Atlanta, Ga.: Dear Carolyn,
My husband and I are "bidding" for a closed adoption through our church. The birth mother is a 17-year-old girl who already has a child. She is currently considering us as well as one other couple. This process involves a lot of waiting and is really fraying my nerves. We are the "better" couple -- higher income, more childcare experience, a son who can't wait to be a big brother, and we live in the suburbs (while the other family has a condo in the city). We have not yet met the mother, but the other couple has apparently established a friendly relationship with her. We hope to do the same over the summer, to help her decision process.
My problem is I cannot come to terms with the fact that the choice will ultimately rest with this girl, whom I've never met. On paper, my husband and I are the easy choice. Nothing against the other couple, but I believe if it were up to an objective party, anyone would choose us. But the process is designed so that the girl has the final say, which I can't understand. Why should it be her decision? She has already demonstrated questionable decision-making capabilities, and she will never know anything about us besides what she learns over a couple of casual lunches. We hope to make a good impression on her, but I am really going to pieces over the thought that maybe there are factors we won't be able to influence. Why is this okay???
Carolyn Hax: If I were the mom, your quickness to dismiss both the other other couple and my right to make decisions for my baby would disqualify you without so much as a follow-up "casual lunch."
What I see are two families who want a child, and who both may well be in a position to give a baby a wonderful home -- neither "better" than the other, just different. And I see a mother who got herself in a stupid spot but who is doing her best to get out of it (see the physics of digging out of holes, above) in the way that best serves her child.
If you can't get over yourself long enough to see that this isn't a competition, it's a community effort to save a life, and that any good home is a great outcome, even if the home isn't yours, then I hope you'll recuse yourself from the "auction" altogether.
Aaaagh, shudder, shudder shudder! So much about this upsets me. First of all, "bidding" for a baby--which Carolyn jabs at nicely with her "auction" barb in the last line of her response.
Next: a closed adoption? I am certainly no expert in adoption but I have done a little bit of research about it, and have discovered that domestic adoptions are rarely fully "closed" anymore--most agencies and offices recommend and facilitate arrangements that are at least semi-open, that is, where there is some communication between the biological parent and the family.
The idea that a child needs to be protected from the shadowy reputation of "bad" parents by a black box of secret records is (thankfully) gone now, and for both medical and just psycho-cultural-social-emotional reasons, at least some interaction with the biological family seems to be the healthiest and most productive approach for everyone. And in this case the child in question has a biological sibling that everyone knows about--are they planning to keep that a secret from the baby? Or tell her about it but refuse to allow the kids to know each other? Everything becomes doubly (or triply) complicated when another child is involved.
Also, if the birth mother is personally meeting with, interviewing, and selecting adoptive families, aren't we already beyond the strictest sense of a "closed" adoption? (Wikipedia article on closed adoption)
Information from an Atlanta adoption agency that I admit I obtained through a quick and dirty google search:
Through Domestic Infant Adoption, families are, in most instances, able to bring their baby home directly from the hospital. Prospective adoptive families also typically get to develop a relationship with biological family members who have hand-picked them to be Mom and Dad, equipping them with social and medical history as well as stories and pictures that they can share with their child as he or she grows older and asks important questions about biological connections. We believe that, just as aspects of loss touch everyone involved in infertility, relinquishment, and adoption, openness provides a “bridge” that connects children, adoptive parents, and birth parents in amazingly redemptive and healing ways. Openness follows a continuum, from completely closed to fully open, depending on the desires of both the birth and adoptive families, but the primary goal is always to serve the best interests of the child.
Then: the entire attitude about how her family is "better" on paper. Ugh. Don't even have anything useful to say about it. Too busy shuddering. More childcare experience? Because experience is always a pre-req for parenthood....
Also, I like that the "other" family has taken the time to establish a friendship with the mother, something this writer hasn't bothered to do, but wants to push for in order to "help" her make a decision. I wonder if she even had any interest in meeting the mother until she heard that the other family had--clearly she WISHES the choice would be made by an "objective" party based on a paper application.
On the other hand, Carolyn's response, while appropriately sharp, in some ways feels unrealistically altruistic to me. Of course the most important outcome is that the baby be placed in a loving home. Nevertheless, I think it's unreasonable to expect that waiting adoptive parents--who most of the time are seeking adoption because they can't have children--won't be desperately and devastatingly hoping to be chosen every time.
Nevertheless, this woman sounds like a control freak who can't come to grips with the areas of her life over which she has no power: her and her husband's inability to have biological children (if that's the case), perhaps other potential adoptions gone awry, and certainly this mother's choice to place her baby with the family she thinks best suited to love it, guide it, and provide the kind of life she would want to give it if she could.
It's very sad, actually...this writer sounds lost somewhere between frustration and devastation. But that doesn't make it OK that she's letting those feelings out by turning them against the biological mother of a child she says she wants to raise, and against an innocent family that seems eager to know both the baby and the source of its genes.
I am sad for this woman because she's dealing with obstacles to building her dream family--something that is probably particularly frustrating as she interacts with teenagers who have no such problems, and reproduce in a manner that must seem, well, willy-nilly at best. But if she can't brush the chip off her shoulder and embrace what she's got and what the future holds for her family, I can't see anyone choosing her as a loving, nuturing parent for their unborn child.