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Adoption, Loss, and Life

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Why Adoption Feels Harder than Abortion. My intention with the post was to help people like me–people who have not ever experienced an unplanned pregnancy, people who have never faced the fear and stress and sadness of a choice between keeping a child you can't afford (emotionally or financially), aborting that fetus, or giving that child up for adoption. Hearing Angie Weszley speak had helped me to understand some of the emotional, physical, and psychological dimensions of choosing to carry through with an unplanned pregnancy and then relinquish a child to another parent. So my intention was to challenge any assumption that adoption is an "obvious" answer to an unplanned pregnancy and to demonstrate the complexities of the situation. But I'm not sure I achieved that goal.

More than one woman with far more intimate knowledge of adoption wrote me a personal email to explain that in my post I seemed to assume I knew what it felt like to be in the position of a birth mother or an adoptive mother, when of course I don't know. Moreover, a vehement comment thread brought up the potential problems of coercion within adoption–whether domestic or international–greater detail of the emotional and physical strain on women who face the prospect of carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term, gratitude from adoptive parents for their children, and the ways in which adoption and abortion implicate domestic policy within the United States.

To quote a few of the comments:

Adoption does nothing to care for a woman that is unable to care for herself or her unborn child *before* birth. No one can ensure that a child is cared for in utero but that child's biological mother. And while other people can offer support, no one else can assume the biological mother's physical pain or the risks to her life, health and job that come with pregnancy and childbirth. If we wish to reduce abortion and increase adoption, we have to take the problems and risks of pregnancy itself seriously and care for and about, not just the child, but the mother before birth...

Yes. a few who have abortions dwell on what the fetus might have grown to be, but with adoption there is no doubt or fantasy about the fact that you gave away a real live child of yours...

I would say that in most cases losing a child to adoption is an act of desperation not bravery...

Adoption, like abortion, should be safe, legal, and rare. Comprehensive health care for women, including access to birth control, would go a long way towards achieving both goals. Comprehensive support for women who want to parent would go the rest of the way - and yes, I do mean government programs that provide money, medical care, child care, food, shelter and education without demeaning, belittling or abusing the recipients of that support. And yes, that means wealthy women like me might end up without children - and that's a outcome I am willing to accept, because it's not about me...

There's a part of me that wishes I had never waded into these murky waters, and another part of me that is so grateful that some readers of this blog helped me to understand that in trying to demonstrate complexity, I really had no idea what I was talking about! Instead of trying to speak, again, on behalf of women in whose shoes I have not walked, I have asked a few women to offer their personal perspectives on adoption. Later today and tomorrow, I will offer posts from a woman who was adopted domestically and a woman who gave her child up for adoption. Next week, I will offer the perspective of a woman who was adopted internationally and a women who adopted a child. I wish I could say that their words offer triumphant stories of hope. There are glimpses of hope and joy and light. But more than anything else, their words will attest to the loss that accompanies every adoption, and my longing that both women and children will receive the care they need in this broken world.

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