There are probably few decisions that receive more after-the-fact analysis than the decision to place a child for adoption. I frequently encounter birth parents explaining that they remain confident that they made the right decision for their circumstances even though they live with the painful consequences everyday, whereas others reach the point of saying that the decision was the wrong one. "Given what I know now," they say, "I would make a different choice." Adopees, too, sometimes feel the need to weigh in on rightness or wrongness of the decision. And for both adoptees and original parents, the answer can change over time.
In my story, the person who comes across as the primary decision maker is my biological grandmother. I cannot say that her decision was the right one, because it was a decision made from fear rather than love. She seems to have been motivated primarily by a desire to protect herself from the sideways glances of neighbors and community members. It wasn't really about what was best for me or her daughter, though I'm sure she convinced herself that it was. And of course, she was only doing what everyone did in those days. As I have written previously, she would have needed to be a remarkable woman to step beyond the social mores of her time. Her "fault," if we want to call it that, was that she was merely ordinary. I understand that she perceived herself as an innocent party, even the victim of the situation. After all, she wasn't the one who got knocked up. I can't say that her decision was the right one because of some of the hurtful things that she said to my mother during that time, and because of the ripple effect it had on their relationship for many years after.
But neither can I say it was the wrong decision, for it set my life on a path that, for the most part, has turned out pretty well so far. Ultimately, I can't make the judgment call. I can't tell you that the decision was either right or wrong.
But I can tell you that it wasn't normal. Adoption has been normalized in our culture, and a great deal of effort (and yes, money) has gone into making sure that adoption is perceived as a normal, even celebrated, way of creating a family. And from the perspective of the adoptive family, that may be so. As an adoptive parent myself, I understand the desire to have one's family perceived as no different than any other (or maybe -- let's face it -- just a little bit better). But things are often more complicated from the adoptee and first parent point of view. Even when placement happens from an absolute place of love, for the sake of protecting the child or giving him or her a better life, there is nothing normal about placing a child for adoption; to the contrary, it goes against the natural instinct to keep the child close. Likewise, there is nothing normal about being raised in a family of genetic strangers and not knowing your history. People respond to the abnormality of the situation in different ways. Some become master adapters; others fight against it, kicking and screaming. Some build walls around their emotions and go to great extents to keep their feelings hidden, even from themselves, whereas others of us wrestle with our emotions in front of the world, in the very public arena of the Internet.
Part of the conflict in the adoption community arises from these different ways of reacting. It can be difficult to look at another's way and see it as an equally valid response. Rather, we tend to perceive the other as wrong. But in the end, there isn't a single "correct" response to adoption, anymore than there is a single "correct" decision in the first place. From what I can tell, we're all pretty much just muddling along the best we can.