I think it’s a shame that more people don’t read their Bibles for comprehension, but instead either do not read them at all, or (worse) read them with prejudiced ideas, probably fed to them from the pulpits of their churches. The Bible is full of good adoption stuff, stuff about reliable love and trustworthy relationships, stuff that will stand falsehood on its ear and show the devil the door. Here, for example, is one of my favorite passages from Proverbs 30:
The leech has two daughters,
There are three things that will not be satisfied,
Four that will not say, “Enough”:
Sheol, and the barren womb,
Earth that is never satisfied with water,
And fire that never says, “Enough.”
Here we have, in two short verses, a summation of pretty much every unhappy thing that can (and should) be said about what motivates healthy infant adoption as we have practiced it for the past two or three generations in the western world. It begins with the energy of the leech, demanding, “give, give,” and we have the barren womb that is never satisified, no more than hell or earth or fire.
The High Cost of Infertility
The leech has two daughters, “give, give.” For those who aren’t familiar with the healthy infant adoption world, it is predicated upon giving. One has, usually, a couple unable to have children who decide to adopt after much expensive medical intervention; they want someone to give them a baby.
To put “expensive” in perspective, an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle costs $10,000 to $15,000 these days, with an average of at least three cycles needed to help the average, healthy woman under age 40 conceive and making the average cost of a successful IVF birth about $35,000. The success rate for a woman under age 35 can approach 50% at some clinics; this rate drops to 40% in women ages 35-37 and to a mere 20% success rate in women over 40 who have delayed childbearing. These costs do not include the cost of medical treatment undertaken before IVF is used, if it is used at all.
Medical and other treatments for infertility require large expenditures of money, time, effort and emotion. Often times, the suffering of women unable to have babies is overlooked in the adoption world, where they like to blame women they paint as greedy wenches for driving the healthy infant adoption industry. Such blame seems to make the mothers who lose their children to adoption feel better about having let their babies go in the first place, something I’ll get to later, for it’s a large topic. But I should mention that another giver in the healthy infant adoption realm are the birth parents of the baby. Usually behind them are their own families, closest friends, a social worker and an attorney of some kind, demanding, “give, give.”
I’m not sure how birth parents and adoptees can be so callous when they themselves demand compassion and understanding for their own suffering; it’s impossible for me to hear the suffering of a childless woman, or to read infertility blogs or forums without feeling compassion for the women struggling with their longing to have a child or children. And secondary infertility–infertility after the birth of one’s first child–has just as large an emotional impact as primary infertility. Solomon, who seemed to know a lot about real mothers, wrote that the womb cries out for satisfaction. Biblically speaking, at least, infertility creates a void that “is never satisfied.”
Many people who can’t conceive or carry a healthy child to term turn to adoption to fix the problem of childlessness; we all know this. Although the barren womb may never be satisfied, and the adoptive family involves losses for everyone (birth family, adoptive family, and adopted person), the original problem of childlessness is fixed–but a whole new realm of suffering has been created by the separation of mother and baby.
Yearning for the Lost Child
Is it any wonder that the mother who does, impossibly, give her baby away to others to raise, later finds herself lost and feeling crazy? This anguish is described in Deuteronomy 28:32, “Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes shall look on and yearn for them continually, but there shall be nothing you can do.”
In either case–the case of wanting children and not being able to have them, or the case of having a child and giving her up for adoption–the loss is devastating. Neither the barren womb nor the bereaved mother can be satisfied.
And, stuck between two women who are, presumably, adults with options, we have a helpless infant or child who cannot care for himself, protect himself, or make sense of the fact that he is part of his adoptive family because of losses so large that even God says they cause unrequited yearning.
This is what fuels the small but expensive healthy infant adoption industry in the United States, and it is also much of what fuels the international adoption industry when same-race children are involved. I presented research one year at a conference, showing that adoption fees are based on the race of the children being adopted. My fact-based comments infuriated several other experts, some of whose own statistics I used in my speech. They didn’t want their pretty statistics used in such an ugly way. But I was correct about money following demand; it always does. Jesus himself said that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Or, as Jerry Maguire said, “Show me the money!”
It is impossible to write about what a real mother is without looking at mothering in the dramatic context of child welfare, for child welfare and adoption throw into sharp relief all of the most important issues related to being a real mother. I hope everyone will bear with me as I complete this series on Real Mothers, for I have a lot on my mind and it’s been rolling around inside me for a long time.