Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Addressing the "Savior Complex" and Why I'm Not the Mother of the Groom

Recently, I've read several blogs where the writer was criticized for using the words "rescued" or "saved" when referring to orphans being adopted. At first I didn't react much. But then Paul got married and I began to rethink what adoption really is. Confused? I don't blame you. Let me explain...

First, let's rewind fifteen years...

In 1997, I was a 26-year-old, single, foster mom with three foster children aged 2, 6, and 7 (the older two were special needs kids). I had been visiting Quinn, aged 9, at his group home for four years before they finally allowed me to bring him home. And that was only after another couple had backed out of adopting Quinn, the Indian-tribe claiming him had changed their minds, and many other obstacles had been tackled. But Quinn had an older brother...

When I inquired about Paul, the social worker was adamant. Absolutely NOT! Both of the brothers had many behavioral issues. As a young, single mother they would let me have one, but not both. And so, these two brothers, who had been raised in the foster-care system together, were separated. Quinn got a family - complete with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Paul never did.

A couple weeks ago, Paul got married.
He sent me pictures and, although happy for him, I wanted to cry. This little voice in my head kept yelling, "I should be standing next to him! I should be the mother of the groom! I should be welcoming his wife as my daughter-in-law!" Instead, I send a gift and a prayer and stagger for a moment under the guilt I carry for those precious children, like Paul, who I could not adopt.

When people (usually those who have never adopted) accuse adoptive parents of having a "savior complex," they have no idea of what it is really like for us. We don't walk around patting ourselves on the back for saving orphaned children. Instead, we weep for the ones who will never be adopted. (And, yes, I do believe adoption is rescuing a child.) Ask any Paramedic or First Responder how they feel after being able to only rescue some of the victims of a disaster while the others perished. Do they feel like heroes? No!!! They are grateful for those they were able to help, but they are filled with remorse for the ones they couldn't save. Forever after, they will carry the haunting memory of those last cries for help, those last anguished looks, those last failed attempts of those who didn't survive.

Adoptive parents are no different. We are filled to overflowing with gratefulness for the handful of children we have the privilege of providing a family for. But the children we leave behind--in the orphanages, in the group homes, in foster care--scar our hearts terribly.

(For additional information about how the kids who are left behind feel, you may be interested in reading "Belle of the Ball.")