I recently caught a segment on PBS NEWSHOUR and the topic was in vitro fertilization (IVF) and its ethical concerns. But as usual there was little mention of the children created by these methods. What was most striking to me is that throughout all the discussion of multiples and the problems therein, and about how to determine a success rate, there was never any mention of the child who would be created–except in so far as how multiples have a higher likelihood of health problems than singles. But there was no mention at all about which people these children are biologically related to and the importance of those relationships. Once again, the philosophy of ‘love conquers all’ is enshrined. But we in adoption reform know it’s not only about love—BIOLOGY MATTERS. So this show was just another egregious example of ignoring the fact that it is the child is who is supposed to be at the forefront of adoption and third-party reproduction (TPR).
There was no mention in this episode whatsoever about the fact that we are creating a world of children who are not biologically related to both parents, because, of course, we’re supposed to assume that the bio-connection is overrated or doesn’t even matter. There was no mention whatsoever that a large percentage of IVF parents never tell the child that s/he is genetically related to others. There was no concern about the missing medical history of these children, especially as science continues to discover more and more about how genetic our health history and medical conditions really are. And no mention of how these children will have half-siblings, even perhaps large numbers of half-siblings, whom they will never know. But yet people want to keep creating children who will face these issues. Biology matters, and I take umbrage with anything that reinforces the idea that this is not so. This does nothing but demonstrate that society has no concerns about creating more children who will face these issues.
As everyone who reads this blog knows, I was one of those left in the dark about my parental origins. But thank heavens I was able to find them. It is an inhuman cruelty to force a person to live without this knowledge. So, for anyone else who was denied their parentage and feels it might be impossible to find the answers you seek, believe me, I feel for you. I don’t know what other consolation I can offer except to know that I validate your pain and recognize the injustice that was done to you.
Now just because I say “thank heavens I found them” doesn’t mean that everything was wonderful. As I’ve said before, I didn’t get rejected (except by one aunt–who had rejected pretty much the whole rest of the family as well), but I didn’t move into my birth family as if I’d never left either. It was somewhere in the middle—some positive experiences and some disappointments. But for me at least, the knowing far, far outweighs the unknowing.*
You see, once a child is given up for adoption, he or she will almost never be a member of the blood family in the same way again. Except in the rarest of circumstances, s/he will always be an outsider. Yet there is less of a bond with the adoptive family, too.
But again, I feel compelled to make the point that just because ‘biology matters’ does not imply that as long as a child is raised in his bio-family, all will be well. I’m not that naïve and neither, I’m sure, are my readers. There is no need to immediately jump to that conclusion. But just because being a bio-kid doesn’t guarantee a great family life doesn’t mean one should dismiss the importance of the biological bond. That’s too far of a stretch, or what’s known as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And for all these people who so desperately want a child, what about the children who are here now who so desperately need a home?
Now, we all have goals in life and one of mine was based on the certainty that I couldn’t come to the end of my life without knowing who my natural parents were. And although I went into that goal with overly high expectations, it was attaining the goal itself that mattered. So why are people so willing to create more and more children who will face this unnecessary and avoidable struggle?
Many adoptees think about searching for their first parents at various times throughout their lives and either tell themselves that it doesn’t really matter, that their adoptive parents are their REAL parents, or they assume they have too little information to go on to find their natural parents anyway. But while the conscious thought of searching, and many of your related feelings, may have been submerged and suppressed, the longing never really goes away. It is only lying dormant.
But while the conscious thought of searching may have been submerged and the longing is still there, a catalyst may occur that pops the cork and all the desire you have to know your family comes bursting through. The catalyst to search may be a health problem which prompts you to want or need to know your medical history; a death of someone close to you which reminds you of your own mortality and leads you to wonder where you came from; or the birth of your first child, which in most cases will be the first blood relative you’ve ever laid eyes on. But, whatever the catalyst, you can no longer deny your desire to know who your natural parents are. All the pent up longing insists on coming through. You can no longer hold it in and you know you have no choice but to do whatever it takes to find who and where you came from. And while it may be scary and frightening and painful in some respects, the cork popping and exploding as you release your bottled-up emotions will cause a lot of other feelings and desires to come to the surface too, if you allow yourself to feel them. If it’s any consolation, you will probably feel as if a 200 lb. weight has been lifted from your chest. I know I did. For you are finally free, albeit not without trepidation, to acknowledge your own pent up needs.
Now, of course, everything will probably not all be smooth sailing. You will meet resistance. There may be a lack of support from others, even those close to you; loved ones, who don’t understand your need. And then there is that ever present bugaboo: divided loyalty. Or in the words of a famous ‘Dear Abby’ article on adoption–Whose child is she anyway? Oh, it can be so hard to decide to search when you know you are risking disapproval, rejection, or worse yet, abandonment.
What you will most likely find at the end of your search is the good, the bad and the ugly. For me, the bad and the very ugly were discovering that I am a descendant of slaveholders. So now I find myself faced with a conundrum, because while I was not raised in this family, I am still a member by blood, and I believe that carries with it certain responsibilities. If there are other readers who find this issue to be part of their legacy, there is an organization called Coming to the Table that you might want to investigate.
As it turns out, my hopes and dreams, as they often do, exceeded reality. But I would never want to go back to not knowing for the world, nor have to go back to living this masquerade. And I will do anything I can to help others so that they, too, can hopefully say, “Thank heavens I found them.”
*I feel I would be remiss to not alert readers that there can be dangers related to searching for your missing family members. For once they are found, you can never go back to not knowing, and I’m sure we all realize that you just never know who or what you’re going to find. The problem with adoption and IVF (using donor eggs and sperm) is being put in this position in the first place.
N.B. Not sure what the problem is with our Facebook page, but please click on ‘All in the Family of Adoption’ in the box (below where it says “shared a link”) whenever you see an update on the page. That will bring you to the blog. Thanks.