Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adoption Ripples Color Every Aspect of my Life

The Personal is Political 

It's hard being single. It's harder still when you are single and in your sixties. Add to that extreme political views that become personal and you've got a deadly - and very limiting - mix!

I have dated men who have adopted. Some had no trouble with my position on the subject as they had found it all about money from their vantage point as well. Others were turned off to adoption because the end result (the product) wasn't as great as they had hoped. URGH! Shudder. Occasionally I get lucky and the topic is meaningless to them, but at times it's been a deal breaker.  

So, I "meet" a guy online. He takes the initiative to look up some of my work and notes my deep interest in the subject of adoption and asks if I would be opposed to dating someone who's 23-year-old son was born via surrogacy. I think about it, and reply that it depends on how he feels about it now. He emails back: "I can't say I'm as positive about surrogate parenting as I was."

Have an open mind, I say to myself... and I agree to meet him at a local diner since he lives nearby. He was unattractive in person but I again sing my "have-an-open-mind" mantra and we sail rather easily into a lively political discussion and he impresses me as being well-read, articulate and quite liberal politically, albeit a bit more of a conspiracy theorist than I.  Well a bit over the edge on conspiracy theories for me when it went into belief of extra terrestrials, but....maybe ok for a friendship even if I was still feeling unattracted to him as anything more than a friend.

He says when it came down to the candidates running for presidency, he's a third party guy. OK. That's a position I respect. One of my sons votes third party. I respect him for his conviction and this country is in sore need of more choices that the fire and the deep blue sea. Still ok...

He then goes on to say that given a choice though, he favors democrat/liberals because they support his "family situation" or his "family choices" (I forget his exact choice of words) that he had told me about. Not being quick at remembering the previous emails I ask what he means and he reminds me about the surrogacy.

Now things get really ... shall we say "interesting"?  I ask him what he meant that his views on the subject had changed?  He answers that it resulted in the demise of his marriage. His wife was unable to bond with or accept the child and the fact that she was able to give him what he coveted so dearly.

Now, learning the reason he changed his mind on the subject... I'm sensing this isn't going to end well but  I ask him why he had gone that route and he explains that his wife suffered a myriad infertility problems. I say, so OK.... but why chose surrogacy? He looks totally blank, like I had just asked the most absurd question imaginable. I ask if they considered adoption to which he replies there were no BABIES available, expect maybe from China and the whole international thing was, I don't know, too complicated or whatever... (I'm getting hot now).

I say, well it seems you only considered "baby" adoption and not "child" adoption.

He's again astonished and replies: "An OLDER child?" as if I had just suggested he adopt a leper. He explains that he did not want to deal with all those kinds of problems. I ask if he hears how what he is saying is treating children like commodities and has he considered that adoption was about finding homes for kids in need not about filling orders for healthy, white infants?  He's getting pissed now, and so am I.

He refuses to accept surrogacy as exploitive because "his" surrogate CHOSE to, perfectly willingly. They still keep in touch via Facebook. His son met her - his biological mother, not a gestational surrogate - once when he was two and he has no interest in meeting her again.

He states that 97% of surrogate arrangements are "successful." I don't even bother asking what his definition of success is because I assume by now it means getting what you paid for! I mutter something about those that go wrong go horribly wrong - thinking about separated twins etc. -  however and women risk their lives giving birth.

He now tries putting me on the defensive by saying that he is surprised that as a liberal I do not support a woman's right to earn money as a surrogate if that's her choice. I reply that that's an argument used to defend prostitution, and not one I support because if women could earn decent livings doing safer things, they certainly would.

I ask what ever happened to simply accepting infertility as people did in previous generations? He says that's not true, that surrogacy is as old as the bible and he makes the grave mistake of using Hagar as an example.  (Of course, he's unaware that Hagar was a handmaid - aka slave - so, so much for his argument of it being willing and not exploitive.)

Now, the crowing moment: I ask the question: "Why do you think selling organs is illegal?"  Red in the face, he sputters: "That's a bad analogy. Surrogacy creates life. It creates families."

"Yes," I agree, "and selling organs can SAVE a life! If you want, need and can afford to buy an organ to save your life, why is it illegal to do so?" He refuses to answer but now decides that I have been being very RUDE to him by using the word exploitation.

I gathered my purse and car keys and without saying another word to him, walk to the register and ask to pay for what I had ordered. "A separate check" the cashier asks. "Yes" I reply. I paid and as I went to leave, he approached the register. I turn and say: "Goodnight, Jim" and leave.


I wonder if he is holding onto his position dearly for fear (subconsciously?) that if he accepts that there was anything wrong with it - if he has a change of heart, a change of political, philosophical ideology on the subject of surrogacy - that that would in some way mean he rejected his son. That if his son's conception was somehow "wrong" than having his son was wrong. That to even think about the possibility that there might be something wrong with paying someone to have your child and hand it over to you is wrong, means you're sorry you had you son. I could totally get that.  And I wonder if that's not why he holds to it so tenaciously. You know, in the way that some mothers who lost a child to adoption hold onto the belief that it was "right" and "good' as if their very life depended upon them holding onto that defensive lifeboat of justification. The ones who will proselytize for adoption agencies. Maybe even more so because he lost his wife over his decision. Lost the "family" he had paid to create.

I find it interesting that surrogacy caused the breakup of his marriage. I wonder how common that is. Do women feel that their husbands had to outside the marriage for satisfaction, as in having an affair? Had a child with another woman? Is the child a constant reminder of their failure as a woman and wife to "be fruitful" to give their husbands all they want? To not simply be accepted and loved for themselves - "flaws" and all.

And then there is his pseudo liberalism that defends the entitlement of "if I can afford to have it, I deserve to have it" even when the "it" is a human being you are contracting to create and purchase. ! ! ! 
Guess I assume too much to think that being progressive or liberal means having social consciousness?  It's like being a Hummer-driving liberal!  Or worse - a private jet flying liberal like some celebs.  The "do-as-I-say-not-as-do" liberals. But this is even worse to me because he is totally denying that there is anything wrong with what he did - expcet he did admit that he was aware there are those who are opposed to it. I mean that he even asked me beforehand if I would consider dating someone who did "it" shows that he is aware it is not without its controversy and opposition. Not totally welcomed with open arms or looked upon with the nobility or as a charitable act, as adoption so often is.

At one point, when I asked him a second time why organ selling was illegal and he refused to answer... I actually felt sad for him. He looked defeated at having no answer to that question. Like a deflated balloon with al the wind knocked out of him. And I knew in that instant that it was surely not the first time he'd heard that argument, and still he had no defense except to repeat that it was a bad analogy.

Clearly if we protect the poor from being exploited by allowing to "willingly" make money selling their organs to save lives by those eager to buy them... surely we should likewise protect women from selling their bodies in what could also cause their demise. But he was right, too. It is a bad analogy becaue selling a human being is far, far WORSE than selling some tissue and cells who don't grow up to wonder or care who they came from. The MOTHER of his child sold her child. And she no doubt justifies it as helping a husband and wife to create a 'family' too - even though it destroyed a family.

Bottom Line for Me:

I'm glad if my experiences with adoption heightened my sensitivities and awareness to the exploitation of women. In fact I'm grateful.  If it's true that everything happens for a purpose, then that was the purpose of my loss, grief, pain and suffering: To be more aware and work to help others be spared similar unnecessary losses and exploitation.

If my heightened sensitivity keeps me from dating men that are oblivious to how women  - or any human beings - are being exploiting and children commodified, then I am also grateful for that. I'd much rather be alone for the remainder of my life - surrounded and blessed with the great friends I have - than in a relationship with anyone I lacked respect for. Been there, done that, thank you very much!

An let's not forget that commercial surrogacy - any such arrangement involving payment - is illegal in most every industrialized national with the exception of the U$. That speaks volumes!


Robin said...

It is always hard to take a stand on an issue that goes against the grain of what the mainstream culture believes. The only thing an individual can do is stick to their guns. And who knows, what you told your new acquaintance may cause him to think much more about the issue and he may very well change his mind.

My main concern in this story is for the son. How awful to learn that his existence was the cause of his parents' marriage ending. Of course, couples in the throw of "we want a baybee, we want a baybee" never think ahead to how their actions will affect the child when s/he is grown.

Mirah Riben said...

What about what its like to learn that you were created via a business negotiation? Or that your MOTHER - who carried you, birthed you and from whom you inherit half your genes, SOLD you? That she conceived you for payment with the iNTENT of giving you away?

Could that be in part why this 23-year-old believes the world be saved by aliens from outer space? A fact his father told me with a perfectly straight, matter-of-fact face.

Mirah Riben said...

Robin - which one of us is taking a stand and going against mainstream - him, me or both of us? Is surrogacy mainstream accepted now? As I mentioned, he seemed aware that it was not always accepted.

Robin said...

I was referring in general to your family preservation stance vs. the pro-adoption mindset in this country. The belief that biology doesn't matter, that all you need is love to make a family.

Mirah Riben said...

Isn't it utterly amazing that the same folk who come to the biology doesn't matter conclusion do so after spending years going through painful and very costly infertility treatments, jumping through every possible hoop to conceive a child or "get" one that is related to one of the two members of a couple - by surrogacy or whatever means possible because having be related to at least one of them is so very VITAL...?!

I'll never forget the first major surrogacy case which played in my home state of NJ and I was very much involved with - the mary Beth Whitehead case. The purchasing father said his reason for doing it was that he wanted a child who was of him and thus Jewish to carry on his jewish lineage or some such. But he was married to a non-Jew and used a non-Jewish surrogate, and not a gestational surrogate! people's justifications blow my mind how contorted and unconnected to reality they can be.

Wonder if those two are still married?

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