Friday, June 7, 2013

Minor Vent: Adoption in the Media

I've never been a huge "reality TV" fan but one little guilty pleasure I do have on my DVR is a show called "Extreme Weight Loss" (formerly called "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition").  Chris Powell strikes me as being a good trainer as well as being the sort of guy who would be downright pleasant if you met him in person. I like the way the show portrays an overweight person for an entire one-year journey - no quick fixes.

A recent episode featured a pretty young woman named Meredith. Meredith was adopted as an infant and seemed to be very hung-up on it. She grew up in a loving family with two parents and a sister.  On the first day of the year-long transformation, Chris Powell took her on a run on the beach and Meredith collapsed almost immediately, crying and lamenting the fact that she was "given away on the first day of her life." Her pain was very real and I felt terrible for her.

On the other hand, it was extremely obvious that Meredith's parents were totally devoted to her.  I don't know how they could have been more supportive. At the six-month mark, Meredith ran a marathon and her parents jogged alongside her for a mile or so, her dad wearing jeans and huffing away. They spoke of nothing but their love for her and their pride in her.  Chris spoke to Meredith several times and encouraged her to contact her birth mother, which was all fine and good. He actually said something about "writing a letter to your mom" and didn't use the correct adoption terminology, but that's fairly common, and most parents and adoptees don't get too worked up about it anyway.

Throughout most of the episode, Meredith felt that if she could get thin and develop a relationship with her birth mother, all would be right with the world.  Finally, at the end of the episode, Meredith had her "a-ha!" moment and came to the realization that she has always been loved and was always wanted (AND, that her birthmom loved her so much that she wanted more for Meredith than she could provide).  Meredith still wanted to hear from her birthmom which is, I think, totally normal and healthy.  But, it was not her sole focus.  Her focus was on being healthy and happy.

Why am I blathering on about this?  Well, I'm just going to be absolutely honest here. It bugs me that the media portrays adoption as some cosmic wrong that needs to be righted. You see it over and over with shows like "The Locator." It's like adoptive families are just biding their time until they can return their child to his/her people. I find it annoying. Reuniting a birth family is all well and good, but why is it necessary to cast aside the parents who raised the child? Like they never mattered much anyway.

Adoption shows often do the birth family a disservice, too. Often, there is outdated adoption language used, such as "gave up for adoption."  Birth moms are sometimes portrayed as being selfish or as having broken some sacred code of motherhood.  I remember my heart breaking when my daughter's birthmom once mentioned to me that a family friend had told her something along the lines of, "I can't believe you did what you did."

Since the vast majority of domestic adoptions are open (a trend over the last decade that I am confident will continue), in a few decades there will be fewer adoptees who have to embark on the painful "where did I come from" search. My daughter knows she has a birthmom (we have a visit scheduled with her later this summer) and some bio half-siblings as well. I truly believe this is the healthiest way to go when it comes to adoption. I know there are exceptions (such as abuse in the birth family) but then again there are adoptive families that turn out to be bad news, too.

I was not adopted, so I am certainly not an expert on the topic. I know that it is common to go through a period of grappling with rejection-related fears and issues (even in the most successful adoption scenarios) and that it is normal and perhaps even necessary. I will always be sensitive to that when it comes to my daughter, although I will not allow her to blame everything that ever happens to her on the fact that I didn't give birth to her. Believe me, when I was 13, I acted like most 13-year-old girls do. I believed that everything in my life was full of drama and wrongness and had I been adopted, I'm sure I would have blamed it all on that. Instead, I just blamed it all on my mother, which was nothing if not convenient.

I am glad that we are in contact with my daughter's birth family. My kid has two families to love her and what could be better than that?

I do not pretend to know (or to diminish, or to make light of) all of the challenges that may be present in the life of someone who was adopted. I do not pretend to know all there is to know about the grief of a birth mother who makes the selfless decision to make an adoption plan for her child. 

What I do know is that I am not just some glorified babysitter who is just filling in until my child can be returned to where she came from. I am not some thief who robbed my baby girl of the right to be raised by those who share her DNA. I am her mom. I have been with her since the day she was born. I changed a million diapers and went to work with dried rice cereal on my shirt. I scrubbed her toys when she pooped in the bath tub. I taught her to ride a bike. I threatened some little brat at the playground who tried to bully her. She is my baby, my world, my pride and joy. And, I love her so much that I would never try to restrict her access to her birth family. There is, you see, a happy medium.

My kid, wearing a sash she made herself, bearing a title she bestowed upon herself.

1 comment:

The Lovely One said...

Thhis is my lack of self esteem talking again, but I fear the day that BK says he wants to hire a PI to find his birth mom. Of course I would do whatever I could to help, but inside I would be crying, "Why? I love you so much, why aren't I enough?"