Thursday, October 9, 2008

On Guard: Adoptive Parent Approaching

My life is totally surrounded by adoption. Maybe because I live in the demographic (though I am slightly older than this) of women who had careers, delayed conception, were unable to conceive in their late thirties when they got around to trying, and then ended up adopting. This means that I almost never can go to a party of say, twenty or thirty people, without there being one or two adoptive couples present. Some of them are relatively good friends that I see often enough so that ADOPTION is not the first thing that comes to mind when they walk in.

But then, one friend's (an adoptive mother of a Chinese girl) college roommate is out for the weekend, and she too is an adoptive mother. With a kid as Irish-looking as they come who is being raised in a quite different religion. And bang, I see her, and I think: adoptive parent, how is the child, do they know who the mother is, do they ever think about her? And I wonder if the first thing the woman thinks of when she sees me is that I am a birth/first mother. Who found her daughter. I wonder how her son is faring, is he interested in searching, and I pray that adoption never comes up that evening. And I am on some sort of edge until we say goodnight, and relieved that I got through the evening unscathed.

And there's another friend--the divorced dad of an adopted Chinese daughter--whose new girlfriend, in her late 30s, maybe even her 40s, wanted to have a kid but waited too long and now...she's shopping countries for a baby. Our friend tells my husband that you can either get in line at the countries that allow adoptions, albeit ever more slowly, or you can go to the head of the line at countries that have not yet allowed international adoptions but are thinking about it. That's the route she chose, and is applying for a child in Nepal, which has not yet opened up to foreign adoptions. Our friend and his fiancee are not getting married, in fact, because it will be easier for her to adopt as a single parent rather than as a couple, because then the father-to-be has a Chinese daughter from an earlier marriage. Incidentally, my friend is in every way a great divorced dad. (This is certainly a plot line for a soap.)

And another friend is Arthur, adoptive grandfather to Emily Prager's daughter, who moved to China with her daughter. And of course there's my somewhat tenuous but real connection to Brooks Hansen, author of the despicable but honest, The Brotherhood of Joseph. His parents live nearby, and are good friends of a friend, who used to have us to dinner together...until I introduced myself as a first mother who searched, found, had a relationship. And there's lots of other friends of friends....

Because I'm 66, many of our friends have children who are of child-bearing age, and when I hear that someone's daughter, or son, is having a baby, I cheer inside, because then I won't be faced with having to deal with yet another adoption, so close, so personal. I won't be drawn into conversations I don't want to have, and I won't be the subject of gossip I don't want to be.

I was reminded of all this by a piece in Newsweek this week about how American interest in foreign adoption is as strong as ever, but the number has dropped ten percent due to countries such as Russia, Guatemala and China dialing back their programs or ending them entirely. I don't really know how I feel about that because poorer countries have used their children as a cash crop, and that has led to all sorts of abuses (baby-stealing, kidnapping, extortion from poor women), but at the same time, a kid who might otherwise grow up in an orphanage anywhere is almost certainly better in a home with someone who cares. Yes, of course, there are abuses, and kids end up frozen in freezers, and sexually abused, but that has to be the exception.

So, am I alone is thinking ADOPTIVE PARENT, Be On Guard! whenever I encounter one? Or am I just obsessed...? Inquiring first mother wants to know.

--lorraine

6 comments:

Angelle said...

I was in Penn station NYC waiting to catch a train last week and was sitting next to a couple with an obviously central American adopted 10 month old.

And all I could think about was that child's mother. Did she know where her baby was? Did she wonder? In my heart I know she cares. I doubt the adoptive parents are giving her more than a second thought. It was painful.

maybe said...

"I doubt the adoptive parents are giving her more than a second thought. It was painful."

I think too many believe their adopted babies really do come from the cabbage patch.

There are rare ones, like Margie at Third Mom, who really get that there is another mother out there. The rest don't want to believe it.

Mairaine said...

I feel the same way, Lorraine, and as soon as I hear someone I know is an adoptive mother I get very nervous around them, and just hope the subject does not come up.

On the other hand I have had some good experiences, like a woman in my water exercise class who heard me talking about my surrendered son, and asked about search help for her adopted adult daughter, or the woman with the donor egg grandkids who said of course her daughter knows and has kept in touch with the donor! Things ARE getting better and more open, but very, very slowly.

Kippa said...

I'm not wary, probably because I am one (as well as having lost a son to adoption in the early sixties).
But I definitely get curious about their POV.
I usually get into a discussion with them. Sometimes it gets heated (especially with those who are opposed to open records, or who think that youth or/and poverty are reasons enough to prise a child from its family).
But sometimes we're in agreement.

joy said...

I often play a game with myself to see if I cannot get freaked-out by them, if I can listen to them without getting freaked out.

Sometimes I really can.

Depends a lot on the individual.

Katherine C. Teel said...

I'm an adoptive mother, and I guess I can only speak for myself, but I think about my son's birthmother all the time. I am in frequent contact with her, send her pictures, tell her about his development and his personality. She tells me about her other child, and memories she has of being my son's age, and medical information that seems relevant at the time.

My son knows he's adopted, but I don't know how much that means to him at this age (he's 5). I tell him things about his birthmother, but most of the emails I save so that he can read them when he's older. He'll know--as he knows now, as best as he can understand it-- that she loves him.