"Selfless" "Brave" "Most loving" "Strong"
Marketing words to encourage vulnerable pregnant, under resourced or under supported women to give up their babies to other more 'deserving' better resourced people. On an almost daily basis I see advertising that uses these words.
Sometimes it is adoption agencies who are making money from such a baby trade. Other times it is an ad with a happy smiling couple who talk about looking for 'their' baby and oftentimes raising the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to carry out the trade.
Today I read post after post from people who said they had adopted people in their families who were really grateful. That should be a clue.
Grateful. Grateful that someone took them in. Grateful that they were 'chosen'.
Forever on their best behaviour just in case.
This is the lived experience of many adult adoptees no matter how loved they were or how much they loved their adoptive families. The fact is that underlying the 'grateful', most adoptees come to know that they weren't chosen. They were simply the next baby in line. They weren't special because they were adopted, they were the second option because their adoptive parents couldn't have their 'own'.
We hear about adoption being 'beautiful'. The fact is that on that 'beautiful' day, while some adults cried with joy, other adults cried with despair and a baby who had no say, no choice, looked everywhere for its mother and learned that she was never to be found again.
Adult adoptees are among the most marginalised in our society. They are supposed to continue to uphold the fantasy and be grateful the entirety of their lives. They are not meant to question the contract that traded them permanently from one family to another in order to play pretend. They are told they mustn't hurt the feelings of those who took them in by wanting connection to the one who birthed them. They are not supposed to feel abandoned, but chosen, not lost, but gifted.
Adoption severs relationship, severs history, severs legal ties and inheritance rights. It forever breaks something that should be whole in order to meet the needs of adults.
How about we flip the script on the language? Let's talk about the people in adoption and whose needs should be prioritised. The most innocent and powerless party in any adoption is the baby. A baby yearns only for its mother, her scent, her sounds, her movements. We can measure the physiological pain and trauma in a baby separated from its mother.
What if 'selfless' and 'brave' was something a mother who birthed a baby needed to be? What iF she needed to be brave enough to ask for help and selfless enough to sacrifice her time and her presence in order to give herself to her baby, as all mothers do?
What if we go one step further and suggest that prospective adoptive parents become the ones who must be brave, selfless and most loving. If they truly want the best for any baby, or even a baby they somehow come to see as theirs before it's even born, perhaps the most selfless act is to raise that money for the mother so that she can better provide for the baby. Perhaps the bravest thing they can do is to deal with their issues of infertility without the need to cause trauma to more people?
Maybe the way to love all of the vulnerable people is to connect them, not disconnect them, to let them see the value in what they can give to a child, rather than be part of tearing that child in two.
Maybe a return to the village, where everyone comes together to truly value the most innate and awe inspiring relationship that exists, that between a mother and her new baby.
Yes, selfless, brave and most loving acts mean sometimes we don't get we want. Why should that be a baby who has no choice, no understanding, and who must forever be grateful for the pain they will carry.. silently.