Religion, sin, and adoption

Right now, there’s some shouting in the adoption community online. I don’t really use Twitter, but in response to a hashtag campaign to #ShoutYourAbortion — a campaign asking women to tell their own, personal, complicated stories to undermine the simplistic narrative that our culture prefers — an adoptive parent or two decided to start a counter-campaign to… well, to promote a different simplistic narrative about adoption. This narrative? That adopted children have all been “saved” from abortion by their adoptive parents.
What the hell, people? It is possible, in a few rare cases, that this is true. If this is an adult adoptee’s story, and that adoptee chooses to tell it, I will read, I will listen, and I will count myself lucky to have received the benefit of yet another perspective on someone else’s life story. But when it’s a child, well below the age of reason, holding simplistic signs about being “saved” and “not an abortion”? WHO TELLS THAT TO A CHILD? WHO USES A CHILD THAT WAY FOR A POLITICAL AGENDA? It is sick, and twisted, and it is likely untrue.
Though it’s not about abortion (because conversations about adoption are not conversations about an alternative to abortion. At all. Ever. Stop it.), I’ll share a piece of my story to demonstrate why I think this is royally fucked up and shows that the larger conversation about adoption, as driven by the industry and politically-minded adoptive parents, is not about the good of the children.
I was raised Catholic. My adoptive parents were both raised Catholic, and my adoptive mother was and is devout. My adoptive father? Well, he went to church with us on Christmas and Easter. We, the kids, attended CCD (Catholic “Sunday school”) and progressed through the appropriate sacraments, as well as attending church weekly and on holy days.
We learned that sex is bad, dirty, wrong, and sinful — except within a church-sanctioned marriage, where it was supposed to be about making babies. That’s why birth control was wrong, as it took away the power of God to give you however many kids “he wanted.” It always seemed weird to let God decide that, but hey. In my family’s case, God had not decided that my parents should have kids, as he granted them none.
So they adopted. I knew, growing up, that I was in a Catholic home because my first mother wanted that for me. She had also been raised Catholic, but somehow, she’d had sinful, bad, dirty, wrong sex as a teenager, and I was the resulting “punishment.” (For her, not for my bio-father, somehow. I didn’t really understand double standards as a kid.) That’s what happens to girls who engage in sinful sex — they are punished with pregnancy. They get “caught.” But when married women get pregnant, it’s a blessing from God. It was (and is) confusing, the mental gymnastics that make this make sense.
According to my adoptive mother’s version of the narrative, adoption was a redemptive choice — by choosing not to parent, my first mother somehow absolved herself of her sin by… what? By not living with the baby? By giving the baby to deserving married people who wanted one? This is the part where I still get lost. The same pregnancy is a punishment to an unmarried woman and a blessing to some other random woman?
I knew that my conception was “shameful.” I knew that if I had sex, the same “shameful” things could happen to me. But I guess I didn’t (and don’t) understand how that shame was supposedly removed by some legal documents? If the way we, the adopted children, were conceived was so wrong, well, then we needed to hide that, right? If people didn’t know we were adopted, they wouldn’t know about the bad sex evil outside of marriage, right? The bastardy?
Part of me embraced that “outlaw” aspect of my identity in my teen years. I’m not really a rebel. I mean, I like to do things my own way, but mostly quietly, without a fuss. I’m a “good adoptee,” after all. I like to fit in. But since I didn’t, really, the part of me that never tried to fit in gloried in how I was hiding this secret bastard identity from the world. The rest of me just felt tainted.
These stories we tell about adoption are stories we tell about real live human children who will grow up to be adults, still with these stories inside them. When we tell stories that are simplistic, based on ideology rather than fact, stories that don’t cause us to examine our own prejudices and assumptions? Well, maybe that’s easier. But it just means that we’ve passed the burden on. In adoption, that burden is passed on to the child who bears the weight of those stories.
Let’s keep that in mind when we “celebrate” bashing other people’s honest and truthful stories with simplistic, one-note narratives that help only the privileged in the adoption triad.
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