There is a growing trend among Christians to adopt either through international adoptions or in the U.S. The reasons for these adoptions are as various and personal as the adoptive couples who venture into such uncharted terrain. I will not venture to guess all those reasons here, but I have been doing some thinking lately about my own identity as an adopted child that I hope will help adoptive parents.
Recently, I went over again with my adoptive parents the circumstances surrounding my birth. My initial questions were obvious: what can you tell me about my birth parents? They were questions about identity. Everything my adoptive parents told me they learned from the lawyer who handled the adoption. As my mom put it, “he just read down a list of information about the birth mother and father.” Neither she nor my adoptive father asked any additional questions because they wanted to follow the law, which at the time in Florida maintained a strict separation between birth parents and adoptive parents.
I learned that my birth mother was a 22-year old single woman from the northeast of the U.S. who flew down to Florida to have her baby. My adoptive dad told me that his mother went by the hospital room where my birth mother was staying and peaked in just to take a look. Her only comment was that my birth mother was “good lookin’.” In addition, they told me that my birth father was Puerto Rican. Most of this information I already knew, since it was so sparse, but I needed to hear it again and, more importantly, I needed to know its source. To their credit, my adoptive parents have never withheld any information from me about my past. They just know so little that it’s like passing a few crumbs to a starving person.
What we need to remember about adoptions is that they are interventions brought on by emergency situations. They may be normal, but they should not be the norm. The norm should always be that children are raised by both biological parents. Even in writing this blog, I wrestle with exactly how to refer to my two sets of parents. While it’s accurate to identify my adoptive parents as “adoptive,” it seems strange to me because I consider them to be my parents. They loved me, raised me, and continue to support me in more ways than I could ever deserve. They are the tangible manifestation of divine grace in my life. And yet, they are NOT my biological parents.
So, I live with the tension of having “two mommies” and “two daddies,” even though I know one set and I may never meet the second set. This tension is reflected in having to use adjectives to describe my relationships: adoptive, biological. I should simply be able to say, “my mom” or “my dad,” but that will never be possible. Has this forever warped my life? No. It is always present, however. And, for those adoptive parents who may read this and run to their children to ask them how they feel about these things, I need to say, “Don’t do it!” It has only been since I had my own children that I have even begun to contemplate these issues. If my adoptive parents had asked me what I thought about them or my adoption during adolescence or even in college, I would have said that I didn’t think much about it at all.
I can only say that there was a moment when a hunger was unleashed to know more, to figure out what happened. I am still not certain what to do with this hunger, but I know that I cannot deny it. It reminds me that there are severed relationships that should never have been severed.
For this reason, I know that my own adoption is not the way it’s supposed to be. This is not to denigrate my adoptive parents or to somehow say that they were not gifts of grace to me. It is to recognize that grace is always about an emergency intervention into a situation that has turned out differently than it should have.
Let’s never forget that adoptions are responses to a 911 call that is made and yet not made. It is not made because the child cannot make it and the birth parents are not even sure it should be made. Yet the call goes forth due to the circumstances that dictate its necessity. This brings me to my final thought for this blog: make sure in your desire to adopt that the circumstances dictate its necessity. Don’t create an emergency situation to satisfy your own longing for a child. When you do, you play God and turn the child into a commodity. We have enough people trying to play God these days. I’ll have more in the coming days.