Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Response

I had fully intended to post a long, well thought out response to a comment on my post about Child Centered Adoption when, through a mishap in my order of operations, I lost the two pages I'd written. As a result I'll rewrite what I can remember in the short, short, reductum abusrdum version:

"We do want to speak for the voice of the child and I appreciate you pointing out that we can't do that because we're still ourselves. This doesn't seem so bad, it seems as though you are referencing a bad experience where that was the case."

To begin I'll be speaking only about this behavior as it relates to adoption. I find the tendency to speak on behalf of children who are not yet born dangerous, often abusive, and inherently disrespectful.

The notion that this behavior is disrespectful seems, to me, to be a no-brainer. Speaking on behalf of another person without that person's express permission simply isn't okay. Since we're talking about unborn children we hit a tough spot. Often the argument is made that "if [we] don't speak for the child who will?" That's a fair argument but it has a very simple answer. One that most people using this approach don't want to hear. The people who get to speak for an unborn child are that child's biological parents. It's very simple. Legally speaking there is no grey area here. Ethically speaking there is marginal grey area at best. So the rights, intentions, and moral standing of the biological parents are called into question with little or no justification other than the belief the child would want it that way. This also disrespects the child by assuming authority to speak to the experience of a person in a situation we cannot understand. It's a claim to authority with no right.

That's where we encounter the abusive tendencies of this approach. Speaking on behalf of an unborn child to that child's parent is, almost universally, a tactic used to manipulate the decision making process of that parent. This tactic is inherently intrusive as it inserts the manipulator into an emotionally charged relationship with the future parent. The emotional intensity of this interaction is often forced upon pregnant women by total strangers. This is a near textbook definition of emotional abuse and closely mirrors many of the emotional realities of sexual assault. This behavior is NOT okay. The only people who have the right to speak about the realities of an unplanned pregnancy are those directly involved. Input from anyone else is a gift given to those who are invited. No one has the right to tell a mother or father what his/her child would want.

It is the presumption of rights following the presumption of truth that makes this dangerous. Because the manipulator believes s/he is correct that grants him/her the right to dispense "the truth" however s/he sees fit. I could get into the neurophysiology of how this is extremely dangerous but that will take a bit more time than I think it's worth. If you want me to expound more on how I believe neurophysiology relates to this let me know and I'll post an addition later. Because those involved with an unplanned pregnancy are, by default, emotionally strained they are easier to manipulate than a person whose resources are bountiful. Real lives are being affected by total strangers because they don't have the emotional resources to fend off emotional manipulation. But there's more. This behavior is dangerous for the people using it too. Each time a person uses this tactic successfully (that is achieves his/her desired end) the experience and world view of that person is being affirmed. Unfortunately the world view that is getting the affirmation includes the assumption that the person is right and can understand the experience of another human so fully as to direct their behavior more successfully than the human her/himself. This understanding of others, I believe, is dehumanizing. For my money anything that cheapens the dignity and worth of one human cheapens us all. No person is more valuable than any other and no one opinion is better than another. All opinions have equal dignity. Not all opinions have equal information. Rarely do many opinions express equal respect. Differing opinions and experiences never need disrespect or malign one another. Quality and quantity of information is paramount in these discussions. Speaking on behalf of another person is inherently an opinion, not a fact. It is dangerous to rely on this tactic for everyone involved because an opinion based upon emotion cannot be discredited. Because statements made this way cannot be discredited, their information cannot be rebuffed, they seek to force others to make decisions based solely on emotion. It is effectively the equivalent of going to a debate wearing ear plugs and screaming "la la la la la" until anyone who disagrees has left. It makes for a very shallow understanding of the world and the people in it. I believe that is disrespectful to all of reality.

I think humans are very cool and deserve to be known as fully as possible. I can't know you if I spend all my time telling you "you're doing it wrong."


  1. "It is effectively the equivalent of going to a debate wearing ear plugs and screaming "la la la la la" until anyone who disagrees has left."

    Mm hm...yup

  2. I don't believe in a single "truth," and I agree with you about respect. I agree that first families should make choices for their unborn children without coercion from adoptive parents or anyone else.

    I also believe that children, adopted or otherwise, deserve to be treated with respect. Which means being open and honest with them, and with any children that the first families may bear afterwards, about family relationships.

    I see what you're saying about each experience being unique, and each person having autonomy. That is absolutely true. And yet people do have constellations of experiences that sometimes overlap with the experiences of others. I certainly don't agree with *all* adoptees, but I have found kindred spirits who really do understand what I've gone through. I wouldn't be hubristic enough to speak out for all adoptees, but I *have* been an adopted child, and continue to live as an adoptee. You have called the ideas I advocate "anti-adoption," although I take issue with that and dislike being labeled.

    All babies need to be loved and held and fed, and kept warm and safe to thrive. You can argue that some babies may not *want* this, but since we cannot ask them directly, by your dictum, we'll never know for sure.

    All we have to go on is research that shows how babies behave in the presence or absence of parents, usually biological parents. We have not yet been such an inhumane species as to inflict what Harlow's monkeys went through on humans, although some believe that adoption does just that. Research has shown that some babies have temperaments that allow them to thrive in the face of emotional and physical deprivation, where other babies wither. Babies separated from their parents in the 1960's, whether for reasons of illness or adoption, were routinely given phenobarbitol to quiet them in the nursery when they cried. Surely it wasn't a case of lots of cussedly individual babies who chose to cry all the time. I don't believe that babies are blank slates, although it would be convenient if they were. It would have made my life easier, both as an adoptee and as a parent.

    So when you say that no one can speak for a child, I get what you're saying on one level, and on another it seems quite disingenuous.

  3. Oh man, this blog is awesome. I have never read a birthfather blog before..and I'm so glad I did. I'm an adoptee, mid 20's, and my reunion is primarily with my birthfather (birthmother is an addict, and we have no relationship). A lot of what he has expressed to me over the years is echoed in your writings here. What an interesting thing to have accidentally stumbled upon!

  4. This blog is amazing!!! I'm a birthmother and stumbled upon your blog today. So well written and heartfelt! I'm honored to read and share your story. You are such a strong person- the both of you are. I admire you so much. I hate to say this, and you probably get this all the time, but a lot of guys cut and run when they find out about a pregnancy (my child's biological father included). You are a true father, and a rare one.

  5. It seems like you have thought a lot about this, and I agree to a certain extent. I am an adoptee and I have yet to meet another adoptee who feels or deals with it the same way I do.

    Perhaps I was so bonded to my mother because she waited until the last moment to cave. I don't think so though.

    I mean the way you are speaking about unborn children is as if they were equals to the adults bearing them. I get that parents have to make the best decisions that they can.

    In being equal, I mean having the same needs that adults need. Adults,teenagers, etc. are very different than babies. I didn't get this either when I was pregnant. I thought my baby would come out and want to go to coffee shops and listen to my favorite music. Really, I did.

    Babies are underestimated though, you would learn that in child development. There are not aloof, introspective babies, there are not babies who do not crave their own flesh and blood and feel extraordinarily harmed by loss of parents.

    It is hard-wired, biologically imperative stuff. Adoption attorneys, adoption agencies will not tell you these things. Adoptees who have lived it will. You can discount them as being rude for talking for other people and you have. We are not a part of 14billion dollar industry, we are people who have lived it.

    A lot of parents who give up their children complain that they were never told of the possible outcomes the relinquishment could have on their children. Are you suggesting that parents considering relinquishment should not be informed? That we just stuff it to make it easier on you? That is what this sounds like to me.

    Do you seriously think that it doesn't hurt to be given away by your parents for anyone? I would wager everything that I have that if all your loved ones turned their back on you today, it would hurt less than it does an infant losing his/her parents. Are you suggesting, as you seem to be, that we keep this information veiled?

    Are you suggesting some babies like to be abandoned?

    Just depends on the baby? It sounds like it.


What do you think? I'm curious.