A woman who is both a birthmother and an adoptive mother has joined the birthparent support group I attend. I met her for the first time Thursday night, and her presence made me incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t think of adoptive parents as the enemy . . . but for whatever reason, having her there made it feel like less a safe space. It was very strange, and I feel a bit guilty. The only thing she actually did that I can point to as making me uncomfortable was correcting women when they were talking about their children. Like so:
Tara: When I was at my son’s wedding on Saturday—
Adoptive Mom: You mean your birthson.
Tara: . . . Yes. Anyway, at the wedding . . .
Chloe: I don’t speak to my daughter; she doesn’t want contact.
AM: Your birthdaughter.
Chloe: Yes—my only daughter.
Additionally cringe-y for me were moments when women said things about adoptive parents in general: Heck, Chloe said that she can’t get past thinking of them as people who take away people’s babies. Another woman talked about them as people who buy their babies. I don’t think that adoptive parents are baby-stealing bourgeois pigs anymore than I think birthmothers are alcoholic whores who want to steal the babies back, but I can see why it would be therapeutic to have a place where you can express these (extreme, unfair) positions to an audience who understands why you’d want to say these things. And I kept stealing glances at the adoptive mom, whose expression I saw as smug, and I felt this strong anxiety: the closest I can come to explaining what it felt like is a sort of “Mom! Dad! Don’t fight!” It felt like something bad was going to happen. I guess I’m glad that women still felt free to speak their minds . . . but I’m also, perhaps unfairly, hoping that the adoptive mom doesn’t come back.
There are three group members who are birthmothers and adoptees, and for whatever reason, that doesn’t bother me. One of them, Tara, is organizing a birthmother panel for Adoption Mosaic, and she wants me to be one of the speakers. I’m more than glad to do it—the whole thing has grown out of a showing that group held of the documentary Adopted. Adopted, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is about a woman who was adopted as an infant from Korea and about a couple who are adopting from China in the present day. The documentary is extremely critical of all four adoptive parents and the practice of international adoption, and I mostly agree with the point of view (but not entirely—my views on international adoption, however, are probably not useful or relevant). When Adoption Mosaic showed the film, the audience was about 125 people (they asked people to sign in and list their triad status): ten adoptees, eight birthmothers, and the rest either adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents. At some points during the movie, there were jeers and laughter that felt incredibly inappropriate to the members of our support group in attendance, and Tara spoke briefly to the crowd, explaining this fact. Some adoptive parents approached her after that, saying that they never hear from a birthparent perspective and would like to. Thus the panel. They haven’t nailed down an exact date yet, but I’m thinking about it already.