We Are Family
By Nancy Kiu, Director of Medical Research
November is National Adoption Month, and this past Saturday, Nov. 17th 2012, was National Adoption Day. There are thousands of children in foster care nationwide awaiting loving forever homes, and National Adoption Month helps to raise "awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care."
One of the basic tenets of Private Practice is that families are not just those with whom you are related by blood – families come in all different forms, so long as there is unconditional love and support present. At Seaside Health and Wellness, they've redefined their family countless times, and they have seen many family members come and go.
We've been excited to tell this story for a very long time. The journey of Addison Forbes Montgomery has gone from New York to Seattle to Los Angeles, the one constant being her desire to be a mother. When it didn't pan out with Derek, she decided not to have Mark Sloan's child, a decision that came with its own share of regrets. A baby cost Addison her relationship with Sam, but it also made her realize that she wanted to be a mother so badly that she was willing to sacrifice her own personal desires in the quest for a child. Jake's relationship with Addison grew as he became her fertility doctor and tried to get her pregnant, and now that she has Henry, Jake accepts the fact that Addison is a mother and will not give that up for anyone. She has sacrificed a lot and done everything in her power to make it happen, but when Judi, Henry's birth mother, returns and wants to have a relationship with Henry, that power is taken from Addison's hands.
When Judi chose Addison to be the adoptive parent back in episode 518, they entered into an independent adoption agreement, wherein "the birth parent and prospective adoptive parents arrange the adoption on their own." In this case, that means that Judi chose Addison to be the adoptive parent for her child. In addition, in an independent adoption, the birth parent and the adoptive parents set the terms for the adoption themselves; this means that they work out the guidelines for visitation and sharing of information that works best for them, so that the birth parents have the option of remaining a part of the child's life. In some situations, the birth parents may want no information about the child, in others, they may request daily, weekly, or monthly updates. In the case of Addison and Judi, Addison agreed to send weekly photos to Judi and for Judi to have monthly visits, but Judi never responded to any of it… until now.
There is no right or wrong way to navigate an independent adoption; ultimately, the question that must be asked is what is best for the child. If Judi wasn't in Henry's life, would he grow up wondering who his mother was, why he was adopted, and what his life would have been like with his birth mother? Or does having Judi present help remove any illusions that Judi would have given Henry a better life than the one he has now with Addison? Or, would it just be confusing for Henry to have two mothers present in his life?
What's the best way to parent? For Judi, it was knowing that she couldn't take care of her child, and choosing someone who could give him a better life. For Sean Petrucci, who just lost her job and whose daughter needs extra care and attention, it's trying to find a way to best take care of her child. Misguided though it may be, Sean sues Addison for wrongful birth, which implies that had Sean known the severity of Gwen's ailment, she should have been advised by Addison to abort rather than carry to term. Suing for wrongful birth is extremely controversial – some parents may be emotionally or financially incapable of caring for a special needs child, but the flipside is that this means the parents are saying that their child's life isn't worth living, and both child and parent would be better off had the child not been born. Is parenting a child, even if it's a special needs child, always a blessing? Or is it a curse if one can't handle being a mother?
Sean realizes sooner rather than later that if she were to continue with this lawsuit, one day she would have to look her daughter in the eyes and tell her that at one point, she thought Gwen should never have been born. Sean loves her daughter and doesn't really believe that. But motherhood is not rational. It is exhausting and overwhelming under the best circumstances, never mind when you're unemployed with a child who needs special attention and you're worrying about how to provide for that child's care, rehab, and well being. Mothers try to protect their children, but sometimes in the process, they can cause a lot of damage when trying to do what they think is best.
Vivian's mother tried to do what she thought was best for Vivian, but her actions left Vivian with a lifetime of regret over not knowing her daughter. On the other hand, Vivian's circumstances also pushed her to be a mother in a different way – to her students, including her best pupil, Addison.
What does it mean to be a mother? For Vivian, Sean, Judi, and Addison, it means many different things, but the one uniting factor is that it means that you'd give up everything in your life for your child and do what's best for them, even if it meant sacrificing what's best for you. Addison realizes this when she tells Judi that they are both Henry's family. By making the ultimate sacrifice of motherhood and acting in the best interest of her child, Addison Forbes Montgomery has truly and finally become the mother she has always wanted to be.
For more information about National Adoption Day, please visit their website at: http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/
For more information about National Adoption Month, please visit their website at: http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/nam/
For more information about adoption in the county of Los Angeles, please visit the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services website at: http://dcfs.co.la.ca.us/adoptions/index.html