Over the past two days I have read The Other Mother: A True Story. Wow. What a powerful book. It is written about a different era than the one we are in now, but it details a private closed adoption from the birth mom's perspective in such a gripping way that I gobbled it up in less than 24 hours.
She talks of her reunion with her son when he was nineteen and she was so cautious and careful about the adoptive parents and her sons feelings. She connected with them in deep ways as she worked hard to see the other side and to understand the emotions that would be involved for everyone in the picture -- her parents, her siblings, her sons who were born later, the birthdad of her son who she had kept in contact with though he married someone else. But she also thought through how it would affect her son, her son's adoptive parents, her son's siblings, his girlfriend and the list goes on and on and on.
It was well written and sensitive and very thought provoking.
What a huge contrast that is to the experiences we as adoptive parents are having lately with birth parents connecting with our children without our permission through Facebook and MySpace. Without our consent, they begin to have conversations with our kids (and I mean that we share kids -- the are connected to all of us).
I can't even begin to understand the pain that birthparents feel and I will never claim to. But I do not understand the need to circumvent the adoptive parents and say and do things that put our kids at emotional risk and confuse them.
Bart and I have never felt like we "Owned" our kids -- and we have always talked respectfully about their birth parents. And we've told all of our kids that we will work hard to find them if they want us to -- after they turn 18. I don't feel threatened by birth parents and anticipate that if they can find them, my kids will at some point want to reconnect with them.
I guess maybe my dissonance this morning is the sadness I feel because of the difference between the lives of Carol Schaefer and the lives of my children's birth parents. Even though her story is hard and her struggle very difficult, she didn't start her life living in poverty, in foster care herself, possibly affected by attachment issues, mental illness or prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs herself.
I greatly admire Carol and Jack as well as Jack's adoptive family. This is a story with a happy ending. Because I read the book, I will not follow some of the thinking of adoptive parents (and in the past even me sometimes) who are tempted to consider adoption for pregnant teenagers as everyone's best option. In fact, as I was reading it, I found myself being grateful that Isaac and Gabby were not adopted... which certainly was an option that my kids had to consider. And as a proponent of adoption, that response surprised me.
And I will remember to extend grace to the birth parents of my children ... even when they aren't doing things the way that I think they should be done. I'm not them. I haven't walked in their shoes. I have been given the privilege and honor of raising our children... and I am grateful.
But adoption -- often described as a delightful happily ever after for all members of the adoption kindship network -- certainly carries pain for all of us. And being gracious isn't always as easy as it sounds.