The Big Picture

Gayle Catinella
Download: Audio icon 00409.mp3

I have three adopted children. They are from the same family with birth parents who horribly abused them. They are adults now, each making their way in the world, but that kind of abuse leaves permanent scars, and sometimes being with them is hard. When new people join our family through marriage or friendship, my adopted children can be difficult to get to know. 


So I was at lunch with one of these dear friends, and she was having trouble understanding my daughter. She was intimidated by her and wanted to avoid her. This woman is conservative, however, you want to take that, and I asked her if, considering the abuse, my daughter suffered at the hands of her birth family,  would it have been better if she hadn’t been born? No, she protested, I would never say that. 


So then, I said, we are obligated to create a world she can succeed in, we are obligated to treat her with dignity even when she doesn’t seem to deserve it. We are obligated to love her.


Let me be clear that I don’t believe anyone has a right to dictate to me my health care choices. I am grateful every day that my particular choices are not impacted by violence, abuse, shame, poverty, or lack of service options. Let me be clear that I cherish every life, and work for a life that has dignity and quality and options for all. 


My particular experience as an adoptive parent has meant having to fight for the rights and dignity of my children their entire lives. They came to us at ages 6,4 and 3. I have sat through hours of phone calls trying to get them the services they needed, driven hours and miles to get them the right mental health care. I have pled with school administrators motivated to save money that putting my developmentally disabled child in a regular biology class is abusive. I have watched my children wonder about the value of their lives.


I watched my son leave Ohio because the one short-term benefit he needed to get started in life, to get his trucking license and become a taxpayer, wasn’t available to him here. I have watched my daughter negotiate with benefits providers when she couldn’t read the requirements so she could understand them. I have seen her try to get safe housing and childcare that she could afford. It’s brutal out there if you have any challenges. Our government is not fair.


So if you are one of the few people who think that being born is the most important thing, I ask you to consider a much bigger picture. We are all obligated, every citizen of this country, to create a hopeful life for every person, filled with possibility. We are obligated to create a safe world, where children can grow up confident and whole. We are obligated to make sure everyone has food, housing, education, and jobs- the basic things that make life good.


It is not a triumph to control another person or their choices, especially if you intend to take no responsibility for what happens in their future. We are looking at this the wrong way. We are looking at one moment instead of building a healthy community for a lifetime. My adopted children are surviving but they could be thriving. Maybe someday we will see that our lives are only as good and safe and healthy as those who have the least in our community.


Let’s change the narrative and care about the whole person for their whole life.