Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Tangled Web of Entitlement, Resentment and Justification

Entitlement is often spoken and written and blogged about in the adoption community. We know it fuels adoptions. we recognize how deeply it motivates through justification.

I was watching a re-run of an old crime show on TV. The detective on a murder case commented on how feelings of entitlement  -  I deserve it (whatever "it" is) - especially when combined with feeling it unfair that others have what you feel entitled to, can lead to justifying most anything. The "it" could be a promotion, a husband or wife, wealth, fame... or a child.

Think about it. Rapists often it feel it unfair that women tease or simply say no after feeling they were led on. They feel entitled and take what they want, even with force. 

Child molesters justify their action because the children want their "affection." They believe they are being "good" and loving to the their victims.

Thieves, too often feel a deep sense of injustice that others have wealth and possession they cannot afford but feel entitled to. Same with white color criminals. they're just - in their justification - leveling an unfair playing field. 

Men who feel their wives are not giving them enough sexually, feel entitled and justified cheating. Women who catch their husbands cheating likewise use it to justify their doing likewise. It's only fair!

Injustice, unfairness, entitlement.... put them together and they justify taking anything by any means.

Infertility builds strong resentments and immense feelings of unfairness. Why can other women get pregnant so easily, even when they don't want to or are not ready, but they can't? UNFAIR!  Monumentally unfair when you "know" you would make as good or better a parent than teens who get pregnant... Infertile women and same sex couples hear about women aborting and they think how UNFAIR!  They read about mothers who abuse, neglect, abandon and they know it is UNJUST!  Entitlement is joined by it's first cousin:  resentment, bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

In adoption, this attitude and way of thinking is what allows prospective adopters in Finding Fernanda to ignore blatant signs of corruption and illegalities such as seeing multiple photos of the same child with different names or seeing the same name labeling photos of different children. They know it's not right and they ignore it because it might harm their chances of getting what they want, what they lust for and feel entitled to.

It is illustrated vividly in the documentary Wo Ai Ni (I Love You), Mommy that follows a woman as she goes to China to adopt. And there, in a hotel room, she counts out piles of cash on her hotel bed and says: "I know this looks wrong, but it's just how things are done." The essence, the very definition of justification!

Adoption differs however from crimes that are committed based on entitlement, resentment, envy and justification because adoption is not just socially accepted, it is encouraged and promoted. Those who adopt are treated as heroes.  . 

Bonus - adopters not only get what they long for, they initially receive compassion for the loss of their fertility and after adoption,  society's  admiration for rescuing an 'unwanted' child!  Win-win for them!

Society buys into "the ends justifies the means" hook, line and sinker. It matters not what bribes are paid, how mothers are coerced, how children are trafficked, or who is exploited... We - actors and society - ignore the exploitation of "them" as "other." "They" - destitute and desperate mothers are not "us."  The public can identify with the longing for a child to parent and care for, but cannot identify with being coerced or pressured, or merely lacking the resources to provide... They become "other" -- dehumanized - like enemies in war.   

And their children? The end up going to "better" homes. Our social mores and our laws put their seal of approval on anything goes tactics because the end justifies the means - any means.

The US State Dept even turned a blind eye when Guatemala revoked an adoption after affirming that Anyeli was kidnapped from her mother, Olga Rodriguez. DNA testing to deny or confirm the kidnapping allegation and was never orders  and the adoption of Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez by Timothy and Jennifer Monahan's of Missouri was declared  "legal."

Kidnapping justified by not just the perpetrators, but by the highest law in the land.  Kidnapping justified by ethnocentric enlistment and the belief that the end - an American life - justified the means. (Similarly, many contested adoptions involve two states fighting for entitlement.) 

Reversing these motivators is no easy task. Simply exposing the exploitation and corruption has proven to have very limited effect. One country closes, another is targeted. Nothing will stop until the social justification ends. 

Reducing infertility would also help reduce demand, but we as a society do virtually no preventive education. Why bother, when you can "always adopt"?  Why prevent a problem that supports two multi-billion dollar industries - infertility and adoption?  certainly those profiting have no reason to help with prevention of infertility or family preservation.

The severest cases of adoption entitlement are seen in contested adoptions. The audacity of adopters to go to the lengths they do to fight loving, capable parents. The become obsessed in their belief of themselves as superior and more entitled to the child than th child's blood mother, father or both. They seem never to think how they will justify it to the child later in life when the child eventually reads the details and/or meets the loving/capable parents who fought to keep their child.

And the cause of many contested adoption are are broken openness promises once the adoption is finalized.


Anonymous said...

The so called feeling of "entitlement" is in reality feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. So rather than shaming and damning those unable to have children, why not support them? Same principle applied to expectant mothers with unplanned pregnancies who may have feelings or insecure and feel they would be inadequate parents.

When it comes to those who participate in unethical adoptions who are insecure and have feelings of inadequacy while in the short term they may "win" in the long run they lose along with the other parties involved.

Mirah Riben said...

I disagree. While infertility does result in insecurities and inadequacy and may well precede entitlement which is very different than either insecurities or inadequacy.

Insecurities and inadequacies alone can simply result in becoming guarded and self protective. In fertile women in this state report discomfort going to baby shower's for instance and might withdraw socially from friends with children or who are pregnant.

There 's a leap, however, from that to feeling entitled to someone else's child.

And not all lose anything in long run. Many keep the spoils and even turn children against their original parents because of their insecurities that obtaining a child does not resolve.

Anonymous said...


It's entitlement on the outside but inadequacy and insecurity on the inside. Their feelings may led to self centered actions. As someone who has personal experience, please take my word for it. Don't assume what others feel when you have not had a similar experience. Listen to what others with experience have to say.

Even in that case the adoptive parents still feel hollow inside because the reality is they never addressed the wounds that infertility left.

Mirah Riben said...

Despite using the word disagree, I'm really not in much disagreement with what you are saying. Insecurities and inadequacies are precursors for entitlement for those who feel entitlement. Another step along the way is self-pity: "Why me?

Where are splitting hairs is that i do not believe 100% of interfiles reach entitlement.

Mirah Riben said...

In other words and to be clear: All who feel entitlement may well have underlying insecurities and inadequacies but NOT All who have those feelings end up feeling entitled. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

"Why me" is not self pity. It's a natural reaction in thinking a person did something to deserve their fate. It's something I thought when I was first diagnosed. I thought it was because I was a bad person and wasn't good enough a person to become a parent. But I realized it was just something that happened for no reason. I wasn't a bad person, I was just someone who was born with something few people on this planet are. Just like anyone born with a disability. It's not something that could have been "prevented". And though society tells us we should "adopt" no one who didn't want to adopt before infertility ever truly wanted to adopt.

I think what you describe as "entitlement" is something every infertile person/couple reaches. However, as you and I agree not every person/couple acts upon those feelings that leads to an unethical adoption. There are those like myself who likely end up childless forever.

Mirah Riben said...

depends on your definition of "unethical adoption> To some degree most every adoption is. Every adoption begins with a tragedy and and a temporary crisis that is made a permanent loss through adoption loss.

Many people who act perfectly ethically wind up unwittingly in unethical adoptions, such as happened to the Smolins. One does not have to be a participant in unethical behavior to be the recipient of an unethical adoption.

As for "why me" IMO it IS synonymous with self-pity along with the questioning of what did I do to deserve this.

People live with defective hearts, brains, lungs and loss of limbs, hearing and vision. Some wallow in "why me" (which IS self pity in my book) and others do not go there and live their lives to the best.

I have an incurable, permanently crippling, degenerative disease and have also suffered liver disease and NEVER did I ever go to a "why me" place but was on online support groups with many who did. I never asked "why me" and also never played victim. I live my life to its fullest.

I think one has to feel victimized first in order to feel entitled to someone else's child or someone else's organs or limb... or life! there are two choices - you accept your body's limitations or you choose to feel entitled.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a difference between feeling "why me" and let it consume you. Feeling it is a natural feeling letting it consume you is when it becomes a self pity type of thing.

It's a process as comes with any type of loss. You go through stages. It's not a simple you either feel something or you don't. You feel it but to different degrees and our reactions are different. You don't just accept a loss like infertility immediately. It takes time, in fact years. Same goes for any type of loss. The key is for a person to be supported not shamed or accused of seeking self pity.

Mirah Riben said...

Lots of losses of many kinds....But only those who suffer loss of fertility feel entitled to and justify the taking of a child and in doing so cause another - and the child - to experience a loss to resolve their loss!

Mirah Riben said...

AND adoption entitlement is not limited to those who suffer infertility. Same sex couple also feel entitled to others' children.

Anonymous said...


Nothing can resolve someone who has suffered infertility. Adopting a child doesn't resolve that loss any more so than a widow who remarries. An infertile couple may think they are resolving their loss but in reality they aren't.

BTW, I'm sharing my perspective not so that you feel bad for me but that you can better understand how someone going through infertility feels. We're lucky that we have a great support system that has allowed us to process this. Not every couple is that lucky. That is where as a society a difference can be made.

Mirah Riben said...

I am all TOO aware that adoption does not resolve infertility! Most everyone knows that except the adopters who try to replace their fantasy child at the expense of the child they adopt.

And you know what other losses are irresolveable? Mothers who lose children to adoption and children who are torn from their families. All because others feel entitled and are willing and able to pay the fees.

Anonymous said...


You are absolutely right that a woman who gives birth to a child that is adopted (along with that child) experience a loss that cannot be replaced. Future children she gives birth to can never replace that loss. A reunion later in life or an Open Adoption with an open relationship doesn't replace the loss either.

Where I disagree with you is that those who adopt do so because of feelings of entitlement. Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity lead them to adopt in most cases. The feeling is that by adopting it will fulfill those feelings. That is not to say it's right or justified because it's not justified. All I am saying is that your explanation of the feelings they go through and what drives them is inaccurate.

If you and others had a better understanding of it and listened more to those who have first hand experiences, I believe you would better be able to address the demand in adoption. Otherwise you are no different than Adoptive Parents who believe most natural mothers wanted to "place" their children for adoption and that they go on to lead pain free lives.

Mirah Riben said...

I respectfully disagree. You do not take or get anything until you reach a point of feeling entitled to it.

If I am sad and hungry I stay sad and hungry until I feel ENTITLED to food.

If I am lonely and insecure, I stay alone until I feel ENTITLED to find a friend or enter into a relationship.

Insecurity and inadequacy do not provoke movement or change or resolving. They are inert and introspective.

One has to move from those feelings to feeling ENTITLED before they would apply to adopt and actually do something....unless they are pushed by someone else.

kym said...

There's a difference between feeling entitled and being entitled. One can be entitled without realizing this status or feeling entitled. But experiencing infertility may lead to a deeper, more desperate sense of insecurity for entitled people than those who are used to experiencing disappointment without any "magic bullets".

Those who have been trained and are used to pursuing and achieving whatever they strive for might be unprepared (as are their friends) for how to cope when devastating news hit and they just won't be able to get their way. They're always used to winning, and might not even realize this about themselves. They've been surrounded by people with a similar composition and outlook and don't know where to turn to fix this.

Enter adoption agencies and lawyers who promise to get them the best that money can buy. Those unaccustomed to accepting disappointment might be most desperate and vulnerable to the adoption agency sales pitch and psychological counseling (and who claim to "understand" them, sympathize with them.

So, I don't think greater empathy is necessarily the solution (they get empathy from adoption agencies). Rather, being blunt, direct, and truthful with them, and setting boundaries for them, and not giving into their entitlement. They will cope, they'll have to cope', just like everyone else. That's life. And training/educating society to stop pandering to their entitled environments and ways - to treat them as equals, not gods.

Empathy and Support For All said...


What you are saying about those going through infertility is completely untrue. Being someone who has dealt with adversity my while life who has overcome that adversity I can tell you that it's not as simple as you make it sound. I hardly won in overcoming the other adversity I faced in my life. I always had to do things differently than others and though I didn't necessarily achieve what I set out to I was able to achieve and alternative always knowing that I made the best of what I had.

However, with infertility it paralyzed me. It took a happy up beat positive person and turned me into a sad, insecure, inadaquete negative person. It has sucked the joy out of my life. Now that doesn't mean I am entitled to a child out of sympathy. But I do think I deserve some form of empathy. And not the type an Adoption Agency would give.

The type of empathy and Adoption Agency gives is exploiting other people's vulnerability. Handing myself or others going through infertility doesn't take away the pain of infertility nor does it empathize it.

What you imply as being truthful, blunt and direct with those going through infertility won't help them. It will just lead to more cases of infertile couples falling into deep depression and suicides. Because our society looks down upon those without children infertility is a lonely place. So you are wrong that they will cope. In fact they'll do the opposite. Handing them a child at all costs isn't the solution but neither is being cold hearted and unsupportive as you are suggesting.

Mirah Riben said...

I strongly encourage you to read some Buddhist philosophy about the nature of suffering.

You say:"However, with infertility it paralyzed me. It took a happy up beat positive person and turned me into a sad, insecure, inadaquete negative person."

Believe it or not those are CHOICES. Shit happens. It's unavoidable. How you handle it and cope with it is a choice.

I have a very good friend who began loosing his sight in his 30s and by 40 had to give up driving. he learned to use public transit and never once complained or whined or felt any self-pity. I think loss of sigh is a LOT worse than loss of fertility. I can think of many things that are worse and people overcome and CHOOSE not to let it ruin their lives or happiness.

Society gives us many messages: Too fat. Too skinny. Too bossy. Whatever.

My recently married daughter, who has known since her teens that it is very likely she will never conceive, has found this book very helpful:

Not Trying
Infertility, Childlessness, and Ambivalence
Author(s): Kristin J. Wilson

Your attitude is up to YOU. And no child you adopt is going to fix you. In fact adopting before you fix yourself is very unfair to any child you would adopt. I speak with and read the blogs of MANY MANY adult adoptees who felt a very strong sense of having to replace a ghost child and it did not make for a happy childhood for them.

I feel tremendous sympathy for you and hope you can get help in accepting yourself and not feeling you fall short of some societal expectation. Join a group of childless by choice folks and maybe their confidence to buck the system will rub off on you.

Empathy and Support For All said...


I appreciate your suggestions and recognize your intentions.

Please understand that I shared what my infertility diagnosis not because I was asking for Kym's or even your sympathy (though it is appreciated). I was sharing it to give you an insight into the mind and mentality of someone who is infertile with the hope that you could use it in your work to better communicate your message.

You are wrong that it is a choice to feel the way I do. It wasn't a choice to feel that way. How I and my spouse choose to deal with it is a choice. And just to give you an insight into how I have choosen to deal with it, I have done the opposite of nothing. I've gone through therapy, marriage counseling, read books/blogs and picked up old activities to help with my confidence. Also I volunteer for an organization that helps children.

Despite doing all of that I still hurt at times. It may not be as intense as it was two years ago but it's still there. It will always be there and will always be something I have to work through. But it's no different than the other disability I was born with. I deal with that disability on a daily basis and will do so until the day I die. Please don't feel bad for me or think that I believe I should be handed a child because I shouldn't. Again I hope you can learn that someone like me who has been proactive with dealing with the emotional impact of infertilty can still struggle. Your daughter should know that if it does turn out that she can't have children that it's not going to hurt any less. It's going to be a life long process. There is a book out there called Ever Upward by a woman who is also a therapist. Like your daughter she knew she might not be able to have kids yet going through infertility didn't hurt any less. Her and her husband have decided to live ChildFree but continue to deal with the pain infertility has left. It's an ongoing process for her and her husband.

One thing I have to take issue though is that despite some of your comment being nice there is a part that is dismissive. The part that says that there are things worse than infertility. How would you feel if someone told you there are worse things for a person to have to deal with than having their child adopted? Wouldn't that be a shitty dismissive thing to say?

Mirah Riben said...

I did not mean that you choose your feeling. We cannot. But you need to google Buddhism + suffering to understand what I am saying.

The pain is real - whether opgusical or meotional. But you CHOOSE how much you SUFFER over it!

I too live with a disability. I have endured more than half a dozen surgeries and have been in excruciating pain to the point of suicide. Everyone is different. FOR ME, knowing it is not the worst thing in the world helps me. I watched a friend die from ALS and I was GRATEFUL that as painful and disabling as my disease is, it is not fatal and neither is fertility! There ARE FAR FAR worse things!! If you cannot see that I am very sorry for you. If you CHOOSE to believe that your lot in life is the worst possible thing that can ever happen to any person, then so be it.

And I would never for an instant think or believe or expect anyone else to think that losing a child to adoption is the worst thing in the world either! I for one know very well it is not because I have a lost my daughter twice: first to adoption and the DEATH. So...

What's that you're thinking? I was able to give birth to other children? think again! Children are not interchangeable and a hundred subsequent children could never replace my firstborn or seeing her get married or knowing her children...

It's hell and her loss had a ripple effect on all of my children and on my life forever after. But is it THE WORST thing? No.

Everyone suffers! We cannot judge whose suffering is worse. but I know for sure, mine is NOT worse than anyone else's.

Mirah Riben said...

How have I coped? I have used my losses to work to PREVENT other mothers suffering the same loss and that is what all this about: PREVENTION! The nerve of me to discuss trying to prevent other women suffering the pain you and others have suffered as a result of infertility! How dare I?!

How dare i not? It's like asking that we don 't work to prevent cancer or heart attacks or car accidents! Do any of these other prevention programs make light of the losses suffered by heart attacks or cancer or car accidents? NO! The exact opposite! Working to prevent them recognizes how horrible those deaths are and a desire to prevent other such deaths and suffering.

But I was chastised and told I was insensitive because I suggested we try to increase education on the prevention of infertility and that by saying that I was victim-blaming. BULLSHIT!

cancer prevention does not say that smoking caused everyone's cancer and that some cancer just happens - it happens to innocent kids, even. But we still have huge campaigns against cigarette smoking because it is worthwhile to prevent as much as we can. i never said that all infertility was preventable any more than all cancer is. but we have to do what we can and we don't need huge pity parties saying it's mean to even discuss infertility.

Let me also say that if adoption was truly child-centered and truly put the needs of children first -- infertility and adoption would not co-exist at all! many children MIGHT be better in homes where there are already children and parents already experience din parenting! How is infertility a criteria? How does that make one person a better parent than another??

And where do same sex couple fall into this? they are now adding to the demand for children to adopt - a demand that created corruption, exploration , coercion, deceit, kidnapping and trafficking. Are they also to be pitied because they cannot have children? Do infertile and same sex couple DESERVE other people's children? Do they deserve to benefit from others' crisis instead of having social programs that assist families in crisis and prevent losses to adoption?

Prevent, prevent, prevent. Every adoption begins with a tragedy. if we could prevent poverty and other causes of adoption loss would that be preferable? I think so!

Empathy and Support for All said...


I give you a lot of credit for being the only person in the adoption reform community who has recognized a need to address the demand in adoption. You are correct that prevention of infertility is part of the solution. I appreciate you making an effort that no one else in your community has made.

I don't like to compare suffering because nothing good can come from it. Though I will say for myself and m spouse our journey was easy compared to other couples. I was diagnosed quickly. There were no rounds of treatments that are difficult to go through. There was no uncertainty of what the cause was either. It was something I was born with that couldn't have been prevented unfortunately. But it's something that can't be treated.

I'm lucky that I have the means to pay for therapy that most couples can't afford. I'm lucky that I have a great support system and an amazing spouse. But not everyone is that lucky. Those are the people that need society's empathy and support.

Mirah Riben said...

Thank you but supply and demand is a major issue in adoption today and has been written about by many in the field in addition to myself. Just google the words adoption supply demand and you will see massive amounts of literature on the subject.

Mirah Riben said...

I was refreshing myself, reading Buddhism on suffering or Dukkha...

As I was taught it, it's about feeling it and LETTING GO and not stay attached to the bad feelings.

It occurred to me that was makes it hard for infertile women is the multi-billion dollar infertility INDUSTRY and their message that it something you can cure or overcome if you just keep trying enough (and spending enough).

That is where the pressure messages originate, then others (friends, relatives, co-workers) read articles etc and tell you: "Oh, have tried XYZ."

there is a particularly American attitude that we can conquer every problem id we just try hard enough. there are far too messages telling us to ACCEPT the things we cannot change!

One of my favorite personal mottoes is: "It is what it is." My son and grandson live in NZ. People say to me, isn't that hard not seeing them more often. i reply, "It is what it is."

I could concentrate on how awful it is, but what good would that do?

Buddhism is about ACCEPTING and LETTING GO!! I find it very comforting. saves a whole lot of unnecessary worry and anxiety.

In decades past, people simply accepting being childless. Period. there were no infertility doctors or infertility treatments and thus they simply accepted it was god's will or whatever. PERIOD! The more choices, the more HOPE...the more possibilities, the more anxiety.

Mirah Riben said...

...and clearly the more ups and downs.

Empathy and Support for All said...


I haven't read any adoption reform advocates discuss how infertility as an issue needs to be addressed as part of the demand for adoption. At least amongst bloggers like yourself I haven't. That's not to say there aren't others out there who are. Just the ones I've come across. I'm trying to give you a compliment for being unique, you should take it and give yourself more credit.

Regarding your comment on the fertility industry impacting infertile women. I think it's more complex than that. In reality it's infertile couples be it men who are infertile, women or both being infertile. The industry targets and exploits the couple as both parties are impacted. But even within the infertilty community couples are told to not give up. Stopping treatments is looked at as not moving on but people quitting. Most of that comes from people who got lucky and had treatments that worked. The childless infertile couples are the black sheep of the infertility community.

We were lucky in that while our first doctor wanted to rush us into third party reproduction when we weren't ready our second doctor gave us a thorough analysis and was honest about the possibilities. We took our time and decided that third party reproduction was not something we were comfortable with. But not everyone is lucky to have our experience. We are the exception not the norm unfortunately.

What you need to understand is that people can accept what is and still be sad. I've accepted what is. I still get up everyday go to work with a smile on my face and do what I have to get done. But there are still times that I get upset or there is something that triggers me. So just because you know childless people that have a smile and seem happy doesn't mean they don't hurt inside. That's ok too. You learn to recognize these feelings and manage them. Again I would recommend that you and your daughter read that book Ever Upward. It's an honest insight into the mind of an infertile.

The problem in our society today as the anonymous poster pointed out is that people without children (including unmarried singles) are cast aside. More is expected of them to pick up the slack that people with
children arent. Their lives are looked at as being less I important than those with children. They are excluded from social circles and gatherings. Those with children tell them they should just adopt and that them not having children is a choice always and never a matter of circumstances. I think you get this and hope that you can spread the message.

Mirah Riben said...

I did thank you for the compliment.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget