Understanding Adoption: One Mother's Perspective
As a mom of a young adoptee, I feel like I have just as much to learn about adoption as much as I have to say about it. I hover that line often, learning when to keep my mouth closed and my ears open in learning, and when I use my voice to advocate for my child and our family dynamic. My hope is that these words of mine resonate with everyone, especially adoptive families and those who wish to interact with members of the adoption triad on a more ethical or understanding level.
My son was born on one of the most beautiful days, the kind where the air is cool but the sun is deliciously warm, and everything around you is so breathtakingly clear. Just as the sun began its slow descent toward the horizon, my beautiful boy took his first breath. His eyes were wide with wonder as he was weighed, washed, measured and warmed. He had a head of soft black curls and delicate lips that curved into a plump pout. After the whirlwind of his first half hour of life slowly subsided, my son gripped my husband's finger tightly and drifted off into a peaceful first nap. He was the most perfect human I had ever seen.
That is all I'll ever share regarding the details of my son's birth.
All other elements of my son’s birth are his to share, not mine, since it is a part of his adoption story. Was I there for all of it? Yes. Did that day change my life? Of course. Have I tattooed every second of that day into my heart and mind so I never forget the day I became a mother? Yes!
So, don't I have some ownership of his birth day and the events surrounding it?
Adoption is a decision that affects an adoptee's life from the moment of their adoption until their death. Especially in cases of infant adoption, the decision of permanent family separation is not made by the adoptee. It is made for the adoptee by others who identify as birth families, adoptive families, agencies, hospital staff, lawyers, consultants and social workers. Think about the gravity of it: an entire force of people changes the trajectory of an individual's life without that individual's consent. (I am speaking mainly toward infant adoption. There are cases where the adoptee consents to their adoption. I cannot speak to those situations, only the position I am a part of myself.)
Because of that, I do not find ownership in my son's birth story. I hold the pieces, of course, but I hold them for him and him alone. The older he gets, the more questions he has. I am the one to hand him what he seeks, to peel back the truth of his genesis in its purest, untouched form, and then provide him a safe space to reflect, digest and react. It is a great honor.
When my son was born, I received a lot of attention from online platforms that wanted to use our family's story (specifically, my son's story) for their own content and marketing agendas. Initially, I was flattered and falsely assumed I knew enough about adoption to speak on it publicly, pulling much-too-intimate details from my son's birth to appease a digital platform using our story for clout and improved SEOs. I wrote those guest blogs and filled the screen with what I now consider too much over-sharing. I regret those blogs and the words I freely gave to strangers. I hold myself accountable and am grateful I've learned so much since then. However my son reacts to those public posts one day, I will hold myself fully responsible.
I am often asked, "Why was he placed for adoption?", by well-meaning, curious folks.
That is the most invasive, violating question somebody can ask about adoption. And all for a temporary curiosity fix for the person wondering why my son is my son.
Adoption stems from loss, no matter which angle you look at it. Does a child "gain" a family through placement and adoption? Well, yes, but they are losing one, too. And the one they are losing is their blood. Their history. Their legacy. Even if that blood, history and legacy are painful, it's still a part of them on a molecular level. Adoption stems from loss. Remember that.
For National Adoption Awareness Month this year, I hope that adoption is appropriately understood and honored for its complexity. This blog post is my contribution to that wish.
About the Author
My name is Jeanette and I’m a mom of two (three come January!) living in Nashville, TN. I am the author of the children’s book Annie and Khalil, a passion project for my children that I published in 2021. I am a writer, a family person and a work-in-progress human.