We’ve all seen them. Viral stories about celebrities who adopt a baby. Viral stories about families picking up their baby at the adoption agency, and then surprising their own extended families. Viral stories about children spending thousands of days in foster care, then having their adoption finalized. These seem to be everywhere.
These stories evoke positive responses. They are shared and repeated, over and over. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?
But adoption is not an ending, happy or otherwise.
In fact, bringing home the baby is only the beginning. The finalization of the adoption, whether with an infant or older foster child, is only the beginning. Adoption is the creation of a new family, but one that is built on losses. The adopted child’s identity will forevermore include the tag “adopted” and a genetic history that she does not share with her parents. To be an adoptee means you have had to say goodbye to the people who created you. And what’s more—you didn’t have a voice in that decision.
Can we all agree that children are not delivered by storks?
They do not fall from the sky. Behind every “delivered” child, is a woman who struggled. For every child who is placed through foster care, there is a heartbreaking story of birth parents ill-equipped to raise children or faced circumstances most of us can’t begin to imagine. The reasons for placing a child are legion. There is no “one size fits all” adoption story, yet the common thread is loss.
Many adoptive parents begin the adoption journey because of infertility. Others adopt because of a sense of calling that is either faith based or service based. When a child joins a family through adoption, the dynamics of that family changes forever. The adoption will not fix infertility. It will also forever alter the “what might have beens” of the family without fertility issues. Likewise, adoption will not be the cure-all of a birth family’s struggles. It will be a loss for the birth family—for the parents, siblings, and extended family.
At its best, adoption is for the child. Adoption is an institution that should guarantee a safe, loving, and happy home. And part of that safe, loving, and happy home needs to be the acknowledgement that the child is his own person. He comes to the adoptive family with biological family’s DNA. He comes to the adoptive family with his birth mother’s experiences while she was pregnant. He lives with the adoptive family and absorbs the love, the traditions, and connections that they offer. And one day he is ready to take on the world herself.
What should you do when you see one of those viral stories?
Share it? Share it and comment? Before you do any of those things, take a moment to think of the people behind the story. Acknowledge, at least to yourself, that this story comes from someone else’s pain. From their brokenness. Be grateful for the family or families that created you. Those thoughts can be turned into comments that will serve the internet well. Those are the thoughts that can change the face of adoption to a more realistic view that honors the birth family, adoptive family, and the child who is adopted. Those emotions…joy and pain…are real adoption.