Friday, December 8, 2006


As a 40-something member of a commited lesbian relationship my boss (I'll call her L) waited years and was never chosen by a birthmother. As a single woman in her 50's, she had a newborn to adopt within two weeks. This was the bias that informed our choice to donate our embryos only to a lesbian couples. But it was what L did after the adoption was finalized that dictated the contract terms I went on to suggest to our recipients.

In our state there is a two-week wait after the birthmother surrenders the child. During that time, she can change her mind and take the child away from the parent(s) who are adopting. This must be a frightening time for the new parents. In L's case, the worst happened. The birthmother changed her mind and asked for the baby back.

She was a white woman in her 30's who had a fling with a African American man. Her family theatened to disown her if she decided to raise a bi-racial child. She went back and forth on this until the baby was two months old. Understandably this drove L crazy.

The adoption agency stepped in, offering counseling for the birthmother to make a final decision. L agreed to give her on-going updates, photos and eventual visits with the child. With the agreement that this would be an open adoption, the birthmother finally surrendered her maternal rights permanently.

At first, L stuck to the agreement. Then the bio-father called and said "I want to see my child". Him referring to the baby as "his child" angered L so much she cut off all contact between the baby and her genetic parents' families. L got mad and went back on her promises to the birthmother. There was no way for the birthmother to appeal. The adoption was finalized and the open adoption agreement was unenforceable.

I understood L's frustration and fear. And I thought she was looking for, and found, an excuse to betray the birthmother, as she felt the birthmother had betrayed her. What L did was wrong, and it was obviously motivated by insecurity and pettiness.

The person who suffers most in this transaction is the child. Adoptees have the right to know their genetic origins. A loving relationship with the parent(s) can only be enhanced by their decision to allow the adoptee to know their genetic parents. There is a huge body of literature that shows that adoptees who do not know their genetic parents feel incomplete.

Our observation of L's unethical and vindictive behavior informed our search for recipients. Tomorrow, I'll tell you how.