Does the brokenness and sadness inherent in adoption hit you at the weirdest times?

I have an odd combination of interests, I am a huge college football and basketball fan having spent part of my career working in college athletics, but I also absolutely love musical theater having grown up in that world. Luckily my husband is usually game to catch a musical with me, and last week we went and saw the revival of Miss Saigon when it came through town. It was one of the few popular musicals I hadn’t seen, and I was so excited to go even though I was exhausted due to my two toddlers’ sleep regressions and newfound middle of the night fears.

SPOILER ALERT- Basically, the story of Miss Saigon centers on Kim, a Vietnamese woman who meets an American soldier named Chris in Vietnam near the end of the Vietnam war. They fall in love and make plans for her to leave Vietnam with him right as Saigon falls. Chris reluctantly gets on the last helicopter leaving Saigon just as Kim arrives to board, and they both have no way of finding either other. The story fast forwards three years to 1) Chris back in the states having nightmares in bed with his new wife Ellen where he shouts Kim’s name, and 2) Kim living in the slums in Thailand with her and Chris’ young son, Kim still believing Chris will return to find her. Chris soon after learns that Kim has a child that is his and he and Ellen travel to Vietnam to find them. When Chris is out looking for Kim, Kim arrives at the hotel and there’s an encounter between Kim and Ellen, where Kim learns Chris hasn’t waited for her, and then, heartbroken, she pleads with Ellen to take her son back to America so he can have a better life. Later, when Chris goes to find Kim and his son, Kim shoots and kills herself.

Now, this show was sad, I knew it would be and so I expected it might make me tear up a bit. But when Kim was pleading to Ellen to take her son I started getting really emotional and by the end of the show when Kim kills herself after letting her son go, I was crying almost uncontrollably. I was so embarrassed, and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling down my face well after the lights came on. Now I blame some of this emotion on how tired I was from not sleeping well for the past few weeks, but a lot of it was also from how similar this storyline felt to many adoption scenarios. In most of the adoption situations I see, an expectant mother feels she cannot care for her unborn child, often due to poverty, addiction or other circumstances, and instead typically places her child with a more affluent two-parent family that can supposedly give the child “a better life.” The story clearly shows the haves and have-nots, the love the mother feels for her child to place him with another couple and the overwhelming grief of making that decision. The similarities in Miss Saigon to the brokenness in most adoption scenarios hit me hard that night.

What has followed is this week, learning about the allegations connected to Paul Petersen and the details surrounding at least some of his Marshallese Adoptions. The allegations are disgusting, and have caused a taint on adoption as a whole. I have been quiet because I am grieving for the Marshallese families affected, but also for the adoptive families and children whose adoptions may have completely different facts, but are still tainted by his alleged actions.

Adoption is hard enough without adding in these types of facts. There is brokenness inherent in adoption, and in a lot of ways adoption is the result of the brokenness of our system and our society. But on the other side of that brokenness, adoption can also be beautiful. I personally know it is, I felt that beauty when I snuggled my almost 4 yr old girl this morning after she woke from a nightmare. The circumstances surrounding our adoption weren’t perfect. Part of the reason I formed this company was due to some of the experiences I had with the adoption agency we adopted her through. But the adoption itself is still beautiful, as is my relationship with my daughter and her birth mother. But with the beauty, I know my daughter’s birth mother feels grief over this decision, even if she would make the same decision over again.

Please don’t forget that there are also beautiful adoptions that have resulted from these acts, adoptive families with overwhelming love for their children through adoption and their children’s birth family, and many that share a beautiful open relationship. Please don’t let these actions taint all of the beauty in adoption, or make you look at these families any differently. They will sadly all suffer when their children grow up and google the circumstances around their adoption. The brokenness will almost always exist and it is inherent in adoption, but there is likely beauty and love there too.

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