Monday, January 22, 2007

Adoption Thoughts

With the latest recommendations from the ACGO & the SOGC regarding prenatal testing, and with my friend, Nicole's ( ) connection to adoption, many of us in the T21 community have been thinking a lot about adoption lately.

I’ve always felt that I would have more children with T21 in my life – I don’t even know the clear path to how that will come about, its just one of those peaceful feelings that you sense deep in your soul.

And as Nic will attest to, sometimes it happens when you are least expecting it.

Even with that, I must admit that I have given relatively little thought to the adoption process other than announcing almost daily to my husband, my family, and anyone who would listen, that I would love to adopt a child with Down syndrome.

My views on adoption have always been very one-sided, as I am sure most people’s are. I imagine a loving family who desperately want a child finally being given that gift. I see the Hallmark commercial in my mind where that baby, or that child, is welcomed by a family so very grateful and so very happy.

Of course, as much of my life perspective’s have been wonderfully changed by Paige, I almost always relate that commercial to a baby with Down syndrome. (In fact, I relate every baby commercial I see to Down syndrome, but that’s a whole different post, and a whole other campaign we must embark upon!)

I know the statistics – that there are many families waiting to adopt a child with T21 – that these families are comprised of single parents, and married couples, and young people, and older people, and quite often, of people who’s lives have already been touched in some way by T21.

But through the beauty of Nic’s story, and through the very real contemplation of the fact that the medical community wants to identify ALL babies with T21 prenatally, I have now given much thought to those families who chose adoption for their children.

As a mother who screened kindergarten teachers just slightly less than the Secret Service screens people who will be near the President of the United States, I cannot for a moment place myself in the perspective of a parent or a family contemplating adoption for their child.

What a leap of faith it takes to make the adoption decision for your child. To do so truly means that you must face the unknown, that you must believe in a process and a system that will ensure your child will have the best possible future.

And all of these processes that are put in place are not infalliable. No matter what we do, no matter how many questions are asked, we are all humans, and that child will live with people who are not perfect.

At the absolute best, he or she will live with a family that makes mistakes, is grumpy sometimes, is overwhelmed, who faces hardships – financially or emotionally.

At the absolute worst, well, that is unimaginable.

So, how can we, those who are fighting so hard to tell the world about the beauty and wonder of people with T21, not embrace those who make the adoption decision? How can we not come together, with our hearts open, our shoulders available to lean on, our arms outstretched, to make this journey a bit easier for those who make this choice?

How can we possible not celebrate their decisions, commend their unselfish choice, and stand up for them against those who would judge.

Just imagine…imagine…having to make such a faith based decision – so unsure of the unknown for your baby or child, and then having those around you criticize you, judge you, tsk at you?

Imagine the strength that one must have to make this decision.

For some families who give birth to a child with Down syndrome, choosing adoption is a very real option. And we must embrace this option – we simply must do this. And we must do a better job at supporting those who make this choice.

I frequently write in my blog about how I feel called to this world of T21 – that it is my “ministry” and that I am very honoured to be a very real part of it.

Just as I have grown and learned and changed my mind about topics relating to T21 over the years, I think that we must acknowledge with great respect the fact that all of our stories are very different – all of us have paths and journeys that are exclusive and unique to us.

Just as I embrace and advocate for Paige in my own way, there are families who have touched by T21 who will find their own path – and that path may very well be the road less taken, just as mine has been – one that gives them strength and makes them pioneers in this adoption route – perhaps a child was given to them to show the world that families are made in many different ways. And perhaps their intended journey is to help all of us understand a little better how the decision to chose adoption for a child comes about.


Monica said...

Betsy, thank you for your thoughts. I always find the things you have to say so thought provoking. I share my own thoughts not to counter yours but more out of a need to be honest about the personal struggles that I am having with this whole thing as of late. These are my feelings/thoughts and there is no definition to them as I can feel and see two sides.

I was just reading a few articles related to adoption from China as this has always been an interest area for me... when I first adopted Mikey, I kind of thought that eventually I would adopt my second child (a little girl) from China and take Mikey there to see the culture of his past generations. The government of China is placing far more restrictions on people coming from other countries to adopt children from their orphanages and one group that will no longer be allowed to adopt from China late this spring will be single parents (there are also far greater restrictions on married couples that adopt that will decrease the numbers even more). It is appauling what is happening there - the percentage of live births that are male compared to female is so disproportinate. It seems to be a whole other issue but to me it is not... they are just one step further in to the ugliness of deciding what constitutes a worthwhile child and what does not. Two things struck me about this - the first being that just finding people to adopt the girls has done nothing in regards to making girls more appealing to the parents, rather it has just filled up the orphanages. The orpangaes continue to be just as this is more of a political move in regards to what China wants to be known for worldwide as the 2008 summer Olympics fast approach. The second thing that really struck me because it is exactly how I feel is a line in one of the articles that speaks of how most people who adopt from China would actually like to see things get to a point where there is no longer a need to adopt from China becasue girls have become a prized part of society and parents starting choosing to keep them in their homes. This struck a cord with me because it clearly defined how I feel about adoption of children with disabilities. There is nothing that I would like more than to get to a point where disability was as natural as gender here in our Western world. Don't get me wrong as I can not be more thankful about anything then that Mikey and I are a family and I would have been sad in some way if this was our world because it would have meant that I may have gone through life never parenting a child with Down syndrome.

I very much understand the need to support and respect the decision of a parent to set up an adoption plan for their child with Down syndrome due to the fact that so many of our children are aborted. But to be completely honest, I struggle with the whole idea of supporting the message that perhaps it is just too hard to parent children with Down syndrome for some and that is okay because it knocks our kids back in to that area that we fight so hard to get them out of. I wish it could be black and white but I must say that it is something that I personally struggle with a lot. I do want parents to consider that third option of adoption and if it saves even one life it is worth it... but at the same time, I don't want the message that it is hard to impossible to parent a child with Down syndrome out there and supported.

Betsy said...

Monica, Thank you so much for your post. I agree with you on so many things that you say. I believe we do great disservice to our kids when we subscribe to the "God only gives special kids to special parents" theory.

In a perfect world, every child born should be cherished, adored, and loved. Unfortunately, that does not happen, and even many "typical" children lead sad lives where they are put down, and made to feel bad about themselves.

The truth is, this parenting stuff is serious business, and a part of me feels anger at people who do not realize that. A part of me lacks compassion for those who believe they can pre-order their child, whether by gender, or IQ, or any other factor. Really, how dare we behave that way? How dare we not embrace the gifts given to us?

The situation in China is appalling. I know that there are some cultures in which a baby born with an apparent "flaw" is either put to death or left to die. This to me is as tragic as any genocide we hear about anywhere in the world.

Another thing that really bothers me is that with all of this talk of earlier and earlier pre-screening of T21, there seems to be a war of words going on about "high" and "low" functioning people with DS.

Many people who do not have children with T21 accuse us of sugar-coating it -- of portraying only those who have done exceptionally well. I can't count the number of times I've read on a termination board that someone says their doctor told them that their particular unborn baby had "severe" T21.

How absurd!!!

I think we have to be very careful about this topic, as children and adults who are considered "low" functioning are just as wonderful, just as worthy, and just as wanted as those who soar.

I will be writing a lot about Paige, because she is low-functioning by all accounts, and will explain in my blog exactly what that means, how it affects her and our family, etc.

I hope that her story will help many people who need to see all aspects of people with T21.