' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption on Prime Time

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Adoption on Prime Time

I know I’m not the only one who notices how adoption seems to be a favorite topic of Hollywood writers. Just this week, I spotted these gems:

Today’s (10/30) NY Times has an article about the season premiere (tonight, 9:30 Eastern) of 30 Rock, starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin:

Liz, still single, wants to adopt a baby. At the opening of the first episode, she is sauntering down the street to NBC headquarters in Rockefeller Center in a flowery skirt, to “Sex and the City”-style music, dressed up to impress the stern adoption agency inspector, played by Megan Mullally.

Tuesday night, I happened to catch the opening minutes of House, the wildly popular Fox show starring Hugh Laurie. I’ve never watched, but thought I’d give it a try. NOT. House is interrogating his single female colleague with comments such as, "You're smiling, does that mean you have a baby?…Considering you’re at the bottom most desirable list, just behind gay couples...and then I heard the words "crack whore birthmother" and I just said "oh no, no, no, no, we don't need to hear that," and I turned the TV off and got lost in my book. A couple of weeks ago there was another House plot line where an adopted Chinese woman was being treated for straight pins that were imbedded in her brain by her birthparents, who wanted her dead so they could try for a boy during China's one child per family policy (there's also a failed reunion but that's all I recall). Remember the Friends plot line when Chandler and Monica were trying to adopt a baby? I was so upset I joined many viewers, including CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) members, in an e-mail blitz begging them to not go there…it didn’t help.

I’ve been thinking about this all afternoon, how sensitive I am about the proliferation of adoption stories on TV. While it hardly compares, I feel empathy with a Holocaust survivor when they see a Law & Order or CSI episode where a murder victim was a concentration camp survivor; I just don’t need to be reminded. I know most television programming is designed to entertain, not necessarily inform (though it happens occasionally), and can’t possibly capture the emotional impact of adoption on the birthparent[s] and child. Of course, the adoptive parents are usually the only ones smiling.

Several years ago I attended a program for adoption professionals at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. One of the seminars featured a panel of adult adoptees talking about their experiences; one of the panel members was a man well into his golden years who met his family of origin rather late in life. By the end of his speech, he was in tears. I sought him out during a break just to give him a hug, and he told me it doesn’t matter how old one is, “you never get over it [the impact of adoption].”

I know this is just the prelude to thirty days of shiny happy people celebrating the joys of adoption—November is National Adoption Month…just in time for the holidays! (Readers may recall my older blog entry where I stated my daughter’s adoptive parents sent an engraved announcement that Santa had delivered a very special gift that year. While it's a charming sentiment, when my daughter shared it with me, in my mind I was screaming, Santa?! No! A broken-hearted 19 year-old gave her to you!). I know times have changed dramatically for the better since the dark ages of closed adoption, but whenever I see “adoption lite” depicted on TV and in film, it’s an ouch. Like that dear man said to me long ago, you never get over it.

How I wish I could.


  1. Loved your reference to the holocaust because of course everyone is understanding and sympathetic to survivors and their pain, but birth mothers' suffering and sorrow?
    Not at all. We are supposed to suffer in total silence and most assuredly receive no sympathy at all, except maybe pity. If we evince interest in the children given up in during the closed adoption system...we are SELFISH. Inconsiderate of other's feelings, after all they have done for that child.

    Does it make me mad? Yes. And I'm tired of suffering quietly. Not that I have--I've been public for nearly 30 years--but readers of firstmotherforum will recall the lambasting I took from "friends" who came down on me because I was the one who searched.

  2. Yea we all become Halloween freaks. It aggravates me. Jerry Bruckheimer must hate adoptees and mothers. We are either criminals or victims who end up dead. Numbers had an episode where they caught the adoptee via introducing his first mother to him. It really ticked me off. The ignorance never ceases to amaze me.

  3. We're not allowed to be sad, angry, no emotions please! Unless of course you're a happy dappy mother, then you're AWESOME! They'll parade you around the agency circuit so you can tell others how great it is to give baby away.

    I'm sick of it, and yes, I AM MAD! No more repressed emotions, they are making me ill.

  4. I saw the HOUSE episode and was able to watch it. The mother ended up keeping her baby even after being highly pressured and intimidated by the Dr. Cudy. I stood in my living room and applauded. While House did make the crackwhore statement, I did like some of his other arguments to. It was, for me, one of the more balanced potrayals of adoption on a show to date. And of course, since the mother kept her child, I was giddy.

  5. Lorraine said...
    "Loved your reference to the holocaust because of course everyone is understanding and sympathetic to survivors and their pain, but birth mothers' suffering and sorrow?"

    Disagreeing with Lorraine on this one wbout the Holocaust reference. I do not think comparing adoption or surrender to the Holocaust or other forms of murder helps our cause. Rather than engendering sympathy for mothers who surrendered, to me it seems overblown and disrespectful to those who suffered in the Holocaust and other extreme horrors, and more likely to turn off than attract the general public.

    Yes, adoption and surrender are bad; there is much abuse and suffering. But it is not the worst, it is not the Holocaust or murder or slavery. Just because surrendering a child is the worst thing most of us have suffered does not make it the worst possible evil or suffering that human beings have ever endured.

    There is quite enough wrong with adoption without making specious comparisons that alienate rather than enlighten. If we compare adoption to the Holocaust, slavery, or murder, people stop listening to us rather than taking our very real pain seriously.

  6. I saw the same Numbers episode and kind of liked it. The main characters (Don and Charlie)mother died when they were children which I think influenced their sympathy to have the young man have a brief moment with his mother who was portrayed fairly average. (At first I feared she was just an undercover FBI) She looked very average and willing and confused and heartbroken. I liked the way the crime was initially made out much worse by the corrupt FBI agent (a guest star).

    They discover the very clever young man's motivation was to find his mother when all he had was part of her ss #.

    They system is screwed up and it pointed that out.

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  8. Numb3rs is one of those shows that do not show adoptees or first mothers in the best of light. It usually portrays them as screwed up. I was a loyal follower until they did the episode of the mother who wanted her daughter back. There was no compassion for her whatsoever. That ticked me off as an adoptee.



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