Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Last Days of Adoption, Part Two

While the ongoing discussions here at FirstMotherForum sometimes take on a life of their own and the subject changes (see previous post), I would like to go back to the lack of Cheryl Wetzstein's autobiographical data on a story with which she is intimately involved. Her neglecting to mention that she is a birth mother on a piece that decries the lack of available healthy infant children to be adopted in the United States is like Carol Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency and now Obama's White House environmental czarina, writing about greenhouse-gas emissions and neglecting to tell us that Oh, she has a personal stake in the story, she is not the involved journalist we might otherwise suspect.

For my own part, I had wondered--no, more than that, presumed--that Ms. Wetzstein was someone who wanted to adopt a baby in this country, but alas, could not find one available. Call me crazy, but that's how I read the "too-bad-no-more-babies-all-these-willing-couples attitude" that permeated much of the story.

It does seem that no matter through which prism one read the piece (and as readers here have informed me in the previous comment section many read it differently from me), Ms. Wetzstein's own personal history is hugely relevant, and in this case, her having relinquished a child to adoption seems to at least make the piece a justification for her own act of giving up a child. Since posting this blog piece, I have heard from more than one person that Ms. Wetzstein was a mother who relinquished a child, and in her own comment below said she is indeed a birth mother.

Now of course I'm curious to know more: open adoption? Did this happen recently? Does she see the child? Is she continually pleased that she made some couple happy with her baby? Etc. I know I am sounding somewhat hard on another birth mother, and I try to empathize with anyone who has gone through this experience, one that I can only call dreadful. But while giving up my daughter not only seemed the only reasonable thing I could do, it also turned out to be a life-changing decision that would reap sorrow and grief for me and for my daughter. However, young women today who have fully open adoptions do seem to be not as emotionally affected by giving up a child as the women of my generation, possibly because with our decision to surrender came forced anonymity, a mandate of the state shackling us with the yoke of emotional slavery.

Some of the postings below remind me of what was posted anonymously in New York at a place where people left such various musings on life: I hate that I'm adopted but I'm also grateful. In those few words, the writer compressed both the grief of being given up and the relief of having parents. But given normal circumstances, would that be anyone's first choice? To be someone "adopted?" I hardly think so.

As for the statistics about the paucity of babies available, it has long been known that very few women/teenagers give up their babies, and that has led to the paucity of available infants for a huge market for them. To that I can only say Hooray!

And yes, there are many reasons for infertility, and sexually-transmitted disease is one. But age continues to be a critical factor as today's generation largely believes that they can wait past graduate school, past the first/second and third apartments, until they become vice presidents at the bank or have climbed Kilimanjaro, to delay child-bearing. Talk to young college-going or just-out-of-college women and that is what you hear: they will have their children later. And then it becomes: too late. Then comes years of in-vitro-fertilization, possibly surrogacy...and finally, let's adopt.

Young women having years of sexual freedom with numerous partners is precisely how sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted. I am not Victorian about sex not do I decry the lack of Victorian or Fifties morality regarding it, but the message of decreased fertility with advancing age seems to be a large vacant space in the mindset of today's younger generation. The problem is not simply that women want to put off having babies; men delay settling down with one partner because so much sexual variety awaits them. A woman might want to get married and have babies say, in their late twenties, but the guys are yawn...just not that into it. Yet. And by the time they are, the girl of their dreams is likely to be pushing forty.

I recently read a letter from a gynecologist in a alumna magazine saying just that: today's young women and men do not understand their most fertile years are in their teens and twenties, and that after 35, fertility decreases rather dramatically. The other issue that comes with older parents, including the father, are greater numbers of children with severe problems: bi-polar disease, schizophrenia, and the one that gets the most headlines today: autism.

We may have changed our lifestyles, we may have more opportunities to climb mountains and push through glass ceilings, we may have a thousand good reasons that a generation delays having babies, but our bodies have not yet made the switch to a more modern way of being. And we are paying the price. --lorraine

4 comments :

  1. "For my own part, I had wondered--no, more than that, presumed--that Ms. Wetzstein was someone who wanted to adopt a baby in this country, but alas, could not find one available."

    Now, why would you suppose that?
    Why would you presume, there not being reasonable evidence to the contrary?
    Like my son says . . .

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  2. It's true our bodies are out of sync with the societies and cultures we have built in North America and elsewhere. Hence obestity as well. I just don't see putting that particular brand of toothpaste back in the tube. Encouraging people to mate early (I'm thinking of the Penelope Trunk piece) and have babies early--it sounds like a Republican plot. Not that you intended it that way but reproductive freedom (including delaying childbearing or forms of family-making other than god-given heterosexual intercourse in the missionary position) is sort of a cornerstone of a liberal society. Don't see it going away soon.

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  3. I'm kind of on a middle ground about the issue of delayed childbearing. I'm with Lorraine in feeling that young people should be made aware of the facts of declining fertility with age, and that getting pregnant at 25 may be easy (even fun:-) and relatively inexpensive, waiting until 38 or 40 could make it an infertility nightmare with no guarantee of eventual pregnancy success.

    I think that women now in their late 30s and 40s were given false information that childbirth could be delayed way into early middle age with no consequence. Yes, of course there should be personal choice, but informed choice, not wishful thinking. And for those who wait too long, no guarantees either that a supply of infants to adopt will be waiting.

    On the other hand, I see with Osolomama the economic reality of the world we live in. Birth rates dropped sharply during the last Great Depression, and many marriages including that of my parents were long delayed by lack of money and jobs. This becoming no longer a matter of greed and having to own a McMansion and BMW before having kids, and more a matter of being able to house and feed a family.

    Hard choices we (Baby Boomer age)did not have to face. The many early marriages with kids born right away in the 50s and 60s were in times when jobs were plentiful, housing was cheap and available, and young families could afford a good life without hardship. This is the other side to be taken into account by young people today.

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  4. I don't know, I am in my 30s on the other side of 35 and none of my friends were misinformed about fertility, they are all rather realistic.

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