Find out what it means to me!
I've been brooding on this for a while -- how can we help adoptive parents gain respect for their child's birth mother? Notice, I'm not talking love (been there, done that, got the burn marks to prove it!), but simple respect. And I admit I'm starting from the position that we want to be respectful so we can convey that respect to our children. It's important for adopted children to see their birth parents as positively as possible -- they really see it as the GIGO principal, garbage in, garbage out. If their birth parents are bad people, then they themselves must be bad people.
I was talking to an adoptive mom a while ago, with a child adopted from a Southeast Asian country, not China. The story she told me was that her child's birth mother was 14 years old, showed up at a hospital seeking an abortion, and was persuaded to carry the child to term. She gave birth and then just vanished from the hospital, leaving the baby behind. The tone in which the story was told was generally scornful, conveying the impression that the birth mother was promiscuous, irresponsible, and generally unworthy.
You know me, I wanted to go immediately into "teacher"mode! I think I showed a little restraint -- I phrased it as a question, instead of a comment: "Oh, dear. I wonder how a 14-year-old in that culture could have gotten pregnant. No mixed dating at that age in that country. I wonder if it was rape, incest -- or rape AND incest -- or prostitution?"
The amom was shocked, and we talked more about it. Of course, I told her I had no more way of knowing what actually happened than she did, but that the cultural background painted a picture of different possibilities than she had considered before. She really was seeing the birth mom in Western terms, dating and getting involved in sex too early (we'll leave aside for a moment whether that kind of judgment is appropriate!). She didn't see it with any non-Western cultural overlay. She hadn't thought about HOW a 14-year-old in that country would have gotten pregnant. Or HOW she could have stayed at the hospital without being missed by family (I suspect the birth mom was a street child who got pregnant through prostitution).
So far, the amom doesn't hate me for suggesting these other possibilities. She has a better understanding of what MIGHT have happened, but also a harder job of explaining this to her child in the future.
With China adoption, we see that Western view, too. How many times have you heard an adoptive parent of Chinese children say, "They threw away the baby just like garbage?" No understanding of the cultural pressures, of the fact that the birth mother is pressured by family, including mother-in-law, to abandon the baby. No recognition that abandonment sites are usually carefully selected so that the baby will be quickly found. No knowledge, no understanding.
And that's where the respect comes from, I think -- from knowledge which leads to understanding. I'd like to see a whole lot more education on birth country culture for prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt internationally.