Saturday, October 17, 2009

Loving You Will Be Too Hard

Come in close, and I'll share a point of view about love that you may not have read anywhere else...

Life is short, and not everyone can make a lifetime commitment of taking responsibility for another person with special needs.

It was only the other day that I read about a married white woman with five natural children who gave up her adopted South American toddler after 18 months. It's unfortunate that race was a factor, and that she came across as selfish and narcissistic. She may very well be, but she may have made the same decision if that kid had been as white as she is.

The thing is, in addition to not developing normally, i.e., developmental delays, I wonder if the child is retarded. He had a condition where he'd eat his own excrement, which was an issue for the adoptive mother. She claimed in response, I think on one adoption blog, that "Baby D" is in a good home that can.

If she had been Latino, I doubt that the story would have the same kind of impact it did. Disrupted adoptions are less common than "disrupted natural parent-child relationships", i.e., abandonment, but they do happen. From what I've seen and read, many are special needs children, often from another country.

My son, at around age 10, went to an adoption therapy group for about six weeks. He was one of the few black kids. Great group with two wonderful art therapists. They did a lot of art therapy, and he loved it. One reason is that he learned there are other children just like him.

"Mommy!", he said, "they're all adopted like me! And they're normal!"

"Of course they are, honey! People are just people, no matter what their family!"

I really believe that. He does too, and his multi-ethnic friends reflect this. His 21st birthday bash was amazing, attended by blacks, whites, Latinos, Arabs, Christians, Jews, Muslims and agnostics, getting along great, even the drunk ones. I am not kidding... and stop frowning, oh ye party poopers, you only get one 21st birthday, and he ended it sober enough to walk a straight line.

Anyway, one of the kids in the adoption group was from the Soviet Union. He was very quiet and of normal intelligence. His adoptive parents complained "he wasn't connecting" with them.

I learned later when he stopped showing up for group that they decided to un-adopt him, aka terminate their parental rights and send him back into the adoption system, this time in the U.S.

My thoughts then was that the kid had been through hell at his orphanage, had to learn a new language, and adjust to a stunningly different lifestyle and new family, and maybe still grieving over his old family lost forever. That's a lot shit for a kid. I think they gave up too soon, and should've respected the kid's space and let him be.

Expecting too much too soon from any relationship usually kills it.

Y'all remember that.

And to my knowledge, that sad story never made the papers.

I'm also reminded of a family I worked with when doing Child Protective Services, when I was newbie social worker. A young woman of 19 (didn't I tell y'all that's a bad age?) who lived with her mother gave birth to a Downs Syndrome baby, a really pretty little girl, but obviously with Downs. It's rare for this happen to women under 35, but it can.

She already had one child, a boy around 2. To top it off, they were poor. Her mother worked full time - but at minimum wage, they lived in poverty. Neither her nor her mom wanted this retarded baby, about 8 months old. She'd tried but just decided she just didn't want to keep her.

Translation: She had no love for a kid like that, even her own.

My take: She might have been young, but figured out her limitations, learned the hard way. Whether or not she later became diligent with birth control is unknown. Hope springs eternal...

My observations: Most people think they would die if they had a retarded child. Single fathers in particular disappear faster than a $20 bill left on the sidewalk. Most mothers would too if they had that luxury, but social conditioning and expectations generally prevent this.

She signed the papers and sadly said goodbye. Yes, her sadness was genuine, and filled with whisperings of If only you hadn't had Downs, I'm so sorry, maybe someone else will love you. I can't. Loving you will be too hard for me...

I understood all this on the emotional level of her decision. Too much pressure, having her friends and neighbors stare at her baby with the protruding tongue, and feeling pity - or revulsion, or rejection - for such a young girl with that burden. With two kids, one retarded, finding a husband was out of the question. A potential partner might wonder if she could have another child like 'that' one.

Even finding a new boyfriend, a real one, not a casual one, would be a challenge. People might think that's his retarded baby, and that's tough on a young guy's ego. Plus she was poor. A man would be thought insane by his own family to take on all that responsibility.

I'm just telling you how people think, and real things that happen. When you scratch the surface and try to put yourself in someone elses shoes - their age, gender, culture, and socioeconomic status to name a few - you find out how complicated and miserable this shit is.

The case was transferred to Adoptions.

Now, there was a single woman in her late 30s who wanted a baby and had been waiting for a kid - any kind of kid with any kind of problem. Baby Girl was placed shortly afterwards. When I heard about it, I wondered, could she handle it?

I spotted them in the building about a year later and recognized the baby immediately. You could see the mutual love and happiness. The child looked like she was "a high-functioning Downs", so that was a gift to that woman. Downs Syndrome kids generally range in IQ from fairly low IQ to borderline retarded (trainable for certain jobs), but most of them have one saving grace: unusually pleasant temperaments.

I didn't mention that everyone in this story was black. Our stories of this nature rarely make the papers either. Few of them, regardless of race, do.

The story of the white woman and her disrupted adoption of South American baby did, and if I'm correct, she's promoting a book. What pisses off a lot of people, including myself, is that she comes across as having no empathy for that child. This is different from no love. You don't have to love someone to have empathy for them.

The media loves drama, and certain elements within it like fueling a potential race war. They prefer this to exploring the complexities of human relationships. But forget about her; she's an aberration and a distraction from the common stories that are tragedies of failed attempts to create, expand, or sustain a family.

I thought of blogging about this - for about 4 seconds - and dismissed the idea. But then I thought about it again on this cold, rainy night, and decided, why not remove the race equation in all these cases, adoption or natural births, and share another point of view?

That loving you is just too hard...


  1. Kit I remember seeing and hearing this a couple of weeks ago...And when I saw the mother on The Morning Show it really pissed me off...She really didn't come across like someone who cared...I've learn that you can love whatever you focus on.

  2. JJ Brock,

    "She really didn't come across like someone who cared..."

    My impression too, from her written word.

    "I've learned that you can love whatever you focus on."

    Nice try. Works occasionally. Noted that you didn't say "whomever". That may be accidental or reflect how uncomfortable these situations are, especially for women who bear the brunt of this kind of social conditioning, i.e. sacrificial love. As a species, we'd have never evolved without it. You get a cyberhug anyway.

  3. Sometimes people care but hold back their feelings and act as if they don't out of a fear of getting hurt one more time.

  4. Mac, That's true, Mac. To prevent so many people getting hurt, especially the kids, I do wish:

    1) that adoption agencies would have more seasoned social workers screening potential adoptive parents, and

    2) that private adoption agencies could not charge so much in "fees" for placement of babies, as this seems to me a conflict of interest; and

    3) public social service departments, where there generally are no fees for adopting, had bigger prevention budgets, especially for severely addicted women - and men. They're often someone's daddy, which folks tend forget about. It wouldn't solve every situation but it would sure help.

  5. "Expecting too much too soon from any relationship usually kills it."

    So so true.

  6. Some people see adoption as something they try on. If it doesn't work, "I'll send him/her back". I heard my own mother say that when she was contemplating adopting a child after I left for college (some empty-nest shit, probably), and had to give her a big lecture. That woman in your article is definitely a horrible person, if now she is trying to cash in on her lack of empathy by selling a book. I wonder if the race of the baby had anything to do with it, but I think she would have abandoned the child if he had been white as well, because she didn't want to be the mom with the retarded kid.
    I wonder if the kid was retarded at all, all I got from your article is that he was eating his own excrements. I read a study stating that, up to a certain age, children don't share our ideas of what is gross and what is not. That poop doesn't smell worse to them than bananas, for example. And I was told that I did that too a few times, as a baby (sorry for the TMI :)).
    As you said, some people find it too hard to love their own children, if they are born with problems. Usually, the "blame" is placed upon the woman, because, since she was the one that gave birth to the baby, it must be her fault, right? Even now, when we know that many problems are passed down from the father's side, some people still think like that. And if she makes a "broken baby", the man is entitled to leave her and seek a woman who can give him a healthy heir. Some women live in fear of that, that they might be considered defective and end up alone. I don't think that, in itself, should be an excuse to abandon your baby, but I should just be grateful that I never had to find out.
    I'm not surprised at much anymore. The media feeds us these myths of the perfect parenthood (especially motherhood) and we swallow them. But truth is that many parents are capable of some scary discrimination.


Hi, this is Kit.

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