Why All Voices Matter in Adoption (Even Those that Make us Uncomfortable)

By checking ego and discomfort at the proverbial door, we can learn from each other and do better.

Samantha Alkire February 11, 2018
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Not long into my adoption journey, I started joining Facebook groups.  At first, it was mainly birth mother groups.  But birth mothers of the “baby scoop era” who had dealt with coercion and pressure and guilt on a level I could never understand scared the heck out of me and I quickly left a lot of the groups maintained by those people.

So I decided to branch out and join mixed triad groups. Not long into some of these groups, I found a lot of disrespect to birth mothers by adoptive parents and also by adoptees who discussed their trauma and issues. It was hard for me to realize that not everyone had been blessed with an open, respectful adoption relationship like I had from the beginning. I learned a hard lesson and I’m here to tell you this:  All voices matter in adoption, even those that make us uncomfortable.

Let’s start with the perspective of the adoptee, the reason for the triad in the first place.  When many speak of their trauma, their anger with how or why they were placed, whether or not they have a relationship with their birth parents, or whether they were ever even offered a chance to have a relationship with their birth parents, they are written off as “being angry,” “needing to see a counselor for their issues,” or “that they must have had a bad experience.”

But here’s the thing that adoptive parents and birth parents need to realize: Every adoptee perspective matters because their experience can teach us how to do better. When I see someone who can be perceived as angry, I now wonder to myself, “What could the adults in the situation have done when this person was a child to better guide them?” It is also important to remember that regardless of how they were adopted (domestic infant, foster care, international), most adoptees did not choose to be adopted. A choice was made for them and their life narrative and they have to decide how that makes them feel because that is one thing they do get to choose.

Next, we have the perspective of birth parents, an area I have personal experience in.  For far too many years and still to this day, many women are pressured and coerced into placing their baby because of social factors society deems as unfit:  too young, too old, not enough money, not married, too many other kids, etc. If a woman decides that adoption is the best choice for her pregnancy, it should be her decision to do so. It is also for her to decide what she deems a reason for placing her child.

All of this is said because there can be a lot of anger, guilt, and grief in being a birth mother.  A lot are judged in general, but also judged by the other sides of the triad.  So when they come into a space and speak their truth, their voice matters, even if it is a truth different or less comfortable than yours. While they should never try to push their truth on someone else (which does happen), they still should be given a platform to be heard and to try to work out their feelings about placement.

Lastly, we have the voices of adoptive parents. While their voices can seem loudest both in the triad and in the general public view, their experience still matters and can be learned from.  It can be hard to hear them when their view lends to disrespect of birth parents and adult adoptees. But this is another piece of the puzzle that we can use to do better in the future, to make sure everyone feels heard and respected. I’ve always said that adoption isn’t for the faint of heart, especially open adoption. For me personally, I care very much about what my son’s parents are feeling because it helps us to learn and grow.

Listening to the voices of everyone in the triad can be uncomfortable from time to time. But, I cannot stress the importance of how much all of those voices matter. By checking ego and discomfort at the proverbial door when stepping into a mixed space, we can learn from each other and do better. We can always do better for those that we love.

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Samantha Alkire

Samantha resides in Weirton, WV with her fiance and myriad of animals. She is a birth mother to a two-year-old boy in a very open adoption, and has come to think of his family as part of her own. She spends her free time talking to others about adoption, writing, and playing board games with friends.

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