When we started the adoption process, we knew we were excited and eager to bring a new child into our family. We were surprised at the deep deep love we felt, immediately, for our daughter’s first family. Since then we have been fiercely protective of birth families. It seems there is plenty of compassion for adoptive families. There is compassion for adoptees. And certainly there usually is for birth families . . . yet I feel that birth parents are often the ones with the most damaging stereotypes. The truth is, these birth parents have more love and compassion, strength and humility than most of us. It’s time to let the negative stereotypes die and replace them with truth. Let’s start today, with just a few.
Stereotype: All birth parents are teenagers.
Truth: Birth parents are all different ages.
News flash: teenagers aren’t the only people finding themselves pregnant. The truth is that there are plenty of mothers and fathers who are “older” and decide that placing their child for adoption is their best option. Both of our children’s birth mothers were in their 20s and decided they were not in a position to parent. Let’s not fill in the (wrong) details of someone else’s life.
Stereotype: Birth parents were/are on drugs.
Truth: Some birth parents use drugs, many do not.
(sigh) Really? Maybe this stereotype was created out of fear. Maybe if we label birth parents as druggies, we feel better about the painful side of adoption? We feel like the loss is deserved? (But if that’s the issue, we have a whole other topic to discuss.) All the birth mothers I personally know weren’t using drugs at the time of conception or during their pregnancies. They were in relationships. And they became pregnant. And they had a life-changing decision to make. Illegal drugs were never involved and their children were born healthy. Know the story before making comments.
Stereotype: Birth fathers don’t care.
Truth: Most birth fathers care.
This one, of all the stereotypes, seems to be the most universally accepted. When we tell our story and people ask about the birth fathers and I say we don’t have contact and never did, there’s this “well, of course” response, as if expected. If not vocalized, it’s said in the eye rolls, the pffft of air from the mouth, and the knowing nod. If I heard someone say most women don’t want the responsibility of being a parent, I would be livid because I don’t believe it’s true, just as I don’t believe that most men don’t want the responsibility of being a parent.
What I do believe is that we are all faced with choices and sometimes when we lack familial or societal support, we feel lost. And instead of acting, we react. And to even think that all birth fathers don’t care severely damages all men. In the past few years, I’ve heard story after story about men who didn’t even know they had a baby placed into an adoptive family’s home and then fought for some kind of contact. Can you imagine having a child you didn’t know about?
Essential laws have been changed to protect the rights of birth fathers so this can’t happen. As open adoption has become more of the norm, I hear of more birth fathers who are actively involved in their children’s lives after placement. Open adoption is for everyone in the adoption triad—adoptive family, adoptee, and birth PARENTS. Birth fathers shouldn’t be blindly dismissed as dismissive. Let’s not assume.
Stereotype: Birth parents are selfish and only think of themselves.
Truth: Birth parents make their adoption decision based on unselfishness and the needs of their children.
Those who believe this stereotype are misinformed. If you could be a fly on the wall for only a brief moment so you could get a glimpse of the pure, heartfelt sacrifices made for their children . . . which moment would you choose? When they go through profile after profile to choose the family who will raise their child? If seeing them anguish over that decision isn’t enough, maybe could be at one of the occasions when they had to fight for time off work to attend one of many doctor appointments. Or maybe you’d choose to be in the labor and delivery room as every ounce of emotional, physical, and spiritual strength goes into bringing that freshly newborn baby into this world.
If that still doesn’t give you a good enough glimpse of the unselfishness it takes to be a birth parent, maybe watch from the wall as they sign and relinquish their parental rights. You won’t make it through without having your cheeks stained with tears as they tearfully sign their name. Making this choice—going against everything that your body and natural instincts may suggest is the right answer, to choose what you feel in your heart is the best answer—requires total unselfishness and absolute courage. I’ve never more courageous people.
Stereotype: Birth parents don’t love their children.
Truth: Birth parents love their children more than we’ll ever know.
Placing a baby for adoption isn’t abandonment or some act of malice. On the contrary, it is one of the most inspiring acts of love. Not having experienced it myself, I’ll never fully understand the love that is deeply woven into the fibers of hearts that have the strength to place a baby for adoption. But I do know that love never ends.
As a mother myself, I have such a deep love for my children, I want to do all I can to provide the absolute best. I would sacrifice all I could for their eternal benefit. The birth mothers in our life put aside their personal desires and, with great foresight, chose a difficult path . . . but the one they feel is the right one to ensure their children have the absolute best. Even if you don’t agree with the decision, it’s difficult to deny the strength and love it takes to do what you feel is best for someone else at the expense of your own heart. I could never question the love that a birth parent has for their child. Never.
It’s been my experience that most stereotypes are harmful. It’s time we let these hurtful statements die and replace them with truth. What stereotypes have you heard about birth parents that we need to replace with truth? Leave your comments so we can all become more educated.