Oh my, we've been all obsessed with capes and crafts around here, and still - life continues to whir on with the important things needing attention.
I've been reading some adoption literature lately, and blogs of course, and something's been kind of troubling me. It's sticky and might not come out right, but I'm going to take a shot at giving it words.
We adoptive mamas I think feel a collective sigh of gratitude and respect for these women who bore our children and made certain choices that brought these babes into our lives. We talk about Her as selfless and courageous. And, probably? She is.
Here's my concern though (I'll just make this specific to my situation, because this seems like an area where generalizations are not good): She may not be. She might be a true hero - someone who sacrificed a lot of ridicule and stigma to carry her child to term, someone who went to great lengths to leave her child in a safe place, someone who carefully evaluated the kind of life she wanted for her son and whether or not she could give it to him.
But, maybe not. She might be someone who was reckless, who put her child in harm's way to protect her own interests. She might be someone who, attacked on every side by hunger and abuse, wasn't able to truly comprehend the choice she was making for her and her son. She might be someone who was intimidated and threatened into doing something she didn't want to do - relinquish a child she loved. She might not have even had the capacity to really love him, or to make any decisions motivated by love.
I'll never know.
I do know that regardless of the choices she made or the motivation behind those choices, she is a beautiful child of God, as fiercely loved by her Creator as the child she birthed. I know that she is worthy of respect and dignity. I know that she deserves the benefit of the doubt. I know that God created her for a life of perfect relationship (with Him and with her child) that is impossible every day she walks in this broken world. I know that she is special, smart and beautiful - that much I can see for sure every time I watch my son play or study his gorgeous brown skin.
My concern isn't that we assign gratitude and respect to the birthmom - she certainly deserves it - it's when we connect it to her decision to relinquish her child. In some cases, it might absolutely be connected - her moral character might have been what led her to make her tough decision. But, in some cases her choice may not have been a great one, motivated by integrity and honor.
When I was visiting Adrianne in the spring, we met with a social worker just to chat about attachment and sharing the kids' story with them in an appropriate and healthy way. To tell the truth, she was kind of mean and scary, but on this subject I thought she had some great thoughts. She talked about the danger of connecting the birth mother's love for her son with her choice to relinquish.
She asked us to think ahead to when our kids were 12 and started questioning things and asking the hard questions. If you'd been told your whole life that your birth mom "loved you so much that she relinquished you for adoption," and "I love you so much..." might that not instill fear in a young heart?
I don't intend this to be some kind of soapbox - this is just me processing through how to best be the caretaker of Charlie's story, me trying to stay a step ahead my own tendency to want to give "nice" answers that might not be true.
The same mean scary social worker warned us to talk to our kids about their story much like we might talk to them about sex (she was incorrectly assuming that I'm mature and don't call private parts "hmmm-mmms," but that's another post for another day) - only give age-appropriate information but never, ever lie.
So, in my case, I don't actually know anything about Charlie's birthmom or the choice she made. I need to be careful to not say things like, "She loved you so much that she wanted a better life for you and wanted you to have a mommy and daddy who could do things for you that she couldn't." That may be true, but I don't know that it is. And someday he's going to realize that I don't know that.
Instead, I can say things like, "I don't know Charlie, but I know that God loved her and you so much that even when she was confused, He made sure that you were kept safe until He brought you to us." I can say, "I don't know why your birth mom chose this, but I do know xy and z about poverty in Rwanda, and I can imagine how this may have made her feel scared and uncertain."
I can teach him to love, respect and be thankful for his birth mom, regardless of the choices she made. I can teach him that she is worthy of his honor, not because of the choice she made or in spite of it, but because God created her and only His grace makes any of us "worthy." I can teach him that I have made difficult choices too - some good and some bad, and that he will too, and that all of us need forgiveness and grace as we do the best we can to navigate the brokenness of this world.
Please forgive me if I've gotten it all wrong. What are your thoughts?
In other adoption news, Charlie is doing awesome. He's showing great signs of attachment - clinging to me when new people reach for him, crying when I take him to the nursery, playing independently while repeatedly "checking in" to make sure I'm still there. He's growing and running and laughing. This week, though, there have been some interesting incidents - cuddling with my friend while glaring at me, hitting me when I tell him "no," jumping into the arms of strangers. It's a good reminder that while things are progressing well, it's not over yet. And I'm totally okay with that.