Earlier this week, I found myself browsing a local bookstore for some new reading material. This is something I do often, a way of relaxing almost as I drift from book to book, touching each one as I go. Occasionally, I’ll pick one up that piques my interest and I’ll read the short synopsis, take note of the author, and either move on or place it in my pile to take to the register at the end of the visit.
It’s always been incredible to me how adoption seems to stick out in almost any novel, even when you least expect it. Last month, I finished reading The Casual Vacancy, and there was, of course, a minute storyline about adoption. I picked up Admission where the whole story surrounded the theme of a woman who had relinquished her child with no thought. It can, as a birthmother, be exhausting to see the stereotypes played and over-played in literature and know that sometimes we relate to them and other times we just shake our heads in frustration at the way adoption is still being displayed to the world: a birthmother who wanted nothing to do with her child, an adoptee who wound up with behavioral issues and drug problems. All of them, cliches.
This time around, I picked up a book, thinking it looked like it may be worth reading. The synopsis went from bad to worse; describing a couple who had struggled with infertility and somehow managed to find all the “Bad Birthmothers” (quotes my own). I could barely finish it before throwing it back on the table. It was yet another book published that paints us birthmothers as these selfish, narcissistic, unfeeling beings.
Let me tell you, there may be a birthmother or two out there that we could define as “bad”, but they are few and very far between. When a young woman is in an unexpected pregnancy considering adoption, the last thing on her mind is how she can hurt the couples who may wind up parenting her child. I struggled through my own pregnancy, back and forth, but I never wished any sort of evil-doing on them. However, I have to wonder, if I had exercised my right to parent my son, would I have fallen into that category? The Big Bad Birthmother category?
We all have to take a step back and understand that this process is not as simple as a transaction at a grocery store. It’s so much more than just buying a bottle of milk, and there will be those who go back and decide that they no longer wish to go through with the transaction altogether- and that is their right. Labels help none of us, and we’ve all seen them from the adoptive parents, the adoptees, and the birthmothers. We are all faced with labels that do us no good when it comes to fully understanding our perspectives.
Maybe this author was writing from her own perspective, and I feel bad that she’s had such a terrible run with failed adoptions. However, if she has just made fictional characters who are having fictional issues, than perhaps it could be said that she’s not doing much to help society understand how adoption isn’t like what she’s described in her book. It’s not just about the adoptive parents trying to get a baby- it’s far more complex, and it always will be.
Words are powerful, even the ones that don’t speak the full truth.