My parents are friends with a young Indian couple. Due to a strange set of circumstances, my parents have kind of adopted them, become their parents in the United States. They knew the husband first and were invited to his wedding in India, and when his real parents visit Wisconsin, my parents are always invited for a dinner of thanks.
So anyway, after about a year of marriage, the wife became pregnant. With twins. This frightened her a bit as she didn't know if she'd be able to withstand the physical demands of a multiples pregnancy and then the physical, emotional, and financial demands of two babies. Her worries were for naught. The pregnancy progressed normally and when the two baby girls were born, the husband's parents came to help out and ended up staying for six months. When they left, they took one of the twins with them.
Apparently the grandmother had grown so close to the children she became distraught when she had to leave. To ease her pain, the young couple gave the parents one of their daughters. They said it would be temporary. Until Christmas. Four months later. But Christmas has come and gone and the baby remains in India. Away from her parents and her twin sister. And believe it or not, everybody is okay with the arrangement. In fact, when Americans recoil in horror at the idea of splitting up twins, of not seeing your own child for months at a time and potentially years, the young Indian couple shrug their shoulders and wonder what is the big deal? They have told my parents that they think this is a good arrangement for everyone involved.
Now as we in our Kinky Gazpacho household are seriously considering adopting a wee little girl, this story makes me think. All day long I read heartbreaking stories about the pain of adoption, the demonization of birth mothers, and the definition of a true orphan who needs a home. Also, as I start to become that person who hopes that someone out there wants to relinquish their child for me to raise, I wonder if I would be able to relinquish my own child if the situation was reversed.
In adoption literature and I think in our society in general, giving up or losing a child is considered possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to a woman. And I'm not here to argue that point, only to wonder under what circumstances or which cultures is giving up your child not so dramatic? Or perhaps better stated, where and when is giving up your child understood to be a conceivable option?
It makes me think of the thousands of immigrant stories where women and men come to this country and leave their children behind to be raised by someone else, an aunt, a grandmother, a neighbor even. Yes, in some cases they eventually send for them, but in many they do not, because this life here wouldn't be right for their children. They chose to leave them behind. They chose to have somebody else raise them, with the idea that they were making the best decision for the child.
I also think of my time in Morocco, when I lived as an exchange student. My host mother had 11 children. She had her first at age 13. She literally gave one of her children to her mother to raise because her mother was lonely. They lived in the same city yes, but interestingly, the grandmother's standard of living was far lower then her daughter who had married well. So this given-up child didn't enjoy the "high life" that her sisters did. But she seemed okay with the way things had turned out. She simply considered herself her grandmother's child.
I hope I do not get slammed by women who have given up their children under duress or because of illness or poverty because obviously there is no greater horror that I can imagine. But I did want to open the discussion up about how we define "what's best for the child" and if that changes based on culture as it relates to letting someone else raise your child.
Can you think of any other culture that allows mothers to give up their children without reproach? Or where it is considered an option? The Israeli Kibbutz comes to mind, but I'm not sure that would qualify.