Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Children choose their parents"

So says new adoptive mom Denise Richards in a piece she penned for iVillage:
The process took two years and there were many times during that I felt discouraged. But I always had faith that the right baby would find us (my daughters and me). I've always felt that children choose their parents, and Eloise found me a different way.
So Eloise chose Richards as her parent?  So, what does that mean about her birth mother, she was just a way-station to her real choice? Or do children also un-choose their parents, so that Eloise un-chose her birth mother before choosing Richards? Is it like this adoptive parent describes, birth mothers as "pass-through bodies?"

Years ago, when I first began the process of adopting, I spoke with some of my philosophy professors about the theme of adoption and destiny. One said that international adoption may be a new kind of conception, in which “a being may be going through whatever body they can” to arrive in the family and culture where they belong. In other words, destiny will bring them to a new kind of family not based on biology.


Not so much different from Rosie O'Donnell's infamous explanation of adoption to her son, "you grew in the wrong tummy, but God fixed that." This cutesy children-choose-their-parents notion just doesn't work for adoption, we can see it as so offensively dismissive of birth parents and their losses, adopted persons and their losses.

You know my opinion of the whole "meant to be" adopted/adopted by me thing (if you've forgotten, read here and here and here);  here's the reaction of a non-adoptive parent to the Denise Richards quote:
The notion that children choose their parents is interesting to me. I’m not much of a romanticist on any subject, for instance my husband and I consider it a happy coincidence we found each other and decided to make a life together — not fate.

It had never occurred to me that my babies were ‘meant’ to be mine. Love them as I may, I chalk up their existence to egg A and sperm B meeting up thanks to a bottle (or two) of wine. I just can’t believe we were fated to be a family.
Well, isn't that a nice, rational response!

The "kids choose" language also serves to mask a reality in adoption -- kids are powerless and have no choice about whether to be adopted or by whom.  I know, children generally have no choice about anything -- all the adults around them make the decisions for them.  But we don't usually pretend otherwise.  With this idea, that children choose their parents, is applied to adoption, we are indulging in fantasy land.

26 comments:

Jeannette said...

I have been following your blog for a while now. I am a nmom. My daughter I placed is now an adult and living with me and her siblings.

As my daughter, who is 19, tells me "No child would chooe adoption unless there was some abuse". I hope Denise Richards can open herself up enough to truly hear what this child tells her. This child's voice needs NOT to be supressed by the adult voices around her. Denise has money that is why she is able to adopt easily. I do consider 2 years of waiting pretty easy.

Anonymous said...

Both my nmom and my amom have professed this belief. I can see the appeal of blaming me for my own abandonment and subsequent new identity, but it is unkind.

Like I don't have enough to deal with?

Joy

Megan said...

I don't believe in destiny, so abandoning the idea that children were "meant" to be with a family is not a struggle for me. However, I know that the idea for some families, especially religious families, is an important part of their adoption story. Saying that a child is fated to be with an adoptive family ignores the pain and suffering that it took to get there, but it also provides a sense of belonging and permanence for the family. So I can see it from both sides.

However, you don't need a myth about fate and destiny if you have love, choice, and belonging (which is what makes a marriage work too).

My family plans to adopt from foster care, and it would be so awesome if foster children could literally pick our family instead of the other way around. That puts the emotional risk onto us instead of them, which is how it should be.

Anonymous said...

Well, many of us don't look to celebrities for our family values, beliefs or ethos.

Any woman that profitted by having her children featured alongside her on reality TV probably is not the sharpest tool. And yet celebs get sound bites and make a story; it leads to assumptions and critical nuances of, in this case, adoption/family planning, are overlooked.

I could share instances where children actually can choose to be adopted or not to ~ they are rare, involve older children and would only take away from the true discussion.

I am grateful Malinda at least added the fact that NO child truly has a say in their family placement, birth order, reiligion, etc.

In adoption its just more magnified.

I do not however believe Denise's intentions were to belittle her daughter's birthmother, but clearly the story she is telling is centered on the moment of her daughter's arrival within it. In some ways that is understandable, if shortsighted.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with Denise Richards but give her a break! I'm sure she's just feeling excited and happy to have her new daughter with her. When I think back to when I first brought my daughter home I'm back with all the happy emotions. I wanted everyone to adopt just so they could experience the feelings of joy that I had.

Anonymous said...

I agree that children don't choose to be adopted...that's like saying, children choose to be from broken or split homes. BUT I disagree that things are not meant to be. I STRONGLY believe that spiritually, people make pacts before they're born, to cross paths and to be a part of each other's family. That is merely a faith and a gut feeling, obviously, without scientific support or any other kind of proof.
I also can tell you that I went to a psychic about 15 years before we adopted our daughter, and she said that I had a female unborn following me around. I shook it off as just a whim. I had a son already, and could not get pregnant again, and I had NO intention to ever adopt. My husband asked me OUT OF THE BLUE if I was interested in adoption, and in one afternoon, we had decided to adopt, decided on the age, decided on the gender, and named her. Later, we found out that she was exactly 1 month old on the day we decided to adopt, and he told me that God (or a higher entity) told him a week before he approached me, and said that he has a daughter waiting for him, if we chose to adopt her. He is NOT the type to make up that kind of stuff or to just use God as an excuse for anything at all....so this was very interesting to hear from him.
On the day we adopted her, she went right to me, even though she was always weary of strangers. She stared at me as if she knew me, even though she was only 15 months old. We have always been EXTREMELY close.
I do not think this discounts her birth parents whatsoever. But by saying that things like this are not "meant to be" at least in some cases, is the same thing as discounting the adoptive family. And THAT is where I disagree with you. I feel as if by saying so, you are trying to be politically correct. Sometimes, being PC goes in the other direction too far, and is offensive to the OTHER side.
It might not be meant to be that someone has to lose a family, but after the fact, it can certainly be that it IS meant to be to belong to another family.
Why do you have to discount one in order to have the other? Why cant they BOTH be Truth, with a capital "T"?

Linda said...

If my A Mom ever said that to me, I would first laugh in her face, then laugh again as I walked out the door.

This is garbage, plain and simple. Adoption is not destiny, there is no "plan from God", and it is not fate. It is one woman gaining from another woman's loss. Period.So let's just now blame the kid. Hey, it's better than the old "God's Plan" crap.

"NO child truly has a say in their family placement, birth order,etc". No kidding. But those things are natural, and it is a silly comparison. There is NOTHING natural about adoption. Not the loss of ones Mother, Father, siblings, grandparents, country, culture, heritage and original identity, and not the subsequent legal procedure known as adoption. And no baby would ever choose some has been "actress" with 2 bio kids of her own, whom is only famous for screwing Charlie Sheen.

Saying adoptees "choose" their a families is just another way to blame the bastard. Such bullsheet.

Anonymous said...

"Children choose their parents"
What a bunch of woo.

Mei-Ling said...

"BUT I disagree that things are not meant to be. I STRONGLY believe that spiritually, people make pacts before they're born, to cross paths and to be a part of each other's family."

An adoptee here who disagrees with you. That's the same as saying one believes a mother was 'meant' to suffer the loss of her child just so another could become a mom.

You see, that statement about making a pact only looks at one side of the coin, and conveniently, that side happens to be the adoptive side.

What about the birth family side?

Mei-Ling said...

"But by saying that things like this are not "meant to be" at least in some cases, is the same thing as discounting the adoptive family."

And this is also *exactly* why I have said, that even with rational and patient explanation, an adoptive parent and adoptee not having the same beliefs can potentially cause a rift in the family structure.

Just imagine if it was the adoptive parent's OWN adopted child saying they didn't believe the family unit was "meant to be", and not just some random adoptee on the Internet where you can minimize the page and not have to truly "hear" what they're saying.

Saying it wasn't "meant to be" doesn't mean the adoptive parent doesn't love the child or that the family unit isn't a loving one.

It means the adoptee believes the original loss wasn't meant to be happen, and subsequently the adoption wouldn't have happened either.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...

Just as an aside.

I am a mother by birth who relinqished a child through adoption.

It was always my plan to place this child with another family.

My feelings aside and they are extensive, it WAS a plan, as I was unable and yes, unwilling to parent an infant at the age of 15.

I bristle that so many adult adoptees wave the banner of the helpless birth mom, unable to pave her own fate in the wake of an unexpected pregnancy. Is that true for some or even more? Yes. Of us all? No.

That too discredits us, our sacrifice and works to strip us of our dignity and power. Relegates the choice we painstakingly made to folly, mistake or coercion. My situation and many others like me, simply was not so.

Furthermore, the child I carried and gave up, WAS in fact meant for another family, through my own decision and act of placing the child I carried. Is it "natural" @ Linda for a 14 year old to become pregnant and parent? Again: no. The family I chose didn't gain from my losses. I benefitted from their willingness to love this child fiercely and wholely. In my estimation, that statement(equating "natural" with the definition of family) is tiresome and so overused in any discussion these days.

@ Linda and Mei-Ling, you would both do well to remember that and refrain from sweeping generalities about all birth mothers and adoptees.

Thank you.

Also a Linda

Anonymous said...

@Joy

How is a belief shared by both of your Moms that perhaps things happened for a reason, be it good, bad and in between, an indictment on you?

How does that blame you for being an adopted child?

If that is their intention to truly hurt through cruelty, then I feel for you but am baffled why your natural assumption would be to internalize the blame?

Your birth mom made a choice; a decision...a big one and it affected your life in profound ways.

Your adoptive mother also made a choice to adopt and love you forever.

Destiny aside and really who is to say??....could it be enough that both of your Moms intuit or need to believe a higher power drew you all together?

Something more than chance?
I still don't have it all worked out either, but I like the idea that something more than happenstance brought me both of my amazing Moms.

A fellow Adult Adoptee

Mei-Ling said...

I just wrote a huge reply but I accidentally hit some weird key combo that ate it all up. Grrrr.

@ a Linda: So you believe you meant to become pregnant just to give up that child? I don't mean you planning to give her up AFTER becoming pregnant. I mean before. You believe you were specifically meant to get pregnant just to give up a child?

@ Anon:

"How is a belief shared by both of your Moms that perhaps things happened for a reason, be it good, bad and in between, an indictment on you?"

The argument here is that the unborn child's soul chose to be adopted even before conception.

If this is the case, then anything "bad" that happened which would have allowed the adoption to go through means this unborn soul would have "chosen" all these bad things to occur just so the adoption would take place.

For example, let's say a-mom was infertile. There is no chance of her conceiving. I believe infertility is a tremendous, painful discovery, based on the numerous discussions and previous blog comments.

If this unborn soul chose her to become its parent, then that means this unborn soul also would have 'chosen' for her not to be able too conceive. If not for the inability to conceive, this a-mom would have had both options - bio or adoptive - to choose from. As it is, the first has been taken from her - the ability to conceive. Why?

Because apparently this unborn child's soul "chose" her to become its parent, therefore this a-mom was destined to be infertile. And the b-mom was destined to be in a situation of poverty, disease, abuse, bad relationship, whatever, in order for her to be "destined" to give up her child.

Sounds nasty, doesn't it?

I assume that is what Joy means by "indictment."

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't understand why adoptive parents are being vilified here. When I speak about how I was meant to be with my daughter I'm telling MY story. Not her birth mother's. She's a grown woman, very smart and made a an adoption plan for her child all by herself. She's perfectly capable of telling her own story.

Anonymous said...

Arguing this is just like arguing if there is a God or not. Some will believe and some will not. For those who do not believe, nothing can substantiate it. For those who do believe, nothing has to substantiate it.

Meiling I can understand your sentiments. But, what if...what if...there was a higher power connecting and uniting the new family after the child has been given up or abandoned? What if it doesnt have to be loss of one family to gain another? What if the child only has to lose going from foster care to foster care or only has to lose being in an orphanage with less than foster care, in order to be united with a family? Is it possible that Divine intervention happens at all in your world? Because really, that's what this is about. Not necessarily that one gains from another's loss, but that there might be a force greater than chance at work, especially if the child has already lost his/her birth family, long before the afamily is formed. Is there any room in your way of thinking, that maybe God's Grace or a Higher Power moves people toward a greater good after the birth family is gone, and after the a-parents decide to adopt, but still do not know who the child might be? Or is it all just a game of chance? If it's just a game of chance, what are the chances of finding a family that truly works for both the adoptee and the a-parents? I would say, slim. Or is that also what you are already saying is the norm?

Anonymous said...

Before you piece apart my response, please know that I am not saying that loss does not occur for an adopted child. It does. I am saying that sometimes the loss of the birth family sometimes has already happened, before the a-parents even consider adoption. So, in those cases, being adopted becomes a greater outcome than not being adopted.

Anonymous said...

If my child was spiritually-designated to be without me, the orchestrating Deity was apparently willing to endorse a lot of dirty dealing to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

@ Mei-Ling,

I didn't intend to revisit this topic nor did I share my complete story or personal beliefs as related to my past, the adoption of the child I carried ( adoption by my choice I might add) but since you asked, here's my response. I hope you see this at any rate.

You asked, essentially, if I believed I was meant to carry a child for another...as ordained and predetermined by God?

I might as well ask this of you...do you believe that my being raped and impregnated at the age of 14 was preordained or natural as some like to say? That in fact it was the Lord's way of bringing myself and an unborn child together? To keep that connection, mother and child born of violence?

I don't believe so. I have to believe that given the horrendous circumstances of my situation, God made the best of a situation as did I. As. Did. I.

I harbor no blame, never did, for or towards the child. She was an innocent. The fact that she is a bright, vibrant, secure and deeply loved young woman brings me tremendous peace and closure.

But I was in no way prepared to take on mothering her when I myself was a child and healing from a gross violence.

My point was that I CHOSE adoption for that child. It was not born of coercion. I could have elected to parent with support from my family. I chose not to. My decision.

Liken it then to a band aid applied by the Lord or to whatever you believe in. To each his own I suppose, but please don't tread on mine.

AND I am entitled to take that with me from this...my own...experience.

Could that be hard for a child to hear? Yes, maybe. Does it make it less so? No.


Linda 2

Anonymous said...

Linda 2,

I am so, so sorry that happened to you, and it sounds like you made a decision based in love that nobody, absolutely nobody, can stand in judgment of.

I say this as a natural mom who was certainly coerced but also believed, at the time, that I was doing what "experts" told me was best for my child.

Hold onto that love. Nobody can take it from you (or me).

cb said...

Linda 2: I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you when you were young.

However, what Mei Ling and others are getting at is not so much those APs and first mothers who believe God making the best of a bad situation, I can understand that being comforting, but more those who feel that we CHOSE our parents and that for those of us who were adopted, we just came via our birthmothers.

There is a poem/story much loved by some APs (in fact, on another forum, an AP specifically asked for it to read to their child):

"Once a small angel waited by the pool of life. Eager to jump in, he started to put his big toe into the warm comforting water.

"Matthew," God called, "Before you can be born, you must choose the family with which you will reside. Come… choose your new home from the Great Tree."

The Great Tree loomed above Matthew. Its beautiful golden branches made his step falter with awe. Angels flittered everywhere, hovering like hummingbirds under the wide canopy; they gently plucked the brown leaves.

Kneeling so that he could speak into Matthew's ear, God whispered, "One of those branches holds your family. All you need to do is choose the family you want. Touch a branch and it will show you all the joys and trials that you will have in that life." With that, God lifted the boy up to the tree and asked, "Which leaves would you like to look at first?"

Many hours later and after looking at many families, Matthew did not see any that he liked and so he asked God, "May we look at the very tippy top?"

Heavenly Father smiled a warm and comforting smile. "Those are the adopting families" He thought. He did not say a word but simply moved to the highest and most center part of the tree.

Matthew looked and looked, but he still didn't find any families that he was happy with. He was just about to give up when he saw one of the leaves sparkle. He reached out and touched the branch, and he knew that was his home. Excited, he turned his little head to God and exclaimed, "This is it! This is my family! They are the ones I want to be with! They are waiting for me!"

The Lord looked at the branch and smiled. It had two large leaves and one small one. "That is a very special family my son. You will not be able to go to them the traditional way." Upon seeing the crushed look on Matthews face, God continued, "You get to choose another mother, she will be your birth mother and she will be guided to your parents and you will end up in their arms as you have chosen to be."

After another long while, Matthew found someone, he believed, would be a great birthmother. Beaming he touched another branch and said, "This one! She will love me and she will want me to be happy with my family, I choose her." Again God smiled.

Thank you for choosing me. Much love always and forever ~"

When I read that, it makes me think "Oh OK, so apparently it is MY fault that I'm adopted" Because I supposedly wanted one of those "extra special mothers called adoptive parents", I had to chose another one to carry out that destiny. I wonder if my first mother realised that when she set off full of beans on her overseas trip that it was going to be runited by some pesky child having given her the "kiss of birthmotherhood" - hey, if I'd left her alone, perhaps someone else would have made her first choice.

It is a good thing "Mathew in the above story didn't ask God how he was going to fulfil the destiny "Don't worry about that Mathew - I'll make sure that your bmother is too poor to care for you/unmarried and made to feel not good enough/victim of an assualt(choose your own story) etc so that the destiny can be fulfilled"

cb said...

btw I meant to say "ruined" not "runited"

malinda said...

One of the many anonymouses said:
"When I speak about how I was meant to be with my daughter I'm telling MY story. Not her birth mother's."

The problem here is that you're not just telling YOUR story, you're also telling your adopted daughter's story, too.

The problem is that your daughter might have a very different view of her destiny than you do. And you might never know, because as long as you're telling her the relationship was meant to be, how can she EVER feel comfortable sharing possible negative feelings about her adoption?

The "meant to be" thing may be how you feel -- that's fine. But you might want to think about what SHARING that feeling with your adopted child might make her feel.

Mei-Ling said...

And this is why I wish Anonymouses would leave aliases. Holy crap. Should I assume you are all the same person, then?

“When I speak about how I was meant to be with my daughter I'm telling MY story.”

And you’re also speaking for her. Her story is intertwined with yours. You’re telling your emotions and feelings associated with her story.

“But, what if...what if...there was a higher power connecting and uniting the new family after the child has been given up or abandoned? What if it doesnt have to be loss of one family to gain another?”

So children appear out of thin air? The point is that no matter how the child joins the new family, at some point s/he had to lose the old one.
This is not what I would call divine intervention.

The child had a previous family. In order to be adopted, the child had to lose that previous family. The only way the child could have been available for adoption is if s/he hadn’t been relinquished to begin with. There aren’t two legal sets of parents in adoption. There aren’t two legal families in adoption. You can only “have” one or the other.

“Not necessarily that one gains from another's loss, but that there might be a force greater than chance at work, especially if the child has already lost his/her birth family, long before the afamily is formed.”

But there is no way around the child NOT losing a family to gain a new one. This is why I don’t believe that there is divine intervention. If a child in China has to be abandoned, it’s not because God willed it. It’s because of social, medical and political factors. Due to those factors, the child became available for adoption. Then the adoptive parents are eventually matched up. If the child’s unborn soul supposedly choose this route, then this soul chose to “punish” itself by being born in unfortunate circumstances and inconveniencing everyone around it just to be abandoned and subsequently adopted.

“Is there any room in your way of thinking, that maybe God's Grace or a Higher Power moves people toward a greater good after the birth family is gone, and after the a-parents decide to adopt, but still do not know who the child might be?”

Not if there are physical reasons for it.

“So, in those cases, being adopted becomes a greater outcome than not being adopted.”

It’s not about adopted vs. not adopted. It started with the unborn child’s soul choosing adoption and putting indictment via the circumstances on both a-mom and b-mom that caused the adoption.

Mei-Ling said...

I'm not arguing about adopted vs. being non adopted.

I'm arguing the idea that a child's unborn soul chose its parents before conception. If that child chose to be destined with parents before conception, then anything bad that has to occur to lead to that adoption would be on this unborn soul's shoulders.

Anonymous said...

Serious Anonymous says:

If children are able to choose their parents, then they should also be able to change their minds if they later decide they have made a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Unless we're talking older child adoption (which is rarely the case) no one gets to chose their parents. That goes for bios, too.