Sunday, April 15, 2012

Real Mothers and the Adoption Controversy

There have been some excellent posts written lately about the subject of "real" mothers.  You know, that question that adoptive parents sometimes get from clue less strangers when you least expect it.  (i.e. you are tired, your child is ill, you are stressed, etc)  "Oh, excuse me, are you his/her real mother?"  In the world of first parents, we are not.  And it took a long time for me to come to terms with this. I suspect I am a slow learner.  But I can only come to a situation from my own experience and this is not as a first parent.

I used to be really angry when I was asked this.  Maybe part of me felt my abilities as a parent were being questioned in the early days.  Later I just got angry because frankly, if I am in ER because my daughter had a traumatic injury caused by jumping off ourcouch, I do not expect to be asked such a question or the follow-up winner of insensitivity--"Oh by the way, where did you get her?"  Really?  You went to med school and managed to come out with that?  (for those who care, I wrote a letter to the editor of our newspaper regarding that tidbit of insensitivity.)

But I am rambling.  Nowadays, this does not bother me.  Because my answer is that I am one of their real mothers.  I am not their first mother.  I did not experience that miracle of birth.  But for a myriad of private reasons, none of my children would not have been safe and would not have thrived in their first families.  For their sakes, I wish that was different.  But cycles of addiction and abuse and the toll of mental illness take a long time to break.  But I also don't believe we risk children while on the altar of family preservation. They are too precious and too easily harmed.  Harmed in ways we see and ways that are harder to know.  So in  a nutshell I think my kids are safer in our home.  Are they happier?  Not necessarily. This does not mean they are unhappy, but I know that being here, even being loved with every fiber of my being, does not negate the loss that is the yin to adoptions yang.

In one of my favorite books, The Velveteen Rabbit a stuffed rabbit became real when he was loved.  I became a real mother through loving.  That's real enough for me.


GB's Mom said...

Excellent post.

Sunday Taylor said...

The medical issue is a kind of “funny” one to me. I work in an inner-city medical clinic and I have seen everything from people coming in with kids whose names they couldn’t spell (even “real mothers”) birthdays they didn’t know to people with case files and court orders. I have gotten to the point where I don’t even WANT to know. Don’t tell me this is my________, I can’t find their momma, she won’t answer the phone or whatever….don’t tell me…as long as an adult shows me their ID, and signs their own name under “parent or legal guardian” I am good. Because the truth is, if everyone there had to prove that they were the “legal” guardian, there would be a ton of kids not receiving medical care, so I don’t care how you got ‘em. I care that they get the services they need. But, I am sure there are those who would disagree with my, don’t ask don’t tell policy.

As to the “are they yours?” question…one I was asked frequently when I was parenting and out and about with African American kids…and I just have to say it never really bothered me…my typical answer was, “when they are with me they are.” Which was not the answer to the question they were asking…but alas it was the answer. Maybe it didn’t bother me because they were not adopted, maybe because if we had adopted them it would have meant that they would have lost a mother and we would have lost a dear friend, and that wouldn’t have good for any of us. Maybe because I think it if far better to have two sets of parents all alive, than to have had to burry one. Maybe I just don’t get all of the brouhaha. whenever I read or hear an adoptive parent, especially when something as obvious as race is involved carrying on and on about how, people don’t know by looking that their transracially adopted kids is “their own” When clearly they did not give birth to them, I always think they are the ones with underlying issues about trans-racial adoption. They are the ones who feel inadequate and uncomfortable. And I say a quick prayer for them, that they find a way to come to terms with the reality of their situation, and others innate curiosity. Because if a parent cannot do that their kids will feel it, being kids they will internalize it and come to the conclusion that they are the inadequate ones, they are the source of their parents discomfort and that they and their race is not ok.

Lee said...

I get people not recognizing perhaps that I am a family unit and needing me to affirm that. I have to say the hospital deal made me insanely angry--but I was also so worried about Lissa's hip. The thing about the hospital was that I presented insurance cards that had my name and her name--it made it kind of obvious that we were a family. LOL But in many ways the medical care in my community sucks like a hoover. :-) I never want my kids to feel inadequate. I often get told that my kids must have a beautiful black daddy and I just smile and say that they do.

Sunday Taylor said...

i know you are veryy aware of how things affect your kids.

and yes they must!