“They get some of the best babies there!”
–Doris Day, The Tunnel of Love
I imagine—because I can only imagine—that choosing an adoption agency is is difficult. I’ve seen some unbelievably aggressive marketing (“Bring me home today!” over a picture of a baby, and similarly nauseating ads), and know that most people find their options limited by their religion, their sexual orientation, their location, and/or their ethics.
There’s this Doris Day adoption movie I saw awhile back, and it’s pretty ghastly (I say this as someone who likes Pillow Talk and The Glass Bottom Boat, albeit from a feminist/cultural anthropologist perspective); Doris and her husband can’t have a baby, so they decide that adopting will help them get pregnant. (Spoiler alert: it does.) Most of the film’s plot revolves around Doris’s husband, Richard Widmark, believing that he has slept with their social worker and is in fact the natural father of the baby they adopt. Hilarious! The movie is pretty hideous, if you’re a triad member or sympathizer, and I watched it with the same grim interest that I felt when watching Penny Serenade or The Bigamist.
Obviously, Doris and Richard weren’t too worked up about adoption ethics; they have the excuse of (1) living in a bygone age and (2) being fictional characters. But for real people in the here and now—oh, let me just spit it out.
When I was matched with Ruth and Nora, they were working with Agency A (for Adequate) and I was working with Agency B (for Bad). Agency A was not licensed in my state, so they worked with both agencies while I was stuck with Agency B. We’ve talked over the past couple of years about Agency B’s ethical shortcomings: they lied to me and to Ruth and Nora; they wanted me not to put Mr. Book on the birth certificate; they told Ruth and Nora that I was receiving counseling, when in truth I was not. With all of this sort of vaguely in mind, I asked Ruth and Nora whether they would be open to working with another agency in the same way in this time around. They said yes, absolutely; I heard, “Getting another baby is more important to us than ethics.”
I am sure that Ruth and Nora are thinking about their conclusion differently than I am, but I’m upset. Would they still feel the same way if I told them about regretting the adoption? I think that they would, but of course I can’t know. They couched it in fairly sweet terms: “That process brought us Cricket, and we would never wish that he hadn’t come to us!” but I know adoptive parents who feel that way about their kids and are able to hope for a better process the second time around, stipulating that there could never in the world be a better child. Ruth mentioned that they hope to adopt exclusively through Agency A, but framed this in terms of convenience. I had no idea of what to say.
“It’s a perfectly natural thing to want your own child.”
Richard Widmark, The Tunnel of Love
Nora told me earlier this year that they think of the money they pay to the agency as a charitable donation. I don’t. I don’t think that they have an obligation to take their $30,000 and give it to women who would otherwise have placed for adoption—they want to parent, they are paying for the privilege, and I think I understand that. But it isn’t a charitable donation any more than adopting a child is a charitable act. You adopt a child (I hope to God) because you want to parent that child; you pay the fees because you want parent that child.
We seem very much at odds recently, my son’s moms and I.