Meeting in the Middle
Over the past several months, I have found myself having multiple conversations with folks about the perceived “conflict” between birthparents and adoptive parents. While I am not oblivious to this point of view, I am hoping to challenge it in today’s post. I think it’s unfortunate that society seems to pit these two groups against each other, when, in reality, they are two entities working towards the common goal of creating a permanent placement in a loving and stable home for a child.
I’ve heard adoptive parents sheepishly admit they don’t feel advocated for and have been made to feel ashamed by certain agencies whom they see as very “pro birthparent.” On the flip side, I’ve heard birthparents express concern that their needs will be trumped for those of the adoptive parents when it comes down to the details of matching and placement. This “us” versus “them” mentality is really not helpful and actually gets in the way of transitioning children from birthparents or foster homes to permanent adoptive homes. If you can remove yourself from the emotional context for just a few moments, I’d like to mention some factors that may help all of us to see this issue in a different light moving forward.
Traditionally, we’ve talked about the three parties involved in adoption as the adoption triad: birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees. The problem with this analogy, however, is that it doesn’t fully address the interaction between each. It denotes a relationship, but a distant one without any overlapping. In a recent discussion of this matter with an adoptive father, we decided a Venn diagram more accurately describes the connection between each member of an adoption. In this diagram, each party comes with their own individual background but also connects around the center, which in adoption is the child.
The reason I mention this is because I think we often mistakenly think of adoptive parents and birthparents as opposing parties, with opposing interests and lifestyles, values or backgrounds. The truth is there are often more commonalities than at first meets the eye. And, even if no similarities can be found, the fact that both sets of parents love this child and want the best future for him/her should be enough to break down some of the barriers that are often put in place long before an expectant mother ever meets a potential adoptive parent.
As prospective adoptive parents, if you find yourself feeling squeamish about birthparents and their role in your future child’s life, perhaps you need to take a step back and examine the underlying reasons behind those feelings. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize that by focusing on the adopted child as the center, you will feel more relaxed and rational about any sort of interaction or relationship with the birthparents. On the other hand, if you are an expectant mother trying to plan an adoption or a birthparent who has already placed a child for adoption, you may be having feelings of obligation or resentment, in addition to the grief that is certain to accompany your decision. I encourage you to learn as much as possible about your birthchild’s future family and to maintain some form of contact (even if it’s texts and pictures) so that you can be reassured of your child’s development as he/she grows older. Having this personal connection will help to lessen the fear that the adoptive parents are unfeeling or can’t relate to your situation.
I fully recognize the emotions involved in adoption cannot be worked out with just a few simple analogies or mental exercises; however, sometimes a perspective switch allows us to move forward in a more positive manner and to ultimately experience healthier interactions with others. I challenge all of us, therefore, to view the relationships in adoption as a “meeting in the middle” and let’s see how far we can go.