mandate open and honest communication. That would force you to know the messy on both sides. That would help keep everyone on the ground, eye-to-eye and not forced onto a pedestal.
We all talk about how we all love the children. Let’s love the children well by giving them the gift of relationships with everyone who loves them. If you don’t want to be in a relationship that is hard and worth it for a child, then maybe you are not called to adoption, and I’m not just talking about the adoptive parents. Expectant parents on adoption plans should strongly consider that they are not the lesser part of this triad but an equal contributor. You have to be willing to get into relationship, to be vulnerable, to forgive, to suffer, to rejoice, to pray alongside another set of parents who call your child ‘mine’ just like you do for the rest of that child’s life. Think about it. Think hard. They are not doing you a favor. You are not doing them a favor. You all are coming together in a love relationship for your child, not a one time gift or a once-in-a-lifetime miracle, but a commitment to love, honor and cherish this child as long as you all may live. You are entering a covenant. That kind of relationship you don’t get to walk away from. Either of you.
Can we change our perspective? Can we make a closer shift toward ‘best interest of the child’? Can we see each other as God sees us, on equal footing, and choose to love?
Be well, friends.