What I learned at The Cradle
In 2014, I walked into my position as a work-study intern for The Cradle completely new to the whole “adoption thing.” When I thought of adoption, I pictured families journeying to far-off countries to bring their children home, or young adults searching for birth parents who have been absent their whole lives. About certain aspects I wasn’t far off. About others I was completely clueless.
The concept of open adoption was unfamiliar to me; I knew nothing about what it looked like or why it was important. In my role as an editorial and marketing intern for the Outreach and Communications Department, I slowly began to learn more about adoption: the beauty, the challenges and everything in between.
The best teachers were you: the adoptive parents, adoptees, birth parents, educators and others. From my supervisors I learned about the technicalities of the adoption process: the steps prospective parents need to take, the laws surrounding it, which terms are used in the adoption community and which are definitely not (birth parents do not “give up” up their children; they “place” or “entrust” them). But the nuances, the intimacy and the real-life experiences I learned from those The Cradle serves.
One of the first stories I wrote involved a birth mother and her adult daughter who reunited after 45 years. The birth mother’s pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault and she was unable to raise her child. Her daughter went on to have a wonderful life and decided to try to reunite with her birth mother after discovering she had written letters to the child she placed all those years ago. The two connected and to this day are close friends. There was so much trauma in this birth mother’s story, but also so much love, appreciation and hope. From her and her daughter, I learned that a birth parent’s sacrifice is one of the most difficult and beautiful things a person can do. Every birth parent story I’ve been told since then has stuck with me in some way. I am inspired by their strength and resiliency.
I’ve talked to many Cradle families throughout my years here. From brand-new, first-time parents to seasoned vets with grown children, they are all connected not just by adoption, but by The Cradle. Each story was similar in many fundamental aspects. From the moment parents laid eyes on their baby, it was love at first sight. No placement was an easy decision for the birth parents. Each child was loved unconditionally by his parents, birth parents, friends and family members, and everyone came together to do what was best for the child. And yet, each family and their adoption journey was absolutely unique. I loved hearing their individual stories, their hopes for their children and what they liked to do as a family. I also loved hearing about the role The Cradle played in their lives and seeing first-hand what was made possible through adoption.
I’ve learned that adoption is not a perfect fairy tale. All parties experience pain and loss. Identity formation can be complicated, especially for children placed in closed or international adoptions. And despite the many fruitful relationships between birth parents and adoptive families, feelings of grief and loss don’t just magically disappear.
The difficulties, however, are also what make it beautiful. Adoption isn’t easy; it’s intricate and confusing. It takes a lot of work, dedication, communication and cooperation. The beauty of adoption is in its complexity and its joys and sorrows. It’s perfectly imperfect.