What’s wrong with the truth?

I’ve been thinking about the idea of giving up a child for love.  This is the story so many adoptive parents tell their children about their first families. 

Your parents gave you up for love.  For a better life.  They risked everything so you could have a better life.

Why do we do this?  I think it sounds nice, somehow, because there is love involved.  But is it nice?  Is it real?  Who abandons out of love?  What does it tell our children about our love?  I love you, but there may come a day that I let you go… out of love.  After all, this happened before.  How can they trust us, if they are told abandonment is done out of love.  No, I think the truth is better.  How about this?

“She loved you but didn’t have the resources, likely had no knowledge OF the resources, and no access to the resources.”      ~ Mei-Ling

Why don’t more APs give this explanation?  I have yet to hear of an adoption story – the whole story (not just the AP’s perspective) – that doesn’t sound like this explanation.  I plan on telling BB the truth.

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19 Responses

  1. It saddens me to remember back in ’06 when we first were logged into China and I honestly believed this hogwash about how much her parents must love her to let her go. 3 years later and I cannot believe it had taken so long for me to see the flawed logic. As children we were always told that love fights for you; love holds onto you; love protects you. Love does not abandon. It’s an oxymoron at best. It’s not love that makes moms in China abandon their children: it’s desperation, culture, laws, family pressure all piled on under a communist regime. I definitely believe moms in China love their children and think about them and grieve over them, but those were not the reasons for abandoning. As adults we should recognize that when things are “too neat” then we need to look deeper. Love = abandonment = too neat, too wrapped up with a pretty bow. I will tell my daughter that I believe her mother loved her, but the reasons for her being relinquished are far, far, far more complex.

  2. we have yet to discuss any of this with our daughter, home for 3.5 years. leaving–abandonment–finding–love…none of that. she knows she was born in China and tells me “I was sad when i was in china because I didn’t know when you were coming back to get me. And I didn’t like how people in China talked to me.” I have no idea what her birthmother thought or felt…and I’m not going to make up something either

  3. I’m not a parent but I do think that parents often have to make difficult decisions for their children out of love.
    Being adopted I like to tell myself that my biological family gave me up so I could have a better life.
    Okay, again, i don’t have kids but I have a dog and three cats. If my dog or my cats were very sick or badly injured I would sign over their ownership to a person who could afford the treatment to make them better. It would be the most difficult decision of my life and I would surely be heartbroken but what other option would I have for them? Euthanasia doesn’t seem like the loving option here. I realize that this is a bit different because these women having babies do have the option of keeping their babies but perhaps they do hope for a better life for their daughters than they themselves had? Surely they are wishing that their daughters never have to face the decision of keeping their baby or giving her away.

  4. We will tell Jammer the truth, what we do know. I just wish that we more instead of having to guess at what the facts could be.

  5. The problem is “truth” is a guess as well. So I suppose people say, “Well if it is all a guess, I’ll give a happy guess!”

  6. I never planned to tell Em that she was abandoned for love, but the truth (as far as we know it) is probably so harsh that it will be many, many years before she will ever hear it from me. When we met the people who found Em within seconds of her abandonment (and who saw a member of her birth family pedal away), they told us in no uncertain terms that a baby with her birth defect in that town would have been considered a curse on the family.

    How’s that for truth?

    My point is that it’s incredibly complex, and I read the adult adoptee blogs too (including Mei-Ling’s), but, so far, no one can produce the language adequate for my daughter’s experience. “Resources” is only part of the issue where she is concerned and wouldn’t have accounted for (what I consider to be) arcane belief systems.

  7. I plan to tell BB that we don’t know why she was let go, but I won’t tell her it was done for love. I don’t want her to think that love leads to abandonment. I will tell her many of the reasons that people to give up their children, including the stress of the One Child Policy, lack of resources or access to them, and many other reasons. We may never know her family’s reasons, but we do know the common reasons.

  8. Linda,
    That’s a tough one. To know that, and yet for any child with an obvious birth defect, this is probably the case for China. This is a horrible fact for families in China and for these children to live with. It may be that they believe they are giving their children a better life and likely they are, as our culture doesn’t have nearly that degree of stigma and clearly the families who adopt these kids has none at all. But how to handle this with the kids? I don’t know.

    Although BB was not in the special needs program, one of her eyes is smaller than the other and was this way at birth. I have wondered if this led to her abandonment. Who knows?

  9. Linda: That is probably the same sting that any mainland adoptee feels upon figuring out that they were abandoned simply because they were born as female.

    Who is “they”? The social workers? The agencies? (Yes, I know the cultural mindset is strongly – sickenly – against birth defects, but I’m trying to get a direct meaning here.)

    I’ve read a similar scenario in Hopgood’s memoir. They had a boy but he was born with a birth defect – the father wanted to kill it – the mother wasn’t exactly “rooting” for the infant’s death, but she wasn’t arguing against it, either.

    So I don’t think it’s so simple as being rejected because of a birth defect… there has to be some sort of emotional stigma attached to it.

  10. Mei-Ling,
    Do you think the social stigma for girls is still that strong (like for birth defects)? I know it was for Hopgood’s father, but on the mainland of China I sense it is the One Child Policy and a need for at least one son to care for the family as they age. I get the feeling if they could have more children they would be thrilled with girls. And in the cities, we were told that many families were happy with one girl. These rural pressures must be horrible to live with. I can’t imagine it.

  11. Yeah, I get the sense that it’s not that they don’t love girls – it’s that they don’t value girls *as much.* The gov’t has been trying to change that mindset and place more value on females – I’ve heard that rumours of domestic adoption is happening more frequently in China because now the focus is being influenced by the severe gender imbalance…

    Even in Taiwan males are still more valued than girls. Sadly.

  12. Yes, we saw billboards in China and were told that they said things about how valueable girls are. Our adoption rep in Chongqing had one child – a teenage daughter – and seemed quite happy abou it. She expressed a lot of pride in her, but spoke about this being a city thing.

  13. It is true that there is no “truth” until we meet them, and even then the missing pieces make it difficult–although much better in the sense that there are answers–the trouble can be with the harshness that the truth brings.
    Before we met them I told M the truth as I knew it, no fluff, no nicey-nice, just the possibilities–there were several in our situation. Making up a nice story may make the AP feel better now, maybe even the young child, but give them a couple of years, they will see through it and learn more about the real possibilities from friends. For me, I think it is not only a determent to speak in terms of love=abandonment for the fact that it is just not true, but also for the trust factor between child and mother/father. Why would they believe you later when you have to change that story–whether you find their parents or not? Also, I personally feel people who are waiting for their child to ask or only telling young children the part when they came to get them is a disservice to all in the family. The child should have as much of their story as avail from the very beginning, the AP should be practicing that story and adding when more information comes to light–it will make the conversation more real and natural when they are older and offer them more opportunities to ask questions–I feel they will not want to come to parents that they know have only provided their end of it—they know WAY younger than you think.

  14. “Making up a nice story may make the AP feel better now, maybe even the young child, but give them a couple of years, they will see through it ”

    My mom told me (as a child) my mother had given me up out of love.

    That is not true. I was given up because of medical expenses that mother could not pay, and she had no resources OR access/knowledge OF the resources.

    Of course… that’s not something the a-parents would mention, because then that would mean acknowledging that a mother was disadvantaged from the very beginning.

    The fact that she couldn’t pay was the part I was given. The fact that she had no assistance was the part that was candy-coated.

  15. It’s very hard to admit to benefitting from white/economic privilage. I think sugar-coating adoption stories is a way to avoid admitting that you benefit from it. Really, who wants to admit that they have something (power, better access to healthcare/education…, a child, …) only because of the advantages of color and money?

  16. “It’s very hard to admit to benefitting from white/economic privilage.”

    Yep. We sugar-coat it with the words “sacrifice” and “choice.”

  17. Mei-Ling,

    “They” above referred to the townsfolk whom we spoke to who had found my daughter the day of her birth, who saw a member of her birth family pedaling away. Cavatica knows the whole story, so I was being perfunctory on purpose. Although I of course recognize that these people are not my daughter’s birth family, and that we will probably never know the *actual* reason for the abandoment, these people are about as close as I can get. They were very certain that she was abandoned because she would have been considered a “blight” of the local gods, directed at the family. Interestingly, the townsfolk had absolutely NO knowledge of international adoption, so the concept of “giving them a better life” by adopting them into a culture without that sort of social stigma wasn’t on their minds.

  18. I don’t feel that my daughter was abandoned out of love. I agree that she was abandoned due to lack of resources. However, I do feel that she was carried and born out of love. I read an article about a woman who had to go to extreme measures to be allowed to carry her baby, and to give her baby life, instead of ending it some other way. So, I plan to teach dd (dear daughter) that her birth mother most likely risked something to give her life. But I also plan to teach her that she was abandoned due to lack of resources.

  19. well said! we don’t gloss over or try to portray anything other than what we know to be facts.

    there are a lot of missing puzzle pieces but I refuse to fill them in with glitter and rainbows.

    Sometimes the imperfect explanation can be the best one.

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