|Three generations, three blondes|
Mamalita, the book, by Jessica O' Dwyer arrives: Cute native girl on the cover with native dress. Okay.
Copy on back cover: "Mamalita is as much a story about the bond between a mother and child as it is about the lengths adoptive parents go to in their quest to bring their children home...."[Emphasis Added]
Whoa! Their child was left on a mountaintop or in a deep forest somewhere and they had to go to great lengths to get her in Guatemala? She was their daughter even before they had her? Already I am having a visceral response--a negative visceral response.
HOW DO YOU BRING 'HOME' YOUR DAUGHTER WHEN SHE'S NEVER BEEN THERE?
No acknowledgement that maybe the girl had another mother, or even a "tummy mommy" and was born to another mother in another place, before this woman and husband decided that girl was their daughter? Okay, calm down, I told myself, maybe I am being over-sensitive. It's just hyperbolic flap copy, on a book published by a feminist press (that is, a white-female-upper-middle-class press.) But guess who has the first blurb right below that startling (to me) sentence? Re-homer Joyce Maynard:
“Mamalita is the story of a woman's fight to bring home her Guatemalan-born daughter, in the face of huge obstacles. But Jessica O'Dwyer has written more than an adoption story. Her book explores the nature of parenthood—the fierce love and loyalty that makes it possible for us to do more than we ever knew we were capable of, inspired by the presence of more love than we knew we had to give. It's a terrific adventure story with an unlikely heroine who discovers, through her fight for her child, that she is stronger and braver than she ever knew. I was rooting for her all the way through to the book's gripping and deeply moving ending.”I did wonder if Maynard wrote that blurb before or after she got rid of her two Ethiopian daughters.
Another blurb is from an adoptive mother who "recommends" it "to anyone involved in adoption." Like, really? Anyone? Like, uh, me, just another middle-class-educated woman like the author and the editor who wrote the back-cover copy? A poor Mayan woman whose daughter lives far away, speaks another language, and will almost unavoidably grow up with a certain disdain for her poor and undoubtedly uneducated mother? Would she recommend the book to her? To my husband, who by default is deeply involved in adoption?To any first mother?
The book apparently takes us into the bowels of how corrupt adoption is in poor countries, as one can learn from the reviews and descriptions. Publisher's Weekly:
"...one person's experience in the frustratingly convoluted process of adopting from unscrupulous 'facilitators.' O'Dwyer had gone through an early divorce and menopause at age 32 before marrying Tim, a divorced dermatologist over 50. They put together an adoption dossier and found an L.A. agency that promised a quick adoption while cutting the bureaucratic red tape."Hmm...they wanted a "quick adoption" without a lot of "red tape." Hmmm. Like, what? Home interviews? Excess paperwork? There was little written about the corruption in adoption then, so their attitude seems to be, What, me worry? They were 44 and 50 when they began the adoption process.
A few pages into the book I discover that she found her daughter's picture on a website promising quickie adoptions from Guatemala (after having moved on from Russia and China) and the minute she saw the picture of a two-month old infant, she saw: "resolve and independence, a born survivor," in the face which convinced her: "Right away, I knew she was my daughter." That is as far as I have read. I have seen pictures of two-month old babies, and I don't know if they exude anything beyond their babyness. Resolve and independence? And of course, right away...she was this woman's daughter the minute she saw her two-month's old "resolve and independence."
FALLING IN LOVE WITH A FANTASY
People desperate to have a child talk about "falling in love" with a child behind a picture, the way people fall in "love" with fantasies: a pony when we are little, a baby when we grow up and can't have or own, or don't have as many as we'd like. An adoptive mother who really "gets" what adoption is like, Jay Iyer, says this: "Sorry, O'Dwyer was not connecting with Olivia [the name of the girl she adopted] the human being, she was connecting with a means to fill a void. It is this engineered connection that gives many prospective adoptive parents the tenacity to pursue someone else's child without considering whether the child needs to be moved in the first place."
...whether the child needs to be moved in the first place. Certainly this was not on the mind of O'Dwyer and her husband, a dermatologist. They merely wanted a baby, preferably one that weighed at least seven pounds at birth, one sign of proper development. He also did not want a newborn, unlike many other couples, because potential health risks often reveal themselves after the first month. Okay, I can't blame them, but by now this is beginning to sound like a baby-to-order. Will I read further to find out why the first baby brought to them was not The One in the picture? Or why the "in-country facilitator" they met in a hotel lobby used to work in Romania, another notorious adoption mill that was eventually shut down? Did none of these seem like red flags that something was amiss?
From The New York Times I found that later, long after adopting, O'Dwyer did learn about the depth of the corruption of the adoption process in Guatemala, having read a huge dossier about adoptions there from 1987 to 2010. Not only did she learn of the corruption first-hand during the adoption of her daughter, she has educated herself on the subject, all of which sounded like a good thing. But then she exonerated herself and anyone else who adopted from Guatemala, and by extension, any country where lucre is the motivating factor, and wrote this at the end of her column:
"I now compare parents who adopted from Guatemala with soldiers who served in Vietnam. Soldiers didn’t cause the war, but they were misled into believing it was just. Because of that, history doesn’t blame the soldier.Call me unusual, but the people who take the blame for being part of a corrupt system--such as adoptive father Prof. David Smolin--are extremely rare. Personally, I have never met anyone who adopted from a poor country owning up to the corruption and child trafficking in those countries, and I know a bunch of people who have adopted from places with big blots on their adoption practices--Nepal, Guatemala, Romania, China. If I bring it up, people look at me as if I am crazy, or just get mad.
"It’s time for adoptive parents to stop blaming ourselves."
COMPLICIT IN THE CORRUPTION
But to encourage adoptive parents who adopted from countries where corruption was rampant to compare themselves to the young men who were ordered to go to Vietnam? Who, pray tell me, ordered the thousands and thousands of adoptive parents to go overseas to get a baby because the supply of infants at home was drying up? No one.
But by their silence and acceptance of the adoptions they are party to, they are complicit facilitators themselves in a system so corrupt, so inherently evil that we all ought to be ashamed. By their silence, they are saying...their own adoption is different, and besides, that happened a long time ago, and they love their daughters and it's too late to undo the past and so....Either knowingly or unknowingly, they were--they are--complicit in human trafficking and the corruption of all that adoption is supposed to be about and for: finding homes for children who truly need them.
To her credit, both in writing about the corruption, and in traveling back to Guatemala so that her children (she has both a boy and a girl from Guatemala) have some contact with their mothers (I'm guessing her about her son and his first mother), O'Dwyer has done more than most. But now she seems to seek the approval of others in the adoption community. Her adoptions are what they are, and occurred during the time of much corruption in a country south of the border where the exchange of children infused great amount of cash into a depressingly poor economy. Her current blog post is about the adoptions now stalled there, and she vows "to stand shoulder to shoulder with them until the ordeal for each and every one of their families is over." Presumably that means until these non-Guatemalan families bring "their" children "home."
A recent AP story about the situation states: "Guatemala was once a top source of adopted children for U.S. couples, with more than 4,000 babies adopted each year. The government suspended adoptions by foreigners in 2007 following allegations of fraud and baby theft. The U.N.-created International Commission Against Impunity studied 3,000 adoptions and found falsified paperwork and fake birth certificates in several cases.” Several cases? From other sources, the number appears to be something like half of them.
My approval of O'Dwyer's adoptions and actions is withheld.--lorraine
An Adoptive Parent Won’t Take the Blame
Kidnapped in Guatemala, 'adopted' in America
UN finds irregularities in Guatemalan adoptions--no surprise there
Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption
Abuse in International Adoption, Part 2 with new commentary
Dark Ages Adoption Spewing over at Huffington Post
When adoptive parents meet the birth mother