Friday, July 24, 2009


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.


Mei-Ling said...

The stereotype is everywhere, not just in Chinese adoptions.

A lot of adoptees will tell you that they discussed adoption with a non-triad member and the response tended to be something like "Well they obviously didn't want you or you were a burden on their lives, you should be grateful someone else wanted to raise you."

Anonymous said...

Respect. I have an idea? Does one respect one's child? Then one must respect one's child's family. It is that simple, and that undeniable. Fail to respect the family; fail to respect the child.

I don't see any way around it.

Interesting about the cultural perspective. On a blog I admire I recently heard "the Chinese" described as greedy, cruel, and totally lacking in empathy.

And you idiots adopted? I thought. Holy cow.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Once again, I think a lot of this boils down to humility. Be humble in your circumstances - I truly have NO WAY of knowing what I would do if placed in a similar life circumstance as that of my daughter's first mother. Goodness, I don't even know the full scope of what she faced.

travelmom and more said...

This thread is something I have been mulling over since I became involved in adoption. As a child I had heard many bad things about my biological father, who I never knew, that I internalized. When I read posts from A-parents who deamonize birthmothers I feel a lot of empahty for the children and anger at the a-parents. I wan't to ask if they have ever read anything about women in thier child's birth country. As Western women we have a lot of choices in our lives and there are a lot of resources available to us, most women of the world have few if any choices about thier lives, including ownership of their wombs. Imposing our value system on other cultures is hard to avoid, but I often feel there should be some required reading for all adoptive parents about the culture, economy, history and politics of a country before they are permitted to adopt. A little education would go a long way.

Mahmee said...

Respect for the birth mother was never an issue for me. I've never been faced with the decision to give up my child. I can only imagine what it must be like...and I'm sure I can never even come close. So, it was easy for me to respect this unknown person who gave life to my child. I don't understand how some folks can poorly judge / badmouth their child's birth family and think it won't somehow affect that child negatively.
During our adoption process, I really felt a big black hole where there should have been some education on birth family issues. For example, it would have been great to have had some discussions with birth mothers who'd placed their children up for adoption. In the end, we sought out resources (books, etc.) ourselves to answer some of our questions. It has been an evolving learning process ever since. I continue to obtain some of my best insights into adoption issues through blogs such as this.
I agree with what 'travel mom and more' stated especially that last sentence. Education is key.