Open Adoption Roundtable #30

Roundtable time! This one is another chance to think back on the origins of our open adoptions.

Do you remember the first time you heard about open adoption?

If you need some further prompting: What were the circumstances? What was your reaction? If you grew up in an open adoption, do you remember the first time you heard the label applied to your relationships?

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

I’ve been a reader of Savage Love for a hideously long time—so when Dan Savage wrote a book about adopting his son DJ, I bought and read it. He and his husband Terry used OA&FS in Seattle, and he wrote about the process in some detail. It wasn’t until after I had placed my son that I read something he wrote wishing his son’s birthmother would die.

Savage made open adoption sound pretty good; it never occurred to me that it might look different from the point of view of the woman sitting across the table from him, eating lunch and waiting to lose her child to the eager couple picking up the tab. DJ’s mother was homeless, no longer involved with the boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant, and only had housing because the adoption agency was providing it. Dan and Terry seem both desperate to like her and very ready to judge her, in an emotional mix that has become very familiar to me after several more adoptive parent memoirs and blogs. (Not, NOT that every adoptive parent falls into this emotional trap. But too many do.) She is so brave/how could she be so irresponsible.

For what it’s worth, Savage and his husband seemed to treat their son’s mother decently (as recorded in his memoir).

Yesterday I reread Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother, a book that makes me crazy. I keep it around in case I ever need some kind of irritating pick-me-up. The anger that gets directed at pregnant women considering adoption by not all but too many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents really freaks me out. There is some level on which I just don’t understand it. I don’t have any money, but I’m not enraged by the rich people who seem to spend more money than I’ll ever see in what seem to me stupid ways; I’m pretty plain, but I don’t resent the gorgeous. That desire to scratch out the eyes of women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant makes me recoil every time I see it. You don’t deserve a child, I don’t deserve a child—no one deserves a child. Many people are able to parent, and they come to that in a variety of ways. Being poor, or single, or fertile, or all those things and more doesn’t make someone a whore. And yet these books—The Kid, Secret Thoughts, and others—contain ~*~hilarious~*~ “Dear Birthmother” letters that let the resentment and stereotypes flow freely. How handy that these people will end up in lifelong relationships with the people they so despise.

10 thoughts on “Open Adoption Roundtable #30

  1. The Kid wasn’t the first time I knew about open adoption (the first time was when I met a couple of birth moms who were staying in shelter when I worked there) but I do remember reading it and crying and thinking, “I could NEVER leave a hospital room with another woman’s baby!” Ironic, that. Now in hindsight, I don’t like the way he wrote about DJ’s mom and I always wonder if she read it. And I wonder how DJ feels about that book now.

  2. It is so terrible to read some of the comments directed to expectant moms or birth moms. I used to occasionally read blog posts written by prospective a-parents regarding their experience with an expectant mom who decided to parent. Can’t take the comments anymore.

    Even the discourse on twitter leading up to TPR is off-putting, IMO. I’ve read people say “praying that birth mom makes the best decision” or “hope this baby chooses you.”

  3. I read both of those books, and this – “Dan and Terry seem both desperate to like her and very ready to judge her” – is spot on. I couldn’t put what I was reading into words that made sense, but there it is. I remember feeling like the judginess that came through was “supposed” to be okay because of all the effort they were making to like her & to regard her as an individual instead of simply as the mother of their baby, but I was disappointed in that aspect of the book (because I also love Dan Savage & wanted him to be perfectly open and understanding of it all, you know, because he’s been in the shoes where people who know nothing about him and his life judge him…).

    I read half of Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother & never picked it up again. I’d borrowed it (and The Kid, now that I think of it) from a friend & was mortified that *that* was what adoptive mothers think. Now, as an adoptive mother (when I read it, we were just starting to talk about adopting), I think the book should have been called “Secret Thoughts of a Self-Absorbed, Neurotic, Insecure Adoptive Mother.” Or at least *something* that didn’t make it sound like it’s how adoptive mothers think.

    @Meredith: “Even the discourse on twitter leading up to TPR is off-putting, IMO. I’ve read people say “praying that birth mom makes the best decision” or “hope this baby chooses you.”” I don’t read Twitter much but I’ve seen this in forums. Grosses me out every time. There’s a reason we didn’t tell anyone but immediate family during the few days between when J&A’s mother chose us to adopt J and when she was born: I was really anxious to avoid putting people in the position to say things that would annoy me… xo

  4. Found you on OAR. 🙂 What an interesting perspective. I’m a birthmom too, and I don’t think I’d enjoy reading Savage’s books simply now due to the “wishing their son’s birthmom would die” comment. I know that was just one comment, but talk about stereotypes in there! Not all birthmoms are teenagers when they place, or drug addicts, or any of the other stereotypes, but I’m sure you know that. I follow a few adoptive parents on Twitter, but I think I would un-follow them if they hadn’t already adopted and were making comments like those mentioned in the comments above! Seriously. Crock. Great post!

  5. Pingback: oar #30 • where we started, where we are, and how we got here | everyday miracles

  6. Wow, I had never heard Dan’s comment about wanting to kill DJs birthmother. WTF? I haven’t read either of these books since adopting and this post reminds me that I must!

      • I could be wrong, but isn’t this because his son’s birthmother is homeless and drug addicted? They believe she’s living a dangerous life and is bound to die from it. I think I read this essay, and in context, it actually makes a morbid kind of sense. Like seeing someone dying from cancer and hoping it will end soon, so they’ll “be in a better place.” I’m not saying I agree with him, but it’s not like he’s out to get the woman.

      • She is homeless, but I don’t think she’s addicted to drugs. But I think that no matter how hard her life is, that’s a reprehensible thought to express publicly, and reflects a desire to make life choices for her that is especially icky coming from the person parenting her child. To my ears, anyway.

  7. The Kid was definitely my most tangible “intro” to open adoption. My cousin used that agency; they mailed immediate family his book as a reference.

    No doubt with some defensiveness, I remember reading that follow up essay (maybe the Times magazine?) & feeling it’s hard to root for everyone sometimes. You want to, you try to, you are doing so but still… challenged when you have strong (overpowering) allegiances to a child.

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