Squeezed into my recent schedule of child-free jet setting, and my darn near desperate search for a new hair stylist, I have been educating myself on third-party reproduction and have concluded that the arguments for surrogacy, egg and sperm donation almost inevitably end in “how is it different from adoption?”
America was doing adoption way before it was trendy and I credit our Judeo-Christian ethic which emphasizes charity and the care of widows and orphans. I am also, as an adoptive mom, pretty biased towards it being one of the most awesome things you can do for a child in need of parents. But in this culture, where we are increasingly viewing children a commodity, I have noticed that the adoption lexicon has begun to move toward how adults can “get kids.”
This is problematic and indicates a deeper, more insidious, shift in the mentality of our society. It’s one that I was once guilty of as well.
In my first year of working in the adoption field, I learned an important lesson from the founder of our agency. One family had run into some road blocks and I had made the comment to her that “I was working hard to get this couple approved.”
It was a subtle, but critical, distinction and I have never forgotten it. Adoption must always, always, be about meeting the needs of the child, not the adults.
Adoption is built on brokenness. For a child to find their “forever family” they have to lose their first family. Regardless of whether that child’s adoptive parents are there to witness the birth, or it follows years of serving time in foster care or an institution, adoption means that the child has lost something irreplaceable. The loss of the child’s birth family is something to be mourned. I do believe that adoption is the most redemptive solution to that loss, but by no means does adoption solve everything.
A good friend of mine has two adopted children from the same birthmother, with whom she maintains a relationship. My wise friend puts it this way: We often talk about adoption as the way to “fix a problem.” The mother has a child that she cannot care for and the child needs a family. Adoption fixes both problems right? Everyone should be happy. Except that there remains an open wound around the severing of that relationship. Even when parental rights are willingly relinquished, the birth mother still yearns for that child and, even in the best adoptive placements, these children often long to know their biological parents. Why is that? Because biological connections are intended to be permanent and when they are broken, the pain doesn’t just go away.
Last month, I spoke with a woman who is in her sixties. For forty-five years, every July 2, she thinks about the daughter that she gave to a wedded couple. She remembers the months of feeling the baby alive inside her, giving birth, marveling as she took her first breaths, and then, heart-aching, leaving the hospital alone. Each year on that child’s birthday she remembers and wonders and mourns.
Am I grateful that God placed my Chinese son with us? A thousand times, yes. Is he better off with us than in the orphanage? Absolutely. I consider him every bit “my own” as my biological children. But, if it comes to that, we will give him space to mourn and question and rage when he confronts the difficult realities of how he came to be in our family. He has lost something real that we cannot replace. Adoption was unquestionably the best remedy for his situation, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t cost him plenty.
I am afraid that our society, because we have over-emphasized the beauty and redemption of adoption, chooses to ignore the pain and injustice suffered by the child when they lose their birth parents. That imbalanced depiction has contributed to the idea that biological connections are irrelevant. Until we see adoption rightly, we cannot adequately address questions around third-party reproduction. Because if separating a child from her birth parents after she’s born is no big deal, then why not get a jump on the process from the get-go and just factor out one or both parents at conception, right?
Since we have indeed swallowed the “biology doesn’t matter” lie, it is no wonder we have such a thriving fertility industry. And because women are going against the biological clock and pushing motherhood into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s; and we are polluting our bodies with chemicals and sexual diseases that stifle fertility; and we increasingly favor household arrangements that do not involve a permanent relationship between a man and woman, third party-reproduction becomes the “get out of jail free” card.
We need to reign it in here people.
This falls smack dab under the “Just because we can………..” cliché.
As adults I believe we all should adhere to the Hippocratic oath when it comes to, well, everything really. For those of you that didn’t grow up on St. Elsewhere, it is that we Do No Harm. That our first and foremost intent is to repair and intentionally improve on circumstances. Severing the relationship between parent and child is a BIG DEAL and adoption is our society’s remedy to stop the bleeding. Third party reproduction not only creates the victim by it’s very nature, it also inflicts the wound. It is irresponsible of us to wield such power over another’s life; to take so casually the seriousness of the impact on a soul who has been manufactured by parents. At worst it is human trafficking. Intent does not change the truth of the outcome.
If a child has lost her parents due to abandonment or death or because her mother and father are certifiably unfit to raise her, then we have a societal duty to find a permanent home for that child. We also have a duty to make sure that children are not conceived with the intent to deprive them of one or both parents.
Bill Clinton was so fond (and good) at professing it was all “For the Children”.
So let it go down in black and white print that I am completely with Bill on this one people.
It is for the children.
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