The Tunnel of Love

“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.

8 thoughts on “The Tunnel of Love

  1. I wonder if they don’t really understand how the sausage is made (i.e., how adoption works)? I forget sometimes (because I surround myself with so many lovely people) that there are adoption folks who just do not get it. IT always surprises me and it shouldn’t.

  2. (Also Marley Greiner has this whole encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood movies about adoption, illegitimate children and abortion and it is fascinating to talk with her. I keep saying one day she should do an adoption film festival because that would be a whole helluva a lot of fun & interesting. I haven’t seen this one but I’m putting it on my list.)

  3. This is hard, very upsetting to think that for some, the ends justify the means. Or that intentions trump impact. Thinking of you…

  4. But why would they voluntarily put themselves through the same process with the same agency if it was merely adequate and uses connections that are unethical? Seriously, what’s up with those two?The agency that I used sucked in every way. In fact, they were shut down the very day my daughter was going to be released from the hospital. The adoption had to turn to a private one at the last second….and yes, my beloved daughter did come out of the whole horrid process but would I choose to go through that with them again? Come on now…why? There are a few ethical agencies out there! The agency that I used, Agency H ( for heinous) cared only about making money and by the time I figured out how terrible they were, I was already matched and well on my way to forming a beautiful friendship with my “peanut’s” first mom. Two and a half years later (last week) I get an e-mail from the head of Agency H saying she has started a new private adoption consulting service and would be happy to assist my partner and I with any of our future adoption needs…!!! The other day two and a half year old Peanut got pushed down and slapped in the park by a little boy we see there often. This morning at the park his mom asked her why she wasn’t playing with him. Peanut laughed an rolled her eyes and said, “That’s crazy! He hit me and gave me a boo boo! I not going close to him!” Apparently toddlers have more wisdom than some adults.
    I empathize with your level of frustration.

  5. The agency we ended up working with after we independently connected with our son’s first mom was not great. She felt she had a good rapport with the agency counselor. The one thing that reassured us somewhat about this agency was that our lawyer knew the agency’s lawyer and was able to make sure that all the proper legal steps were taken. We felt okay ethically about the adoption despite the agency, not because of it.

    I’m sorry your son’s moms don’t appreciate your experience/

  6. It’s hard as an adoptive parent not to feel so much that the child you’re with was somehow destined to be with you… I get that. But ends do not justify means & I walked away from some situations that were so clearly unethical I couldn’t have taken even a tiny step towards them. I don’t know that it’s your job to tell them about your regret but part of me wishes you would to jog some sense into them & realize it’s a triad, three not a charity.

    I am amazed how many people frame it as one though when remarking upon how “lucky” S is. I always say that we are the lucky ones. Which is easy to say since that’s how I feel (& I guess that brings me back to the beginning of this comment). Thinking of you.

  7. We recently made the very difficult decision to walk away from an adoption situation because we didn’t feel the expectant mom’s agency was behaving ethically. We found the situation through a facilitator. We never received a sample contract, after asking repeatedly for one. We had a match call. Hit it off with the e-mom, traded information and began building a relationship. We worked over the next two weeks to get a contract, a clear picture of the support they were offering her, get strait answers etc. We agonized over what to do. We were building a relationship with the e-mom, we couldn’t get any peace about working with the unethical agency. back and forth. Finally we had to say we can’t move forward with the agency. We thought that meant we had to back away from the e-mom too and were told that by her agency. We were advised not to call or text or email. We called the agency and told them. We were worried about being sued by the agency so we backed away from the e-mom. Finally after three days of her continuing to reach out to us I realized she hadn’t been told and we owed it to her to at least let her know what was going on. So called the e-mom and told her our decision. It was vey difficult.

    Much to our surprise after a day or so she called back and said she didn’t want to work with her agency. So together we have found agency 3, ours isn’t licensed in her state, and are moving forward. She is now getting support and hopefully able to have a clearer picture of what her plans are without the lack of support combined with unethical pressure tactics. She is due soonish so we’ll know soon whether she decides to move forward with her adoption plan but I agree with you that the desire to adopt shouldn’t trump ethics, even if it means walking away from a baby.

    I’m not saying its easy but I don’t get how a-parents don’t get that if we go along with crap it will continue.

  8. Pingback: Shana asks: « Endure for a Night

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