September 30, 2009

Oops, God Did It Again

Probably everyone by now has heard about the inept fertility clinic which transferred another couple's embryos into a woman, forcing her to choose between becoming an unintentional gestational surrogate or terminating the pregnancy. (She chose to continue the pregnancy and the resulting baby boy was handed to his genetic parents at birth.) Just a pretty crappy situation all the way around. Most coverage I've seen agrees that (a) both families deserve a lot of sympathy and (b) the people running that clinic are idiots..

Every time I come across a headline about this mix-up, my mind jumps to adoption.  The story fits best under the category of surrogacy on a technical level, but it's impossible for me to not read it through my adoption lens, because the intention of surrogacy was never there. Relinquishing a child was the furthest thing from this couple's mind heading into this pregnancy; it was a decision forced by crisis. (The crisis here being the clinic's inexcusable mix-up.) I hear such parallels of adoption loss in the interview with the couple linked above.
[T]he Savages say that the memory of the child they gave up will always linger. 'I know that tug will be there every day wondering if the baby's happy, healthy and OK," said Carolyn.

"We want him to know that it wasn't that we didn't want him, but too many people wanted him," said Sean.
Even more, it brings to mind those who try to explain adoption to children by chalking it all up to divine/cosmic will. As if a child's time with her first parents, however short, was only an unfortunate detour on the way to her ultimate destination, the family she was actually meant to be in. Perhaps most crassly summed up by Rosie O'Donnell's infamous comment that her adopted children "grew in the wrong tummy, but God fixed that." As if convincing children (and ourselves) that we have some retroactive claim to parenthood helps make sense of the complicated fact of their relinquishment.

I suppose I hope that this example of a baby who really did end up in the "wrong tummy" can help people see how the "meant to be" narrative simply can't encompass the entirety of someone's adoption story. How little room it leaves for those adoptees who want to consider the "what-ifs" or explore what it means to them to have two families. How much it diminishes the very real contribution birth parents make to adoptees' identities--even if there is no contact and that contribution is "only" genetic. If we can recognize the fuzzy emotional lines in the Savages' situation, how much more should we see how blurred the lines are in adoption. To honor my adopted children, I have to honor all of who they are. I personally can't reconcile that with saying that they may have grown in their birth moms' uteruses, but God knew they were really mine all along. They weren't in the wrong tummies, because if they had been in any other tummies they wouldn't be the Puppy and Firefly I know and love. Their first parents weren't God's unwitting surrogates and sperm donors.

If only we could find ways to talk about adoption and the ineffable mysteries of God's will without reducing God to an incompetant fertility doctor.

9 comments:

SocialWrkr24/7 said...

Wow - you have an absolutely amazing way of understanding and explaining these huge issues. Thank you so much for sharing them with us!

Thanksgivingmom said...

Thanks for discussing this Heather!

I think one of the things that struck me the most in this situation was that I heard an outcry from many folks about how unfair it was that the woman that carried the child would not be parenting him. I heard cries of, "But he only knows her scent!" and "But he knows her voice!" - I feel like I hardly ever hear these things when an expectant Mother is considering placing her biological child...

I primarily heard this from adoptive parents, who argued that biology shouldn't trump the parenting this woman has done - and I understand that biology is NOT the key to Motherhood - look no farther than your beautiful family to know that! But it was the insistence that in many ways this woman is still a "Mother" in a sense to this child that got me.

I admit, it HURT that people were so willing to give her the title of Mother when it's something I hear being denied time after time to first parents....I don't know - I have so many thoughts on this, and I know I can share them in my own space, haha! But thank you for YOUR take on it! :)

Lisa Pellegrini said...

I also love the way you discuss these issues. I adopted my 3 girls through foster care and even though my kids don't talk to their mom any more (her choice not ours), we thank God for her everyday. We talk a lot about how lucky our kids are to have 2 moms and 2 dads, some kids only get 1. We also talk about how our kids can CHOOSE to take the best parts of each of their parents and incorporate that into their lives - how wonderful to have so much choice. Even in the smallest ways, having connections can matter so much.

Mei-Ling said...

Rosie O'Donnell's statement frequently reminds of the first time I read Karen Evans' book "The Lost Daughters of China." She quotes a line from a social worker that says "We say that these babies were born in the wrong tummies, but now they have found the right parents."

Slap in the face.

hope548 said...

Great post. I think a lot of people have a really hard time grasping this and you worded it so perfectly!

Yoli said...

Powerful post. I am glad someone gets it.

Claudia said...

Thanks so much for writing this, it is beautifully expressed.

by the way, I would love to follow your blog but I can't find the usual button to do this (maybe because you are a .com?) - do you know if there is any way I can do this? Thanks!!

Claudia said...

errr, sorry, just realised you have a 'subscribe' button! I've clicked on that now... all is well.

Rebeccah said...

Brilliant post -- particularly that last sentence.

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