Bethany guided Jordan through the Medicaid application process and in
April moved her in with home-schooling parents outside Myrtle Beach.
There, according to Jordan, the family referred to her as one of the
agency’s “birth mothers”–a term adoption agencies use for relinquishing
mothers that many adoption reform advocates reject–although she hadn’t
yet agreed to adoption. “I felt like a walking uterus for the agency,”
Jordan was isolated in the shepherding family’s house; her only social
contact was with the agency, which called her a “saint” for continuing
her pregnancy but asked her to consider “what’s best for the baby.”
“They come on really prolife: look at the baby, look at its heartbeat,
don’t kill it. Then, once you say you won’t kill it, they ask, What can
you give it? You have nothing to offer, but here’s a family that goes on
a cruise every year.”
Jordan was given scrapbooks full of letters and photos from hopeful
adoptive parents hoping to stand out among the estimated 150 couples for
every available baby. Today the “birthmother letters” are on Bethany’s
website: 500 couples who pay $14,500 to $25,500 for a domestic infant
adoption, vying for mothers’ attention with profuse praise of their
“selflessness” and descriptions of the lifestyle they can offer.
Jordan selected a couple, and when she went into labor, they attended
the birth, along with her counselor and shepherding mother. The next
day, the counselor said that fully open adoptions weren’t legal in South
Carolina, so Jordan wouldn’t receive identifying information on the
adoptive parents. Jordan cried all day and didn’t think she could
relinquish the baby. She called her shepherding parents and asked if she
could bring the baby home. They refused, chastising Jordan sharply. The
counselor told the couple Jordan was having second thoughts and brought
them, sobbing, into her recovery room. The counselor warned Jordan that
if she persisted, she’d end up homeless and lose the baby anyway.
“My options were to leave the hospital walking, with no money,” says
Jordan. “Or here’s a couple with Pottery Barn furniture. You sacrifice
yourself, not knowing it will leave an impact on you and your child for
I was talking about this yesterday withMegan Cottrell of One Story Up, whoseposts about her friend Liz you really should read. She had gotten acomment that her friend shouldn’t have gotten pregnant if her friend was at all at risk of becoming poor, as if women below a certain income level shouldn’t have sex with their husbands, as if that makes a lot of sense. And we were talking about this concept of children as luxury items for the wealthy. This idea that you deserve kids only if you can provide the best schools, the best house, the best toys, the best life. As determined by the person speaking, natch.
Some of that is the competitive parenting thing, some of it is that now all our competitive parenting is done in public thanks to the Internets, some of it is that we just never tire of judging people when it comes to the realm of having children. But some of that really is a pervasive belief that if you are rich and you live in a certain kind of neighborhood you are therefore more virtuous and deserve kids. And it freaks me the fuck out that places which are supposed to be about placing unwanted children in loving homes are about economically guilt-tripping scared and vulnerable girls into thinking their lives are worthless to a child without a $5,000 crib. As if that’s a guarantee the kid is going to be okay.
Or as Megan put it, brilliantly, “Yeah, Pottery Barn prevents a lot of crime.”
Such enthusiasm for Christians to adopt en masse begins to seem like a
demand in need of greater supply, and this is how critics of current
practices describe it: as an industry that coercively separates willing
biological parents from their offspring, artificially producing
“orphans” for Christian parents to adopt, rather than helping birth
parents care for wanted children.
The idea that there is a market — and I know, okay, I know how the world works, STILL — just makes me ill. And what makes me even sicker is the idea that because of this insane behavior, a child that truly needs a home could go without, simply because the process has been so perverted that it winds up turning potential parents (and potential birth mothers) off adoption entirely.