So this presents another "what would you do" moment . . . .
That night I was changing Flora's diaper. "Who's my girl?" I sang as I pulled the tab taut across her stomach. She pointed at her chest and laughed, her dimples creasing into pinholes. Then she reached up to tickle my chin. "Flora Beatriz," I cooed. "You are one beautiful kid." Hearing myself say her middle name took me aback. Beatriz [birth mother], I suddenly realized, had chosen it, the only connection to their brief life together.
And that's when it finally sank in: Beatriz hadn't made a "choice" in the liberating way that our post-Roe culture thinks about reproductive options. Like any woman in the developing world placing a child for adoption, she'd buckled under crushing financial or social pressure—perhaps even coercion. I'd considered this before, but had always batted the thought away by telling myself that Flora was going to be adopted, whether it was we who stepped forward or someone else.
Walter walked in, flushed and sweating from wrestling with the boys, who were now happily digging into bowls of applesauce. "She's getting so big," he said. "She'll be talking soon."
His smile fell as he saw me crying. "Did something happen today?" I nodded. "I think Beatriz wants us to find her," was all I could say.
* * *
i was working on deadline the afternoon Susi's email flashed on my screen, a month after we had hired her to find Beatriz. . . . Her email relieved us of two worries: Beatriz had been hoping we would find her, and she had not been coerced into placing Flora for adoption. She thanked us for making it possible to watch her child grow up. She missed her, prayed for her, and wanted Flora to know that not a day passed when she didn't think about her. She said that before the adoption she was a bubbly person. Now she kept mostly to herself.
I'd nurtured a vague notion of a faraway woman grieving for her lost child. But as soon as an image of Beatriz sobbing into her pillow materialized, my brain concocted a counter-narrative, a story in which she was healing from her loss. A story in which not having to raise the child I tucked into bed every night freed Beatriz in some way.
Then one evening not long after the email arrived, Walter and I spent our date night at a reading of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, an anthology that is a stirring and stern rebuke to the standard heartwarming adoption narrative.
Back in our car, Walter bowed his head. "We should give her back," he said.
I'd harbored the same thought, but the anguish on his face threatened me enough to push back. "We can't," I answered.
"Why not?" he countered. "It wouldn't take much money to support them."
"Because we are her family."
"How do you know that?" It was an unconvincing dodge. We were friends with several families who had adopted toddlers; their kids were thriving. "How could we do that to the boys?" I insisted.
"We couldn't," Walter said.
"And how could we do that to us? I couldn't live with that pain."
"But why should Beatriz have to?" he asked.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Did I Steal My Daughter?
That's the title of another provocative article about possible fraud in a Guatemalan adoption, and exploring concerns about coercion in relinquishments. An adoptive family seeks for their daughter's birth mother to assuage concerns that her relinquishment was not voluntary.