Friday, October 30, 2009

Abandonment & Chinese Birth Mothers

Amy Eldridge has a post up at Life of Giving, the blog for the Love Without Boundaries, that is likely to move you to tears, an episode during screening for surgery for cleft-affected infants:

I was sitting in the intake room one morning when an anxious young woman came running in holding a tiny bundle. I could immediately tell that the baby was a newborn, and I asked our Chinese director to break the bad news to the woman that the baby was far too young for surgery. As she was given the news, the young lady burst into tears and began pleading and begging to have her child be seen. My friend came over to me and told me that I needed to go and speak with the woman in private, and so I did. She pulled back the blanket to reveal a tiny baby girl with severe cleft lip. The mother told me that her daughter was 28days old , and that their period of confinement was over in just 2 more days. As she was crying and talking, the mom kept kissing her baby's forehead, and she kept telling me again and again, "I love her....I love her so much."

But then she went on to tell me that her extended family would not accept her
daughter since she had been born with a cleft lip. They felt this tiny baby would bring shame to them all. With tears streaming down her face, she told me that her mother-in-law was coming to take the baby away from her in two days' time. The mom was begging me to heal her daughter, to make her daughter beautiful, so that she could keep the baby that she had carried inside of her for 9 months….the daughter she loved completely. When I explained that the baby could not safely be put under anesthesia at four weeks of age, she fell on her knees and was sobbing at my feet, pleading and crying and begging me to help her. Right now...even typing this brings a pain to my chest that I cannot describe.

Amy writes that that visit changed everything for her in how she viewed birth parents in China. Those one-line explanations for abandonment -- one child policy, social preference for boys, medical needs -- were suddenly inadequate. They clearly hide incredibly complex family dynamics, heartbreaking decision-making, deeply personal stories of anguish, sacrifice and loss.


Anonymous said...

This makes me sick. And since you just e-mailed about the *Christian* thing, did you know that the vast majority of funds raised by people including Christians for cleft surgery are intended to make the child more adoptable? Just burns me.

Anonymous said...

The organization Smile Train not only provides free cleft palate surgeries but trains doctors in the community how to do them so the local people won't be dependent on foreigners' surgical skills. Parents bring their children to the Smile Train sessions in their area for medical treatment. This non-sectarian organization really does not provide surgeries to make children more adoptable. (I just wanted to let people know that there are some honest organizations out there that help children without ulterior motives.)

malinda said...

Thanks, Courtney! I'll also note that while LWB does provide surgeries for kids in orphanages, they also provide medical care for poor rural family, like this ceft clinic, so that children can remain with their biological families. Here's a direct link to their Unity Fund, created just for that purpose:

And here's a direct link to Smile Train:

Wendy said...

Thanks for the links.

As you know Malinda, this one hit close to home. I wish more people would look past the OCP and girl preference when thinking of birth mothers, neither were the case for M.

Cedar said...

Thank you for writing about abandonment and providing that lead to the post about abandonment. I posted a comment there (have no idea whether it will be approved or not). I also wrote a post about the issue of abandonment. What I find very disturbing, is that mothers in China or Korea, who are forced to surrender their infants for adoption, are assumed to have abandoned them. By the same application of this term, the same people who use the term "abandoned" would have to label me as having abandoned my son to adoption, when in fact I was powerless to be able to keep him. :( I wrote a post in my blog about abandonment, at
Abandonment: A Disconnect in Adoption. I cannot see how I abandoned my son, when I wanted to keep him more than anyway but had no voice, no choice. I cannot see how these Asian mothers could have similarly abandoned their babies. When you have no choice and you love your baby beyond all measure, it is not abandonment.