"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Men in the Arena (Humanity: Adoption Love Link-Up)

The Adoption Love Link-up is a neat blog I found through the community of wonderful people adopting.  She asks a question each month and other bloggers can answer it and she links those blogs to her page.  The question this month is how did our experience with adoption affect our view of humanity?  This dovetails nicely with what I have been wanting to write about for a while - how I feel about birthmothers - and so here's my take...

So, how has our adoption story affected my view of the human race?  Well, let me give some history.  I have actually considered adoption since I was a teenager.  It began when I realized how strongly I felt that life began at conception.  But I also knew that our society needs real alternatives that work for women in crisis.  I believe adoption is one such answer.  I wanted to be part of the solution, and so, I imagined a future where I might adopt.  This was further nurtured when I visited Africa and met so many orphans.  I wasn't ready yet, but I really wanted to take a child home and give him a better life. 
Of course, infertility and recurrent miscarriage were never part of that dream.  When my husband and I met, we talked quite a lot about adoption and he was on board with the idea... after we were done having biological children.  It would be at a comfortable time of our lives, when we were in charge of our destiny.  It would be on our terms.  We just never expected it any other way. 

Five years later, my story of adoption and recurrent miscarriage are now inextricably linked in a beautifully complicated way that I never anticipated.  Our choice to adopt is a lot less to save the world or help the helpless, than it is to grow our family in the best possible way.  After five consecutive miscarriages, adoption was the obvious choice for us.  

I think most people agree that adoption is a loving option from the vantage point of the adoptive parents.  We're opening our hearts, home and families to someone without one.  It's one thing to say that adoption is a beautiful choice but it's another thing entirely to actually do the hard work of a home study, spend thousands of dollars, wait months or years, and to make all the other sacrifices that adoption entails.  The parents who I've met, whether in person or via the internet, who are on an adoption journey are kind, enthusiastic and brave, in an inspiring way.  

Furthermore, the support that my husband and I have received through our own adoption journey has been overwhelming.  Friends and family, coworkers and acquaintances have all been joyful when they've heard our news.  In most instances, they've been empathic and supportive in all the right ways.  It's been a wonderful blessing to my husband and I.  

But the most impressive part of humanity, by far, are the birthmothers.  It's interesting, when you're first starting off on your adoption journey one of the first things you have to do is write a letter to a prospective birthmother.  In that letter, the agency encourages you to tell her how brave you think she is.  And so our letter talks about just that.  And when we wrote it, we meant every word of it.  Of course we did.... we meant it honestly from our perspective; in the lustful dreamy way a teen tells her first boyfriend that she loves him.  Now, as we have actually met a birthmother who's chosen us to raise her baby, we mean it when we honor her courage in a much bigger way.  We mean it like a woman married for ten or twenty or maybe even fifty years means it when she says she loves her husband.  That love embodies a complex person and process, for all that's beautiful and all that's ugly in it.  That love knows it's worth and cherishes it, in a way that the giver of the love never even knew was humanly possible before.

The woman who shares her child through adoption is truly one of the most courageous women out there.  Could you or I do what she has done?  I am not sure I would be that brave.  In a crisis pregnancy, adoption is surely the toughest choice.  And yet, she makes a selfless decision for the best interest of others; her baby and her adoptive parents.  She deals with a great crisis in the most brave and beautiful way there is.  She is admirable.  

She reminds me, actually all the parties in adoption remind me, of the Man in the Arena, which you may be familiar with. 

Man in the Arena by Teddy Roosevelt, quoted here by Brene Brown:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

By being there, in the arena, marred by dust and sweat and blood, birthmothers are vulnerable and generous at the same time.  Adoptive parents, who've often suffered through miscarriage and infertility, open themselves up again in a risky way ultimately have the privileged of knowing "great enthusiasms".

The men and women in the arena that I've met through adoption inspire me. 


  1. Well said! I love everything about this.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this viewpoint!

  3. I love the great points you make about Birth Mothers! I've learned so much on our journey. It is also moving to see how friends, family, and even strangers step in to help out.

    1. Yes, I agree that people have been really helpful in surprising ways. Thank you!!

  4. I love this! I couldn't agree more about birthmothers!
    Looking forward to reading more of your story!