Reason one: the money. Can anyone tell me what’s changed since 2005, and how?
Reason two: It’s easy! And you might get Steve Jobs or Michael Oher!!! No, really, that’s all this lady’s got.
A friend called my attention to this blog post. I don’t want to critique the whole thing, because I don’t find it 100% horrible. But something really struck me about the way the a’mom involved chose to describe herself. So:
Has anyone else noticed The Adoption Process Moral Pedestal has levels? That it’s more an Adoption Process Totem Pole? Andrew MacDougall got to climb it because he brought a whole kid from overseas instead of just sending money for food. The maker of the “adoptees dodged a bullet” graphic got to climb just it for not being a relinquishing mother, which seems like a lower level to me. Pastor Boob Job Baby got to climb it for being just a little less ignorant about international adoption than the average person who isn’t involved with adoption is–fairly low, but probably still higher than Graphic Maker. Deb Goldberg got to climb it for presuming to tell the poor they need to save their money, which any non-adopting slob can do. And Jeff Gates got to climb it just for being insulted about being taken for a pedophile. (His pedestal’s probably pretty low, but he can still lord it over Masha Allen’s “adoptive dad,” right?)
So I’ve been thinking about the pedestals and how they’re measured. Here’s what I’ve gathered from the way I’ve seen people react online and IRL to adoption stories about APs (hey, is there any other kind?).
Rich couples who advertised themselves to “birthmothers” and scored a white, domestically adopted newborn get the lowest pedestal. Not only is there a chance they waited less than nine months to get their baby, they didn’t even have to get a passport. And they didn’t have to settle for a lesser product, the way people who get foreign or older or otherwise special needs kids do (did you know not being white is a “special need” in adoption?). All they had to do was put out a lot of money and get chosen by a “birth mother” who didn’t change her mind. Hell, they probably didn’t even do it because god told them to.
As the adopted person becomes less ideal (less white, less healthy, older) the pedestal gets higher. The pedestal also gets higher to the extent that the adoptive parents talk about religion.
International adoption is complicated: The pedestal might get higher because the APs have rescued an orphan, often for Jesus. But it might get lower because “American kids weren’t good enough for you?!”
The pedestal gets higher the longer the APs wait to adopt, and it grows a yard or more for every adoption they don’t complete because the first mother changed her mind. And if they ever had physical custody of a child and lost it because that custody was not entirely legal, their pedestal shoots into the clouds, borne aloft on a fountain of righteous anguish. Your pedestal grows if you claim your adoptee has RAD, and it gets taller the more out-of-control, dangerous, or even murderous the child becomes while in your care. Oddly enough, it retains its height should you decide to get rid of such a child. And, as we’ve learned recently, having one’s adoptee search still boosts the pedestal in some people’s eyes.
But the very highest pedestal is reserved for those for people like Megan (sorry: Megan!!!). Not because she adopted six times. Not because at least one of her children is from overseas. Not because she is a cheerleader for adopting older children, as if everyone were equally prepared to do such a thing. (Yes, it really is that simple–do it.) Not because she has adopted four older children, and not because she congratulates herself for doing such a “simple” thing. (Most would snarl their faces with the thought of adopting an older child, let alone an older boy but not us.) Not even because, at least in one case, she and her husband had “paperwork approved for an infant” but instead chose to adopt an older kid (and let me tell you, very few things ramp up a pedestal in most people’s minds like turning down an infant in favor of an older kid).
No, Megan is the best kind of AP because, for her, adopting was never “plan B.” If there’s one thing that sets my alarm bells off, it’s the AP who takes pains to point out that s/he didn’t have to adopt. Not like those infertile slobs who had to settle for less…wait, not for less, because adopting is universally wonderful and your kids rock! So what the Hell were you doing just now besides taking potshots at people who couldn’t have their own kids?! I mean, isn’t that kinda…low?
I know, I’m silly expecting this stuff to make sense. So I’ll accept it. Nothing (except maybe ditching a kid you adopted) proves your worth as a human being and an adoptive parent like bragging about owning the functioning reproductive system most people take for granted. AdoptoLand is a strange place.
The answer, of course, is that nothing has changed. Read this article. Read how horrible it makes Mariette’s adoptive mom look.
Mariette was adopted in October 1986, at a time when adoption in Haiti was barely regulated. Most of the children in Haitian orphanages had at least one living parent, and the concept of signing away rights to see children was foreign, and still is.
Mariette’s adoptive parents were Sandra and Albert Knopf, at the time empty-nesters in their 40s with three grown sons. Sandra said she felt God’s call to adopt.
“I believed that I was doing it for the Lord,” she said. “I was not doing it for the children and I was not doing it for me.
Really, Sandra? I mean… you know you’re supposed to pretend you’re doing it for the children, right?
So they found a man named Henry Wiebe who could arrange an adoption from Haiti for $3,500 per child, or $6,000 for two.
He came by with photos of older children, but Sandra only wanted girls under 2.
Because fuck the Lord’s opinion, right? Sandra wanted what Sandra wanted.
He called the next day. He had found them. She was going to call them Christa Gail and Jennifer Lynne, but they already had names: Mariette and Patricia.
This is the worst kind of pile-all-over-the-shitty-a’mom clickbait, isn’t it?
Sandra never met the Haitian lawyer who processed the papers, or went to the hearing where the judge approved the adoption. Platel handled all that while Sandra got visas. It took a month.
As the plane took off from Port-au-Prince, she felt overwhelming relief.
“Circling the airport, I just looked down and thought, ‘God, I never want to see this place again.'”
Sandra’s awfulness is the point, surely? Because when Mariette discovered she had never been relinquished for adoption,
her adoptive mother didn’t seem surprised. Yes, she conceded, there had been red flags about the adoption. The fact that Mariette’s age was off, the way the birth and other documents weren’t available at first and then suddenly appeared, at night, some filled out by hand.
We’re supposed to hate Sandra and her pious hypocrisy, aren’t we? The article could not have been written to make her look any worse, could it?
Now read the comments. Read the comments and tell me how much our attitudes about adoption have changed.
NaBloPoMo probably doesn’t work this way, but I’m posting twice today to make up for yesterday.
Time to revisit this article, because it’s really been bugging me.
“I would begin to tell the story of Josephine Baker, and people would start to laugh,” says Matthew Pratt Guterl, the author of a new book on Baker’s later life, Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe. “And I would start to wonder what that laughter signified.”
First, there’s a deep discomfort at her unapologetic marshaling of children to act out her own utopian racial narrative. Second, we think we understand what’s going on here; we see early incarnations of celebrity eccentricities from our own time. In the big adoptive family, we see Angelina or Madonna; in the celebrity theme park, we see Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
But why does that make people laugh? Why are Angelina and the Neverland Ranch funny? Are we made uncomfortable by the “unapologetic marshaling” or are we not? Why, when the author says we should take the Rainbow Tribe seriously, does she feel compelled to talk about Baker’s political aims and the fact that other people did such things at the time as if those things are something other than “early incarnations of the celebrity eccentricities of our own time”?
To me, the marshaling that makes people laugh is the same thing people think they know about Madonna, the same thing as Baker’s political justifications, and the same thing as the fact that rainbow families were trendy then just as they are today. So, assuming there is one, what is the real second reason to laugh? Maybe the book gets to the bottom of the laughter, but I don’t think this article has. I don’t know whether I can either, but as I was drafting this post, something struck me; so here’s what I think.
I think the second reason for laughing is a second kind of discomfort, one nobody ever seems to acknowledge or even consciously feel. It goes beyond “Ugh, those poor kids” to a deeper place. It’s the discomfort of putting one’s self, however briefly, in the place of those children. It’s the knowledge that, even though your parents were married and were not killed and were not poor and were not from war-torn countries–despite all that, this could have happened to you.
It’s the flip side of the adoptee wondering why s/he wasn’t good enough to be kept. It’s the knowledge that nobody is good enough to be kept, that nobody earns or can earn their parents’ love, just as nobody earns their children’s love: most of us just receive it, worthy or not.
I know people react defensively to that knowledge sometimes. I know it by the way they react to discussions about abortion with a knee-jerk, sphincter-clenching that could have been me! And I’m not claiming to be a mind-reader here; many people consciously frame their objections to abortion in just that way, as if it is something that can happen to a fully formed, feeling, thinking person. “What if it were you?!” they ask, meaning Dear Lord, what if it were me?
Because here I go walking around planet Earth thinking I belong here, that I have some kind of control over things, that I can Good myself into some measure of safety…but I don’t, I don’t, and I can’t.
All of that terror and insecurity is what people shove aside in a heartbeat when they insist they wouldn’t mind being adopted, that they’d be fine with it as long as they had a loving family. And once shoved aside, that mess is gone. When people insist they wouldn’t mind being adopted, what they’re really saying is that they would be a better adoptee than the one they’re talking to, that they would be more grateful and less curious because that is how one earns one’s new parents’ love. How one renders one’s self safe.
I think many (not all) non-adopted people feel entitled to their own lives. They’re here, so they deserve to be here. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I am, in fact, jealous. I think if I’d ever felt that way, I’d have accomplished more in life, made better choices, and insisted on better from some of the people who claimed to love me.
This is why people who have nothing to do with adoption rush to assure us that our adoption was meant to be, that god wanted it, that our APs are our real parents, that our soul chose this before we were born. They want everyone to have earned their way here, because that keeps them from thinking about the fact that nobody did, not even them.
I didn’t post yesterday. And one reason is, as I was telling a friend recently, it’s getting harder to find really snarkworthy stuff in November. 11-1 through 11-30 used to find my inbox awash in stories of human incubators, money buying love, god’s duty to cater to the desires of PAPs, and a million other brands of entitlement. This November, my “adoption” alert has resulted in a great many articles that celebrate the adoption of kids who really needed adopting (and, as always, a whole lot of stuff about shelter pets).
Why is that, I wondered? Is society getting more enlightened? Are article authors getting more educated? Or are some people just covering their asses better (saying the things they think they should, throwing first parents and adoptees a bone once in awhile)?
I got my answer this morning, but what do you think? Please sound off in the comments.
Sorry, Folks. Wanna watch my video again? (Yes, it’s come to this. November is a drag.)
…because they do so little to educate themselves and/or give a shit about their adopted children that this is necessary.
Seriously: Click the link. Read. Then ask yourself what kind of fucked-up society would allow this situation to arise in the first place.
Well, I guess you needn’t really ask yourself. It’s obvious how big a lie our “nation of immigrants” rhetoric is and always has been, isn’t it?
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I'm Michelle. This is my blog. I write about women and fatness, expound upon semi-coherent thoughts I have in the middle of the night, and offer tough love to those in whom I am disappointed; they are legion.
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