Saturday, September 11, 2010

Response to comments

The following is my response to comments left by a couple of readers after they read my post, "The choice to adopt is a luxury choice" (Yoon Seon). For context, you may want to read the original post & comments first. I realize this is a sensitive topic and one that needs to be handled respectfully and with consideration. I always strive to do so and also hope that others will strive to do the same. (I responded as a blog post simply because it was too long to post in the comment section--I tend to be pretty long-winded...*smilewink*).

* * *

First of all, I just want to say to Kristen & the Richerts, I appreciate your comments & your honesty. I always want my blog to be a place where people can share their emotions & reactions openly & honestly. So, thank you for taking the time to share your perspective. (Also, if you have not already, I would encourage you to read the original posts for further context from which I extracted the opening quotes...)

Second of all, I apologize if you felt personally attacked. That was not my intention! I really made every effort to indicate my intention when I began the post with:

"I by no means incriminate any single individual nor do I place any ill blame on my own parents--I do believe they are truly decent people with sincere and loving hearts, and I am grateful to call them my parents"

Again, I apologize that you felt that way, but please, before you write me off, I humbly ask you to reconsider my viewpoint, because as Jenni expressed, "I feel like I read a different post than either of you."

I do feel grossly misunderstood and vexed because it's as though you somehow gathered the exact opposite of all the points I was trying to make, and instead put your own words in my mouth--words that I have never uttered or implied.

Kristen, you stated that I am creating a narrative "that suggests that adoptive parents are 'taking' children away from birth parents, as opposed to parenting children who have been abandoned, which is usually the case."

Anyone who consistently reads my blog or knows me personally knows such is not my narrative nor my stance.

But for the record, I am not against adoption nor am I out to demonize or incriminate AP's or anyone else for that matter. I just simply believe that all human systems are broken & flawed, whether it's healthcare or the U.S. Welfare system or International adoption, etc., and hence can always be improved upon and ameliorated. This is not an attack but rather a sincere belief that we as humans can strive to grow and improve whether on a smaller personal scale or whether on a larger communal scale as a society or organization.

Adoption happens to be the "system" that is personally related to me, so I often offer up critiques and challenges for improvement, but it does not mean I am attacking AP's or anyone for that matter.

If anything, this post addresses the folly of the agencies & those who may bring children to orphanages in unscrupulous ways:

"the practice of oppression, falsification, deceit, omission, etc. involving the practices in which children are relinquished and obtained for adoption as well as the documentation of so many adoptees' histories and identities prior to being adopted."

(For the sake of full disclosure, so you understand my personal experience & context--since reuniting with my biological parents, I have discovered that my own adoption paperwork was falsified while information was also withheld from me. And my birth mother did not "abandon" me as was stated in my paperwork, and hence I was technically not a "legal orphan." Her sister is the one who took me to the orphanage and gave me up in secret without consulting my birth father, whom had every plan to raise me...and as I stated in the original post, "My own biological mother has stated that had she had the resources that are available today, she would have chosen to keep me."--this is all too common in Korean, you see, indeed adoption is complicated...)

I did not "implicate" or "imply" responsibility on the part of adoptive parents whatsoever, but rather gave honor and respect to my own parents:

"I do believe they are truly decent people with sincere and loving hearts, and I am grateful to call them my parents" and "whom I love and don't want to imagine my life without"...

I know both of you have read my blog before. Although, I don't know how consistently or regularly you visit, but anyone who has followed my blog consistently or knows me personally, knows that I am not out to rage against adoptive parents or anyone for that matter. It's situations like this when I wish I could just pull up a chair with you & have a face-to-face conversation so that you'd be able to realize that I am not out to threaten or demonize anyone...

And honestly, Kristen, when you wrote to me, "but you seem to be presenting a narrative of adoptive parents 'taking' children from willing first parents"


"...when we are subtly implicated by some as the cause of our child's tragic seperation from their birth family..." I feel completely misread.

Again, I did not say or imply such conclusions in this post or in any of my other posts. If you've ever gathered that, then you are misinterpreting & misunderstanding me completely.

In fact, to reiterate yet again, I wrote:

"I by no means incriminate any single individual nor do I place any ill blame on my own parents--I do believe they are truly decent people with sincere and loving hearts, and I am grateful to call them my parents"


"As I wrote, "Again, this is no reflection on my American parents whom I love and don't want to imagine my life without, but it conveys the reality of how convoluted these adoption situations remain."

I think you heard the exact opposite of the point I was making...I was emphasizing that I don't blame my parents - who are "adoptive" parents but rather that I love them & appreciate them. It does make me feel grossly misunderstood, as though you didn't actually read what I wrote.

Kristen also wrote, "To imply that it is adoption that continues child abandonment is a bit simplistic."

Did I write that? Did I "imply" that? Again, I'm sorry if that's what you interpreted, but I know that's not what I was saying. And I know that's not what I think. And honestly, I did not and have never said anything close to that. Again, most folks who consistently follow my blog know how often I acknowledge how complicated adoption is, while I acknowledged it clearly in this post, particularly when I stated:

"I understand that some of the prohibitions involve cultural stigmas and practices that must also be overcome..."


"Look, I know it's complicated, believe me, I know"

I think these statements clearly address the fact that I recognize, to state just a few, the complexities of adoption, and that it is not so simple. And I have several posts (click here & here & here & here & here, for just a few) that acknowledge in greater detail the emotional & social complexities of adoption.

And just for clarity, people can affect change. There is actually a country where things used to be very similar to the staunch cultural stigmas & pressures that exist in Korea and otherwise, but social change & reform eventually allowed birth mothers to have more of a choice. What country? The United States of America. Back in the 1950's, America was not so unlike Korea when dealing with unwed pregnant women. If you don't believe me, read the book, "The Adoption Reader" that includes autobiographical accounts written by American birth mothers, some whom gave up their children in the 1950's.

And Richerts, as far as the classic, "would you have rather grown up in an orphanage?" I think anyone & everyone knows the answer to that. It's an obvious question with an obvious answer. And again in this post, I think it should be clear what I meant when I wrote:

"There needs to be more of a willingness to give our resources toward family preservation when such is possible."

Notice that I stated, "when such is possible." This statement acknowledges that I understand that there are situations when it is not possible


" American parents whom I love and don't want to imagine my life without..." which in my mind communicates how grateful I am for my parents and how much I love them, and how much I am glad that I did not grow up in an orphanage. (In many ways, it's crazy that I should even have to clarify this, and that anyone would think that I, myself would have rather grown up in an orphanage or that I would want any other child to grow up in an I have expressed before in previous posts, my current stance is this: family preservation first, domestic adoption second, IA third, and orphanage or institution last...).

...So again, I really do think Richerts & Kristen you really somehow did not actually read what I wrote, whether by mistake or simply by skimming my post rather than reading it word for word...and you also did not consider my blog as a whole, which is a complex narrative that wrestles and struggles with trying to consider all the sides of the adoption experience...

As far as special needs, and in particular medical needs, there are some organizations that I am personally familiar with including "Smile Train" and the "Unity Medical Fund". These nonprofits provide medical treatment, such as free cleft lip & palate surgeries among other services, to families that otherwise would not have any hope of receiving such medical attention. River Kids is another organization that works specifically toward family & community preservation.

But again, as I indicated, I realize that it is complicated, and financial resources are not the only prohibitions to family preservation: "I understand that some of the prohibitions involve cultural stigmas and practices that must also be overcome..."

Again, Kristen & Richerts & all other readers, I welcome your comments & input. I simply ask that you show me the same patience and forbearance, the same open mind and heart that I strive to give to you by putting my heart on the line every time I share my thoughts and emotions through this blog. It's not easy for me to put my heart out there--it's vulnerable and frightening, but I choose to do so because I think in the long run it can be productive and fruitful not only for my own journey but also for that of readers.

Kristen, you wrote in reference to my blog posts, "one has to wonder how healthy it is to keep reading." I do humbly ask that before you write me off, that you bear with me patiently and with care as I try to work through the realities that I must face as an adoptee. It is overwhelming to try to process ALL the sides and viewpoints and complexities of adoption, but I want to take the time, which is really a lifelong period, to have a balanced perspective that takes into consideration all the various experiences and realities.

I realize this is a difficult subject that evokes intense emotion & reaction, even as I wrote:

"It took me a long time--and I still wrestle with it today--"

As we gain more knowledge & understanding along the way, we need not paint one another into a corner. This is a hard and complex journey, and I can't do it alone. Your own children will be adults like I am one day, and they may at some point need the support & patience to be able to work through similar issues & realities, similar realizations & conflicts, without feeling as though words are being put into their mouths or that what they're currently wrestling with is somehow unacceptable or wrong, but rather to be able to do so with honesty and openness.

We as adoptees need to feel as though those around us have the patience & willingness to bear with us as we face the realities of each of our situations, just as adoptive parents & social workers & others who work within the system desire to have (and yes, even though a system can be broken, I acknowledge that there are still many good people who try to work within that parents included). It's just that we can never think that we have "arrived," whether we are parents or adoptees, because adoption is an evolving process. The minute we think we've got it all figured out is the minute we become stagnant and inadvertently close our minds and hearts to truth and change...

Again, I know adoption is complicated. If anyone knows, I know. Please, just bear with me and understand that I'm doing the best I can to try to synthesize all those inherent complexities.

Furthermore, unfortunately, unethical practices do still persist in IA--that's why ongoing discussion and change is always needed. We just can't ever grow complacent.

You're right that we can't do it all, but we shouldn't shut those out who are trying to honestly discuss the flaws of the system. Countries like Korea and Ethiopia still have not signed onto the Hague, and yet these are some of the most active adopting-out countries...

Also, I have never said that adoptive parents are responsible for severing biological families and if you have consistently read my blog, I have always honored & respected & expressed my love & gratitude for my own "adoptive" parents (I don't even like to call them my adoptive parents in the same way that I don't like calling my "birth" parents my birth parents, but that's a whole other topic...). I simply believe that the system is broken and that the current dynamic is not particularly conducive or supportive to family preservation, simply because so few resources and so little infrastructure are given to foster perserveration.

And again, I mean no disrespect, and I would hope that you would all know that by now...I work very hard to keep my blog a place where I and other can be vulnerable and where everyone can share their input and perspective. We may not always see eye to eye, but I hope that we will always work to be open and caring toward one another, because like you, it is maddening that so much division and misunderstanding exist within the discussion of adoption.

That's all I want--simply a healthy, honest, considerate discussion that hopefully in the long run will cultivate change both on the individual and systemic level.

Oh, and just one more thing, Kristen, my intention is never to "insult adoption," but simply to provide a healthy, constructive critique and to raise awareness, because it's still needed. You would be surprised at the level of ignorance and "savior mentalities, or whatever description du jour..." actually persists even today. It's fortunate that you seem to be surrounded by folks who don't think that way, but I and other fellow adoptees, continue to encounter our fair share of folks who are clueless (read, "The Boy in the Stroller" or you can watch, "First Person Plural" for just a couple of examples...). I'm glad that you don't have to encounter such reactions...I, on the other hand, have to learn to cope with and understand such viewpoints so that I can address them respectfully and yet with the hope that they can change...

Best to all of you.


Jessica said...

You said: "We as adoptees need to feel as though those around us have the patience & willingness to bear with us as we face the realities of each of our situations"

This for me is the heart and soul of these conversations. When I read your blog posts, it's about understanding where you're coming from, where you have been. I always enjoy your posts because you have a way of writing that is not offensive to me as a PAP (as it may have been to some of those that commented). For me, reading adoptee blogs is all about listening to you and learning, and myself growing as I understand your perspective and how that relates to helping our child be as healthy as they can be. To me that means (in part) acknowledging the truths about adoption, both the benefits and the losses.

The fact that so many adoptions in some way are falsified (whether it be information regarding the adoption, birth family, or worse) is becoming so apparent to me. It seems to be true with so many that have dug into their pasts. For me, as a PAP, I feel like it's my job to help our child (when they are ready) being to uncover the truth.

Sandy said...


Great thought provoking post and follow up post.

Sandy here and not an AP but an adoptee from that era in the US you mention where mothers lost their babies simply because they were unmarried - they had no choice but to surrender their childern. There was no support system and society rules dictated it had to happen. Would anyone condone practice here today? Why elsewhere? And society here has changed but still needs to continue the path of improvement, but like you say ongoing change and continual improvement does and can happen.

Melissa you have such a gentle voice that I will never achieve and parents need to listen, because their children will have some or many of the same thoughts as they become mature adults. Might not happen at 20 or even 30 but it will happen. Each will process it differently, but each will process their adoption when the reach adulthood. Parents need to embrace and be willing to challenge all facets of adoption. To strive to be open to the hard discussions that challenge their beliefs, because right now they are in the drivers seat of change in every word they say to the people within the industry (parents, agencies, law makers. etc) - like you are doing with your tempered voice - you are challenging the norm and expect this generation should be different than the last and the generation after should again be better.

We all need to remove the come back statements from our voices and simply look at the facts presented and ask ourselves how we can be part of the solution for the future which is also right now, today, and tomorrow.

We all need to also challenge ourselves when we read something we don't like to stop and ask ourselves if we were thinking of a rebuttal - when we should be be thinking about the words we are reading. Everyone, myself included is guilty of this at times, and only by recognising this can we overcome it and get down to discussing and spreading the word that adoption needs continual thought process and ongoing improvement to ensure only those who truly have no other option are surrendered for adoption. Change begins at home.

Mei Ling said...

The whole thing about the orphanage question... we all know what the answer will be. Adoptive parents expect an answer, and adoptees know what they should saying in response.

So why ask?

Anonymous said...

i just love your blog...i really do....i was discussing china adoption and our daughter with my husband the other day...and i said to him is it worth one truly abandoned child to be adopted if another is going to be stolen from their parents...whether by force or false promises.....with the explosion of china adoptions their is no doubt in my mind that some of our adopted children are "stolen" do we reconcile that?...i appreciate your voice and other (tra)doptees because it is my hope that you and others have got me thinking about this thing called trans racial adoption......and i will be a better parent to my wishes for a healthy pregnancy!!!


Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Hi Melissa, thank you for your thoughtful response. I do think you are always senstive and I didn't feel personally attacked at all. As I mentioned, I did agree with much of your post. I hear you saying that your intention is not to imply that adoptive parents are responsible, but just so you know where I was taking issue with you creating a subtle narrative of "taking" children from their birthfamilies:

“a practice in which those who live in luxury (relatively-speaking) get to take the children of those who live in poverty”

“ we are so quick to take another mother's child and yet slow to help her keep her child. “

“since I live in luxury over here while you live in poverty over there, I should get to raise your child.”

And from blogs you cited:

“Yet I can’t help but think that had they not adopted in the first place, they wouldn’t be perpetuating, encouraging and continuing adoption and the lack of choice that many women have”

“Who are they to come along and take a child out of their home?”

To me, it's painting a subtle picture of adoptive parents as "takers" and birth parents as their victims. I acknowledge that direct abduction of children may be true in some cases. But in the vast majority, adoptive parents have taken children out of orphanages, not out of families.

Mei Ling said...

Kristen: My question to you is - if the birth-family is known and want to raise their children but do not have enough money or feel they would be "unfit" parents based on their situation of helplessness, should adoptive parents still be adopting their child?

Or, should the birth-family be obligated to let the adoptive family raise the child on the basis that the adoptive family can provide more (food, clothes, shelter, toys, etc)?

In other words, is it easier to adopt a child whose parents have already emotionally, physically and psychologically abandoned him/her?

I know in many cases the birth-parents are anonymous. And I wonder, if it's because of that very basis for many adoptions, that it is easier to hand over the question: "Would you rather children stay to rot in an orphanage?"

Would it be more difficult if the parents were already known?

Jae Ran said...

Kristin, I find you very self-serving sometimes. On adoptive parent blogs your comments are very different than they are on adult adoptee blogs, on which you are often quite defensive and regularly defend adoptive parents and write that adoptees are ganging up or being hostile to adoptive parents.

I find you quite insincere.

Xiao-An said...

I find it ridiculous you had to explain yourself further. The initial blog post was very very diplomatic, extremely sensitive to all parties of the adoption triad, and yet someone still took umbrage. I was disappointed with her response to this post as well.

Amanda said...

I agree with everything Melissa said in both posts.

Some APs have very good intentions and ethical hearts; I am friends with several of them. But I do understand what she means by the luxury of choice. Or at least I believe I do. We see what type of children are demanded and prefered by those looking to adopt, simply by looking at the adoption rates, practices, laws, and costs in all realms of adoption. It is as if the demand is running the adoption show--rather than the needs of children running the show as it should be.

The current state of adoption is a huge reaction to preventable problems. Do I want children to languish in orphanages? No. I want to prevent the need for them to be placed there orphanages the first place.

What reason does a country have to create social welfare programs so that families do not have to abandon children to orphanages, if no one demands that they do and instead a system is created where individuals pay tens of thousands to take a government's dependant children off their hands?

In some countries, $20,000--which it might cost to adopt one child, can buy 20,000 vaccines, support an entire medical center for months or years, or help hundreds of single mothers and impoverished families start their own businesses that will support them for a lifetime. Hundreds of families can be given the tools to support themselves with as much as it costs to adopt one child.

"Women in developing nations who place children for adoption abroad usually do so because they are disadvantaged by terrible poverty and/or by the stigma of illegitimacy." --Fisher, A. (2003). Still not quite as good as having your own? Toward a sociology of adoption. Annual Review of Sociology

Amanda said...

(pardon the typos, I should have proof-read better lol)

Mei Ling said...

"What reason does a country have to create social welfare programs so that families do not have to abandon children to orphanages, if no one demands that they do and instead a system is created where individuals pay tens of thousands to take a government's dependant children off their hands?"

Probably because adoptive parents believe it's impossible to change the social, economic and political outlook of an entire country.

L said...

I really like your blog but I was a bit bothered a few things in your post as well from a prospective AP view and thought I’d share my views as to why. It was largely due to a few phrases that tend to stereotype; like you said, adoption is complicated so when I hear/read it everyone being lumped into one category it bothers me.

“The choice to adopt is a luxury choice” It can feel as much as a luxury as going to Korea feels like a vacation to you. I did not have the choice to give birth to a live baby (I believe failed medical care lost my pregnancies and my fertility). I am now changing my and my families lives to integrate an adopted child (and their circumstances) into my life. I am extremely lucky that I can do this; however, calling it a “luxury choice” is way-oversimplified. It is a luxury but not a ‘luxury choice” to me. Yes, you then clarified it with “for most” which made me feel better but only because I can blindly hope you don’t mean me.

“Adoptive parents have taken advantage of the fact that someone else has not had the luxury to choose”. As a prospective AP, I have done my best to choose a country and agency that will ensure the birth family had a choice and is not falsifying records. This includes large donations (most of the cost(s) of my adoptoin) which go towards helping the agency to house waiting children as well as help unwed mothers keep their babies if they choose to. The assumption that I am taking advantage of someone who didn’t have a choice is upsetting. I would not adopt if I thought the birth family had a no choice. Adoption has come a long way in the past 10-30 years and I feel that blanket statements such as those don’t recognize this, they lump countries that ensure choice in with ones that don’t.

“It is in it's current state, a practice in which those who live in luxury (relatively-speaking) get to take the children of those who live in poverty. Bare bones, no sugary coating, that's the facts, people.” In some places, yes, but not all, local adoption where I’m from isn’t like that at all. Also, the part “get to take the children” bothered me, like Kirsten. If I were ‘taking’ a child, I would not adopt. I am adopting a child who was placed for adoption: that is not the same thing.

Anyway, thank you for your posts and for being so open on your blog. You’re right that it is a complicated subject with many different aspects and experiences.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

@Mei-Ling, you asked:
"should the birth-family be obligated to let the adoptive family raise the child on the basis that the adoptive family can provide more (food, clothes, shelter, toys, etc)?"

No, I don't think adoption should be about material things. I think if there is a willing birthparent, the child should be with the parent. But I also disagree with the idea that any child with a living parent should not be eligible for adoption. I do believe in allowing women that choice - and in countries where women have little to no access to birth control or family planning, I think that women should be able to choose an adoption plan. I realize this is complex, because some women make that choice based on lack of resources. I can only say that I agree with you on wanting to see fewer children enter orphanages at all, but don't believe that abolishing adoption is a means to that end.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

@Jae Ran said...
"Kristin, I find you very self-serving sometimes. On adoptive parent blogs your comments are very different than they are on adult adoptee blogs, on which you are often quite defensive and regularly defend adoptive parents and write that adoptees are ganging up or being hostile to adoptive parents. I find you quite insincere."

I'm not sure where you are finding me 'often defensive' because I read adult adoptee blogs quite frequently and rarely comment - this interchange with you illustrating why I'm reluctant to do so. I'm assuming you are referring to the comment I left on the KADNEXUS blog, where you similarly called me out? Because it is the only time I can think of that I've suggested that adoptees were attacking an AP. Which I felt they were (comments ranged from criticizing his parenting, calling him names, all the way to equating adoption with baby-stealing/rape/pillage/colonialism).

And I only said something because I thought the important adoption messages were being lost amongst the accusations and insults that were derailing the conversation. I would imagine it's a little hard for a new adoptive parent to listen to the importance of race and adoption loss issues when he's being accused of stealing his child.

I never suggested Melissa is being hostile or ganging up on anyone. I like reading this blog and hear her express a sincere desire for adoptive parents to understand her... and I want to. I'm being completely vulnerable when I respond with how her post made me feel.

I could read in silence, or comment anonymously as many do, but I'm not sure how that would be more sincere. I sense you have some personal irritation with me as your comment was more a statement about my intentions and character as opposed to a question inviting dialogue. I'm open to talking by email if you want. It feels a little weird to be responding to your criticisms of me within the comments of other people's blogs.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...
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Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...
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Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...
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Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

So sorry for the triple posting - it kept asking for word verification corrections and apparently posted each time. Anyways, circling back to say that Melissa, I always appreciate your vulnerability, and thank you for the dialogue. I do believe it sharpens me, as a person and as a mom.

Jenni said...

@Kristen, I didn't see anything in there about abolishing adoption.

Two things come to mind:

1 - If "luxury choice" were replaced with something like "more options/resources" would this be less offensive to the APs and PAPs who found the term "luxury choice" offensive? As in:

A person who adopts usually has more options/resources than the mother who relinquishes.

2 - Also, I'm curious if anyone would agree with this statement "Babies/children have at times been made into luxury goods by the practice of adoption."

("a luxury good is a good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, in contrast to a "necessity good", for which demand is not related to income.")

Anonymous said...

"But I also disagree with the idea that any child with a living parent should not be eligible for adoption."

If the parent *wants* to raise the child but is resourceless, does that have any impact on the overall issue?

For example, say a parent births an accidental pregnancy and ends up loving the child. Unfortunately the medical costs are more than what the parent can afford.

If they want to parent, should they be able to?

Or does their vulnerability and "acceptance" of being unfit (based on the "accidental" aspect) indicate a choice for an adoption "plan" was made?

Anonymous said...

Asking an adoptee who already speaks softly to speak even more softly is asking her to whisper.

From there, it's a very short step to silence.

Just something that I think all adoptees need to keep in mind.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Is expressing a difference of opinion asking someone to stay silent?

Anonymous said...

@Kristen, your question misses a part of the statement and the point of the statement. The way you came up with that question is the same way you "read" and questioned Melissa's piece. It might be that you don't even see that. Also, I think there were some good follow up questions that came before my statement that haven't been addressed. Interesting that you focused on my statement instead of those questions.

There gets to be a point, as an adoptee, where having to overexplain yourself, so carefully word your views, and reiterate again and again how you value your adoptive parents and adoptive parents in general gets to be a drain on your energy. That's energy you lose to put towards other ways you can work for change and your creativity in general.
This is something I've seen happen at times.

By the way, last time I'm posting about the statement I made, I think it's quite clear to those who want to understand. Not interested in discussion back and forth based on an intentional or unintentional misreading.

The Byrd's Nest said...

(sigh) Melissa....I am thankful for your writing. It helps me to prepare for what my Emma Jane may be thinking or feeling right now. It helps me to prepare myself for the future when she begins to share her feelings with me. The only painful part for me as an adoptive mom is that I can't do anything to ease this pain for her. She is only 5 years old....but she grieves deeply. It is a helpless feeling. Sure I love her and show her and tell her every single moment how I feel about her and that I understand she is hurting but all of that doesn't take her pain away.

Know that I pray for you often Melissa and this new baby that is on it's way....I know you will be an amazing Mom:)

joy said...

I can't even read most of these comments, they are so self-serving.

"I had to go to Korea and adopt because I could not have a baby"

No lady, you did not. Lots of people don't have babies. Life isn't fair, get over it.

As a fellow, but meaner than you adoptee, I have to add. You probably spent the majority of your childhood trying to please adopters. You are an adult now, you have every right to your opinion even if it is at odds with some suburban Orange County mini-van driver.

She has no right to come and "learn" you about adoption. None.

My unsolicited advice is don't try to educate or enlighten these women, they have their own agenda. Your post was very diplomatic and true.

They see what they want to see, in trying to meet people like that 'half-way' you will end up harming yourself.

Of course you can tell me to go pound sand, which I am sure many of the sainted aparents will want to do. I am wholly inured to hearing that from adoptive parents.

You have every right to be who you are without apology.

Reena said...

Melissa, I so appreciate your blog and that you share your perspective so openly and eloquently. I think it is your blunt eloquence that invokes some of the comments.

I am an Amom to two young daughters born in China. I very firmly believe that their firstmoms did NOT have a choice.

I did know this prior to adopting, but the full emotional impact of this realization did not really hit me until after we adopted our second daughter this past January.

Our first daughter lived in an orphanage. Our second daughter lived in a loving foster family (FF). DH and I were extremely fortunate that we were able to meet with the foster parents—this occurred outside the adoption process. I believe that China prefers for the AF and FF.

In this sense I do feel that we were blessed to be able to meet and continue a relationship with the FF, which I am taking great care in maintaining frequent contact with them.

It was clear to us that the FF loved *our* daughter very much and were very sad that she was leaving their family. This family has a grown daughter who no longer lives with them and they did adopt a little boy they had fostered for several years. They indicated that they would have liked to adopt *our* daughter but would not be allowed to—the one child policy. This was heartbreaking! They did NOT have a choice.

I have heard/read a few comments in various forums that the Chinese do not like girls—they don’t want them. Often times people making these comments have NO clue about China and the laws in China. I do not claim to be an expert by any means, but I have taken it upon myself to learn more about China- the laws, society, how land is allocated to farming families. It is not that simple.

I have read comments in various formats by AF stating they could never understand how a parent could abandon a child—referring to their own child. I find it more than disheartening—Be damn glad you cannot understand the kind of oppression these women, these families face—because with China adoptions—IMHO, that is what it mostly comes down to- oppression.

How many women in China have their baby girls taken from them unwillingly by someone else?

Do AParents REALLY believe these women have a choice? OK, maybe some of these firstmoms are fine with it—but do you really think they are the majority? REALLY?

Please read the book, “The Girls who went away.” We did this same kind of oppression to young girls in our own country for a period of time. Read how it affected them!

This is MY paradox as an Amom. I did always want to adopt a child. My parents tried to adopt and it didn’t work out for them. I was around 9-years old and it blew me away that there were kids who did not have a mom or dad—simplistic view of a child.

DH and I did try to conceive a child and were unable. It drove me crazy—seriously, for a period of time—even though I wanted to adopt. Not being able to conceive a child hurt. As much as that hurt—imagine being able to conceive a child and carrying that wonderful joy for 9 months knowing that if you give birth to a girl you will not be able to raise her—she will be taken from you regardless of your feelings.

This is my view of the most likely situation for most women in China—and I benefitted from that kind of misery—from her oppressed inability to Choose.

How do we reconcile that?

Mei Ling said...

["I had to go to Korea and adopt because I could not have a baby"]

There's someone who just came across my AP-blog who wrote a very similar comment.

It disturbs me on a lot of levels.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

@anonynous - I responded to your comment (and your meaning is fairly obvious) because the other questions were moving into further debate. As much as I'm up for spirited discussion, when someone starts suggesting people are telling adoptees to whisper (though I don't think I was), it's probably time for me to exit the conversation.

Julia said...


I put this out for you to consider, as a fellow adoptive mom.

Being an ally--and I have trouble imagining what other role an AP would take on when visting an adoptee's blog--is not about winning an argument, or having the last word, or defending whatever beliefs you or I might hold dear about adoption.

It is about listening to what adoption looks like from the other side. Period.

And I think you already know how to do this, because I think you've mentioned elsewhere that you're a therapist. So I imagine you know how to hear someone's truth, without necessarily taking it in or feeling personally hurt by it. In fact, I'll bet you're really good at this.

I wonder, and I'm asking this NOT in an accusatory way but a truly wondering way, what is it that prevents you from bringing that part of yourself to posts like this?

Mei Ling said...

"As much as I'm up for spirited discussion, when someone starts suggesting people are telling adoptees to whisper (though I don't think I was)"

No one ever does.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

@Julia, I don’t think I’ve dismissed Melissa’s adoption experience by sharing that her verbage on one issue bothered me. I would like to think that I can share a difference of opinion without it cancelling out the many ways things I am learning and the many things I agree with. I get frustrated by the implications that if we don’t agree on everything in this adoption blog world, than we agree on nothing. Or that if I don’t come to the exact same conclusions that I’m stopping my ears to someone’s process. Also, I am not here to play therapist (though I think you’ve assumed that role here?), but in my work and in my life I don’t shy away from confrontation. I think that people grow when they are honest and authentic with each other. Taking a posture of “sure, whatever you say, dear” is not a real relationship – it’s patronizing. I have heard time and again that adoptees feel like they are infantilized – yet when I try to engage in an adult-to-adult dialogue here, where Melissa has invited honest feedback in her own words, it is self-serving . . . silencing . . . ignoring someone’s truth.

Julia said...

I don't want to play therapist. Nor did I expect that you would answer the question I posed--it's for you to contemplate and answer for yourself, if you want to. I am trying to talk to you as a person who has been where you are, and I was trying very hard to make sure that you didn't feel attacked.

And I don't want you to play therapist, either. I was just suggesting that you have some skills (I'm guessing) that might come in handy. If that feels intrusive to you, I'm sorry. Obviously, I don't know you except from reading your blog, and it's a gross generalization. I offered it as a different perspective. If not useful, discard, please.

I think we agree that the problem has to do with a power imbalance. So I can better understand how you would want to engage in debate as a way to not infantilize and respect an adoptee as equal.

I guess that I see it differently. I am concerned about the power dynamic, too, and all the ways that APs just have more power and more voice, and how that ends up silencing and suppressing adoptees in all kinds of ways. So, the way I approach this is to consciously attempt to give up power by saying, in essence, "you have the floor. I'm here to listen and to learn and to support you having the floor, because I get that this doesn't happen very often and that's not okay with me. I may ask questions to try to understand better. I may disagree at times with what you say, but I approach those disagreements with the assumption that you may know or understand something that I don't, because you have the experience of being an adoptee and I don't. Or, it's possible that we see it differently, but I hold that as an outside possibility in my head, first putting the onus on myself to see if, in fact, I may just be resistant to a truth that is hard to hear."

Because we have so much more power, and because adult adoptees have generally grown up in that kind of power dynamic not being heard as much etc., I don't think we as APs can disagree without silencing. Even if we don't mean to silence. It's not really about us--it's about the dynamic that has been in play maybe forever.

I also feel like I need to be open to hearing and not challenging at this blog and others because my child may one day have similar thoughts and feelings. And the last thing I want to do in that situation is to say "I think you're wrong." Really, it's hard to imagine something more painful, but what I want to be able to do is to say "I believe you, and I love you, and I want to hear all of it." So I view these conversations as opportunities to learn, but also as opportunities to practice listening, and not reacting.

I'm sorry to be so long-winded, but there's one other thing. I come to this blog and others with the assumption that adoptees really know what they're talking about and have thought ALOT about all the complexities of adoption. So, when someone like Melissa chooses a particular word, I don't think "umm, I think that's the wrong word." Instead, I think "wow, I wouldn't have described it that way but if she did, that must be the way it feels to her. What can I learn from that?"

I hope this helps. That really is my intention.

Julia said...

Argh. Sorry for multiple posting. Is there a way I can delete? (Or, Melissa, please feel free.)

Sandy said...

Some have asked or alluded to the question I believe Melissa may be asking (my assumption) by pointing out the power imbalance.

The question I hear is: What small part can we play in correcting the power imbalance that pits families without resources/social infrastruture that impedes family preservation, instead requiring them to abandon their children so they are cared for in orphanage waiting to be adopted by those with the resources/social infrastructure with the end result being that only those children who truly have no family are placed for adoption?

Instead I see excuses and justifications and nit picking over the word "Luxury" that was originally someones word, or that the child was "abandoned" before the adoption so therefore the child was not taken from the mother - abandonment happened for a reason (see above paragraph). Because of that reason - others got to adopt so you can use as many excuses as you wish but at the end of the day the cause and effect allowed you the luxury to adopt - domestic or international - and a family was forced due to circumstances beyond their control to relinquish - that is where your child came from and you have to own that reason.

Sorry Melissa I just hurt for how you must be feeling right now and apparently do not have an ounce of the grace in my body that you have in yours.

Reena said...

Sandy, I appreciate the way you lay out some of the main points.

“What small part can we play in correcting the power imbalance that pits families without resources/social infrastructure that impedes family preservation, instead requiring them to abandon their children so they are cared for in orphanage waiting to be adopted by those with the resources/social infrastructure with the end result being that only those children who truly have no family are placed for adoption?”

I think this hits it—although, I think Michelle’s original post hit it as well. My family—growing up and until recently did provide money through charities that helped care for children/families-- these donations likely helped keep the family in tack. I am looking into some of the organizations that Michelle mentions because I did quit contributing to my family’s long donated to organization because of their “religious” requirements. I simply don’t agree with it—never have, but they did get good results in terms of providing resources so I justified the “religious” requirement with that for a long time.

My daughters are Chinese and I am not sure what I can do to help with the power imbalance in China. I don’t really think the Chinese government will change their 1or 2-child policy based on IA rates and I do think the Chinese first moms as well as the foster families are coerced and forced to abandon/relinquish their children by this government policy. I see this policy as separate from IA—if IA from China were to stop, I think families would still abandon babies due to the government policy and I do not think that IA has any effect on this policy—clearly this policy has an effect on IA from China.

I am open to any suggestions or knowledge that others may have on this.

Regarding the term luxury—why are people, AP, so offended by its use in this context? Are you associating the term “luxury choice” to your child through adoption as equating your child to a “luxury good?” Maybe that is it? I can understand taking offense to that.

I am an Amom and I do think the decision to adopt is a luxury regardless of infertility or not.

Here is another perspective on adoption being a luxury choice:

I know of a couple other families who would like to adopt a child but are unable to because of one or more reasons—yes mostly financial.

I know of at least one childless couple who is unable to pursue IVF and the like due to health insurance and the cost—the choice to pursue fertility treatments to them is likely a luxury choice not available to them.

I don’t mean to offend anyone; I am simply trying to understand why some AP are offended by the term “luxury choice” being applied to our decision to adopt a child.

Reena said...

I also meant to add-- I completely agree with Sandy that we, AP, do need to *own* the reason for which our children becaem *our children* through adoption.

In most situtions it is due to some kind of power/resource imbalance and I think it is a discussion that all APs need to be able to have with their children.

I read through some of the comments made here and I find them more than upsetting. How are we AP going to respond to our own children as they grow and ask questions. What kind of emotional environment are we going to provide for them to express all their feelings? I want my daughters to grow up feeling secure in our relationship-- secure enough to be able to tell me they love their first mom even though they don't know her, that they are also angry with her and us and everyone because of the situation they were placed in as vulnerable babies. That even though they like their life (at least I hope they mostly like their life with us) they still miss what might have been-- wonder about it and by all means question how adoptions take place.

I read this blog and others like it because I am hopeful that I can learn from the Adoptees who have been there to be a better mom to my children.

L said...

I'm glad I came back and read more comments, I've learned a lot and think I understand the discussion better.

Melissa, I also wanted to add that your follow-post seemed to question why some people were misunderstanding your previous post which was the intention of my comment: to say where I thought the misunderstanding was coming from. I think I was also trying to work out why a post that I liked so much was leaving me uncomfortable. I think now (with more time to mull it over and after reading others comments) I understand more about what you mean regarding the power difference and the luxury of choice. And I think the discomfort in my interpretation comes from reconciling the reality that no matter how hard an AP can try to have a clean and legal adoption it still comes about from a place of imbalance. Something I thought I knew but obviously didn't really understand.

Raina said...

Wow. I just commented on the original post, not realizing the conversation had continued here. Great discussion, too bad it is confined to this forum and not across the greater adoption community. I wish more AP's would read these challenging ones rather than the "ladybug and red thread" nonsense most IAP's devour. Kristen, I do commend you for sticking your neck out, not posting anonymously, and for remaining engaged in the discourse. I can see where you're coming from although I don't entirely agree. Being an Adult Adoptee, bio mom, and AP mom, my opinions are too complex to post here.

But there's a couple points I want to make.

1. NO ONE is entitled to a child, whether bio, adopted whatever. Infertility is heartbreaking and I feel nothing but the deepest sympathy for those who experience it, but the notion that every person is entitled to be a parent through whatever means necessary is NOT TRUE. The need to propogate our own DNA is self-serving. Trust me, the world population isn't going to suffer because of infertility.

2. Yes adoption IS a luxury choice, the industry is fueled by money, and the power brokers in this game are the ones with the cash. Children are this world's greatest commodity.

3. I have found AP's in general to be one of the most defensive groups out there. Most of the AP's I deal with personally do not fall into that description, which is why I bother with them in the first place. Yet, adult adoptees and biological/natural parents are the ones who constantly have to explain themselves. Why? Well who weilds the power in this conversation? Who has always been in control of the adoption community? Historically, birth mothers and adopted children have almost no control, power or voice in this narrative. Now, we speak out and in doing so, yes, we are changing the narrative. We challenge the status quo. In the face of certain dismissal, we repeat ourselves over and over again.

Dale Edmonds said...

Yoon - your blog is on a list that has helped me think about adoption. I work for Riverkids - thank you for mentioning us! - and have four children in an international open adoption from Cambodia.

I've been thinking a *lot* about this as we are currently arranging adoptions for two of the Riverkids' children. They were in foster care to give their first families a chance to come back or fix things, and we've had to decide whether to shift them to a materially better and safer foster family against the emotional impact of changing families.

Two weeks ago I took one of the babies in for an HIV test. It was so strange to be holding her outside the doctor's, getting how easy it was to fall into the "heroine rescues the innocent child" story.

If I didn't take into account her foster mum who was making the little girl burble with smiles, and the tiny daft hat pulled down over her head carefully, or the way she explained carefully how the baby had been sick, and they hadn't had enough money for the motorbike to the hospital and -

So now we're working on placing the two babies with two Cambodian families who have had adoption prep and homestudies, and working out what we need to document and record for an open adoption - photographs of where they were born, of them with their foster families, names and what few dates we can get - puting it all together and storing it somewhere just in case they need another copy when they're older.

And the HIV test - the day it took, we had a big discussion about an international adoption, because placing an HIV baby is a challenge here, although it can be done, and you've got to find medical treatment and - that's somewhere I think international adoption could balance out the losses through access to healthcare.

It takes a lot of work to do stuff correctly, and there are mistakes. Kids I wish we'd pushed harder to be fostered earlier. Right now we have five kids in a sibling group that I don't know if we should have split up and fostered out earlier, as things slowly get worse for them as a group. Should we place the youngest and adoptable? It's awful making these decisions.

A good agency/NGO should be thinking and discussing and - anyone who says this stuff is straightforward or that one solution fits all is a straight out liar. It's really complicated.

I love my kids and I can see what adoption has given them, but I also see what they've lost. Being adopted in Cambodia would have made things so much easier and in some ways better for them.

Queen of Sheba said...

I'm new here, and only tangentially connected to adoption myself; but I just wanted to leave a note to say that I am generally very impressed by the civility and thoughtfulness of the conversations here, even when there are serious disagreements about morals or motives--which almost inevitably lead to name-calling etc on the internets. Both Melissa and the community of regular readers/commenters should be commended--just creating an environment like this is a tremendous achievement.