December 11, 2007

Ramble With Me

I owe you an update on the adoption process. I have been at a bit of a loss for what to write about it lately. Not because there is nothing on my mind, but because there is so much.

This is such a tricky time, because there is no clear ethical road map. The right choices seem simpler to me in the beginning of the adoption process (find a trustworthy agency, be honest) and while waiting to match (don't stress, don't go advertising for babies). This post-match/pre-placement time is less obvious, partly because it is so unique to each individual situation. It's hard to make a comprehensive black-and-white list: do this, don't do that.

We made peace with well-mitigated pre-birth matching at the beginning of the process (although I think the ongoing debate over it is an important one). But in any case, right now I am in this budding relationship with Ms B and clearly no baby has been born. So I am faced with how to conduct myself in the situation I am in now, inside the system we have now. The larger ethical debates are always in the back of my mind, but the choices I'm making are terribly personal to our tentative little triad. It is the tension you always face when doing justice (and I do think how one adopts can be a means of working for justice)--how to connect your ideals to the real.

I have been grateful for this time, not only for the opportunity to get to know one another but for the chance to ask questions about her situation and her process thus far. In an ideal system adoptive parents could come to a placement confident that the placing parents had made their decision fully informed and free of pressure. But we don't yet have that system. And in domestic infant adoption as it now stands I don't think we can chalk all the ethical issues up to systemic failures. We have personal ethical choices to make about our own conduct throughout the process. I feel I owe it to my kids to make sure I did everything I knew to do to make sure their placements were as ethical as possible. When the agency's role in all this is over, I'll still have to answer for the actions I took and the things I said or didn't say. I don't want to look back and realize I did too little.

I've noticed a change in Ms B since we first met her, a certain freedom in her emotional connection to her daughter. More talking to her and about her, a stronger sense of being bonded to her. More feeling like a mother, I suppose. Maybe it's just this final stage of the pregnancy. But Ms B and her social worker have both said that meeting our family made a difference in her general peace of mind. It is as if having the pieces of an adoption plan in place allowed her to more fully give herself to the pregnancy and to motherhood. If adoption is something she tries on and ultimately discards in favor of parenting, then the trying on seems to have helped her toward that in a way. It is a good change, in my mind. Now is the beginning of Ms B's lifelong relationship with her daughter, whether or not that is filtered through an open adoption. And as the social worker commented, unless that bonding is present, it is hard to really consider the ramifications of choosing adoption.

Ms B and I have talked some about options, we've talked about parenting. We've talked about loss and regret. It is an odd place to be in, because I am not her therapist, I am not her social worker, I am not family or friend. I am not even someone who knows her all that well. I don't think my job--or anyone's job, for that matter--is to talk her in or out of anything. This is her process, not mine. I'm seeing one small piece of her life; only she knows the how all the pieces fit together. But I also don't think I can just take everything at face value. I owe it to her, to her daughter, to myself to prod a little. To make sure all the things I believe are important to say have been said. It's not my role, necessarily, but I feel it's my obligation.

She asks us questions, too. About our approach to open adoption and about transracial parenting. About how our family works and how she would fit into it. She wanted to spend time with us with Puppy. There have definitely been times I have felt like we're auditioning for something. And more power to her for that. Being entrusted with someone else's child should be the hardest job I ever interview for.

It is difficult, because the more we trade questions, the more I sense her trusting me. The trust that is essential in a healthy open adoption, but potentially coercive prior to placement. And so I stay back, trying to give her space. Always trying to keep the balance.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I have some fear about adopting again. The first time I focused on finding an (as best I knew at that time) ethical agency and letting them guide the process. I think the second time around I will not assume anyone is guaranteeing an ethical process. I don't know how we'll navigate the portion you are in now. I appreciate you writing about it and sharing it with us.

Erin said...

You are in the right place in your heart and with your ethical concerns.

It is your obligation to your children, if they also be Ms Bs or not, to make sure that you took care of the ethical stuff.

Heather said...

Kohana, I took that approach the first time, too. Trusting the agency to ask the hard questions. I actually trust our agency's policies and philosophy much more this time around, but I also feel more of a personal obligation.

It feels a bit vulnerable to share about these things. It is so easy for others to pick apart a stranger's situation. I'm glad you appreciated it.

Erin, thanks.

Clementine said...

Best wishes to you and Ms. B as you negotiate these waters.

Anonymous said...

You are a good role model for others who are looking into adoption.
Ms.B is lucking to have someone like you, who is so ethical.
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the process as you go through it, however things work out for your family and Ms B. Thanks.

Mayhem and Magic

Thanksgivingmom said...

You are like my absolute hero for writing this. It is NOT the job of the p-aparents to talk an emom into OR out of placing. You have been a support for her and that way, if/when you take home that little girl, you can do it with the knowledge that it is RIGHT.

I love love love that you're not just relying on the agency to do thier part. Love it.

Angela said...

"Being entrusted with someone else's child should be the hardest job I ever interview for."

You know, you nailed that statement perfectly! As odd as it feels to be in that position, I think that is great that she got a chance to "watch you in action" :)

you are so aware of ethics, I pretty much think you are my hero.

Steph said...

Thank you so much for this post. We are in the waiting stage too (though we don't have a match yet--wer'e just waiting for one) and your concerns echo so many of ours. It's really helpful to hear how you're negotiating these things in terms of a real relationship with Ms B. Best of luck to you, whatever happens.

Heather said...

Your support is awesome, everyone. Thank you, seriously. But I'm not any kind of hero. I'm a woman who selfishly wants another chance to mother a baby. And I'm just trying to treat Ms B the way I would want to be treated were I in her position.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

You are in a good place to be able to have all these discussions and thing through everything. Thank you for sharing it all with us!

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