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.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.
"We want him to know that it wasn't that we didn't want him, but too many people wanted him," said Sean.
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.