Tuesday, October 23, 2007
it's about adoption. but maybe not how you'd think. I'm still pretty much in the shut-up-and-listen stage (or should be, as evidenced by the rest of this post, I'm sure), but she's got a lot to say, as usual ;). go forth and show some bloglove!
the more pregnant I get, the more I get all ruminate-y about adoption, abortion, all that stuff - maybe as a distraction from the 3:00 am internal jackhammerings of ittybitty feet, or as a distraction from the terror of impending parenthood, or as a distraction from excavating the toxic waste dump that is my kitchen - but I find myself giving it all a lot of thought.
I think that often the impetus for both abortion and adoption springs from the same source - that big loud voice, that Myth-of-Patriarchy voice that tells you the products of your conception are misplaced, ill-timed, inappropriately-raced, inappropriately-gendered, doomed out of the gate to a life of miserable grinding poverty and shame, or otherwise Damaged Goods and Not For You, and should instead be removed, disposed of - whether it's before or after the products of conception grow into a baby, does it really matter? either way, The Voice tells you that what your body creates is Wrong and you should make its wrongness go away, whether sooner or later.
which is fucked up. really, the only voice that should tell a woman whether to become a mom is her own.
and yeah, a woman should be able to have sex however she wants, with whomever she wants, upsidedown and sideways and swinging from the chandelier if she wants, and still not become a mom if she doesn't want to be. but too often the conception of a child causes this weird chaos wherein everyone involved goes berzerk, as though the world will stop spinning if this misplaced conception is allowed to grow into a human being and stay with its mom. Voices that have nothing to do with the reality of the pregnant woman's life grow louder and louder, and her voice softer and softer, until it really does seem like she's committed some terrible offense against humanity, and her body is full of wrongness that must be purged, sooner or later.
a baby, a human life (if you will, if you must), should not be a punishment, the wages of sin, a heavy burden, a mark of disgrace. Bodies reproduce. It's what they're put on earth to do. no baby should be considered "undesirable" unless its mom isn't into motherhood, really truly not into it, and not just under the influence of The Big Mythical Voice and its pernicious lies.
you know, what I don't know about adoption could fill a book, no doubt. but apparently, both locally and globally, it's kind of a racket. The Adoption-Industrial Complex, so to speak.
And adopted kids, globally and locally - they don't all remain adorably sleeping in their basinets, all pigtailed and perfect for eternity. they grow up into adults. adults who sometimes have issues with how it all went down, who sometimes grow up with no idea of their history, their medical needs, their genetic tendencies - and who can't even find out, even if they ask extra super nicely and bow down to the Bureaucracy Gods.
I'm no more anti-adoption than I am anti-abortion. but so many voices (like Baby Love Child's, like other adults who were adopted as children) get left out of the discussion, so that it's hard not to turn a critical eye on the way adoption goes down. some say it's impossible to have an ethical adoption. I wonder about that.
well, I guess that's about all I have. comments are, as usual, wide open. just remember that real people are out there in the ether.
I think your parents are on the right track about being as open as they can be. that seems wise to me.
but then again, I'm not in the adoption community. I'm an outsider. so maybe I don't really know.
I don't know about Wanting to Do Good and Right, and am not a fan of the capitalization as it's often seen on religious or other patronizing propaganda. I'm sure you didn't mean it that way.
I do know that my sisters' lives would be very different had they not been adopted. It's horribly unfair that their parents may not have wanted to let them go. It's inescapably true, however, that by the time my parents came into the picture, they were in orphanages with no contact with their birth parents.
So it's really hard to see why Wanting to Do Good and Right is controversial in such cases. It's rice three times a day and shaved heads if you run away, or being with a hopefully loving though imperfect family. Sure, there are cases with more wrinkles. But coming from an adoptive family, the tone of "we need to examine why this may not be Good or Right" doesn't work for me.
I went over to that blog and wrote a long entry... when I work a lot of days in a row and don't get to hang out on my blogs, I end up rather over-talkative, I'm afraid!*** But I am certainly very interested in the topic.
Southerners do a lot of "dumping" kids... as in, taking the baby to your aunt's and then picking them up several years later. I mean, seriously, that's a way of life and actually happened to me as a child on several occasions, too. My mother just disappeared, and then reappeared with a new husband, exactly the way Connie Corleone reappears with Merle* in GODFATHER II: "Oh, hi, glad to meetcha."
Still, I don't regret my grandmother** raising me with her family, extended family, cousins, I actually enjoyed having so many people around since I was my mother's only child. It gave me a sense of identity and belonging. I have decided it might be wholly preferable to the nuclear-family-mommy-daddy-baby thing that my daughter DID NOT do so well with...ironically (or not so ironically?) she is now raising her daughter on a ranch with her husband's extended family (outbuildings even including his grandfather), and I am all for it. :)
I thought a lot about adoption and abortion while pregnant, too, and freaked out over the movie DEMON SEED, which I just saw again recently, and it was kinda dopey. The fact that dopey DEMON SEED got to me so much, is proof of how vulnerable pregnancy makes us feel, and certain concepts are just terrifying that would not be terrifying at any other time. (Also terrifying: Rosemary's Baby, which IS an excellent film, but will burrow it's way into your consciousness if you are pregnant, in a way it won't at any other time, and thoroughly FREAK YOUR SHIT OUT!)
*TRIVIAL CINEMATIC FOOTNOTE: That was TROY DONAHUE! Who's given name was actually MERLE! :) I love the fact that a burned-out idol plays a shady character, what you always thought burned-out teenybopper idols did: become giggolos. (What else are they qualified to do?)
**named Daisy :)
***here too, I guess! SORRY!
I won't speak for them, but you might want to go over and check out some of the stuff they have to say. They have really opened my eyes about the inequalities involved in American adoption of Asian children. Also, they have a great blogroll, containing more information and first-person accounts.
For instance, who trashed Korea in the first place? That's one of those interesting questions that puts the existence of orphans in a social and economic context--from their point of view.
As with Angelina Jolie, first the USA trashes Cambodia, then we send our movie stars to rescue their now-impoverished babies. I mean, FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW, that's how it looks, you know?
NOTE: I am not saying your parents had anything to do with trashing Korea or Cambodia, but I AM saying every American benefited financially from those wars.
But my concern is the kids. Not with what people think about what other people do or how it looks.
Now, in some case as in Madonna's possibly, there was some controversy as to whether the birth parents really wanted to give the child up.
In many other cases, and in ours because it was specifically researched for this reason, the birth parents had abandoned my sisters at the orphanage. That was no longer an option for my sister.
The options were as follows:
1) stay in the orphanage and hope to be adopted locally (near-impossible for one sister who was 7 when adopted) and in the meantime subsist on pretty much only rice so that you are 20lbs lower than you should be and your hair, naturally black, is a light brown from nutritional deficit
2) be adopted by a loving family
Certainly, the realities that led to devastation in these countries aren't always pleasant. But deciding that they're a reason that (1) was a better option than (2) for my sisters frankly makes me see red.
Thanks for commenting, Octogalore.
as I said, I'm an outsider, and I don't know what it's like to be adopted or to be an adopter.
I did not mean to assume a lofty "from the mountaintop" sort of tone - I am sorry for that.
Maybe I'm running up against that wall of "critiquing a system means criticizing some participants in that system."
which - wow. I mean, parents who adopt children that would otherwise have lives of wretched misery - those parents are good people, and full of love. we all know that.
I have more to think about, clearly, and I do appreciate your comments.
But my concern is the kids. Not with what people think about what other people do or how it looks.
How it looks = southernism. I apologize. I know, got to quit that. (When you write on blogs, it's like radio--you have to sound, as George Carlin famously said, like you're from nowhere: Helloooo, I'm from NO-WHEEEEERRRRRRE!!!!!!)
How it looks ~ translation into Yankee:
1) How a situation appears to (or is perceived by) the oppressed nonwhite persons themselves, in this case, Korean-American adoptees who were (likely) born into abject poverty.
1a) How said situation is experienced by the oppressed people themselves.
The "kids" in this case, are the very people writing the blog... they are the grown-up kids who have investigated the circumstances of their own adoptions, and found out all kinds of stuff. They also describe acute cultural and racial dislocation in the US.
So, they ARE the kids. They are concerned with other kids like themselves. When I said "how it looks" I meant, the way they have experienced their own lives. I do think their experience and how they have processed it, is relevant.
I hope that was more intelligible, and I will work on those Gomer Pyle colloquialisms! :P
That's just my preference, though.
That said, I really appreciate your welcoming my thoughts on this and I apologize if I am becoming too unladylike in voicing them.
However, I didn't find anything on the site that contradicts my assessment that under the conditions I mentioned, adoption is the better alternative FOR THE KIDS.
See this quoted section from the site, for example:
"Then there are the comments to their parents: “You are so wonderful to have saved your daughter from life over there,” or, “I hope she realizes what you have done for her.”
Though Hoai Thi and Jin realize these remarks are well-intended, they put a heavy burden to be grateful onto adoptees who had no choice.
Not that the two are not grateful. They both say they “have been blessed” by having their adopted families. And they agree that transracial adoption is necessary.
“Every child should have a family that loves them,” Hoai Thi said.
But they want to raise awareness of the paradoxical layers of emotions and identity so many transracial adoptees go through. And they want to help end the immediate response of, “That one doesn’t belong,” when people see them within the context of their families."
There are things one needs to be sensitive about. Sure. BUT these kids (some are adults) DO NOT regret being adopted, in the context I was talking about.
Nobody wants to feel they need to be more grateful than their biological siblings. Adoptive parents should understand this, and I think most do, although other relatives and friends can make stupid comments. My husband once said to me that he thinks one of my sisters should be especially careful about avoiding being cruel to my mom as she was adopted by her. I told him I disagreed -- yeah, my sister was being cruel, but she had no responsibility beyond the one any child has.
So the situation is nuanced. And it is important to be informed about it and not feel that just adopting is excuse NOT to inform oneself, in some patronizing entitled way. But neither the wars that unfairly devastated certain areas nor the above nuances contradict the fact that many of these kids do not have anyone they can call family. And because of adoption, they now do. I am not OK with any suggestion that thoughtful, informed adoptive parents need to have their "eyes opened." My parents eyes were quite open, thanks, and now my sisters' hair is black like it should be.
Naturally, I have a lot to say both about antiprincess' original post and about comments left here as well.
But I'll begin with antiprincess' own post. I think it's actually pretty interesting that you've taken the 'listen and think first' stance, as the hardest words for most Americans to say seem to be "I don't know". In an age when everyone seems to think they know something about everything, to even begin by saying, "I don't know, but I'm listening" is a rare trait indeed.
Thank you for that. It's rare that anyone listens directly to those directly affected. It's all too easy to label us "adopted children" and thus disregard our authentic voices and autonomous decision making, but that's not what you did. (I'm working on a language post about Bastards and the other terminology used to both describe us and dismiss us, even as we speak. And naturally, as usual, yes, I have a lot to say.)
But going back to your post, without quoting you at length, allow me to provide an alternate 'root' to that "voice". You identify it as a "Myth-of-Patriarchy voice", but I tend to disagree.
The "Myth-of-Patriarchy voice as Rickie Solinger has pointed out so clearly in her books, particularly "Wake Up Little Suzie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade" varies greatly from where any given pregnant womyn sits.
For some, the "Voices of others" (as I'll relabel it, among other things, it may just as easily be an attitude conveyed by other womyn in a womyn's life) may say the pregnancy is 'wrong/bad' etc, but for others, the "Voices of others" can be just as strongly insisting they bear to term against their will.
We live in the American hypernatalist culture, wherein birth is often (not always) highly valued, and regarded as "good", particularly for (many) white womyn. The inverse is of course also societally reinforced, that abortion, is often viewed as "bad" (something I have argued against over and over, this being my opus, if you REALLY feel you must.)
In short whether the "Voice" screams "get rid of it" or "you must bear to term" is not universal, if anything, it varies greatly on one's social status. It can be dependent upon age, on race, on relationships.
The real trick is to get beyond the internalized "Voices of others" and back to authentic and autonomist voice, of each womyn herself- which I think is exactly where antiprincess ended up.
Now our own authentic voices may also say, "I want to continue this pregnancy regardless of what the "Voices of others" scream at me, OR it may (just as validly) say, in the face of my own poverty, my own situation, my own family, birth for me, would be wrong.
The problem comes in when a womyn's authentic internal voice comes headlong into an impasse with an external situation- a desperate desire to give birth, but the realization that there are simply no resources for her to draw upon to do so. Thus due to external realities womyn feel forced into outcomes, birth or abortion (as adoption is not a reproductive decision, but a "parenting/custody" decision- when consent is taken into account, it sometimes isn't) that they felt were in violation of their own internal voices.
This is then complicated by the fact that our own internal voices can also change through time, rewrite our own histories after the fact to line up with outcomes, etc. Desires change from day to day, hour to hour.
Add in the ongoing pressures of cultural expectations, such that womyn are not viewed as fully human if they do not participate in the act of motherhood at some point during their reproductive lifespan, and lots of internal authentic voices get overridden. The consequences of a living a lifetime childfree are seen as mine fields of potential regret.
Couple this mother = 'normal' human womyn /vs./ childfree = freak underlying sentiment coupled with the mass infertility many couples are facing and the pressure to get *a* child, *any* child and pressures toward particular outcomes become great.
As for parenthood and punishment, shame and 'erasing the stigmas' of 'unwed motherhood' through the 'rite' of adoption, there's a book in there somewhere. But yes, many still continue to view motherhood as a punishment for sexual activity, just as they simultaneously embrace adoption and the womyn as parent, never to see their offspring as a 'flip side of the coin' punishment. (All dependent upon the usual sets of factors such as race/age/etc.)
Without creating an even longer post, let me just briefly add how much I appreciated antiprincess' paragraph about how many of us Bastards are indeed adults and that the "Bureaucracy Gods" (love the term!) absolutely hold power and potential threat over our lives.
The mere act of blogging about the current state of adoption could potentially be enough to encourage someone at vital statistics to 'misplace' any records pertaining to me in the circular file.
But to paraphrase, well behaved Bastards rarely get their records.
gotta get that book.
that's the thing about the Voice of Patriarchy. it's completely arbitrary.
and why on earth should we - Class Woman if you will - pay the whole Patriarchy thing any mind at all when Patriarchy clearly can't get its act together?
There's lots of interesting points in here and I've needed a little time to chew on some of it.
please, feel free. provided there's not some malignant hacker lurking around waiting to wreck my blog (I'm sure my turn will come sooner or later), the thread will still be here when you get to it.
my family is big and complicated. wrt adoption, we are: three white biological siblings, 1 adopted navajo sibling, 2 sort-of-adopted african-american siblings, 1 white half-biological sibling, 2 white step-siblings.
then there are the nieces my mom is now raising. my navajo sister's first child, and my stepdad's white biological nieces. their mother died a year ago.
i began reading about "transracial abduction" a few years ago and as a member of a family made up of many adoptees (though not one myself), my first response was to get defensive and upset. i think this is an area that is very difficult to navigate without tromping someone else's feelings.
both blogs pointed to here make interesting points; i value the perspective of adults who were transracially adopted and want to listen with an open mind to what they have to say. nothing that i've yet read has led me to any conclusions, however - nothing has given me a course of action.
that's ok, listening is good. maybe now isn't the time for action. maybe it's time to listen to the few voices who are making their concerns about adoption felt.
cuz the thing is, i don't know how the transracial adoptees in my own family were affected by their experience. none of my siblings-of-color were disconnected from contact with their families of origin, so their experiences may differ from baby love child's. but i don't think that they were included into the extended family as much as we were, and that must have been felt.
for example, my grandfather turned to me a year ago and said: "how does it feel to be an aunt?"
this after my african-american sister had already had three children. this after my navajo sister had already had two children, one of whom i cared for for over a month and half when my mom was first ill. i've been an aunt since i was 11 years old - it's nothing new.
but those kids didn't matter to him, somehow. no, the one who was *important* was my white biological nephew.
i was frustrated and angry and hurt at his suggestion that my other family members weren't family. i cannot imagine what else he has said here or there througout the years that might have made those siblings feel unwelcome.
thanks so much for your comments (for EVERYONE's comments, really). I know I'm swimming in very sharky waters, especially as a non-adoptee/non-adopter. and I really appreciate everyone's participation.
I love my commenters. you are all so brave for speaking your truths, diverse and passionate as they are.
we know nothing about her birth parents, what their situation was, why they gave her to an orphanage
Well, China, and a girl. I think the answer is often pretty clear- particularly from that time period- the one child policy, or what the Chinese refer to as the "Planned Birth Policy". (The policy has since been modified.) China uses international adoption as a pressure valve to deal with internal population policy.
The main reason girls end up in "orphanages" (a misnomer) is families wanting a boy, which of course means far beyond the individual circumstance, you're looking at a societal circumstance- a systemic structure.
I'd need to find a citation for the 1990's, but I found this for the 1980's, the period when the "one child policy" was really coming into force.
Sten Johansson and Ola Nygren (in 1991) found that adoptions accounted for half of the so-called "missing girls" in the 1980s in China. They also found that the majority of children who went through formal adoption in China in the later 1980s were girls, and that the proportion who were girls increased over time. ("The Missing Girls of China: A New Demographic Account," Population and Development Review 17 (March): 35-51)
Chinese adoption and "orphan" adoption (see below) has exploded, in 1992 there were about 200 visas issued (China to U.S.), by 2005 you had more than more than 7,900 Chinese children imported to the U.S. alone, by way of adoption.(U.S. State Department report, "Immigrant Visas Issued to Orphans Coming to the U.S.," citation here
Which then also leads to the question of what an "orphan" means in a system whereby the State coerces the reproductive lives of its citizens.
To put it bluntly, the vast majority of these Chinese children may or may not be actual orphans. Unfortunately, the USICS definition leaves room for children to be reclassified as orphans despite having parents clearly alive out there somewhere. From there, it becomes a question of whether or not they were still expressing their parental intentions, and whether or not a court order was ever issued unconditionally divesting them of their parental rights. Questions many US adoptive parents simply have no answer to.(For a really interesting dissection of the USICS definition go take a look at Ethica's sheet- An Orphan by any other name.
The section on "Abandonment is particularly pertinent, so I'll quote a portion of it here-
Similarly, the relinquishment or release of the child by the parents to a third party for care or to prepare for an adoption does not constitute abandonment unless the third party is authorized under the child welfare laws of the foreign country to accept abandonments. A third party can be a governmental agency, a court, an adoption agency or an orphanage but the party MUST be authorized to accept abandonments. The presence of a child in an orphanage does not automatically prove that the child is an orphan.
If parents place their child in an orphanage but express the intention to retrieve the child later; contribute to the care of the child; or express ongoing parental interest in the child; then the child is not considered abandoned under U.S. law. The child must be given unconditionally to be considered abandoned. As primary evidence of abandonment, the USCIS usually looks for a court decree that unconditionally divests parents of their parental rights.
Which yes, means you can adopt an "orphan" out of an "orphanage" who may not under US law have been an "orphan". It is, in short, a mess.
But it's a mess that isn't going to begin to be fully explored until more of these one time children reach adulthood (or have their first child- which can be a real 'trigger' point for a lot of adoptees to begin to examine the circumstances of their adoptions), if only in that as minors, no matter how they feel about it or how much they want to explore what happened, their voices aren't given the weight they're long overdue. Even as adults, it's awfully damn hard to be heard when so many insist upon using terminology that erases our existence, i.e. "adopted child".
And as for her "otherness" now that she's here? I think anyone who's all of one of "maybe three" people who share physical traits etc in a space such as a town, will already be feeling plenty of daily ongoing "not the norm" being adopted only adds to that.
I really appreciated your talking about how informal (non-state mediated) child rearing also has a long, and often hidden history (both for good and for ill).
There's a lot of discussion right now in some corners of adoptionland about whether termination of parental rights is really adventageous in dealing with family structures, and other concepts in 'not adoption', such as "alternate routes to permanency".
Concepts such as some time away (durations may be short or much longer in length), with the ability to return later (while you're discussing a more 'dumped' kind of instance) may be a concept that deserves a deeper look. Certainly this is coming up in family preservation efforts internationally where variations on foster care with extended relatives of friends of the family are being explored as alternatives to permanent termination of parental rights.
Also, you mentioned "The Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus", there are other "transnational" and "transracial" "adoptees" who well, shall we say pull no punches, such as the self described Transracial Abductees.
I think one of the things missing in most conversations about "transracial adoption" are the SYSTEMIC conditions that are the very climate the whole thing sits in- and the anger at what was done that so rarely gets voice.
I'm not saying I agree with or disagree with any of these voices, being a domestic Bastard myself, their voices are the ones who can speak to their experiences.
I do have more to say, though, and will write more tomorrow if time allows.
Thanks for everyone's patience.
HA! speak for yourself! if there is more to life than blog comments, I haven't been made aware of it!
:) kidding, kidding.
I have relinquished a child for adoption. Never, not once, did I feel like I was "getting rid" of him.
Indeed, all of my problems were with me. That I was insufficient for HIM. That I was not good enough, that HE deserved better.
I first chose adoption because I thought I was doing the best possible thing to "rescue" my son from the horror that was ME. There was no way, once I knew I was pregnant, that I would have aborted him. To me, he was already a human being/child.
And frankly, I think that this is the most common scenario. I think that the vast majority of women who relinquish don't feel like their baby needed to be "gotten rid of" (and frankly, I am trying very hard not to be offended by that), but instead felt like they, the MOTHER, needed to be "gotten rid of."
For me, that was my experience. From the first moment I expressed thoughts of adoption, I was reminded nonstop of how insufficient I was. It was a campaign run on me as craftily and constantly as any form of brainwashing.
To give him a perfect life would be heroic. To keep him would be the epitome of evil and selfishness. If I loved him, I would give him up so that he didn't have to bear growing up with a SINGLE, POOR, YOUNG mother (horror of all horrors!).
Adoption is an extremely anti-mother and anti-child institution except in extremely rare circumstances.
I never wanted to be rid of my son. I wanted to keep my son. I desperately loved my son.
That love was exploited. Yet in the first instance, I kept him, DESPITE their campaign of "you are horrible if you keep that poor innocent babe and subject him to being raised by YOU, YOU MONSTER."
So when the brainwashing and attempts at exploitation failed, they extorted him from me. They were going to get my son, one way or another, and sell him. It was that simple, and if I wouldn't properly fall in line with the "you are the worst thing that could happen to a child," then they would take him some other way.
Make no mistake, adoption in the USA is a BUSINESS, and selling babies is NEVER an ethical business.
But please, don't say that adoption is like abortion in wanting to "be rid" of the child. Because most women, statisticaly speaking, who relinquished didn't actually want to. And in most cases of adoption relinquishment, it's not the mother getting rid of the child... it's the adoption industry getting rid of the MOTHER.
thank you very much for stopping by and sharing your experience.
I am still new at the whole adoption-issues-ally thing, but that's no excuse for my saying things that are offensive. I apologize.
I will work harder to be more sensitive.
I am most grateful that you chose to share your experience here. Thank you again.
I know it wasn't meant to offend, and indeed, I would say that you nailed it pretty well outside of that.
There really is no need to apologize, I truly believe that if you had realized it could be offensive, you wouldn't have said it. My desire was not to make you feel bad for saying it, only to help you understand the potential impact. Please don't feel bad, there is great wisdom in your words regarding the indoctrination of women in loathing our bodies and the products of them.
I mean, we're at the point where we're being taught with commercials that our periods are something to be done away with... so I agree with a large part of what you said.
Just that there's another aspect to it besides loathing the products of our bodies. It's that attitude that a woman isn't enough. Never enough.
A mother's love is never enough... she must also offer a man and money, or she's inadequate and bad for the child.
It's damned if you do, damned if you don't.
If you raise your child, you're one of THOSE single mother whores. If you give up your child, you're one of THOSE crack whore birthmothers. No matter what you do, it's wrong. It just depends on who gets ahold of you first to belittle and deride you into fitting into their agenda...
So again, the point was just to help you see the deep impact it can have. I know you meant no offense. Indeed, I would say that in some ways, it's wonderful, beautiful to see feminists recognizing that adoption loss IS a woman's rights issue. It IS something that feminists should be looking at and saying, "Now wait just a fine fecking minute here! Something isn't right with this!"
So, thank you. Please don't give up on the quest to understand. Every enlightened mind leads to more enlightened minds... perhaps if those with "no vested interest" will take an interest anyway more often, we will abolish the coercion and dispicable actions that are par for the course in the baby selling industry.
as you did. the understanding part, I mean.
welcome to ISTM, by the way. how did you find me?
Did that make sense? It was kind of a string of links, lol.
SOFA (soul of adoption) >> Baby Love Child >>> Here
No backlinks, though. :p