Friday, July 10, 2009

The Adoptive Parents vs “Sainthood”

The other day as I was commenting (educating/defending/advocating) on another blog, something caught my eye. Something I have wanted to comment on for a LONG time. But I wanted to let my ideas percolate a bit... but now I think I am ready to serve you the “coffee”.

Just to give you an idea about what I am going to be talking about, these are comments written on an article about a wonderful couple who have several children with Down syndrome:
About this guy with special needs children:
Are these his biological children?
If yes, that means he and his wife knew that something was wrong with their genetic codes after the first kid. Yet, they still decided to have more kids.
Or perhaps him and his wife adopted special needs kids.
That I can really admire.
Whoops, I missed the key paragraph saying all but one of the kids is adopted.

And to give you another example... Years ago I was at a program given at a local university, about using music with young children with Down syndrome. Each parent there introduced themselves. As one father mentioned that his child was adopted, all the natural mothers oo-ed and awed “Kol HaCvod!” (“Oh, you are to be admired!”). [On the spot I got up and told all the other Mothers: “Why are you ooing and awing? I don’t want to diminish what he is doing, but why are you reacting as if he is so much greater than you?!? Did you not choose to keep your child? Not to abort or give away? Do you not have to deal with this child, without the veneration of society? Why are you selling your own worth short?”
I suspect that the “natural” moms reacted that way because as a society, we have been trained to react so. But why is this? Which brings us back to the first example.
I have seen several examples recently of the same type of reaction. The adoptive parent is a hero, a saint, a person to be admired. The natural parent is blamed for not aborting/preventing the birth. [I remember vividly the doctor who asked me after Ricki’s birth “Why at your age did you not do an amnio?!?” My response: “I do not believe in murdering people who are not perfect.”]
But why are the two responses so opposed? Are both sets of caretakers not going through the same grill of treatment schedules, doctor’s visits, etc?
The answer is easy: MONEY. One parent is costing society money, by bringing this less-than-perfect child into the world. The other is taking care of a child that would cost society money to institutionalize otherwise. So it seems that SAINTHOOD is dependent on how much money you save society. Because society does not worship G-d, but the almighty dollar. And I am afraid that we may see much more of a backlash in the years ahead, as society will begin to demand that births of the “imperfect” be prevented.
And this is a big challenge to our culture. Because where does that end? I have read recently of people criticizing someone who gave charity to a beggar on the street, because the beggar could change and not ask others for money. The giver of alms was yelled at “You are encouraging him!” At the same time, we are surrounded more and more by expectations that when you get old, it is best to pull the plug, commit suicide, or otherwise spare society the expenses of your continued existence. [We spend years building up everyone’s self esteem, and then yank it out from under them after 60 or 70...]
So the question is.... how will society decide when the dollar takes precedence over the sanctity of human life? Who will we decide is expendable? I’m not sure I want to be around in twenty years to hear the answers.


ds.mama said...

Ok, what I am about to say is ugly.

I think this phenomenon happens because the natural parent is collectively perceived by society as "guilty" of having created this "wrong" child and is even more guilty for bringing it into the world (because of money and but more so because they are a reminder to all of human imperfection which makes so many people uncomfortable.)

The adoptive parent is seen as cleaning up after the worst of the former parents (the ones that make them, bring them into the world and then desert them). The adoptive parent's choice to raise a special needs child is revered, ours is loaded.

Thank you for posting on this.

emma said...

I read a while ago on BBC disability news that the number of Downs births has actually increased slightly in recent years in the UK, because the perception of Down Syndrome and disability in general is changing. Disability is no longer always potrayed as a tragedy, which I have to say I was influenced by too, the reality is much different (doesn't mean life is always easy:-))

However, so much is measured by what we "contribute to society", by working paying taxes or intellectual contribution etc, that in an aging population and a society that has created a false idea of perfection, there will be problems in the future for sure. For example the suggestons of Peter Singer which are described in the article Unspeakable Conversations here:

And this is a link for self advocates against pre natal screening which you may be interested in:

Tamara said...

Love this one. It is so very true. I got the same "why didn't you have an amnio" question many times. Ugh. What I have grown to hate worse than the question is the answer some give (hope I never did) - "because amnios are risky and the child might not have a disability". I actually read that argument against amnios on a Focus on the Family website and complained about it. I believe it's now gone - and that's an extremely "pro-life" organization. If you're going to be pro-life, be pro all life. ugh again -

Belinda said...

It was a good cup of coffee. So true that we are all getting older and the values we silently let slip by could one day be applied to us.

Tamara, good for you, challenging Focus on the Family and making a difference.

There was much to sip on and consider here.