My Passion for Adoption
by Beth Kozan
After a 30-year career in adoptions, I was interviewed for a job to become the director of adoptions where I worked. I was asked if I wanted to go further up the chain of supervision – if I aspired to be an administrator. I said no, and was asked why. I said, “I am passionate about adoption.” I hadn’t realized it until I spoke it aloud. (I didn’t get the job.)
I am not an adoption triad member: neither adoptee, birth parent, nor adoptive parent. I knew no one when I was young who was adopted. When I was in college and took beginning psychology, I learned that the fantasy I’d had in the fifth grade (when a new girl moved to town who was pretty and popular and I fantasized we were twins separated at birth) was a common experience, and I told my mother that I’d had this fantasy. Her reaction was: “We didn’t do anything to make you feel unwanted!” Unwanted. Was that what my mother thought adopted meant?
My first child was born profoundly retarded in 1967. When she died of a massive seizure four months short of her 5th birthday, she had never been able to sit alone, feed herself, or be potty trained. In the efforts to explain her condition, microcephaly, the doctors said there were four known causes, none of which applied in our case, so it could be genetic. If it was genetic, our chances of having another child with microcephaly were 1 in 4. We might have to adopt, the doctor said.
We took our baby home from the hospital at 22 days of age. Holding her for the first time, I awaited the Zap of Motherhood; it did not come. The love I felt for her matched feelings I had for my nephews and the babies of friends of mine. I considered: Could I love a baby not born of my body? I believed I could.
When Chickee was three months old, the Army pediatrician recommended: (1) put her in an institution; (2) have another child as soon as possible; and (3) above all else, don’t feel guilty. That was the least understanding I have ever experienced from any professional in my life, bar none.
I knew we needed help to get through this crisis. Sierra Vista, Ariz. in 1967 was an “Army town.” There was very little available except for services provided by the Army. The Red Cross referred me to the Army chaplain, a man in whose office were displayed pictures of his five healthy children. “God gave you this baby when you were in the Army. Therefore, God wants you to stay in the Army, which can pay for this baby to be in an institution.” His was the second least helpful advice I received.
Two-and-a-half years later, we were free of the Army and we had Heather, our daughter who was healthy and pink and perfect. I felt redeemed as a human. By the time Heather was 3 months old, she surpassed her sister’s physical abilities, and my husband could no longer make the excuse that it was the seizure medicine that was stunting Chickee’s growth. No, side by side with her sister, he couldn’t pretend Chickee was – I don’t know – hibernating?
When Heather was 11 months old, my husband moved out. How could I manage two small children and work to support us? My in-laws stepped up and we gave legal custody of Chickee to them in Texas. Internally, I faced the self-recrimination of a parent who gives up a child.
Later, after I’d received my master’s degree in counseling, I answered a newspaper ad for a pregnancy counselor at an adoption agency. My life circumstances helped me understand the positions of adoptive parents, and of birth parents. At work I would learn from adult adoptees seeking information about their birth families.
I seldom tell this story because I can’t always tell it without tears, but that’s how I developed a passion for adoption.
Beth Kozan is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Helping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.