While Big Love, HBO show on Mormonism and plural marriage, got it right in their final episode of the season, hospital drama ER ended with a big fat ugly "adoption is the holy grail" thud last night (3/26/09). Fellow Blogger Linda sends this report from the trenches of ER:
High school mom who left infant at hospital returns two weeks later and says she made a mistake. Her mom will help her with the baby, and besides, she has welfare. Angela Bassett, the black physician who has become the infant's temporary custodian and has been trying to adopt for seven years (why don't we feel much sympathy?), is heartbroken, asks the girl, Are you sure, all the usual platitudes.
The teen spends hours hanging out in ER waiting for social worker, and sees the great doctor saving lives, doing good. By the end of the show the teen mom, who incidentally is white, the baby bi-racial, decides it'll be too much to go to school, make something of herself, and be a mom all at once. She wants her son to be look up to her. Bassett chokes back tears; teen mom says something about not being able to know her kid if he's adopted...Bassett says it doesn't have to be that way, there's "open adoption," the teen would know her child, be a part of his life. Wow! The perfect answer for everyone!
Yet another: Gee, adoption is soooo great plot line, see how much better this will be for the teen mother and the lovely, hard-working doctor gets what she wants, a baby. Tidy, that. A couple of weeks ago adoption was the theme at the noxious Brothers and Sisters, (see earlier post) in which another black mom, this one also a doctor (How unreal is this plot line--the woman is a doctor and she's going to give away her child?) Not only does she do that, she does it without drama, no tears, no regrets. She has the baby, and she is outta there. No, she is not open to having the adoption being more "open" than previously agreed. Pictures. That's it.
Big Love, on the other hand, had a different twist on the mother-and-daughter reunion. It is revealed that one of main wives, Nicki (Chloe Svigney) had an earlier marriage or "sealing" to another man when she was very young and lived among the way-out Mormon fanatics (long dresses, big hair). She had a daughter then, and no one else on the show knew about it, as she up and left the cult and married into a middle-class plural marriage (if there is such a thing, but bear with us) in Salt Lake City. We will pick up the story here. This is at least a close facsimile of what was said between Nicki and her sister wife, Barb:
Nicki: I did the worst thing a person can do. I left my daughter.
Barb: (Incredulously) You had a daughter?
Nicki: I have a daughter.
Barb: (Still incredulous) You left a child?
Nicki: It was the only way I could get out. It was an impossible choice but I made it. Now she's here and she knows who I am and she wants answers. Everybody has tears in their eyes. (Including me.)
The show ends with the daughter being brought into Nicki's life, and her new marriage. I was cheering at how this revelation and the ending was handled, as the girl is now going to be a part of Nicki's life. At least these writers understood that leaving a child...is not a good thing. Other script writers seem to feel as if it is god's gift to the plot lines, as in ER, Brothers and Sisters, countless soaps, the despicable Juno, ad nauseam.
But it's not always simply adoption that seems to stalk us birth mothers. Linda and I went into Manhattan the other night as she got free tickets to August Wilson's play, Joe Turner's Come and Gone. The play is set in 1911; the characters are descendants of slaves, or in one case, a free man. It's a strong drama involving a man searching for the wife who left when he was taken away for reasons unknown and gone for seven years. Now he and his daughter, who was left in the care of her grandmother, are searching for his wife, the girl's mother. Near the end of the second act, Bam! there it is, the denouement, an emotional mother-and-child reunion.
For Linda and me, two birth mothers sitting there enjoying a night supposedly away from all adoption/separation-related things...it was indeed black humor. Linda gasped, I put my hand on her knee. I wanted to chuckle, and might have if we'd been watching this together on television. Adoption, mother-and-child separations and reunions, they follow us everywhere.
Check in tomorrow. We will have a heartbreaking post from a woman who agreed to an "open adoption." That wasn't.