Hearts Wide Open

I’ve had a mind to write about real mothers for some time now, which seems to follow logically on my series of entries about mothers as containers. Although real mothers are not defined by biology, I’m going to begin by writing about adoption, for few topics can be as useful (or incendiary) in teaching us about real love. One has only to read the story of Solomon’s decision recorded in 1 Kings 3:27 to see how real love works: a real mother will put her child’s life above her own. The real mother deserves love and loyalty, because these are qualities she has sowed into the life of her child. Since I believe in a just God and a just universe, I don’t see any way that a false mother can ultimately receive sustained love or loyalty from a child to whom she never gave these.

Although I’ve sworn off most adoption blogs, from time to time I follow adoption-related links I find on the blogs of people I respect. This gets me into trouble, as all too often such purposeless meandering takes me straight into the path of an adoption wreck, where I find myself rubbernecking at the carnage like the most gauche sightseer.

Take, for example, a line penned by an adopted adult in protest to an upcoming MTV airing of an adoption-related story:

Make no mistake, abandonment/adoption IS child abuse! As human beings we are all entitled to be loved and welcomed into this world by our mothers (and fathers), and then to be raised by them. [. . .] If you really want to do an adoption story, how about focusing on adult adoptees who are searching for their real families.

Or, this, written by a birth mother I respect, even love (insofar as it’s possible to love a person one merely reads) and whose blog I read regularly:

Adoption is harmful [ . . .] There is everything wrong with separation.

I have written before about why I relinquished. I haven’t really understood why women would now. There are so many options. Society is fairly accepting of single mothers. Abortion is legal and safe.

Leaving, for the time being, the issue of whether it’s better to abort one’s unborn potential child or give it up for adoption, I want to focus first on one of the questions most commonly asked of adopted people and adoptive parents, “What about your [or the] real parents?” This is an interesting question, because it equates biology with authenticity, even though many people raised by their biological parents share no emotional or psychological affinity with them; and many people who were adopted feel as though they were born into their adoptive families. In fact, we all know what we mean when we say, “She’s a real friend,” yet somehow we confuse ourselves when adoption is involved. We no longer know what a real, good, authentic mother or father is.

Why is that?

In spite of our confusion, the question is valid. We have many stories of people who say that they never felt at home in the arms of their adoptive parents, many stories of adopted adults who searched for and found their birth families, and in finding them felt for the first time in their lives that they had found a home, deep down in their innermost beings. I recently read the account of a reunion in which the adopted adult wrote so poignantly about her feelings about being with her birth mother and half sisters that I wept. I don’t doubt her experience for one moment, and I don’t know how any feeling person could, upon reading her sincere account.

What bothers me, though, is the one-sidedness of people’s judgments, of the stories they tell themselves to explain the “why” of these things. All is seldom as it appears or is assumed to be in adoption from any side. I’ve met few people who are adoption involved who are aware, awake, enlightened, open-minded, and brimming with love at the beginning of their adoption journeys; and so I find that many adoption-involved people are unbalanced and have perspective problems. In fact, what I’ve most often encountered in the adoption world are people oozing with gaping wounds-wounds of infertility, of estrangement, of failure and shame; wounds of “I didn’t know / I shoud have known / How could I not have known? / My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and wounds of never having a home inside one’s heart or inside the arms of one’s mother. These are wounds of so much substance that it’s no surprise to me that many adoption-involved people never gain much perspective, but instead find it easier to hunker down into a mindset that provides the props that enable them to keep limping along.

But, oh, how I wish we would cast aside our crutches and run the way of love! I certainly do wish that we would open our hearts wide up, and stop restraining ourselves. If only we had more examples of unrestrained love, love with a wide-open throttle, as St. Paul implored:

Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange–I speak as to children–open wide to us also.  2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (NASB)

 | Photos by Chinua |

11 responses

  1. Tammy, sorry I just now caught your comment. Welcome to Third Eve; it’s nice to meet you. Stumbling in to someone’s blog can be like antique store shopping, huh? You never know what you’ll run across.

    I’ll be over to visit your blog; maybe we’ll find that trying to grow ever more real as people, and thus into better, more authentic mothers, will be our connection. :o)

  2. Just stumbled in, not sure how and I’m intrigued. Will reserve my comments for when I catch up on this series. I am doing the best I can to be a Real Mom to the children I am privileged to parent. Will be listening…

  3. Dory, I’m not finished with this series, so you’re making a premature judgment. You are welcome to stick around and see if you change your mind about me; but of course, whether you do or not, I will continue to be me.

    To answer your question, yes, I do consider myself open-minded and brimming with love when I am at my best. The Bible teaches that God chastens those whom he loves; children left to themselves bring shame to their mothers; love without discipline is mere sentimentality. You know this, if you are a mother. You do not let your child slap other children; you do not let your child steal from the local store; you train your child to be honest and to be truthful, and to live in reality. At least, I hope that you do, if you are a parent. God loves us just that way, I feel. He trains us to see better than we saw, coming out of spiritual blindness.

    In the same way, sometimes when I write, I write about truths I see that I think could help people, even if they are painful truths. I can’t possibly blog everything I’ve been thinking about these issues all at once–that would be a whole book, and that’s not the book I’m writing at the moment. However, I do love people who are suffering, and in fact it causes me a lot of suffering to be able to see and have compassion for the suffering of everyone in an adoption tangle (or any other tangle for that matter). Compassion; it comes from two Latin roots that mean to sympathize with another’s suffering.

    I’m pretty sure I don’t have much of a perspective problem when it comes to what I’ve written about so far, and I have some very good reasons for thinking so. However, if you’ll point out where you think I’m blind, I would appreciate it. For instance, what “judgments” do you think I have that are one-sided?

  4. Eve said: “What bothers me, though, is the one-sidedness of people’s judgments, of the stories they tell themselves to explain the “why” of these things. All is seldom as it appears or is assumed to be in adoption from any side. I’ve met few people who are adoption involved who are aware, awake, enlightened, open-minded, and brimming with love at the beginning of their adoption journeys; and so I find that many adoption-involved people are unbalanced and have perspective problems. ”

    Just in what you’ve said above it seems your judgements are one-sided too. Do you really consider yourself open-minded and brimming with love as you chastise those in pain?

  5. RG, I hope so. It is always nerve-wracking for me to write about adoption in particular, because there are so many people whose anger about it knows no bounds. I hate to stir them up by coloring outside the lines, but doggone it, someone has to do it, eh?

  6. Real Kid, my first reaction upon reading your comment was to laugh out loud because it’s obvious you didn’t even read my whole post. A quick look at Sitemeter confirms this; you spent less than 30 seconds on this page, most of which I presume you spent writing your pithy comment.

    According to you, there’s only one way to be “real” if you are adopted, and that is to be a purely biological entity with biologically-dictated relationships. I suppose this means we are no longer “real” after we’re dead; i.e., there is no spirit and no spiritual realm, either. I imagine you will have a hard time being married, as no spouse will be “real” enough for you, either.

    But your kind of real is not the sort of real I’m writing about. But you wouldn’t know that, since you haven’t actually read what I wrote. You had a knee-jerk reaction to something I said in my first few lines, and you didn’t read any farther. That’s my guess. And I do hope you’ll come back and ‘splain yourself better, maybe let me know what made you angry.

    If this is how you decide to live your thought life, though, I think you’re being silly at best, and a danger to yourself and others, at worst. I think you ought to sit down with your self and have some good, long talks; you ought to recall your projections (like the ones you shot at me right there, above) and start looking at what is “real” (authentic) in your life before telling others how fantasy-based they are.

    And I think you ought to keep reading this series, and I do mean *read* it, because by the end of it you’re going to think or even write something that sounds suspiciously like agreement with me.

    I’ll bet you $100 on that point; that’s how sure I am that my “fantasy life” is real and that we hold no prisoners here.

  7. Anthromama, what you wrote is exactly what I mean to communicate; and that’s where I’m going. I appreciate that you can see that, for I know I’m meandering and this topic is large with many layers because it involves people with very different perspectives (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted people).

    The perspectives are so different that people are often tricked into believing that it’s not about love and abundance. But, of course, it is. I’m glad you can read between the lines and bear with me as I write about things that are on my mind lately, after rubbernecking at so many adoption wrecks. Thanks for understanding.

  8. Real is the DNA that inhabits every cell in my body, not the substitute ‘parents’ who raised me.

    You can tell yourself ANYthing you want, your children are influenced much more by their natual parents, and all the people who came before them.

    A poodle can raise a German shepherd, it’s still a German shepherd.

    Keep up the fantasy life–it will imprision your adoptees to work at keeping you happy. But they will always remain unknowable to you.

  9. It seems like it’s the same thing whatever kind of mother we’re talking about: are you working from a place of love and abundance, or a place of pain and lack?

    Most of my conflicts with my kids come not because of anything to do with what they are doing or who they are. They come from my own limitations. To use Non-Violent Communication parlance, when my needs aren’t being met, I cannot meet those of my children.

    The trick is that so often we don’t even become aware of our needs or limitations until we have (or obtain) children! In a perfect world, we adults would work out all our neuroses and conflicts and learn to take perfect care of ourselves beforehand, so that we would be completely perfect and ready to care for our children.

    But no, we work these issues out (or not, leaving them unresolved and festering) in the crucible of parenting itself.

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