Thursday, November 7, 2013

National Adoption Month

I read a statistic today that six in ten Americans have a personal connection to adoption. A year ago, I may not have believed it, but it's funny how becoming part of that world opens ones eyes to just how big it is. Over the past year, I've had the privilege of meeting many folks whose lives have been touched by adoption.

So, in honor of those wonderful people, I would like to wish everyone a Happy Adoption Month!  Since this is the month for giving thanks, I want to chime in with my appreciation for adoption - for the social workers who work with emotionally charged people for long hours and with little pay to help build strong families, for the many people across the world who take the risk of parenting another man and woman's child, and also for the unsung heroes in the adoption equation - birthmothers.

Somehow, it seems easy to thank the social workers and the agencies and to elevate adoptive families. After all, no one really has ever asked me anything about my social workers, and many people have told my husband and me how wonderful it was that we adopted. Yet, society still has some confusion regarding birth moms and the incredible sacrifice they make. I've had some interesting questions come my way regarding my daughter's birthmother. Most have come out of sheer curiosity, and who wouldn't be curious? After all, mothers usually care for their own children. It is unnatural not to, really. Oftentimes the nature of these questions revolves around the curiosity regarding just how a mom can give up her kid. Many people mistakenly think that most birth moms are teenagers who may have been forced into unwanted situations, and sometimes there is judgment about the nature of their decision.

I'm writing today to try to help dispel that myth. Let me be clear, I am not condoning actions that put birthmothers into situations where they have unexpected pregnancies. Many times, it is due to selfish reasons that people become pregnant in the first place. But, and I mean a big BUT, we all make decisions that place us in difficult situations. It is how we handle these difficult situations that set us apart. And, in a culture where abortion is often heralded as the right answer, I applaud the women who CHOOSE to give life. (Funny how that choice isn't celebrated.)

There are many reasons that parents choose to make adoption plans for their children. My husband and I were surprised as we went through the process to see those choices. We were also surprised at how many birth moms whose profiles we read were not teenagers. Some were already parenting (dispelling the myth that anyone who has raised a child would really understand what she was sacrificing); others were married. Several married couples were on birth control, but were surprised by a pregnancy and simply did not have the resources. One married couple was already parenting but the mom had a degenerative disease that rendered her incapable of caring for a young child. All had one thing in common, though. They all loved the life growing inside of them and knew that they could not provide adequately for the needs of that child. They loved beyond themselves. How many of us can say that?

Last Mother's Day, my husband and I visited a diner with our little girl. Our waitress wished me a happy Mother's Day, and I asked her something I almost never ask any women. I asked her if she had children. She paused, and then opened her folder to take our order, but instead pulled out a picture of a beautiful little girl who was about 7 years old. Our waitress said to us that she had a daughter that she placed for adoption as an infant, but that the adoptive family sent her updates and pictures. It was crystal clear to us that she loved her little girl and that amidst her sense of loss, she was grateful that her daughter's parents were able to provide a solid home to the child she carried. That's love, folks.

When my husband and I flew to Utah to meet our newborn daughter, A, we had the privilege of spending time with her birth mom, M. It was so clear to us how much M loved (and still loves) our daughter. M is about as selfless a person as I've ever met. When our little one was three days old, the hospital became aware of a skull fracture that probably happened at birth. A was born with a head full of hair, so the indentation wasn't visible to the eye. M had already signed away her parental rights, so the hospital was not permitted to update her on the status. I found M in her room crying with fear at the possibility that something was permanently wrong. We hugged as I told her that everything was going to be ok. (fyi... A's skull fixed itself as she grew).

When we arrived back home in NJ, we were met with an email from M wanting to make sure that we arrived safely. She has told me that she is so glad to have met my husband and me because she wanted to know that her baby was going to a good home. She praises us as parents and is so glad to know that A is growing well. She rejoices with me at the milestones and supports us as we learn to parent. Does this sound like a mom who didn't want her kid? No, she is in the line of women like Moses' mom who loved her son enough to keep him safe, so she made an adoption plan.

As we all prepare for Thanksgiving, let's take a moment to think of those who have sacrificed beyond themselves. Yes, I'm thinking of birth moms, but there are also many others: dads who have made adoption plans alongside the moms (if birth moms are viewed skeptically, birth fathers are all but forgotten!), servicemen who are unable to be home for the holidays, public servants who work to keep us healthy and safe while we eat turkey at home, and the list goes on. It is good to be thankful for the things in our lives, but it is also worth remembering to be thankful for the things that make the world a better place for others. And, while you gather around your table to say a prayer, please thank God for the selfless men and women who chose to give life. Someday, that life may change the world.

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