It’s World Adoption Day. People are sharing their stories and pictures of adoption on social media with smiley faces on their hands. There are so many beautiful stories of these resilient people. It awesome, but I have to be honest. Being involved in adoption 24/7 can be exhausting. Between working at an adoption agency and running this blog, I talk about adoption all the time. I talk to birth mothers, adoptive parents, and adoptees, I educate professionals in healthcare, pregnancy resource centers, and sometimes even my Uber drivers… I feel as though I’m constantly speaking to someone on adoption. And it is tiring. Some of my friends have taken short breaks from adoption advocacy and I don’t blame them. There are days when I straight up lose my marbles. (Still looking for those, by the way. If you see them, let me know.) However, through this – I have gained so much more empathy than I ever had before. One incredible thing I have learned from soaking myself in this career, is that we all have something to learn from each other.
For a long time, I did not understand adoptive parents. Why do so many of them fear birth moms? Why did they always talk about their infertility being a struggle? …It was my fertility that caused me this struggle in the first place, right? It didn’t take long for me to realize how insensitive these thoughts were, even if I never said them out loud. So, I decided to work on a project that would allow me to hear the adoptive parent’s struggles. I went into their homes and took pictures of their families, I asked them about their reasons for choosing adoption, and I encouraged them to help me better understand their pain. They followed through with raw honesty. After doing this, I decided to ask my birth son’s mother how they came to adoption, and how infertility hurt her. It clicked in my mind that I had actually asked them in-depth questions about that. I probably thought it was none of my business, but I also never understood it. After hearing people you care about tell you something so personal and so heart-wrenching, it’s hard not to have your heart changed.
I recently sat down to talk with an adoptee who has struggled with her identity for years. She was dealing with the rejection of her birth mother, who did not want to have contact with her. She opened my eyes to some of the real pain and tough emotions that many adoptees face. In my eyes, this was the most important grief – because as a birth mom, I never want my birth son to feel this way. We don’t want our children to hurt, and I know adoptive parents feel the exact same way.
There is so much negativity in adoption, I myself can be guilty of that as well. Sometimes in the adoption world, we see prospective adoptive parents that are unable to sympathize with a birth mom, because their heart has been clouded by their own infertility grief. We see some birth moms that are unable to come to grips with their new reality and gain forward movement in their grief process; their heart is so fragile and they often have no support. Many adoptees feel that they have been abandoned by their birth mother, or wronged by being adopted by their adoptive parents. When we can’t see past our own personal grief, it’s all too easy to point fingers at the other person in an effort to invalidate their struggles.
When we sit in our own lonely corner of the adoption triad, it’s easy to think we have it worse than anyone else. And suppose you do have it worse... but everyone hurts through hard times. Birth parents hurt, adoptive parents hurt, and adoptees hurt.
It is important to remember that the adoption triad is not made of three deserted islands. There are bridges in between. We just have to learn to cross them. We can do this through education, empathy, and understanding. Ask questions, be mindful of one another. I can’t tell you how many times I have come across a post on social media, where someone connected to adoption is describing their pain and someone scoffs at them, dismissing their struggle. I know sometimes we can’t wade through the negativity, but there is real heartbreak in that person that needs to be addressed. It is human nature to be be self-centered, but this week, try a little tenderness. Happy World Adoption Day, friends! :)