Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moral Dilemmas

In life we are all faced with moral dilemmas from time to time, sometimes they are things we can imagine happening, and other dilemmas are beyond our wildest imagination. We have all been faced with wondering when to keep our mouth shut and when to reveal something, that is a pretty common dilemma. Do we tell that little white lie so that someones feelings aren't hurt? Should we keep the extra change the cashier gave us inadvertently? Daily we are faced with little quandaries that require us to make a moral choice.

There are many moral dilemmas that present themselves with adoption, and sometimes the circumstances are so unexpected or unusual that the "high road" may not always be clear. Some of us approach our adoptions from a religious perspective, while others are less inclined to look for "signs" of which path to take. Regardless of the approach, some of the most painful decisions of your life can often present themselves during an adoption journey.

Over the years I have spent my share of time on the phone with weeping moms, all of whom are struggling with decisions that most biological moms are never in the position of having to make. Sometimes there is nothing to offer which can comfort, for these decisions we have to make feel as if they require impossible-to-acquire-Solomon-like wisdom. Do we accept a referral or decline it? If we decline a particular child whom we know we have the resources to help, are we dooming them to a life of poverty and institutionalization? If we were giving birth we would have no choice, shouldn't we just accept it the same way with adoption? How do I know if this was really a child who was predestined to be MY child?

I spent time with an adoptive mom on the phone yesterday as she worked through her feelings about a gut wrenchingly difficult that would tear anyone up who was in her shoes. I offered what I could in terms of insight and sharing different ways of viewing the situation, but the heartache remains for sadly there are circumstances in life that will never leave us feeling at peace...and perhaps that is a good thing, for it creates the impetus for lasting change. I wish I had been able to be Solomon for this mom, but alas that kind of wisdom elludes me.

One thing that I shared with this mom was that the very things that cause us, as adoptive moms, to hurt so deeply are the qualities that make us the right person to mother a child that is not biologically connected to us. I have learned over time that surprisingly not everyone could parent a child not tied to them by blood. I don't say "surprisingly" in a facetious or sarcastic way, it was truly something I had not ever considered. I had felt, and continue to feel, that I could parent any number of different children and love them completely and unconditionally with no concern about blood connections or legal documents. A child doesn't have to look like me for my heart to melt, they don't have to have any characteristics that are similar to mine...they just have to be their own little unique selves and quite often I will feel a maternal pull. There are many though who could not fathom taking a child into their hearts and homes that was not created inside their womb. This is not a judgment statement, for God made each of us to be very different creatures and I do not feel that the inability to love a child not born to you makes anyone evil or a bad mother. We don't always dictate the matters of the heart!

But it is this way that God has of preparing us adoptive moms to be parents that makes these decisions even more painful. We don't walk into adoption with our hearts closed or duct taped shut. We fling the shutters of our hearts wide open, waiting for "our" child or children to appear. Our barriers are almost non-existent, which in my mind is a good thing as that means we are being prepared by God to accept this unknown little person as one of our own. But this open-heartedness leaves us so vulnerable when things don't work out, and the loss is very, very real. The sense of obligation to this little person or people is strong, we have carried them in our hearts for what is often a long time before something falls apart...and the sometimes life or death decisions that have to be made can be horrendous. Sometimes a child who has been prayed for, cared for and prepared for will not come home for any number of reasons, and aside from it feeling like a miscarriage that no one understands there can be misplaced guilt about decisions we make.

The burden can be heavier than the weightiest boulder on our backs.

How I wish when I speak to these precious moms that I had more to offer than mere ineffectual words! The tenderness with which they carry these anonymous children within their virtual wombs is no less than any biological mom who carefully watches what she eats for 9 months so her child can be born healthy and whole. Yet unlike the pregnant mommy for whom sympathy and understanding flows, the adoptive mommy is left hollow and her pain is misunderstood..after all, it's just some unknown kid you never even met, right? It's just more paperwork and there are millions more kids where that one came from! It's not a big deal!

And yet that prospective adoptive mommy is filled with anguish, her sleepless nights are filled with "what if's", and her soul is injured in ways no one can see.

We, as a community of adoptive parents, try to reach out to one another, to offer long distance hugs, words of comfort. We stand side by side as we fight against governments and seemingly endless delays and frustrations. We watch our children grow older in photos, and we hold on to hope as best we can.

But there are very dark and bleak moments on the path to that wondrous day when we finally hold a child in our arms who will eventually bear our name and have our hearts curled up in their tiny little fists.

Thankfully, for most of us, that day does arrive. It can definitely be a long and broken road, and the child who ends up tucked into bed at night in our home may be different than the one we thought would receive our goodnight kisses. And it is only then that the wisdom of our decisions in the face of such extraordinary circumstances reveals itself. It is then that we can see the larger plan that was at work to bring two hearts together. It is only then that we can let go of our unnecessary guilt, our doubts, our heartache...and embrace the life that we have allowed to join ours.


Anonymous said...

Dear Cindy,
Even in the adoption community, that heartbreak can be so callously dealt with. Since we may never get our Azerbaijani girl, as the country continues to delay allowing adoptions, we put our names in to adopt 2 local girls. We did so only after searching our hearts and prayer. We were not matched, and I had to track the social worker down to find out. I spoke with a fellow PAP, only to find out that they, too, had sought the same children, but were never told the results. She said the social workers never call back. I was appalled. The gut wrenching decision to put yourself out there for a child is treated like dirt. How dare they be so callous to our offer to accept a child into our lives? They obviously have no idea how hard a decision it is to do that. I feel your caller's pain. Each decision is hard, and it is deeply personal. It's hard not to feel like a sucker when such feelings are dismissed by others. I am sure your validating her anguish helped, even if you couldn't help her to really make what is a quintessentially personal decision. As for us, we will continue to seek a child or two, while we wait to see if they will ever release our Azeri girl. God Bless
Sherry in Ohio

Lori said...

I can tell you *from experience :)* that what you consider words you wish were more effective are absolutely heartwarming and comforting like a snuggly blanket in front of a fire. Even when you tell people what they may know but not want to hear, it is with compassion and caring pretty rare for *virtual* strangers.

I have to say that you are right in your assessment that biological moms get a heck of a lot more sympathy and 'understanding' than adoptive mommies do from most of their peer circles. Many of the very same people (who I love and am thankful for, by the way) who are showering me with lots of new attention and concern were not as overwhelming in their concern for me as I cried and cried over the deterioration of our situation with Kyrgz. Worse, many (again, well-intentioned, I am sure) now even say things like, "See--it didn't work out so you could get pregnant." While that may ultimately be part of a plan only God is in control of (and I am not one to say it is) that does NOT take away the very real pain of never completing the adoption of a little girl I just KNEW was meant for me. And people think that just because there's no blood or we didn't even have a referral that I still don't feel like I lost a little girl named Emma. I know it is NOTHING in comparison to many, but it still is real. I'll keep a prayer tonight in mind for your friend.

Maureen said...

Thank you. That was beautiful. You made me cry.

Hilary Marquis said...

Compassion and Wisdom are things that you have in abundance, Cindy.

Anonymous said...

I know two families who have lost infants. They have gone on to have other children, and take joy in them, but still grieve for the children they lost.

We wouldn’t ask a parent who lost a child to miscarriage, still birth, or crib death to “forget” that child, why would we expect prospective adoptive parents to forget a child that was lost due to a referral that was never completed?? We carry those lost children in our hearts just as birth parents do. My experience from our adoption experience was that there was much emphasis on the loss experienced by birth parents and the needs of the adoptive child (both valid concerns), and almost nothing was said about the intense emotions and concerns of adoptive parents.

Regarding Cindy’s post about Susan Boyle a few days ago, this passage from Isaiah comes to mind (a prophecy about the coming of Jesus):

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others.

Isaiah 53:2

In more modern terms: You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Humans look at the outside; God looks at the inside.

Peggy in Charlottesville

Suzanne said...

Thanks for this post and for all of your compassion and insight. You have helped more than you will ever know.


Kim said...

I love reading your blog. Your heart always shows in each and every post. However this one left me a bit confused.

It seems as if you are saying now that you understand the pain involoved in losing a referral. That it doesn't matter if it were a child the PAP never met, because they loved that child despite never really knowing them. Even comparing it to a miscarriage. BUT... in at least one past post you wrote that you didn't believe people truly loved a referral child. That they couldn't truly love a child they had never met. (i remember this because as a parent who lost a referral i did not agree with your point of view) You even stated that it is not really love when you do first meet the child, that love takes time. So have you now changed your view on this???