When people ask us about the adoption process – and ask and ask and ask - one of the things they seem to have the least idea about is how adoptive parents get connected with infants. If they have any images in their head at all, they’re something out of Annie or a scary 60 Minutes episode. Even Susan’s parents, who went through the adoption process *cough*mumble* years ago when adopting Susan, don’t have an accurate image of what the modern adoption process is like.
So, since there are so many details to share (so many that perhaps we should just blog about it or something…) we tend to shorthand it. My summary is something like “When it comes to infants, the state isn’t much involved at all; it tends to be a much more direct connection between adoptive parents and birth parents. The majority share of women thinking about placing a child for adoption look on the Internet and read prospective parent profiles. It’s like online dating for babies.”
It’s an easy way to get the point across. It somewhat accurately conveys the whole process of putting yourself out there and the anxiety of meeting new people. But it’s so much more complicated.
Susan and I can speak pretty authoritatively about online dating – it’s how we met. We each wrote profiles for ourselves, back almost ten years ago, trying to put our best foot forwards while being honest about ourselves. The goal there being to meet up with another person for a forever relationship. The profile we’ve been writing for us as adoptive parents is also for a forever relationship, but the primary person we’re targeting this to isn’t the person we’ll have the main relationship with.
Not to say the relationship with the birth mother isn’t a forever one; those genetic bonds don’t go away. But it’s not the every-day relationship we’ll have with a child we raise. And I find myself wrestling with things I’d never have thought twice about saying flat-out to a prospective romantic partner.
For example – I wouldn’t have hesitated to type the phrase “my brother and his boyfriend” on an online profile. Any woman who was going to have an issue with homosexuality or not be accepting of one of my loved ones because of it… save me the trouble of ending our relationship later by passing me by.
A birth mother, however? Are we prepared to have someone skim on by because they’re not what we consider enlightened, about an issue that likely would never come up in the placement process? So I stare at the word processor and think “maybe I don’t need to volunteer this controversial thing” or “I could word this in a more generic and less revealing way.” Which feels pretty damned crappy.
Not because we’re going to make false promises about how we’ll parent. If any birth mother were to bring up that she was unwilling to place her baby with a family that wouldn’t teach that homosexuality and race mixing is a sin, well, we’d be sad but wish her good luck finding someone else. But do we volunteer things that someone might find off-putting?
That’s an approach that’s a lot easier thing to justify to yourself when it’s about using a picture that, say, shows the side of your profile without a scar on your cheek. How much can you leave out about yourself before it’s deception and not harmless omission? What price are we willing to pay to be open about who we are, and what’s the right line for us to draw about what we decide is harmless to leave out?
And I thought dating was hard.