First mother Lorraine was put off by the line, “Dad says our family loves my birthparents very much even though we'll never know them,” in the adoption-themed book for children. She commented, in part:
That kind of love comes easy. No problems. No competition. No parent who looks like your child. The sentiment comes too easy and ends up sounding fake.
Hearing from birth mothers as I do,and as one myself, I am not aware that LOVE is what emanates from adoptive parents towards first parents who are living, breathing people they have to deal with.
Adoptive parent Anonymous agreed, saying, in part:
I've thought for awhile that the concern we adoptive parents express for Chinese birth mothers and the difficult situation they faced is somewhat condescending and patronizing given the fact that we don't actually have to deal with them. We get to sound as charitable, well meaning, concerned, etc. as we want without ever having to actually do anything.
And adoptive parent Bump said, in part:
I don't feel anything for my daughter's birth mother. I don't know her. And there you have it. I'll respect her for my daughter's sake, but I don't know who the hell she is.
Hmmm, lots of food for thought. I certainly don't disagree with these comments. Perhaps my feelings are not the norm. And I don't really want to convince anyone else that they have to feel the same way I do. I'm just trying to get my head around my own feelings, and since blogging helps me with that, here goes!
My initial response was that there are many different kinds of love. I was looking around for a definition that fit what I was talking about, and came across this: "A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness."
That seems to fit for me -- affection and solicitude toward a person arising from a sense of underlying oneness. I feel a oneness toward these unknown women, based on the fact that we are mothers of the same child. I feel love for them, for what I see of them in my children. And I don't know how to love my children without loving their birth mothers. (Note: that's just me! I'm not claiming everyone has to feel the same thing I do!)
I think Lorraine and Anonymous and Bump would question whether the first part of the definition above could possibly fit -- how deep could these feelings be? How can you love someone you don't know? Isn't it insincere to express love for someone you don't know? Isn't it hypocritical to say you love a birth parent you don't have to deal with as a troublesome person in real life? If you don't know them, how can you like them, much less love them?
It may be, in fact, only a definitional thing. I can (and do!) love many people I don't like (maybe you're luckier in relatives than I have been!). Haven't you had a troublesome in-law or sibling or parent whom you love deeply, despite the fact that they are very hard to like most of the time? Love, in my view, doesn't require like! I might need to know someone to like them, but not to love them. I feel love for relatives I've barely met -- the part of the definition that talks of "affection and solicitude arising from kinship" resonates for me. And that kinship applies to my kids' birth families, too. We are a connected family through these children they birthed and I've parented.
I understand and respect those who feel differently about birth family, especially unknown and unknowable birth parents. I get that it is hard when you can't visualize them, don't know anything about them, to have genuine feelings for them. And one can't manufacture feelings that just aren't there! Should one even try? If so, how could it be done?
We have all read that it is important for our children to have a positive impression of, positive feelings for their birth parents. Even if one doesn't feel love, one can express positive things to help one's child develop this positive impression. But is it also important that WE have a positive impression of, positive feelings toward them? I'm thinking of a scene from Adopted: the Movie, where Jennifer's adoptive mom says she never thinks of her birth mother, that she doesn't have any feelings for her. It's a painful moment for Jenn, who feels that if her mom can't think about or have feelings for her birth mother, she can't really see Jenn as she really is, a Korean woman. She feels that her mom is rejecting the part of her that is Korean when she rejects her birth mother.
Of course, one can have positive feelings without identifying the feelings as love. But do we have to have some feelings? Would any of us tell our children (as adults) what Jenn's mom told her, that we have no feelings for and never think about their birth parents?
Suppose you are interested in exploring your feelings for your child's birth mother; suppose you want to HAVE feelings for her. How would you go about it? Here are some suggested exercises in an article about birth parents in international adoption:
When you imagine your child's birth mother, what images do you have? If negative images pervade, ask yourself, where do these images come from? Are there facts and circumstances unknown to you that might change this picture? Have you ever written a letter to your child's birth mother? Although she may never see it, this can be a good exercise. Think about what you would want to ask her about herself? What would you want her to know about you? Is there a fact about your life that if disclosed to the birth mother, you would want to explain? Imagine that a sister or someone you love is a birth mother. How would you want the child's adoptive parents to think, feel or speak about her?
Anyone else have thoughts/feelings to share?!