The voice of the birthmother
“Words on the Night Breeze” was a 1990s Chinese radio call-in show for women. The radio personality, Xinran, moved to London in 1997 and now writes occasionally for The Guardian.
Last month she wrote an article describing her “encounter” with a birthmother who had abandoned her child. I now have enough anecdotal supporting evidence that when Katie and Claire ask (and I know they will) if their abandoning birthmothers’ loved them, I can sincerely answer “yes.”
But I now have other questions after reading the article.
The compassion of bystanders for abandoned children is not always there. Xinran was ridiculed for attempting to come to the aid of an abandoned child. We too felt this while we were in China adopting Claire, when we got the occasional dirty look from pedestrians. Why the lack of compassion?
The birthmother who called Xinran and admitted to abandoning the child on a cold winter morning was sobbing when she reported that her family and village(!) were urging her to get rid of her child. I cannot imagine how a village could pressure a mother into abandonment or infanticide.
Xinran reports another birthmother wishes for a rich person to take her daughter. This to parallels our experience. While in China adopting Katie, a father offered to sell us his preschool daughter. One could charitable in saying these birthparents wanted a better life for their children, but I cannot think but that the love of a birthparent is beyond any monetary sum.
A birthmother wonders if foreign adoptive parents “know how to feed and love them.” This coming from a parent who had decided to leave her daughter defenseless on a street corner. When we adopted our girls, the Chinese and Vietnamese governments had us sign an affidavit indicating that we would never abandon or sell the children. What was unthinkable to us apparently wasn’t a given in their society.
Finally, a birthmother begs the new family “to love her as if she were their own.” This is the one phrase I hear in casual conversations that annoys me the most. Of course I am going to love my daughters as if they were my own because they are my own. It annoys me to no end that some don’t consider my family to be a true one. I am not a fake parent and my children belong to no other than my wife and me. Well-meaning strangers often say “I’d consider adoption if I couldn’t have children of my own.” I can never get myself to reply “good for you!” These same people should never adopt because adoption should never be viewed as a consolation prize. (The Institute for Adoption Information has a handy guide as to what phrases can be offensive to adoptive families.)
Xinran has a book out that looks promising.