An Adoptive Mother Reflects on Mother’s Day

Here’s another essay by an adoptive mother that caught my eye.  (I wrote about a different one last week–they actually make an interesting contrast.)   Christina Darden Hjort wrote her essay just for Mother’s Day.   She’s an adoptive parent  of a very young child and though she briefly alludes to her own journey to parenthood (which is largely the subject of the earlier essay I wrote about in the linked post), the mother she pays tribute to is her child’s birth mother.    It’s worth taking the time to read what she wrote.

Adoption can be so many things.  There are terrible stories in the press about the corrupting role of money, which operates on many levels.   There are stories of children snatched from their parents or taken from them under various misleading or false pretenses.    Those stories tend to get press coverage. 

Adoptions like Hjort’s typically do not end up in the paper.  After all, what’s the news there?  But just because it isn’t in the papers doesn’t mean there isn’t a story to be told.

There’s no doubt there is often some sadness at the core of adoption–as you can see from Hjort’s story–and here the sadness is Britt’s story.  Britt is the birth mother of the child.   In a perfect world a woman like Britt either would be able to raise her child or wouldn’t be giving birth.   But we are so far from that perfect world, that adoptions like this one will Hjort’s will be with us for a long while, I think.   So the best we can do is to think about what is best for the children (openness and honesty come to mind) and also for the birth parents.  

That means giving a woman like Britt the choice to figure out her own needs, to decide for herself how much contact with the adoptive family she wants.   And it means recognizing her loss, which is what Hjort’s essay does.   It’s a nice tribute on Mother’s Day.  


14 responses to “An Adoptive Mother Reflects on Mother’s Day

  1. It would be better if she said she was grateful to be in the position to offer a child in need a permanent and stable home. She does not want to be grateful to the mother for giving her the gift of a child – that objectifies the child she adopted and it makes it like a transfer of ownership. It would have been better if she’d nixed the word grateful altogether frankly because people should not be out there seeking children as prizes whether their own or someone else’s nobody should be all grateful to get their hands on a baby. She said their greates gain was the mother’s greatest loss. Yikes there again is the one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, property thinking lurking in the words of gain and loss. Nowhere in her essay does she talk about the person who actually had to loose something in the process, the child she’s raising is the one who lost something not the mother and father…they owed it to their child to take care of him, it was the child that was owed something he will not get from his parents. The child owed the parents nothing, had no duty or obligation to his parents while they certainly owed it to him and felt unable to do so themselves and sought out help. It may well have been a responsible and adult decision given all the extenuating circumstances but it is still a loss for the child that his parents were not able to do what they are suppose to do for him. This woman did not in this essay express awarness that the child really lost something major and that it is a major tragedy that they were unable to take care of him themselves. Rather than expressing gratitude for this child’s terrible loss it would be better to state that she is honored to have been chosen to provide a permanent stable home for this child who has been separated from his famiy. She could say that she is humbled at having been chosen to raise this child to adulthood and hopes that she and her husband provide the kind of loving home that the parents envisioned when they made the decision to let someone else raise him. She could say that in an ideal world the parents would have been confident and ready to take care of him and they would have had a stable family to help them care for him themselves, but that she’s honored they chose her to take on the responsibility of raising him because they were so ready for the challenges of raising children. She could say that she hopes for the child’s sake the mother and father or other relatives one day reach out and seek to include him in their family and make him feel loved and wanted. She could say she wants him to never feel shut out or cut off from his family but rather like he gained family by being adopted – feeling of being included and counted as family by both because feeling like you had to loose one to get the other is from all accounts a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

    It was a very respectful and kind essay though. I give her credit she is trying to reach out and give the mother (if not the father) props for having created the child that now gives their lives meaning. She just misses the mark by saying that the mother lost and they gained. No. The child lost. Plain and simple and it’s tragic. Adoption offers children who have suffered that tragic loss an opportunity to be raised by people who have proven to be really ready willing and able to raise children. Its the 2nd best thing to being raised by their own happy willing and capable parents. Given the circumstances adoption can be the the best alternative for a kid, but they still had to loose to get adopted

    • I can’t imagine there is no loss or grief at all when someone no longer has in their life a child they carried for 9 months and gave birth to. So you think loss of family relationships or the family relationships that could have been means absolutely nothing? Nothing at all? All that matters is the kid is screwed over because the wrong person financially provided for them? So the biological mother’s (or mother and father) never getting to see their child again is no loss. The possibility the child might never get to develop a relationship with the biological parents, if they refuse all contact, nope, no loss. That’s pretty cold. If I somehow found out I was not biologically related to my family, I wouldn’t think “CRAP! The wrong people paid for me! I had a tragic abusive childhood because it was THE WRONG MONEY.” I tend to think I would think “Well, the parents who raised me are awesome, I’d love to meet my biological family and hopefully have more great people in my life to have close relationships with.” I continue to not understand your focus on money above all else. In the end, money just doesn’t buy happiness, and it never will. There’s a reason for the miserable rich lonely character archetype, after all. It won’t mean #### to the kid if their biological parents provide for them in every way financially but have no quality of emotional relationship with their child at all.

      • The amount the sheer quantity of how you misunderstand what I mean is so enormous that I can’t begin to reply. So I feel the exact opposite of everything you said and there is nothing for you to be shocked by. My goal is to get people to stop thinking about genetic parent’s rights to their children – and start thinking about the child’s rights to their parents. I take an extreme stance to drive it home but of course I recognize the anguish felt by parents who no longer have legal authority over their children. I am just concerned with the fact that it was never their right but rather their obligation something they owed the child, the child owes them nothing and nobody owes them a child. They owe the kids they create certain things and its the child’s loss when it does not happen.

        • I’m so verbose that I wrote two paragraphs after I said there were no words to express my thoughts. I need to work it out in a group for over talkers…
          On And On and On Anon.

          • I actually think your tendency to run on often makes it harder to pick out your main points. You might try writing shorter and see if that makes things clearer. I don’t think anyone is deliberately misunderstanding you–it’s just hard to work it out sometimes.

    • And while this may be a difference of worldview/morality/culture/etc, I do feel a deep obligation to my parents, out of both love and gratitude. They took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself, and I certainly would take care of them if they no longer could. I didn’t have an obligation to be the perfect kid or anything like that, but I still feel I have certain family obligations. A parent-child relationship shouldn’t be one-sided for life.

    • It was Mother’s Day and she was writing as a tribute to her child’s birth mother. It’s not surprising she focused on the birth mother and their respective situations.

      You can’t tell from her 300 words what her opinion is about any of the issues you’ve raised here.

    • I suppose you mean you would like it better if she had said something else? Surely we can agree that different people will have different views here? You are often very hard to please, but many other people, I think, would find her sentiments quite respectful.

      While I would bet that she is indeed grateful to be able to offer a home to the child, I think she is also right (especially on Mother’s Day) do acknowledge that another woman in this picture may well have experienced this as a loss–a loss she wants to acknowledge. Is that really something you think is wrong? I understand you would like her to focus on the experience of the child and she didn’t do that. But this is, after all, an essay for Mother’s Day.

      I actually don’t think this is “property thinking” at all. You substituted trash and treasure–that’s nowhere in what is written.

    • Well – you do have to lose one to get the other, as things currently stand legally. Is that the fault of the adoptive family? Her child’s birth mother chose not to meet them or to have an open adoption. They didn’t steal a child, they adopted a boy who would otherwise be in care with all the awful outcomes for children that involves. There may be various things that aren’t ideal about this but it’s better than the alternative. It sounds like you’re criticising this woman for being happy, after the heartbreak of miscarriages and failed pregnancies, that she finally has a son.

      I once had a relationship with someone I’d loved from afar for a long time, but he hadn’t been single. When we got together, aside from love, I felt gratitude and relief and an awareness that my happiness was partly based on the painful end of another relationship – but a pain I’d had no part in creating. My relationship with him felt like a gift.

      I’m just wondering what words you use to express belonging. ‘Our’ child, ‘my’ mother, ‘our’ family, it’s all in common use without a sense of ownership being meant. Would you want a child to feel they don’t belong, their parents aren’t even allowed to say ‘you’re my daughter, my son’?

      “People are born. They are a life. They belong to nobody.”

      • There’s another thing that greatly encourages me as I think about the future of this child. His mother (and here I mean the adoptive mother–the author of the essay) is thoughtful and reflective and able to see something from another point of view. Doubtless there are unknown challenges ahead for this family–because raising kids is always fraught with challenge. I don’t know what kind of relationship (if any) will be forged between the birth mother and the child. Perhaps no one knows now–and people need to be flexible about these things. Nothing with kids can be writ in stone. In this regard, Hjort’s capacity for reflection and consideration will stand her well.

        And just as an aside, I wrote a little about the language we use and how it might suggest some notions of ownership a little while back.
        We all agree children are not property and should not be treated as such and yet we do tend to use language of possession (at least in US English common speech). I don’t think that means that we are treating kids like property, but it is interesting. It’s also (again, at least in US English) pretty universal. I’d be interested to know if other languages/other cultures use other formulations.

  2. Some women are simply incapable of raising a child they birth. Sadly, most such women refuse to acknowledge this fact in the beginning, resulting in the thousands of children that are eventually abused, abandoned, and neglected to the point that the State must step in and take custody. It’s nice to read a story about a woman who birthed a child and had the integrity to admit that she wasn’t in any shape or position to provide for a child. Kudos to her for having the courage to admit it.

  3. Wow and I talk as much as I do to be really ultra crystal clear about what I mean and yet still I’m unable to convey my point in a way that is accurately understood. The loss is the child’s not his mother’s he was not “her’s” to loose or give or gift or any such thing just because he is her son and her offspring it’s not like she owns the kid and looses him by giving him away. The mother had an obligation to fulfil and it is the child’s loss that she was unable to do it. It was the child’s loss that the father was unable to do it. There is nothing for the adoptive mother to be grateful for there – if anything as an adult the adopted person can reflect upon the fact that they are grateful to have been embraced by a wonderful family. Not the old fashioned ungrateful bastard kind of thing but like the parents owed it to them to raise them and when they did not raise them it was yet another crap shoot to see if the people who were willing to raise him would be the kind of family a kid wants to be raised by. No more or less grateful than people are to their parents for doing a good job of raising them. But like you don’t want to be grateful at the loss someone had to experience for you you to be in their life. You don’t write thank you essays to your boyfriend’s ex girlfriend for having had the courage to admit she was not woman enough to be with him do you? Just wanna thank you for knowing it was right to give him to someone who’d really do a good job of loving him? Its just way to property based to be tasteful

    • Okay–I will try to respond, but it really is hard when you run on at such length.

      Let’s start with loss and who loses. I will agree that the child who is adopted loses something, but surely you will agree that the woman who gives up her right to raise the child also gives up something? You can say that for one reason or another you disregard or discount her loss, but still there’s a loss there.

      It seems to me that for the child born to a woman who reasonable feels she cannot raise the child, loss is inevitable. There is no ideal solution save to change the basic facts, but you cannot always do that. So then, it seems to me, the question is how to minimize loss and help a child manage it. Isn’t this what the move towards honest and open adoption are all about?

      As for the appropriateness of gratitude, I guess we just disagree. That a person was wise enough and self-sacrificing enough to do a very hard thing for the benefit of her child–for sometimes letting him/her be raised by a different person is best–seems to me to be something we should all be grateful for.

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