A commentary on the film “Stories From the Red Couch”
In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer.
If you have the time, here’s a link to the forty-five minute video.
The trailer was released a month ago. The film was released just a week ago.
It’s promoted as simply a “Hollywood produced film about adoption,” and described as a project meant “to capture 99 years of [The Cradle’s] work through emotional, inspiring stories of adoption.”
It’s “Hollywood produced,” alright. It’s a polished, obviously professionally produced and edited documentary-style film. But to say it’s “about adoption” is terribly misleading. What it’s really about is fundraising. To facilitate adoption.
The Cradle is a private adoption agency that’s been around for nearly a hundred years. The film is presented and stylized as a celebration of The Cradle’s work by showcasing several “successful” adoption stories from the perspective of the heroic savior adoptive parents and the counselors employed by The Cradle. The fairy tale-like stories portray adoption as something “magical,” and The Cradle as someplace where “dreams come true.” Lofty words and phrases describing The Cradle and its work, such as “destiny,” “meant to be,” “special place,” and even “divine intervention,” are sprinkled throughout the forty-five minute campaign.
What’s missing? It’s obvious to adoptees. Whether we’re “well-adjusted” or struggling, in the fog or out, wrestling with identity issues, facing secondary rejection, muddling through a reunion, or fighting against the powers-that-be in a closed records nightmare, the emotional turmoil of the adoptee is sorely missing from The Cradle’s fables of the adoptive family. Even adoptees who claim a happy childhood and successful family life growing up adopted face issues related to adoption trauma. It’s a fact. The deep emotional experiences of great loss and grief are a common theme in the life of a adoptee. The trauma related to being separated from one’s mother and family at birth or soon thereafter is real. It may not be something an adoptee feels as a child growing up, but it often surfaces later in life, particularly during milestone events like marriage, childbirth, or death of an adoptive parent or someone close to the adoptee.
In the film, The Cradle claims to be a place that recognizes and nurtures a pregnant mother struggling with the decision of whether to keep her child. How does a mother even get to that point? How is the option of adoption introduced to a pregnant mother who is under duress? I turned to The Cradle’s website for answers.
The Cradle is proud of their on-site nursery. The website proclaims: “The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with an on-site nursery offering a safe, neutral place for infants to stay while their parents take the time they need to decide if adoption will be the plan for their child.” So, the mother and child are separated while the mother “decides” if adoption is right for their family situation? This is where the “options counseling” comes in. There is little positive or encouraging information on the website about the choice to parent. And there was even less mentioned in the film. What about options for parenting? What about support for the mother and child together rather than a nursery that separates mother and child? The website’s page for “options counseling” is sparse, and includes a simple comparison of “ADOPTION” and “PARENTING” that lists the things an expectant mother should consider (according to The Cradle) if she is thinking about parenting her child:
- Your daily schedule and child care needs
- Your budget, including housing, living expenses/bills, baby supplies, transportation, child care, etc.
- Health care and medical insurance
- Supportive people (family, friends, professionals) – identify who those people are for you, and talk with them about the kinds of help you can expect from them
That’s enough to scare the living motherhood out of me. Where are the answers? Where are the resources? And to make matters even more one-sided, the page on the website that features the nursery also features a big window with continuous scrolling photos of hopeful smiling potential adoptive parents with the caption, “Choose an Adoptive Family.” Problem solved.
The film does mention that a parent who has taken advantage of The Cradle’s services, like counseling and the nursery, can, of course, decide to keep her child and simply come and get the baby and take her home. Good to know. If The Cradle actually does this work (like counseling in favor of keeping your child and directing a mother and/or father to usable resources, etc.), why not highlight in the film a few of the stories where this sort of happy ending resulted? Or at least provide some statistics. I know I would have loved to have seen a few of these real-life fairy tales where mother decides to keep her child. I mean, really . . . this sounds like a much happier (and more natural) ending to any story than a child separated from his or her biology and family and thrown into the arms of strangers.
Note to adoptive parents: That baby isn’t bonding with you. It’s a matter of life or death for the baby–her needs must be met. It’s survival mode.
But there are no family preservation-style happy endings shown in the film. That’s because The Cradle is about adoption; more specifically, facilitating the brokering of babies. Period.
More to come on this topic–look for “Red Couch Rebuttal: Adoptees (and Others) Talk Back to The Cradle,” coming to NAAP Happy Hour soon.