Thursday, May 5, 2011

Three Mothers

From Shannon, writing at BlogHer, an emotional recounting of her daughter's baptism and her daughter's first mother's participation:
Religious-minded people often praise adoption as some kind of uncomplicated good thing. Conservatives are convinced it rescues babies from abortion. (This is highly debatable to say the very least.) Progressives often assume it rescues them from unliveably terrible lives elsewhere. But the fact is, whatever else adoption may be, it is always, always, about grief. It can also about great joy, but it is always, without exception, about grief.

I had wanted to ceremonialize the joy, the love, the moment of making a family across blood -- family with child and family with mother -- but what sneaked in was the other truth about adoption -- the truth that it is not a joy to a mother when she cannot raise her own child. And our daughter’s mother couldn’t and can’t raise her child alone. For reasons that are not mine to share, she simply could never be a mother independent of a great deal of help -- the kind of help adoption alone could offer her in her particular circumstances, in our particular society. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter one whit whether she could or couldn’t do it herself. All that matters is that on a very real level -- open adoption or not -- she lost her baby the day she signed the adoption papers. And if she had not wailed primally about it before the baptism several months later, I am glad our family -- extended to the church congregation that day -- was able to give her a safe place to let that grief be heard.
Go read the whole thing! You won't be sorry, though you might want a handful of tissues before you go. . . .


Louise said...

What was up with the commitment statements?

They read:
“Do you, commit yourself today to the adoptive family of your child? Do you promise to support and uphold them as they practice the daily work of parenting, keeping them in your prayers and seeking their well being in all things?”

I read the words as self serving for the adoptive family.
The adoptive mother saw that. But then she backtracked and it appears she thought it was "OK" for the birth mother to let it all out in front of a church?

I am not a birth mother, but her shame runs through me when I read this account.

Reena said...

The adoptive family also read those same exact words for the first family:

"Do you commit yourselves today to the first family of your child? Do you promise to support and uphold them in their endeavors, keeping them in your prayers and seeking their well being in all things?”

I saw the intent for these readings as wanting to show mutual support for each other as well as for the child.

I do see how the first mom may have felt obligated to participate and did so while portraying to the amom that she really wanted to.

You hear too many stories of aparents closing adoptions-- I could understand why a first mom would be hesitant to 'not' go along with a suggestion/proposal by the aparents.

Taken at face value-- becuase that is all we really have, to me this appears to be a genuine act in trying to merge the two families--if that makes sense.

It seems like this may have been an effort on part of the amom to reassure the first mom that she will always be part of the child's life. Honestly, how could the aparents close this adoption after promising before God and their spiritual community to commit, support and uphold the first family?

Reena said...

I forgot to mention (sorry still fighting a head cold)-- I believe this is an Episcopal Service to welcome an adopted child into a family. It is performed during a church service before the congregation and if the child has not yet been baptised, the baptism usually follows this welcoming.

I am Episcopalian and we had this service for bot our daughters after we adopted them.

The commit statments are typically directed toward the child from the parents, family, and congregation.

The commit statements in the blog post were edited for an open adoption to recognize and include the relationship that both the first and adoptive family has to each other-- which IMO is in the best interest of an adopted child.

Louise said...

Thank you for your comments and thoughts / clarification. It's easy to read and make assumptions based on the words in front of you. Best to you and your family.

LilySea said...

It's pretty hard to win this one no matter what. You could call it self-serving but if it wasn't done, that would have left one of my child's parents out and that wouldn't have been right either. It was an attempt to ritualize and sacralize people becoming family--like a marriage. The problem is that, unlike a marriage, power is always uneven in adoption. There's no getting around that from a legal perspective. The least we can do is try to even it out in a sacramental way.

In fact, it is an Episcopal service and actually, it's part of a booklet full of prayers and rituals for adoption that came out of a four-day National Church retreat for the purpose of creating liturgical and pastoral resources for all kinds of fostering and adoption situations. I wrote the bulk of the material that came out of that retreat, incorporating the very differing attitudes, opinions, feelings and desires of a committee full of people with all different stakes in adoption. No small challenge. Did the best I could.