There was a moment towards the end of our adoption journey where I had to stop, and think, and really re-evaluate how I was feeling.
It came from, of all things, a PEOPLE magazine article. There I was, on my couch after a long day at school, and I was reading about this place in West Virgina, called Lily's Place.
Lily's Place is a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Center. In their own words:
"At Lily's Place, our mission is to provide medical care to infants suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and offer non-judgmental support, education and counseling services to families and caregivers. Together we can create healthier families and help end the cycle of addiction."
Sounds great, right? The article was full of hopeful stories of young women and couples who found themselves pregnant while either addicted or in methadone treatment for recovery, and were feeling at a loss until they discovered Lily's Place, where they could get help and support in weaning their infants from the drugs. Where their baby could stay and receive the treatment needed until discharge, and where they could receive training on infant care and the special needs of NAS affected babies, and follow up visits.
And you know what I thought when I read the article?
Sounds great, what a wonderful service. Oh shit, but what if that means that people who may have placed their babies in those situations will now choose not to, because they have support? What does this mean for MEEEEEEE?
I immediately felt a deep, dark, impenetrable shame. What the everliving hell was WRONG with me that I could think such a thing? I felt ugly. I wondered what the eff was up with my priorities.
Because, you see, services like this are incredible BECAUSE they make it possible for families to stay intact, for people to get the support they need in order to raise their babies despite terrific adversity. They are sorely needed in this era of opioid epidemic.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were more services to help people who find themselves expecting, but unclear as to how their future will pan out?
I felt insanely uncomfortable with the fact that even for a brief moment I was resentful that services existed that would make it less likely for someone to place their baby. That aspect of adoption -- that my only way of becoming a parent was through someone else's loss due to a variety of circumstances -- was tough to wrap my head around.
I felt the same way when thinking on profile opportunities where financial hardship was the main reason for placing -- doesn't that just seem WRONG, that money could be the only reason why you feel cannot parent your own child? That an inequity in circumstance, possibly built on privileges I hold that others don't simply by virtue of my race or geography or socioeconomic background growing up, could make the difference between someone raising their baby instead of placing him/her with me and Bryce? (And oh, yes, I have privilege -- I didn't have to work in high school to help pay bills, I didn't have to watch younger siblings due to lack of childcare, my family could afford my violin and my racing flats and my tap shoes without sacrificing food or bills, my state university tuition was paid for by my parents, I graduated free of any student loan debt...I had quite the head start from those things alone.)
I believe that there are many reasons to place, and there are many adoptions where placement was truly weighed and considered the best option by birthparents. I also, though, believe that there are many situations where someone feels that placement is the best option because there are no other options, no palatable services that would enable someone to feel that they could parent. And it makes me sad, because in my hopes to become a parent, I felt (albeit VERY briefly) resentful that someone had created a service that could do just that for many families.
How to justify these two things? How to take the desire to be a parent and the inability to become one genetically or biologically, and feel the complete injustice in that and feeling of every option being harder than the last, and weigh it against the ethical dilemma of who to service -- is it better to have more services for adoption, or more services to help pregnant women in need be self-sufficient? Does my desire to be a parent and to raise a baby to have "a better life" outweigh the possibilities of more people parenting their biological children because there were services available to give them a boost until things were stable?
I sincerely hope that most if not all adoption agencies provide a whole bunch of information about services that could help someone who's not sure what to do weigh out all the options, all the resources available, and then make a decision that's right in the long term.
In no way am I being a sour grapes person here -- I was not successful adopting and so no one should -- not at all. Adoption is a wonderful option, but it does seem like some situations feel...icky. Not coercive per se, but a little feudal, maybe. We felt very strongly that we were most comfortable with profile opportunities where the birth parents felt it wasn't the right time, or the situation's timing was terrible (pregnant after a breakup, pregnant and not with the person), or the person wanted to pursue other things (like education) at that time but stay involved through open adoption, or something like that. Luckily most of the profile opportunities we received were like that. But there were plenty that were financial reasons, like not being able to afford a third child, or worrying that paying the bills was difficult without a baby and it would be impossible and give fewer opportunities without placing. Those were far less palatable. We did have one situation where the birth parents had both gone through rehab recently and were in outpatient treatment, and felt that the added stress of a baby at that time when life was just coming together was too much. I'm not sure a place like Lily's Place would help in that situation, and they seemed satisfied with the plan they had made (it just didn't include us in the end).
I guess the upshot is that adoption is complicated, and it creates a whole lot of ethical quagmires that you have to wade through. I was horrified with my thought pattern when reading that article, and in part that made it clear to me that I was okay with moving on from the process, that something vital in my moral fabric could be irrevocably damaged if I put my desire for a child above other people's possibilities to have a family without so much splitting. I hope that more services like Lily's Place become available, so that there are more choices and options for people who find themselves in a difficult situation, and adoption is one of several equally viable options for the future.