A long time ago I wrote a short post about how at some point in the adoption process everything seems like it is about the adoption process. Especially music. Every song I heard seemed to be about adoption, even songs about romantic love. This obsession with finding the hidden adoption connection has not passed despite the Bird’s arrival and full integration in our lives.
In fact, it has probably gotten worse. Almost as soon as the Bird was born, I confess that I was singing Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe to him. Only my version went like this:
Hey, I just met you And this is crazy But I’m your mama And you’re my baby
The last two weeks the song that has been giving me an ear worm is actually a song about teenage vampires in love, but I’m sure it’s secretly about adoption. It’s “A Thousand Years” performed by Christina Perri for the Twilight saga.
I have died everyday, waiting for you Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years I’ll love you for a thousand more
And all along I believed, I would find you Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years I’ll love you for a thousand more
Brandalynn and the couple with whom she has placed her child
So I’ve watched all the episodes of that Oxygen show, I’m Having Their Baby. I pronounce it a very solid “eh”.
First the good – and there was some good. As a prospective adoptive parent, it was good to see another angle on adoption. It’s painful, heartbreaking. And every woman on the show struggled with her decision.
The shows featured 12 women, I think. Three decided to parent, although in a follow up interview one of those woman announced that she ended up placing after the first month. So nine placed at the hospital and one additional one placed later. The birth moms were different ages (from teens to 30-somethings), single, married, black, white, Hispanic.
I cried during every episode. And I was grateful to see each of the situations.
That said, there is a lot wrong with show. More wrong than right.
Let’s start with the name – I’m Having THEIR Baby. In fact, she’s not. She’s having a baby definitely. Her baby, even. But she’s not having it for them. She might not choose to parent, but that doesn’t make the child she’s carrying any less her own. Any less her partner’s. This is not a surrogacy.
Each episode starts with a subtitle containing the EM’s (expectant mom) name and something like “6 weeks until adoption” or “8 weeks until adoption”. This bugs me, too. Even the strongest of bonds an EM and a prospective adoptive family form can be undone. Until the papers are signed, it’s both dangerous and presumptive to assume she will place. Imagine if the EM went to see her social worker and was told, “So your adoption is set for six weeks from today.” She might feel undue pressure – especially if she’s young or lacks confidence – to place even if she changes her mind. Even if her instinct tells her not to place.
And that’s the last point I want to make about the show – the social workers assigned to the birth moms are extremely focused on the adoptions*. And, it makes sense, because that’s their job. But I can’t help but think that if they had been a little more focused on the current mental state of the moms they would have predicted those disruptions. And I sure wish some of the other birth moms had a little more support at the end when they feel torn apart and don’t know what to do. I fear that situation is pretty typical, too. A lot of people on the adoption forums say that once they arrived at the hospital, the birth mom specialists, the adoptions specialists and the social workers are no where to be found. Ugh.
So, did you watch? What did you think?
*Big caveat here since I recognize we’re only seeing a tiny, tiny portion of the interactions between the agency reps and the EMs.
I don’t think being adopted contributed to how much I loved the movie Annie (1982) when I was a little girl, but I can’t be sure. I think I still know every word to every song in the movie (including “Let’s Go the Movies”, come to think of it). The party Daddy Warbucks throws for Annie at the end, pictured above, set my little heart on fire. I mean, come on. Fireworks? At a house party?
Speaking of fireworks, it’s Independence Day.
Did you know that John Hancock, one of country’s founding fathers, was adopted? It’s true. Hancock’s father died when John was seven years old. After the death of his father, Hancock’s uncle adopted him.
So in honor of John, Annie, her fireworks and the birth of our nation, here is a partial list of other famous Americans who were adopted (not counting the fictional Annie or her dog, Sandy – also adopted):
Maya Angelou (poet and author)
John J. Audubon (naturalist)
Tallulah Bankhead (actress)
Ingrid Bergman (actress)
Richard Burton (actor)
Senator Robert Byrd
Truman Capote (author)
Harry Caray (baseball broadcaster)
Kristin Chenoweth (actress)
Eric Clapton (singer)
President Bill Clinton
Nat King Cole (singer)
Ted Danson (actor, adopted child and adoptive father)
Bo Diddley (musician)
President Gerald Ford
Jamie Foxx (singer, actor)
Melissa Gilbert (actress)
Newt Gingrich (politician)
Faith Hill (singer)
Scott Hamilton (professional skater)
Debbie Harry (singer)
Jesse Jackson (politician)
Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple)
Eartha Kitt (singer, actress)
Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels (musician)
Frances McDormand (actress)
Tim McGraw (singer)
Sarah McLachlan (singer)
James Michener (author)
Marilyn Monroe (actress)
Michael Oher (professional football, story inspired The Blind Side)
Edgar Allen Poe (author)
Priscilla Presley (actress)
First Lady Nancy Reagan
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s, children’s advocate)
Bubba Watson and his wife Angie started the process to adopt about four years ago and on March 22 of this year they received a call that they had been chosen to parent a one month old baby living in Florida. At the time of the call Bubba was getting ready for the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. They couple headed down to South Florida to meet their son a few days later.
But as luck would have it, Bubba had to turn around and head up to Georgia almost immediately to compete in the biggest tournament of his life. Readers who are involved in the world of adoption must know that Angie and Caleb were not allowed to go with him.
Why? The ICPC of course.
ICPC is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. It’s a law in place in all 50 states, DC and the Virgin Islands that governs the placement of children from one state to another. In short, it means that the child’s origin state and the home state of the adoptive parents must first sign off on all paperwork to acknowledge the child will be leaving one state and headed to the other in the custody of the adoptive parents. Until all this paperwork is completed the adoptive parents must remain in the child’s home state.
That’s why Bubba had to head to Georgia alone; one parent was required to remain in Florida with Caleb until the ICPC period was over. This usually takes between 7 – 14 days.
So, let’s say that Don and I adopt a baby who is born in Florida. We’re allowed to go anywhere in the state of Florida during the ICPC (say, to visit Grandma and Grandpa W in Miami), but we can’t come back to Virginia until Florida and Virginia agree that we can move the child across state lines. During the ICPC period most people stay in extended stay hotels with little mini kitchens, though. The likelihood of finding your child in the same state as people willing to let you move in with an infant for two weeks is very slim.
Where did you spend your ICPC waiting period? How long were you there? Are you willing to let Don and I crash at your place with a brand new baby if we adopt from your state?
I think one of the hardest things to publicly declare during the adoption process is that you’ve been matched. I liken it to the first 12 weeks of any pregnancy when you’re afraid to tell anyone in case the unthinkable happens. I can’t remember a celebrity being so forthcoming in the past. Usually you only hear about celebrity adoptions once the child has been placed.
Jillian must know that as well since she says that we’ll know things didn’t work out if ”I’m devastated and not coming out of my house for months.”
How public were you about your match? I feel like I read about matches a lot, since I read tons of adoption blogs. Sometimes I read about a happy match, only to read a few days later that it has not worked out. Am I wrong about celebrities announcing matches, though? Have others made this public declaration and I’ve just missed it?
From the start I started getting irrationally offended when friends referred to it. I cut off someone because she said “oh, she has really taken to you.” Like, why should she not, she is my daughter.
Everything I read tells me that this information should be shared early. However, I also read that adopted children grapple with the issue, agonize over it. I mean, why should my lovely daughter have to deal with something her peers do not?
and wrapping up with
I just want to be her mother, not her adoptive mother.
To which I say, yeah, totally! What makes a family connection isn’t that moment of conception or birth or issuing of a birth certificate. It’s each moment on top of the next and the next, the decisions we make over and over again to be and stay a family. So why is this one tiny thing so much the topic of conversation that it gets equal billing with being a mother?
But… you are her adoptive mother. It’s a simple and unarguable fact of how that child came into your life. Isn’t that just fine? Adopted children were chosen in a way most kids are not. Does bristling at the raising of the topic imply that it’s a problem or something to be hidden?
Where’s the line between “yes, and it’s no big deal” and “holy cow, would you just shut up about it?”
Anyway, check it out for yourself. I think the writer is a nut and Tennis’ answer isn’t perfect. But I do like his metaphor that I took the post title from.
Personally, however, the Glee storyline doesn’t bother me (so far). You’re welcome to believe that’s a matter of my personal leanings – I don’t have the same pre-existing investment in adoption falsehoods that Susan does as an adoptee, and you don’t keep your sanity as someone working in the computer field for long if you can’t get over inaccuracies that you know are grossly wrong.
But the true reason it doesn’t bother me is because I have too much liberal arts education.
Amber uses the word myth above when she means “common falsehood.” That’s not an unusual usage but it’s not the main meaning. Check your dictionary and the first definition is probably a variation on this: “a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon.” There’s a more generic one that I’ve seen around and which I first heard in a myth & culture class. “A myth is a story that may be false on the outside but true on the inside.”
The point of Quinn’s outburst about wanting to get full custody isn’t that it’s possible or common. It’s a goal stated by a character who we’ve acknowledged is a troubled person. Her life has gone to crap and now she’s decided this is her road to redemption.
Honestly, the fact that it’s a legally impossible goal strikes me as the least troublesome thing about it. It’s not the first time we’ve seen characters on that show set their sights on something that’s impossible. Last season saw Artie decide he’s by god going to walk again, and soon. That was raised and wrapped in a single episode, but I think the parallel is accurate. These are supposed to be teenagers, and the Glee characters’ lack of ability to manage their emotions and set reasonable expectations is probably the most realistic thing on that show.
So I’m okay with Quinn thinking this is what she wants, provided the show shows the likely real result of these actions. I don’t mind her nasty and incorrect outbursts about who the child’s “real mom” is because she’s supposed to be acting out and misguided.
Every way that Quinn is wrong is wrong on the outside but true on the inside – it speaks to the fears we have about how people will perceive our relationship with our adopted child. It reflects the worries we have about managing the relationships in open adoption. It addresses the conflicted feelings birth mothers can have about placing their biological offspring with someone else and maintaining contact. It’s a rough sketch, not a documentary.
I’m not saying it’s brilliant writing and they could still really screw it all up. But fiction has to show people doing things that fly in the face of reality sometimes. Partly because not every story needs to tell its internal truth with dead-on accuracy. Partly because people do believe some of those stupid things, and showing folks encountering the likely repercussions of acting on those mistaken beliefs might, I think, do more good than a hundred PSAs.
In a recent post, I mentioned that three shows I’m watching this season opened with adoption story lines.
Go ahead and add a fourth to mix, though they don’t trot it out until episode two.
Glee Teenage Quinn is struggling to find her place in the world after quitting New Directions and the Cheerios. In episode two we learn that the reason she’s feeling so dejected is because she placed her newborn child with a rival school’s Glee advisor (who, Gleeks will remember, is actually Quinn’s rival Rachel’s birth mother) and doubts her decision. Birth father Puck is allowed to meet the child and encouraged to begin to build a long-term relationship, but Quinn is denied access until she cleans up her act and starts acting a mature young woman. She does, but whispers to Puck she’s only doing it to win “full custody”.
I nearly exploded. She never parented. She didn’t lose custody. There’s nothing to win back. The baby has a birth certificate that lists the mother … and it’s not Quinn.
I understand that the show is taking liberties because down the road Quinn is going to learn these facts, but it still set me on edge. If that was the only thing about this adoption that they were misconstruing, it would be one thing … but the entire placement was screwy to begin. Shelby and Quinn basically decide at the hospital that Shelby is going to parent the little girl and she takes her right home. No home study, no social worker, no foster situation, no state approval. Just, “Sign here Ms. Corcoran and she’s all yours.”
I mean, really. Grr.
Are you watching Glee this season? Am I being too sensitive (I am both an adult adoptee and a hopeful adoptive parent, remember) or does it raise your blood pressure a little, too?
Let’s file this one in the Most Likely to Make My Blood Boil category, shall we?
Mitch and Cam’s social worker has bad timing. (Image courtesy of ABC.com)
You know how when you buy a new car you think to yourself that you’ve never seen your particular combination on the road before? Like, for example, “I’ve never seen a Sky Blue Jetta with Light Grey Interior before.” And then you buy it and you see it everywhere – on the road, in parking lots, your neighbor has been driving one for 6 months.
That’s how I suddenly feel about TV adoptions. Three shows I watch opened their fall season with major adoption story lines.
Parenthood Youngest sister Julia and her husband Joel are in the process of adopting a baby. When the season ended last year, Julia had just told Joel she wanted to adopt. When the season opened, the couple was making their second video blog after six months of not being contacted by anyone. Given that another character on the show is nearing the end of a pregnancy announced at the same time, the timeline seems accurate enough. If they were extremely well organized, Julia and Joel could have flown through their home study in two months.
In the first episode of this season, Julia discovers the latte girl at her office is expecting and is not planning to “keep it”. She’s overcome with the urge to offer to buy the baby (Julia’s words, not mine) … and in episode two she makes the formal request. Even though her initial offer is rejected, I expect that’s what the season has in store for us – Julia and Latte Girl reaching some kind of open adoption agreement. Time will tell.
Modern Family Darling Lilly’s parents, Mitch and Cam, have decided to adopt their second child - a boy. In the season opener, their parent profile book is referenced at the beginning and the couple is hoping to take a few manly photographs to show that they will be good parents for a baby boy. In the second episode, they tell the rest of the family about their plans and worry that Lilly isn’t going to respond well to competition. It does have a pretty fabulous scene with sparklers and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy”.
Grey’s Anatomy At the end of last season Meredith and Dr. McDreamy decided to adopt a baby who had been brought to Seattle from Africa for surgery because, you know, it’s that easy. In what seems like a nearly impossible turn of events, the couple is given temporary custody before their home study is complete (before they even have a home, really) and likely in defiance of all sorts of international law. Oh – and did I mention Dr. McD left Meredith at the end of the episode? So, this season begins with the couple shuttling the baby back and forth and keeping the arrangement from the social who does, of course, get wind of it. Baby Zola is taken away pending an investigation.
Award for most realistic portrayal goes to: Parenthood. While things seemed to have progressed pretty quickly on the home study / paperwork end of things for Julia, they seemed to have nailed the agony of the waiting period pretty well. I sure wish they hadn’t introduced the phrase “buy a baby” into the script, but I will reserve judgement as we see how the season plays out.
Most likely to set back international adoption law 20 years (if TV were real life): Grey’s Anatomy. I failed to mention that Meredith may or may not have kidnapped the baby at one point.
Least likely to make me cry at any point this season: Modern Family. Here’s hoping that the show lives up the Emmy hype and tackles the subject with humor and grace.
Are you watching these shows or any other with adoption themes this season?