|Portrait of the author, Kelsey Vander Vliet|
For the pro-life community, it often seems as though we are chasing after the changes in adoption, but never quite catching up to speed. We get caught up in tedious rhetoric that delays true education and action on the subject. Is adoption the alternative to parenting, or is it the alternative to abortion? For some, it is the first; for others, the latter. Would it shift your outlook if adoption was put on an even playing field? In 2017, modern adoptions can run with the big dogs. On average, two percent of women facing unexpected pregnancies choose adoption for their child. For many of these women, adoption may not be a last-minute backup plan. Adoption is a choice that a number of women believe to be their absolute best intuitive decision.
For myself, that is what adoption turned out to be. At 22 years old and fresh out of college, I found myself to be pregnant after a short-lived summer fling. That’s the mainstream culture in young America, and it has been that way for decades – publicized or not. With a bank account balance of about $1,000 and having no support from the father of my baby, I knew that pregnancy and single parenthood would be a long road of struggle and pain. The father told me we had no other option but to get an abortion, because he was now seeing someone new. I agreed to make the trip to Planned Parenthood, hoping that abortion would at least wash my hands of the heartbreak.
I was reluctant, but I didn't have the courage to storm out of the abortion center. Instead, I rushed through the stages of grief. There on the operating table, before the abortion began, I was bargaining – pleading with god to protect my child! Looking back, the cognitive dissonance of it seems absurd. But I believed that I was past the point of no return. I gave the okay for them to put me to sleep and perform a surgical abortion procedure.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room to a very apologetic nurse informing me that the abortion procedure did not work, but that I could come back tomorrow to “try again.” She explained that my cervix was so hardened, they just couldn’t get through. Later that day, I decided not to return, thus causing the father to be furious. I made the decision to move forward from termination and make an adoption plan. So, was my adoption decision an alternative to abortion? At the time, sure. However, had I known how modern adoption worked and had support from the very beginning, I believe I would have chosen adoption without giving abortion a second thought.
Fast forward to the current year. I now work as the Marketing Director at a reputable adoption agency in Indianapolis. I see birth mothers choose different kinds of adoptions… Every. Single. Day. The best part about this is that birth mothers are calling the shots when making their adoption plan; the power is in their hands. Open adoption is a relatively new concept, and has been continuously advancing through the years. Open adoption in 2017 does not bear much resemblance to the open adoptions of 1997. Furthermore, today’s adoptions certainly have progressed from the many coercive and forceful adoptions of the twentieth century. All too often, women were sent to homes for unwed mothers, their children were ripped from their arms shortly after birth, and they were told to go back to their lives pretending nothing had ever happened. Well, now it’s 2017, and as I often say when comparing modern adoption to the dark days of adoption coercion, “This ain’t that.” – and this is good news. Our sisters who came before us were treated as stains on society. We will no longer stand for such disgusting degradation.
There are certainly guidelines and standards for open adoptions. Many variables within the open adoption relationship are customizable, provided that the stability and safety of the child are guaranteed. In Indiana and many other states, open adoption agreements for infant adoptions are not legally enforceable. However, in several other states there is a rising trend in legal representation for the birth parents, which allows a post-adoption contact agreement to be enforced. For our Indianapolis agency, I am especially happy to report that adoptive parents are generally having positive responses to openness agreements, especially after receiving adoption education. We are seeing birth mothers request various combinations of pictures, phone calls, FaceTime, letters, and visits. In return, several adoptive families are also requesting that they be allowed to provide these updates and continue to build a relationship as well. Not only is open adoption proving to be advantageous for the bulk of birth mothers and adoptees, the adoptive parents are reporting positively as well. Adoption creates roles for everyone in the adoption triad; the openness of the adoption gives security to these roles.
Though there are definitive roles in an open adoption, negative perceptions of birth mothers still exist. It’s no secret that negative stigmas still remain for single mothers in general. For the typical birth mother, the negative stigma does not end with pregnancy. After she places her child, the general public questions every move she makes, as if it is society’s duty to match her choice with the life she is now living. During post-placement, a birth mother grieves over her child who is still alive, and tries to navigate through her new season of life. The grief process weighs heavily on these women as they try to move forward. Many birth mothers come home to their other children as well, and are left to answer an abundance of questions. During this vulnerable time, counseling and support groups are encouraged for healing by many agencies and firms, but unfortunately, not all. How can adoption be an option for all women when support isn’t guaranteed? Education is the key in reforming adoption across the board and offering support for post-placement healing.
As members of the pro-life community, what is our role in this and how do we keep up? Plain and simple: our role is to proudly stand beside these women. So maybe you’re still wondering, is adoption the alternative to abortion or is it the alternative to parenting? The answer to that ever-irritating question, is: who cares? Adoption is not a last resort. The role that pro-lifers have in adoption is to advocate for the women who choose it, support the positive advancements in the open adoption relationships and post-placement healing process, and talk about adoption in a positive light for the true choice that it is: a realistic and potentially rewarding opportunity for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. The best way to keep up with what’s going on in adoption is to ask. When the pro-life community starts asking women what they need instead of telling them, keeping up won’t leave us out of breath.
Today's guest post by Kelsey Vander Vliet is part of our paid blogging program. Kelsey is a birth mother living in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the Marketing Director at Adoption Support Center, an adoption agency, where she provides statewide education to mother and baby healthcare providers and pregnancy resource centers, and leads advertisement campaigns for the agency. She is the Indiana Birth Mother Mentor for Talk About Adoption and blogs at fromanothamotha.com. Kelsey hopes to help bridge the gap of understanding between adoptive families, adoptees, and birth parents, as well as advocate for the rights and support of birth mothers in her state.