Friday, September 17, 2010

Moms and Stereotypes

This painting to my left is a collage piece done by my dear friend Kelli. Kelli is my closest friend, my co-author on our art instruction book and my teaching partner. She's also an adoptive mother.

This piece is a portrait of me. You can see the letters BFA very clearly on my forehead in the painting and the words they represent are running through the background. It's about me and my story as a first mother. You see, Kelli has been my friend for over a dozen years. She knows everything about what happened, she's lived it with me, cried with me and she was sitting there when I got the call from the agency telling me that my daughter was found and wanted to have contact with me. As I sat there listening on the phone and crying with relief she was motioning me with signals - do I get the tissues or do I get the tissues and the champagne?

In adoption world there's a lot of animosity toward adoptive mothers. I understand why. I see the sense of entitlement, the selfishness and the cruelty of many of them. I know that they are the people who create the demand part of supply and demand in the adoption industry. Without the demand of the adopters there wouldn't be the agencies willing and able to exploit young, vulnerable women out of their infants. Now here comes the "but"..... I also know that this is not the story for every single adoptive mother. There are some who "get" us. They understand, as well as they can, what we've been through and support our efforts 110%. There are some, like my daughter's adoptive mother who was there with open arms, making me part of the family from the moment I found them. It really bothers me when mothers like me - mothers of adoption loss - assume that ALL adoptive mothers are responsible for the evils of the adoption industry.

There's lots of stories out there and not everyone's story is the same. In Kelli's case, she adopted her niece when the girl was 6 1/2 years old. Kelli didn't start out wanting a baby. She and her husband had no intention of having children but when a family member was in trouble, in an abusive situation and needed a permanent home they stepped in and took over. Their niece became their daughter but that little girl always had contact with her first mother. She stayed in her family, she knows where she came from and she's always had contact with all of her original family. Kelli was called Aunt Kelli for a long time. She left it up to her daughter to decide when and if she wanted to call her mom. She eventually did decide to do that but Kelli left it up to her. This was kinship care. This is what I wish would happen more often for kids who are in trouble. In my opinion, my friends saved this girl's life. This is what the industry ought to be about, finding family first who can take care of children that are truly in need.

We, as first mothers, don't like the stereotype of the unwed mother as crack addicted slut who can't get her act together long enough to take care of her children. There are a few adoptive mothers out there who don't appreciate and don't deserve the stereotype of the selfish, greedy woman who thinks of no one but herself and her needs. There are also adoptees angry with first mothers and make the assumption that all of us just gave away our children without even looking back. Hogwash. Another assumption made, another roadblock to getting something done and fixing things. There's a lot of anger out there from all sides. I don't know what the answer is. I wish I did. I just think we all need to do a little more listening and a little less assuming.


1 comment:

  1. I certainly agree about family first. And second, if more people who think they just cannot live without a baby, would consider children from foster care who need and deserve a permanent home with loving parents, so many more children would be saved. And adoptive parents would know the indescribable joy that loving and raising a child who really needs you as much as much as you need them.