April 3, 2013

The Night I Melted Down at the Movies

Two years ago my husband took me on a date to see the movie October Baby. He had no idea the trigger that would result or he would have never made this choice. He doesn't take me on dates to slay me emotionally.

Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman, Creative Commons

The movie portrayed a late discovery (young adult) adoptee, Hannah, who found out she was adopted only because of serious medical issues that arose. She had always felt that something was amiss, her journal revealing a young lady feeling out of place and depressed. One day during a theatrical performance, she collapsed on stage, resulting in the family doctor encouraging her parents to tell her the truth of her origin. Her parents always felt it best that she not know about her adoption due to circumstances of her conception and birth. (She was birthed after a botched abortion. Her twin did not survive.)

After disclosure about her adoption she began to search for her original mother while her adoptive father did everything in his power to stop it.  He even forced her (young adult) boyfriend to break up with her because he had assisted her in the quest to go on a trip (without her parents permission - gasp!) to find her original mother. 

Perhaps what bothered me most was that toward the end, Hannah's adoptive father did apologize for his actions and “set her free” (as if it was ever his choice or decision) for her to find her original mother, but in his apology he basically said, “I’m sorry I reacted this way but it was just because I love you soooo much.”

I glanced around me and noticed a theater full of people crying. Not for the same reason I was. By the looks on their faces it was as though they were touched by his apology.

I was like…. “Whaaaaaaat?”  

More than what was portrayed on the screen, I was grieved by the vibes I got from the people around me who all seemed to think this was beautiful. What I saw on the screen was manipulation and control on the part of the father who tried everything possible to keep secrets and control his daughter.

It’s kind of like an abusive husband saying, “I’m sorry I held you down against your will and prevented you from leaving, but I did it because I love you soooo much.”

There’s nothing beautiful about that, but when it concerns adoption, some people have a different standard. They understand adoptive parents who keep secrets “for the good of their children” and exert measures of control to keep secrets, or hold on fiercely to what they believe is exclusively theirs. 

*Spoiler alert*

The movie ends with Hannah finding her original mother who turns her away. After meeting with a priest, Hannah decides to forgive her original mother.  After  hugging her adoptive parents and thanking them for “wanting her when no one else did," Hannah walks away glancing back as her father glows with pride, as she strolls arm in arm with the boyfriend who was earlier forbidden but has now received her father's blessing. People in the theater dabbed their eyes with Kleenex like, “ohhhh how amazzzzinnnngggg…the Dad let the boyfriend come back to her…” (I was about to drop kick someone!! It was not his choice to let her date anyone. She was an adult.)

This left me undone.

What was the worst to me were the koolaid drinkers who thought this was something of beauty. I wanted to get up and scream. But alas, I was a blubbering mess. Those around me probably thought I was touched by the message, too.  [Sigh] I should have given a message in tongues and interpreted it myself, "Oh my children, this is craziness thus saith the Lord Your God...disregard everything you have just seen in this theater, oh my people...especially the very, very bad man on the screen who calls himself a father..."

My husband wanted to go out for ice cream afterwards. Bad move. We've just watched my definition of a horror flick and he was thinking about chocolate chip cookie dough.  I was in no shape to do that but said yes anyway. We sat at a little table at the ice cream place and he gently probed to ask me what was so upsetting to me. Brave man.

Some adoptees will understand that it upset me that he had to even ask me what was so devastating! I thought, "doesn’t he just know what is wrong with this, on so many levels?"

He viewed the movie through a different lens than me. 
I know that. 
He doesn't see it through adoptee eyes.

He said, “Help me understand, Deanna. Please, tell me what's wrong...” 

Photo Credit: StevenDepolo, Creative Commons

All I could do was cry. And cry. And cry.

The napkins that were supposed to catch the chocolate sprinkles falling from my ice cream cone were now catching the tears falling from my eyes.  

We went home and I curled up in a fetal position no making love after this date and cried all night.

I was struck with the horror of how many people out there still have no idea about why stories like this are not beautiful. They are not lovely. They are not Christ-like. 

 Psalm 30:5 says, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” 

I woke up the next morning and said, "Okay, I can't just lay here and cry. I need to connect with people who understand." I got online and connected with the adoptee community. 

My friend Kathryn says there's a gift in everything. The gift from my awful experience with October Baby is that I can give thanks for all of the relationships I've developed in the adoptee community.

As amazing as that is, it's not enough. 

Injustice cries out. 

Those of us who are aware, must speak. 
We must speak up for those who are too little to speak. 
We must speak up for those who know and are still too afraid to speak.
And, we must speak up for those who aren't aware yet.

We must speak up for the Hannah's.  Ironically, some people think they already have.

My thoughts almost two years later in reflection are this:

Photo Credit: ARCanoe, Creative Commons

Secrets are NEVER good.

Ever.  It doesn’t matter how tragic someone’s beginning is -- Rape? Botched abortion? Incest?  Tell. The. Truth. The adoptee can handle it. Chances are, like Hannah,  they already know something is not right. They know they are different. And they are just waiting for somebody to finally tell them the truth. They can handle more than people think they can. What they cannot deal with are secrets.

 Control, manipulation, abuse = NEVER good.

Even in the name of baby-saving, even in the name of God, even in the name of love. Especially in the name of love. There’s not anything loving about it. Ever. Please do not ever “keep things from people for their own good.” 

None of us “own” our kids whether by birth or adoption.   

In my faith tradition, when pastors perform what is known as infant/child dedications, we generally remind the parents that none of us own our children. They belong to God. We are simply stewards of them while they are still children, and when they become adults, they make their own decisions.  As we dedicate the children to God, we admonish parents to raise them well, and urge them to remember that ultimately they are God’s children.  No human being “owns” another. Or should own another. I think one reason it’s hard for some adoptive parents to remember this is, when you pay up to 50K for someone, or  you jump through so many other hoops to acquire them, you feel entitled. You want ownership. [sigh] But nothing good has ever come from a human being ever owning another human being. 

Control is a factor long after adoptees are adults. 

For instance, Hannah needed her father’s “blessing” to enter back into relationship with her boyfriend. Her adoptive father and mother intervened and were subsequently involved in her search for her original mother -- without asking her permission.  I have heard adoptive parents who may believe they are just being supportive say, “when they are adults, my children will have opportunity to search if they so desire, with my help.” Or, "We will search, together." Red flag. I wonder: why do they automatically assume they are entitled to be a part of the search?  On one hand some might think, “They are just being helpful…isn’t that what adoptive parents should do?” Yes, an offer of help is good.  But a presumption of involvement is another thing altogether. 

At the end of the day, it’s the adoptee’s journey and they should call the shots once they're adults. Period.

 The end doesn’t justify the means.  

As most readers of this blog know, I’m pro-life. Many of my friends strongly supported this movie. They claim it’s theme of life as well as forgiveness trumps anything else. I understand that in their eyes, these themes override other aspects of the movie that are problematic. That doesn’t work for me. There is so much about the film that is not at all what Jesus would do, that I cannot support it simply for it’s pro-life and forgiveness value.  

There’s so much more I could say I know you’re not surprised, but finally… I’m glad Hannah survived a botched abortion but woefully sad that she was also treated like dirt once she was born.