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are parents interchangeable

Are People Interchangeable? Musing on the Border Situation

Imagine you go to sleep one night with your beloved in the spot next to you. You’re comforted by your beloved’s familiarity — everything about this person feels known and predictable.

When you awaken the next morning, that person has been replaced by another. Different scent, different voice, different everything.

Would you notice?

are parents interchangeable

It’s absurd to think you wouldn’t.

I wish I could remember who originally offered this analogy to help me, a non-adopted person, understand what it might be like for a baby or child to experience the vanishing of an original mother and the sudden appearance of a replacement mother. It would be noticed.

It would be felt and grieved.

Mission: To See Adoption’s Complexity

My friend Sandy, an adoptee activist, has made it her mission to get people to understand  that adoption is not just Win/Win. Adoption is complex. Yes, there is win, she acknowledges, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that there is also loss. How could there not be loss?

The crucial importance of Sandy’s mission hit me this month with the emerging situation at the border. As long as the prevailing adoption narrative leads people to believe adoption is Win/Win, we will keep acting as though parents ARE interchangeable.

As we know from the switcheroo scenario above, that is not true. Experience any of your loved ones traded for another and tell me differently.

From Sandy’s recent blog post:

Then there is this misguided statement by Laura Ingraham.

And we should make adoption easier for American couples who want to adopt these kids…Take care of them the right way. (source)

It seems clear we are enabling thousands of cases of avoidable trauma that will ultimately have high personal and economic cost. To all of society.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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16 Responses

  1. Laura Ingraham is insanely naive and trying to paint a rosy picture on an inhumane crime. But I agree with your analogy and maybe, just maybe, the silver lining of this horrible situation is that the average person’s eyes are opened to what adoptees experience, even when the situation involves consenting adults.

  2. “Take care of them the right way.” So-called savior mentality. We can take care of them better than their mother/parent/s can. We can give them a “better life”. Yup. Sure.

    “When you awaken the next morning, that person has been replaced by another. Different scent, different voice, different everything.” I think most of us would scream violently or lay there frozen in terror, try as fast as we can to get away (infants can’t) , and to call the police. We would certainly not sit or lay there and go on AS IF everything was hunky-dory. If we did have to accept it, we would have had our foundational security ripped out from under us and forever wonder what the hell happened? Trust would be elusive.

    Just what is the ‘win’ part in adoption? If it only circles back to the “we can take care of them the right way” (i.e. give them a “better life”), sigh, maybe someone needs to really look at that.

    I would also like to know how many of the “consenting adults” (mothers especially) were on secure footing (not fleeing violence, not poor, not disadvantaged, not homeless) at the time they gave so-called consent? I see far too many parallels. Parents with no support, being called a monetary /or other liability, powerless!, a “less than”, etc.

    1. Is adoption optimal? No. But a mindfully done and uncoerced adoption can provide a win out of a fraught situation.

      A baby or child gets a parent who is ready, able, and desiring to parent. I have come across many situations in which the placing parents did give consent and were not in the dire straits you mention.

      I believe the idea that people are interchangeable (AS IF there were no switcheroo) helps perpetuate the savior mentality and the less-than sentiment.

    2. “Just what is the ‘win’ part in adoption? If it only circles back to the “we can take care of them the right way” (i.e. give them a “better life”), sigh, maybe someone needs to really look at that.”

      Cindy, I’m guessing I’m the “someone” you’d be talking to who “needs to really look at that”?

      My folks didn’t raise me to believe they were better than my mother and father. What they did teach me though their actions was that everyone deserved to be cared for, treated well, regardless of who they were. Actions such as taking people in who needed a home, needed a meal, a hand-up, a shoulder to cry on, medical care, schooling – no strings attached. So, to be raised by two of the most honorable, moral people I have ever been privileged to meet was indeed a win, despite my having lost the chance to be raised in my family of birth. I seldom see things in black and white, because most of life is indeed steeped in complexity.

      1. Tao, Does that win of a lovely adoptive family justify the collateral damage of family separation and adoption?

        If it does, tell the mothers and fathers and children ripped apart at the border. Tell them not to grieve, mourn, long for, or fear for the other’s welfare. Tell them not to worry where the other is, are or if they are ok. Convince them that it’s for the best. Tell them it’s a win to be taken, missing, no or very little contact, and fostered and adopted.

        Tell the children that are feeling abandoned, terrified with tears, too many tears, that maybe they will be adopted and it’s a win.

        Tell the children of adoptees, that the rage, confusion, neediness/abandonment issues, and severe trust issues their parent deals with that adoption is a win.

        If it’s truly a win, why is anyone at all upset, or triggered, or traumatized about what is going on at the border?

        Isn’t being separated from parents who aren’t ready, or willing, or able (their choice or not) to parent and being placed in a new home a win?

        1. Cindy,

          Of course the win doesn’t cancel out the loss, ever – which is why you can’t look at anything as complex as adoption in black and white, nor say my experience will be the same as another adoptee’s experience.

          Let me offer you an example of what I mean that about a win that also comes with extreme loss. One that also involves complexity – something else I’ve experienced that in many ways was similar, yet not the same at all.

          I got sick, very sick, had two different life-threatening events back to back. I lived, a far different life than I had before, but I lived. The second event caused me to lose the ability to speak a single word. When I tried desperately to write what was going on inside my brain to the person at the hospital, I also discovered I couldn’t write either. Today, I can both speak and write because my brain made a new pathway for me because the part of my brain has been destroyed. I’ll never be able to speak or write like I could before, but I can do both now. It’s taken me many years to get to this place, years of frustration, years of learning to also accept that some of the other deficits I also now have, are also permanent. I wouldn’t wish either event or the permanent impact each left me with on anyone, nor the long-term impact not only how I lived my life, but on others in my life. I’m thankful I survived and can speak and write again, that I’m not completely isolated from all that my life was before. I’m also angry that either event happened to me in the first place because I lived without any family health history.

          I sit firmly in the space of being able to accept that sometimes life really sucks and bad things happen – but good people can also exist in the space who step in and do everything in their power to ensure you’re cared for to the best of their ability. I had mom and dad do that. I also had two different physicians know that there was something everyone else was missing, and they weren’t going to let me down, I survived, different life, but a life worth living nonetheless.

          1. Tao, You’re right about the lovely and beautiful people along the way in the midst of great turmoil or tragedy. I adored my adoptive grandmother. I was crushed when she died. My mother died when I was 6 going on 7… we love and are thankful for the people who step in to love and care for us. When I think of all the sacrifices my step mother made, it floods my heart with great appreciation and awe for her. I get it. Do I want my mother back? Every day of my life.

            I can’t sit down and not speak out against a practice that causes so much harm. Things need to drastically change. One, fully open records. Well, you know the list of changes many would like to see in this practice. I don’t see fully implemented changes coming quick enough to reduce or prevent unnecessary pain and suffering. I wonder if, in part, the slow roll to best practice is due to the ability of the promoters of said current practice being able to bring up happy adoptees. ‘See, it’s not all bad, those others are just bitter and angry’, and those that could move things forward just don’t see the need.

            Your love and contentment with your parents is what comforts a mother’s heart. We certainly don’t want to hear our children had less than the best of love and care. Parents who love them and that they love very much.

            Tao, the world would be a poor place without you. I’m thankful for you, your wisdom, and your ability to put things into words so gently and so well. Thank you too for being patient with me. Five generations of my family have been on the separation side of this practice, losing either child, or parents, and it takes a toll. Especially when seeing what those adopted have and are struggling with. One being the youngest not being told they were adopted until mid teens. My heart aches horribly for my dear grand young one and I can’t do a thing about it. I want the bad practice/s to stop. I surely want greater efforts made to preserve families intact. The world is hard enough to walk through without all the added trauma and loss.

          2. As an adoptee, yours is a part of the inhumane system of adoption, and your experience of contentment cannot be justified for its own sake. There are others – relatives of the first mother and many more to follow that have been deprived of knowing the adoptee. Adoption per se is a cruel, punishing and a dehumanizing system for supposedly protecting a child and/or substituting for infertility.

  3. I have been thinking nonstop about the trauma we’re creating with this situation. What will be the repercussions for those children? That generation? The world as a whole?

  4. Good grief, I hadn’t seen that quote. That’s so horrific. I have been completely gobsmacked to see what is happening in the US in the last few years. I can only imagine what it is to watch it, and with the extra knowledge of the added grief and loss and trauma that will result.

  5. That quote from Laura Ingraham is horrific. What awful superior assumptions lie in those words. What dangerous thoughts for humanity. The trauma of the separation for these kids is inhumane, more so for the fact that it will continue throughout their lives in so many ways. It is interesting that it brings to mind the trauma sustained by adoptees, no matter the situation, and opens people’s minds to the idea that no matter how based in love an adoption is, there is a loss and grief that can’t be ignored. The idea that you could “fix it” just by having people in the U.S. adopt these kids to “save” them is just unbelievable to me.

  6. I saw more than a few comments on Twitter re: Laura Ingraham’s remarks & the Christian right’s obsession with adoption as a way of “saving” children (presumably in both body & spirit). The idea that some people view these poor kids as an easy solution for all the couples waiting to adopt… OMG…

  7. Thanks Cindy – that thread ended so I’m here. I’m at the point in the day when I start to get tired so I’m not going to try (and fail) to write grammatically correct. 🙂

    I speak out on things that desperately need changing, a different way than some, although I do have my angry posts at times.

    I do believe though getting AP’s to speak out matters greatly, and they need to hear us to learn – so calm works from my perspective. I think it’s important for AP’s to speak especially to the new people who just want to adopt that healthy white infant way possible and a healthy white infant (which usually means ethics is a four-letter word never to be linked to adoption). The AP’s have the chance to get through to them, whereas if we are seen as angry all the time, any words of wisdom we offer are seen as rantings of one who is anti-adoption and they can then sleep soundly, until years later when they realize they should have been listening the whole time.

  8. Like walking a tightrope, a very fine line is drawn in order to comprehend whether a child ought to have another home with strangers. What if tax funds were used, instead, to sort out families for keeping this child? What if guilt, cultural norms, money or lack of, economic and social status has no relationship to having and keeping my baby? What if women were truly honored and respected for bringing children into the world? Religions pretend to do this, sadly they too support adoption across the board wholeheartedly. Where’s that village that was necessary to raise a child? Where’s the community of men and women who can support a mother? Frankly, I have not witnessed strong attempts to help keep baby with Mom or family. This brand of slavery will not stop, unless and until, we open our eyes and hearts. While there is an uproar over the border aberration perpetrated onto the most innocent, the children (as it should be), very few seem to recognize the parallel to the adoption industry and, for that matter those mothers whose children were taken away because they researched vaccines and/or their child was injured by vaccines and do not want to cause further harm. The money machine is robbing us of our innate instincts for protecting our progeny as well as logic and compassion for others.
    As for myself, it has been many years and nothing has changed. The experience of loss of my daughter is something akin to being , daily, without adequate oxygen. I do not deserve the price I unwittingly paid to let go of my baby. God save any new mother from my gross error of judgement which at the time seemed my only choice. Had anyone suggested any other choice(s), it would have prevented the unmitigated destruction of my family. This cruel brand of adoption is a cultural norm which needs to be deconstructed and replaced yesterday.

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