“My birth mother gave me life so my mother could teach me how to live it.”
~ Jacqueline, an adoptee ~
“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” Blessed Pope John Paul II
November is designated as National Adoption Awareness Month, however, it seems to be less recognized or celebrated than other social awareness campaigns. When many people hear the word “adoption” they more closely associate the reference with shelter animals than children.
During the month of November, we don’t wear colored ribbons. We don’t plead for donations. We don’t see clever public service announcements on television or billboards. Regretfully, despite the efforts to raise public awareness by pro-life groups, adoption organizations and dedicated adoption advocates, such as the late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s Restaurants, a significant number of Americans remain misinformed about adoption. Meanwhile, we have more than 463,000 children living in foster care in the United States with over 100,000 of those children waiting for forever families to adopt them. They long for families that will love them forever unconditionally. Meanwhile, throughout the world, Americans have adopted over 300,000 children from countries such as China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea, and Guatemala, who otherwise languish in overcrowded orphanages, or an overworked foster care system, while couples from foreign countries choose America to adopt children into their families.
Sadly, in the United States each year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care without being adopted and knowing a forever family. A significant number of these teenagers have no other recourse than to become homeless and live on the street.
Although adoption is often chosen in building an already established family, many couples enter the adoption world after experiencing \”infertility hell.” That’s the term many couples use. It is a form of hell, because you burn with the desire to embrace a child of your own, and yet that miracle eludes you while appearing to come so easily for others. It’s a natural biological function that you are denied. You question yourself. You question your health. You question your spouse, and yes, you even question God.
A Cherished Lesson: God’s Plan is Best
After suffering a miscarriage, I couldn’t comprehend mothering a child that didn’t come from my and my husband’s DNA. In vitro fertilization wasn’t a viable medical option for us, and besides it contradicted our religious beliefs. But I was consumed with questions. Didn’t God love me? Was I being punished? Is this how Hannah felt while waiting for Samuel? [1 Samuel] I became insecure and afraid that my husband would view me differently. I felt like a failure. And yet, we had no idea the blessing that God was about to bestow upon us. Our life and our faith were about to be enriched forever.
After prayerful thought and consideration, we waited five years to become parents by adoption. During that time we endured news reports of women carrying babies to term only to dispose of them like unwanted garbage. I cried countless nights asking God why, angry at him for allowing women a pregnancy she didn’t want, while I suffered in silence. We watched as the news media obsessed over the birth of the McCauley septuplets, while people donated everything imaginable such as a new house, to baby food, a van, diapers, clothing, etc. Meanwhile, without financial assistance we had to take a second mortgage on our home to pay for our adoption expenses.
Then one day, a Catholic woman dared to publicly ask me, “We just heard you are adopting. Why would you ever want to take someone else’s mistake?” That was the defining moment in our adoption journey. It was like God shocked me with Holy Spirit electrodes and I had an epiphany. Instantaneously, I became an outspoken adoption advocate; radio talk shows, articles, interviews, speaking engagements. God had only just begun to use me.
A New Respect For Life
Conception does not make you a parent. Conception makes you responsible for the life of another human being. How you choose to provide for that life defines not only your role in that human being’s life, but also your character and integrity.
We have become a society, a culture, who believes that children are possessions not gifts. We view them as products of failed birth control, one night hookups, and a desperate effort to save a failing relationship . We have developed the “I brought you into this world, I can take you out” mentality. We view them as dispensable. If it doesn’t quite fit into the definition of our “life’s plan,” we choose to reject, abuse, abandon, and yes, even murder.
Whether you are a birth mother, a child, or a mother-in-waiting, God has a purpose for every life He places on earth. Let there be no confusion, God does not make mistakes. We do. If anyone desires to know how God views life, and how we should accept and respect it, we only need to look at the Blessed Virgin, Mary, and her beloved spouse, Joseph, for the answers.
Mary is thought to have been approximately 15-years old when she was chosen by God to carry his Only Begotten Son; begotten not made, one being with the Father. Jesus was placed in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. God told Jeremiah: “ Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” [Jeremiah 1:5] So if he placed Jesus, Mary, and Jeremiah in the womb from His own hands, so were we.
Upon learning that God had chosen her, Mary was given a moment to respond to the news. After reflection, she responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” [Luke 1:26-38]
As a birth mother, she didn’t respond, “This is a choice, right? And I choose not to have this child,” or “This is my body and I decide what happens to it!”
As a mother, she didn’t respond, “This child is not from me and Joseph, so I can’t possible consider raising him,” or “He is not a product of our DNA, we will never bond.”
She said, “May it be done to me according to your word.” She trusted God. She believed that God knew best, and she trusted in His path for her life. And what an amazing journey. For over 2000 years Mary has been beatified as the example of Godly femininity. “All will proclaim me blessed,” she said.
Suspended Between Affirmation and Denial
We have lost the ability to recognize that our children do not come from us — they come through us. God gives us the most incomprehensible opportunity to provide for these precious gifts in whatever means that we are capable, and yet, we often choose to return that gift unopened.
We live in a world where murdering a child in the womb is “acceptable” while placing a child for adoption is viewed as shameful. They would prefer aborting a child rather place the child with “perfect strangers.” We are such a hypocritical species. We act shocked when a young woman carries a child to term and then disposes of the newborn in the most horrific manner, but consider abortion justifiable. We would prefer a child remain in an abusive home rather than open our hearts to give that child a chance at success in a loving family, because we believe pride of ownership is more important. And in our arrogance, we have no shame for our hypocrisy.
Each year the media reports incomprehensible stories such as a newborn left in a dumpster, or found in the parking lot of a local hospital, or washed ashore along a local riverbank. Recently, a teenage girl exhibited a deplorable disrespect for life by placing a dead newborn in a backpack while shopping at Victoria’s Secret. These events leave many of us asking the obvious question: If a woman is going to carry a pregnancy to term and doesn’t wish to parent the child, why doesn’t she choose adoption?
Studies show that high school textbooks on family life give three to five times as much space to abortion as does adoption in presenting options. Even more troubling, Richard P. Barth the Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, the preeminent authority on adoption and child welfare, says that overly negative attitudes towards adoption held by many social workers, family planning clinics and family court judges, often intimidate young women from choosing adoption for the child they carry. They indirectly pressure confused and frightened women trying to cope with an unplanned pregnancy into making decisions that are often contrary to their conscious or morals. Meanwhile, a human being’s life is suspended between affirmation and denial.
In 1997, the well-respected polling firm, Princeton Survey Research Associates, conducted a Benchmark Adoption Survey for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute that examined public attitudes toward adoption. The Institute found that 6 in 10 Americans have had personal experiences with adoption, meaning that they, a family member, or a close friend, was either adopted as a child, or had placed a child for adoption. The survey also confirmed that although Americans may have a favorable opinion of adoption, the myths, misconceptions and contradictions prevail.
Most of the Americans who were surveyed support birth parents’ decision to place a child for adoption. However, a notable minority disapprove of the decision to do so, and some even consider adoption as irresponsible and hardhearted. These opinions confirm a disturbing trend. Peer pressure and family humiliation play a large part in intimidating the birth mother into keeping the child and attempting to parent alone. Therefore, she makes a decision that is ultimately not in the best interest for her or her child. The result of this decision is that several years down the road the child is ultimately placed in foster care due to the birth mother’s inability to parent the child, whether for reasons pertaining to financial incapability or due to immaturity in accepting the responsibility, or the result of abuse and neglect.
It is important to clarify that there are women that accept an unplanned pregnancy courageously, carry the child to term, and parent the child for a lifetime. However, this effort is not without a great deal of sacrifices and challenges. Research strongly supports that children raised in two-parent homes are more successful in school and life. Likewise, research indicates that the children of teen mothers who are not placed for adoption are more likely to land in the foster care system due to abuse and neglect.
Every Adoption Situation is Unique
Adoption is not a one-size-fits all arrangement. It is not the over-the-counter prescription for infertility, replacement for a deceased child, or lifesaver for a failing marriage. It is the most loving and selfless method of building a family, and carrying for a child who deserves a forever family. No two birth mothers/ birth fathers are alike. No two adoptive parents are alike. Their situations are unique to them. Their adoption plans are specific to their circumstances and preferences. Above all, they should always be respected for the choices they make in the best interest of their child. An adoption plan should never be entered into without prayerful thought and consideration.
The adoption journey is no different than any other aspect of life. You will always have people who view their life experiences as either a victim or a victor. You will find birth mothers who are self assured and confident of the decision they made. They have peace about their decision. While you will also find blogs by birth mothers who are bitter and resentful for placing the child they carried for adoption, often expressing support for abortion.
It is very important to clarify here that with every negative adoption news story, there are undisclosed details and extenuating circumstances that are never disclosed, leaving the public to believe the worst of a system that otherwise, more often than not, functions successfully and compassionately.
From A Child’s Lips to God’s Ears
There are a plethora of positive adoption stories that I can share from parents by adoption, birth parents and adoptees. Every one of them as spiritually enriching as the next. But there is one in particular that is my favorite.
Stevie had been dealing with some bulling at school. He never told his parents. However, he had told some of his third grade friends that he was adopted. That news spread throughout the school like a virus, and promoted some students to tease and ridicule Stevie.
His parents had always reinforced their love for him, and how he came into their lives. Stevie was always confident, and even proud of his adoption story. But, his classmates’ statements were demeaning and hurtful. They told him that “your birth mother didn’t want you so she gave you away,” and “there must have been something wrong with you for her not to want to keep you.” Stevie just accepted the statements in silence.
Then one day, while the students were taunting him again, Stevie chose to defend himself, “Well, I didn’t want to tell you, but you forced me. The truth is…I was chosen. My birth mother gave me life, and mom and dad chose me. It’s too bad your parents had to keep you.”
That evening Stevie’s mother received several phone calls from parents asking what Stevie had said to upset their children. One mother exclaimed, “My daughter came home crying asking why she hadn’t been adopted, because that would have meant she was wanted.”
The students never taunted Stevie again.
Personally, I wish that all adults could view adoption through a child’s eyes. It is our attitude and acceptance of adoption that defines us as a human race. How we embrace, nurture and care for the children in our world from the moment of conception until natural death forever defines our moral character and eternal glory.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’….. ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:35 – 40]
© 2013 Diane McKelva. All rights reserved.
[Diane McKelva is an experienced adoption advocate, a mother by adoption, and has served as a counselor to those considering adoption, either as parents or as birth parents. We encourage readers to visit these resources to learn more about adoption. You could be the answered prayer of a birth mother, a parent, or a child.]
Legacy of an Adopted Child
Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call mother.
Two different lives, shaped to make your one.
The first became your guiding star, the second became your sun.
The first gave you life and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love, and the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name.
One gave you a seed of talent, the other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.
One placed you for adoption that’s all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me, through your fears,
the age old question unanswered throughout the years.
Heredity or environment, which are you the product of?
Neither, my darling neither.
Just a precious human being from two different kinds of love.
~ Author Unknown ~
• National Adoption Clearinghouse (resources information)
• Includes a directory of pediatricians who specialize in adoption.
• A directory of attorneys specializing in adoption.
• Adoption research and facts, online courses for adoptive families, information on laws and policies.
•Project Rachel – Hope after an abortion, offered here for someone who might be seek healing.
Photography: See our Photographers page.