I learned the very (very) hard way that each family has the unquestionable right to form their family in whatever way they so desire. When it comes to birth and adoptive families brought together by a shared child via open adoption, that unquestionable part becomes so important. I will first share my story and then go on to explain the reasons that these issues are so touchy for the lot of us.
After my husband and I married and began trying to conceive our first child, my relinquished daughter’s parents told me that they were going to attempt a round of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). My initial reaction is not one I am proud of but I will share for the purpose of learning. I was mad. And instead of trying to figure out what issues in my own emotional journey were causing those feelings of anger before addressing the issue with her parents, I spoke. And I didn’t just speak, I lashed out. I said some things that I immediately regretted.
As I had to dwell on what I said, figure out how to apologize and figure out why I was feeling the way I did, I learned, with the help of my therapist, that the reproductive choices of others are never “our” business. Our, of course, being the collective group of people that are outside the relationship of whomever is choosing to add to their family.
The example of how she taught me this is one that I related to quite well. When pregnant with the Munchkin, I got really angry when people told me that I should have an abortion. It was my child and I was going to make my own decisions, thank you very much. I also got very angry when people questioned my plans to parent and, later, when they questioned my plans to place. Why? It was none of their business. The child was mine. The choices were mine. I had every right to make a decision without the opinions and pressures of people who weren’t immediately involved in the situation.
Similarly, my daughter’s parents had every right to decide when and how to add to their family. As I began to realize the reasons behind that, I realized how important it is for adoptive and birth families to be counseled about issues like this one. Whether the adoptive parents are choosing to add to their family via adoption or a pregnancy, birth parents need to accept it for what it is: none of their business. Yes, your child will be gaining a sibling. That should be something to rejoice.
Similarly, adoptive parents need to realize that the adding of another child to the birth family is what it is: none of their business. Yes, your child will be gaining a sibling. That should be something to rejoice. Questions of whether the family is adding to the family for the “right reasons” should be discussed between the two people who are doing the adding, not by people who aren’t intimately involved in the relationship.
The next time you are faced with a situation of this nature, I encourage you to stop and consider how it would feel to be told that you didn’t have a “right” to add to your family as you saw best fit. Put the shoes of judgment on for just a brief second and tell me if you would want to feel that way. I put those shoes on after I treated my daughter’s parents in such a poor manner. I felt ashamed for even thinking I had a right to tell them what to do with their reproductive choices. After my apologies were given, received and accepted, we were able to repair our relationship. I believe that is because I was able to recognize my mistakes, with the help of my therapist, and realize how out of line I was in a short amount of time. If I had made the mistake of dwelling on it for a long time or continuing to berate them for sometime, maybe the relationship wouldn’t have been salvageable.
I encourage you to consider issues like this before they are placed in front of you. Perhaps you’ll avoid putting your feet in your mouth.
Tomorrow I will talk specifically about an issue I’ve seen lately regarding birth parents going on to parent other children.