Find the Good and Celebrate It
Barbara Reynolds, Ph.D., Reynolds News Service, Camp Springs, MD
In telling her personal adoption story, which includes being both an adopted person and an adoptive mother, Dr. Reynolds demonstrates how in the face of the uncertainty, frustration and pain that often accompanies the adoption experience, we must challenge ourselves to find the good and celebrate it.
Dr. Reynolds acknowledges the great changes that have occurred in adoption through the efforts of adoption professionals and members of the triad. In the 1980s, for example, single individuals were not allowed to be adoptive parents and even as this began to change, they were not allowed to adopt children of a different gender. Without the efforts of the adoption community to change such policies, says Dr. Reynolds, she would not have been able to adopt her son whom she considers her "heart," the source of her joy and a cause for celebration.
As "real life happened," however, she began to wonder whether the theme of finding something to celebrate was showing itself to be a "farce." While she was able to continue living with "an attitude of gratitude" through her son's involvement in a serious accident and the onset of arthritis, a call from her birthmother canceling their scheduled visit threatened to shake her resolve to find the good and celebrate it.
While those in the adoption field are working to re-educate the public with more sensitive language and there is more awareness of racial issues, there is still a need for awareness of how the adoption experience has an impact on those involved on a spiritual level. In The Other Mother, the author Carol Schaefer explains how in the moment that she watched her infant son leaving, she felt a part of herself go with him: "As I abandoned my baby, my soul abandoned me." Like Carol Schaefer, Dr. Reynolds, who was adopted as a child by her step-grandmother, felt that when her birthmother left her, a part of her soul left as well. It is this sense of disconnection which Dr. Reynolds revisited when her birthmother, whom she has only seen five times in her life, told her that it would be an inconvenience to take the time to see her. But she reiterates that whatever side you're on - whether you are a birthparent searching for the child you relinquished, the adopted person searching for your birthparents, or an adoption professional trying to assist all those involved - you must live in the moment, appreciate what you currently have in your life, and celebrate it.
Having been frustrated by the lack of knowledge regarding her son's medical history, particularly at the time of his accident, Dr. Reynolds expresses support for open adoption. She acknowledges, however, that in addition to opening the door to vital information, open adoption may also expose truths which adopted persons and their families may not be prepared to deal with or accept.
With regard to transracial adoption, Dr. Reynolds notes: "It is hard for me to understand and explain why Americans are going all over the world to find adoptable children when [there are many here in the U.S. who need homes]. The issue, of course, is racism and we must get beyond it. It's hard to believe that we are going into the 21st century as racists as we did in the last century. It would be interesting to say that only white people are racists . . . [It would be] guilt going just one way. But it's not true. Because racism...affects people of color, too. Racism in the African American family is not something that we like to talk about...but it happens. Life happens." When Dr. Reynolds decided to adopt, she requested a bi-racial child and in honoring her request, the social workers introduced her to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white child who was one-sixteenth African American. Upon recovering from her surprise, she asked herself how this white-skinned child would be treated in her world, and what doors would be closed to him because of differences in skin color. She ultimately decided not to adopt him.
In the Bible, Solomon exemplifies how to judge policies and principles that affect children. When two women, both of whom gave birth to sons in the same house on the same day, learn that one of the children has died, they both claim that the living infant is theirs. When Solomon threatens to cut the child in half, one woman agrees while the other implores him not to divide the child. It is, of course, the latter woman who demonstrates that she is thinking of the best interest of the child, and it is to this mother that Solomon awards the child.
While we can continually debate the issues and offer our opinions, in the end, we must always rule in favor of child. "We must not divide our children - not their bodies, not their minds, and not their spirits."