What seems like a very long time ago—back when both my oldest children and the concept of talking to strangers on the Internet were both just a few years old—I happened to have the luck to find an online group of like-minded mothers. We didn’t agree on everything; the mamas there ran the gamut from the co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, non-vaccinating, unschooling types to something more mainstream as well as everything in between. Where we all did agree was in our belief that mainstream parenting media didn’t provide everything for us. We wanted to talk about smashing patriarchy as much as how to get our kids to sleep through the night. We longed to discuss how to raise them not only healthy and strong but also aware of racism and sexism. We all still wanted to listen to good music.
Then one day someone new joined the group. She introduced herself as anti-adoption activist I’ll call Joan. Our interest was piqued; none of us were familiar with the concept of being anti-adoption. At that time I wasn’t pursuing adopting but I knew it was something I was interested in. Amongst the other mothers there was at least one birthmother and one gay mother who had adopted her son along with her partner. Joan explained her stance, which was that the adoption industry should not be for-profit, that more resources should be allotted to expectant parents to give them the chance to keep their babies, that birthmothers should never be strong-armed into surrendering their children. She even went to so far to say that in her years of research, she had yet to meet anyone (“and this is out of . . . probably thousands” of birthparents) who freely surrendered their child, fully informed, without pressure from anyone.
They seemed like ideas we could agree on. None of us wanted birthmothers to be coerced or for children to be a for-profit commodity. But she was an extremist, so that meant her way was the only way. She maintained her belief that the gay couple on the page should certainly raise their child together in their home but only as legal guardians for his entire life (never affording him the luxury of feeling like he was truly part of a family).
The birthmother on the page spoke up for herself saying that even all these years later, even now as an adult raising a child, she did not feel she was coerced into giving up her son when she was a teenager. She still felt it was the right decision for herself and her son. Joan refused to engage in public conversation with her about this and in a private discussion would not listen to this alternate point of view or believe that this birthmother could possibly be comfortable with her decision.
It wasn’t going over well. She left the group.
During her brief stay there, I discovered she lived near me. Really? In all this big wide Internet and all the wonderful moms I met there that lived clear across the country, one joins that lives near me and she has to be a nutjob? I wanted to know more about her and her beliefs, seeing as how we could potentially run into each other. I looked up her name online and found pictures of her toddler out in public in an “Adoption hurts babies” tee shirt (which I found hurtful and distasteful, personally). I found her book and read the reviews saying that her research was questionable and incomplete. She was not personally a part of the adoption triad (neither an adoptee, adoptive parent nor birthparent) so her obsession seemed a little strange. The worst part was that she also publicly expressed a belief in infanticide within 24 hours after birth, referring to it as a "post-birth abortion."
Naturally, our paths did eventually cross. It wasn’t until years later when I had all but forgotten about her and I had, at that point, adopted a kid or two. Our older children were in a class together at the Y and when I returned from my workout to retrieve my child, with another (obviously adopted) child in tow, I thought, “that woman in line looks sort of familiar.” Then I saw her tee shirt. “ADOPTION SUCKS.”
Oh. I know who you are now.
I waited for her to notice me but instead she went to great lengths to avoid me. I stepped closer; she stepped away. I tried to make eye contact; she averted her eyes. It was almost comical: this extremely controversial outspoken anti-adoption advocate could not even LOOK at me, never mind try to talk to me. If she had, she would have found out that I actually agreed with some of her views. Instead we played a game for the six weeks of class in which I tried to make eye contact with her and she avoided me at all costs. I considered making a “BLANKET STATEMENTS SUCK” tee shirt to wear but it wouldn’t have mattered since she never looked at me anyway.
Advocacy without dialogue can never facilitate change. The fact that she was completely unwilling to even attempt talking with me only corroborated to me that the idea that she was a poorly researched and uninformed extremist. I once again wrote off any anti-adoption sentiments as the work of nutjobs. Until…
(stay tuned until next week!)