(Our second of two posts for this year's Blogging Against Disablism. Thanks to All Our Lives supporter Meghan for sharing her life story.)
In 1982, my biological mother found herself in a terrible position. Not only was she pregnant, but she was taking LSD, her mother was an alcoholic, and she was being abused by her mother's boyfriend. She had had an abortion three years before I was conceived. I'm not sure why she decided to carry me to term, but she did.
My Mom and Dad were also in a painful position. After giving birth to my brother, my Mom unknowingly used a defective IUD device that was later found to have injured thousands of women, including her. After undergoing several dangerous and unsuccessful corrective surgeries, she and my Dad decided to adopt.
I have no way to get my biological mother’s perspective on the adoption, information which would provide more insight into how the adoption process impacts the women who choose it. Because she has never tried to make contact with me, I’ve assumed that she would prefer to put the adoption in her past and haven’t attempted to contact her. I do know that the particular agency she chose was an ethical** one and hope she went on to have a joyful, fulfilling life.
I also had the pleasure of meeting my biological father and that side of our family after they made contact a few years ago. They are well and were very happy to meet me. In doing so I learned that I’m Cuban on their side. Although this revelation has had little impact on my life, it’s fun to have that information.
Both situations surrounding the choice of adoption were painful and sad. I certainly agree that it would have been wonderful if my Mom, my biological mother and our relatives hadn’t had to experience the heartbreak that they did. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the adoption that resulted from those experiences, for it was largely responsible for the success I enjoy today.
After I was born, I developed respiratory distress and had to be airlifted to another hospital, where I was placed on a respirator. Because of this I incurred a hefty medical bill. If the state of Kentucky had been unwilling to absorb those costs, it would have been too expensive for most people to adopt me and I would have ended up in foster care. Luckily, the adoption agency convinced the state that doing so was less expensive than taking care of me for eighteen years.
Over the coming years, my adoption afforded me with dedicated parents and stability, something that was particularly important to me as a person with nonverbal learning disorder. Nonverbal Learning Disorder is similar to Asberger Syndrome. NVLD makes it difficult to interpret social cues, which can lead to unintentional breaches of etiquette. It also increases one’s tendency to loose things and become lost, which enhances the difficulty of changing one’s routine. Because of the adoption, I did not have to struggle with the pain and disruption of being moved from place to place.
I also had parents who wanted me very much and who fought valiantly for my rights. As we navigated the educational system, my mother came to every meeting, every doctor’s appointment, and every vocal recital. My Dad and I took long nature walks and gardened together. Because of this love and advocacy, I was able to make the most of my intellectual, spiritual, and emotional gifts. I tend to believe that my parents sunk all the energy they would have used on having multiple children into me and my brother.
This care and attention helped me cope with the persistent bullying I experienced growing up. Whenever I came home from a long day of being told that I was hated, retarded, cursed, or what-have-you, my parents were there to tell me that I was gifted, beautiful, and unconditionally loved. I wouldn’t be the same person if it weren’t for their ability to counteract the vitriol I experienced.
If my biological mother or father had chosen to care for me, I believe that they would have found a way to do it well. If I had been placed in foster care, I’m sure that caring people would have helped me. Adoption, however, was an excellent choice because it enabled me to have everything I needed to grow up and achieve my goals.
Now that I am in graduate school, I volunteer as an educational surrogate parent, which involves making educational decisions on behalf of disabled students in foster care. There are many people in the system who dedicate their time to helping these students achieve their goals and rise above the difficulties they experienced. This makes me believe that they will be all right. Nevertheless, consistent advocacy and familial connection is a much more dependable option.
Every time I go to a meeting, I am grateful to my biological mother for choosing adoption and giving me the gift of parents who were able to be consistent educational advocates. If you are unable to have children and have a heart to help others, consider adopting a child with special needs who needs consistency and the unconditional love of a parent. Children with special needs can be adopted via foster care, international agencies and domestic adoption agencies.
Moreover, if you’re a prospective parent considering adoption for your child, don’t think that a child with special needs cannot be successfully placed. In fact, there are currently waiting lists of people wanting to adopt children with various special needs and disability rights advocacy have lead to more rights and opportunities than ever before.
Canada's Waiting Kids
Be My Parent [Britain]
Adopting a Special-Needs Child [how-to article for Americans]
National Indian Child Welfare Association [for members of USA's First Nations]
National One Church One Child [helping to place African American kids]
**In an infant adoption, an ethical adoption agency will not pressure women or their partners into an adoption decision and will treat them as complete individuals with legal, financial and emotional needs. They will help navigate adoption options, including open, semi-open, and closed adoption and will be honest about all aspects of the process.