When the newspaper ticks me off, I must respond.  But not in the form of a letter to the editor.  Rejection from a non-paying market is especially difficult for me to bear.

The other day the Oregonian ran a story about a child who had been put up for adoption by her teenage birth mother through Catholic Charities.  The birth father, also a teenager, had been aware of the birth mother’s pregnancy but refused to acknowledge paternity or be involved in any way.  (From what I could gather, it seems they spent one night together way back when and subsequently went their separate ways.)  The birth father’s mother was similarly uninterested in the girl’s pregnancy, right up until the day the baby was born.  Then she suddenly had a change of heart, as did her son, and they asked if they could come visit the baby in the hospital.  The birth mother agreed but informed them that the adoption papers had already been signed.  (She had made them aware of her intentions long before; they just didn’t care until now.)

Well, long story still long, the born-again grandma and daddy fell in love with the baby when they held her, as people are wont to do with actual, live babies who are most likely related to them even if they didn’t think so previously (that was before they saw how cute she was!), and they changed their minds about wanting to be involved in the baby’s life.  Unfortunately, the adoptive parents had signed the adoption papers and taken the baby home from the hospital and named her and fell in love with her themselves (even though they didn’t share any DNA with her, strangely enough) before the birth father decided to invoke his parental rights.  He discovered that the birth mother had lied about the signing of the adoption papers, which hadn’t yet taken place at the time of his first visit to the hospital; it actually happened 24 hours later, which meant that three months after the adoptive parents took the baby home with them, a judge ruled that the birth father was entitled to his offspring because he’d been deceived.  The judge told the adoptive parents he was sorry about it, but that was the law.  I don’t doubt that that is true.

I guess that I am just extremely unsympathetic to teenage boys who have one-night stands with girls they don’t care about and who don’t exhibit any sign of wanting to behave like decent, responsible human beings until they have the transforming experience of holding the tiny people their sperm helped create.  I won’t go all Dr. Laura on you and say teenagers should never get custody of their children.  I just think that if you’re a guy having unprotected sex with random girls and denying that you’re the father and acting like a jerk and the girl decides to put your baby up for adoption, well, you’re just crap out of luck.  If you decide at the last minute that you can’t bear the indignity of your child being raised by a mature, married couple, I’m afraid it just sucks to be you.

That’s if I ruled the world, of course.

I understand perfectly why most unmarried women don’t give their babies up for adoption.  It would rip my heart out to do such a thing, even if I really felt it was for the best.  But what also rips my heart out is when a child is taken from the only parents she’s known and given to someone whose only claim on her is chromosomal.  Yes, fortunately, the child was only three months old; it would have been much worse if she’d been older, but would that have made any legal difference?  I doubt it.

Anyway, that story just made me sad.  What ticked me off was the letter to the editor today that took issue with the Oregonian’s headline for this article, which said the ruling ended in “heartbreak.”  Heartbreak for whom, the letter writer asked–certainly not for the biological father and grandmother.  No, certainly not for them.  God forbid the biological relatives should suffer the heartbreak of consequences stemming from their insensitive, shortsighted behavior.  The letter writer went on to point out that this way the child could be raised by people who looked like her and “shared her interests”–whatever the bleeping hell that’s supposed to mean.  Then she said it was offensive to suggest that this professional couple would have made better parents than the teenage birth father, that such an assertion was nothing short of “social eugenics.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but my instinct that this couple would have made better parents has little to do with them being professionals, or even so much with their age.  It has more to do with the fact that they entered this story wanting to be parents.  When they discovered there was a baby who could be theirs, they were delighted, not annoyed.  They made preparations and financial investments immediately, rather than waiting until they could see her in person and give her the old test-drive, properly assess if she’d suit their needs and so forth.  They cared for that baby and loved her for three months–a short period of time, but long enough for even the baby to form an attachment–until someone decided that maybe being a parent would be cool after all, so he took her away from them.  If characterizing that as heartbreaking is social eugenics, well, three cheers for social eugenics.

I certainly hope that the birth father has undergone a remarkable growth spurt in maturity and that he is willing and able to provide for all of his child’s needs; parenthood is certainly a transformative experience and even the most ill-prepared among us have been known to rise to the challenge.  And hopefully this couple will be able to adopt another child eventually, but that doesn’t diminish their heartbreak.  They won’t forget their first child just because they get a second, any more than birth parents would.  It’s outrageous to suggest otherwise.

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