Friday, May 22, 2015

Mothers take no pride in giving up their babies

"Justine, I am an adoptee (Nov, 1983). I am looking for my birth family so I may not only thank them, but to somehow express my deepest admiration and pride for their completely selfish act" wrote Lacy in response to a comment by a natural mother on a post we wrote about Texas-based Gladney Center for Adoption. After suppressing a scream, I continued reading:
"I've always held a special place in my heart not only for my birth parents, but [for] every single birth mom and dad out there and had never, not even for a moment, doubted their love for me. There are very few people in this world that have enough strength,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Does it matter who your father is?

When Lorena Thompson Madrone of Oceanside, Oregon decided to have a baby, it was strictly a DIY affair. Becase she was concerned about having to "legally share" the child with the biological father, Lorena and her partner, Karah Gretchen Madrone, came up with a lamebrain scheme to obscure the father's identity by having two sperm donors. Of course one of two gives the child pretty decent odds of figuring which man had the cojones.

As far as avoiding legal issues around paternity, the scheme wouldn't have worked anyway. While it may have kept true dad at bay, if Lorena had applied for welfare, the state would have been after both men with a DNA kit in a flash.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When is the right time to contact your natural parent?

When is the right time to contact a natural parent or a lost child?  The simple answer is never, and now. When my surrendered daughter Rebecca and I connected, my husband and I were preparing for my oldest raised daughter's wedding to be held in less than a month in Washington DC, thousands of miles from my home in Oregon. I was involved in a law suit over my employment. I had a second daughter at home and a third in college.  In short, I was busy and low on funds. I didn't need the upheaval in my life that her contact would bring. Once we connected, though, everything moved aside. I did the things I needed to do, but Rebecca was constantly on my mind.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

It's Mother's Day again. 'Birth' Mother's Day too.

Mother's Day card from my daughter
Here it comes again, Mother's Day, impossible to miss because of the incessant ads that pop up everywhere, reminding us of our own fractured motherhood. I've been through the gamut of emotions about Mother's Day, beginning when I did not know where my daughter was, and my own mother did not even know my daughter existed, to those years after reunion when I spent the week preceding the big day hoping she would remember me in some small way. She often did not. Oh heavy was my heart!

While I was feeling sorry for myself, I always imagined a big celebration going on with her adoptive mother--card, dinner, what-have-you. There were other children, and her adoptive father who was not likely to let any of them forget. I don't know if that was the case because I never asked. But one year, I got a wonderful hand-made card that said: To my Other Mother. Inside it says: "I couldn't find a card that defined our relationship, but then all truly matters is that is that I let you know, I Love You. Happy Mothers day LORRAINE, love Jane." It must have come with a present, because there is a note on the back about using whatever she sent to "relax after a long hard day."

Monday, May 4, 2015

Who can call herself a mother?

Jane and Lorraine, daughter and mother
“They call me ‘biological mother.’

I hate those words. They make me sound like a baby machine, a conduit, without emotions. They tell me to forget and go out and make a new life.
I had a baby and I gave her away. But I am a mother.”

Those words are from my memoir Birthmark, and are the most quoted language in the book. At the time of publication in 1979, the debate over what to call women who relinquished children was just beginning. Before that, we were “natural mothers.”

But that term was thought to be offensive to adoptive parents and “birth mother” came into wide usage among those who wrote about adoption loss and reunion, and even, some mothers themselves. Concerned United Birthparents (CUB) had already embraced the term in its name, using the conjoined word “birthmother."

Friday, May 1, 2015

What makes a mother?

Unwilling mother Sherri Shepherd
As if we didn't already know, the whole "assisted reproduction" business is a mess, both from a legal and a moral standpoint. The latest escapades are those of Sherri Shepherd who lost her fight not to be a mother and Nick Loeb who is fighting to be a father.

Shepherd, a former co-host on The View, entered into an agreement with her then husband Lamar Sally and Jessica Bartholomew to have Bartholomew carry a child created through Sally's sperm and a donated egg. By the time the baby boy, Lamar Sally, Jr., was born eight months ago, Shepherd had filed for divorce, disclaiming responsibility for the child and refusing to pay support, leaving Bartholomew whose name was on the birth certificate on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical bills. "Not so fast" said a Pennsylvania court. "A deal is a deal. You signed on the dotted line and you're a legal mother, like it or not. Pay up!"

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Demanding adoptee rights! Now!

Unsealing Initiative demonstrating on the steps of New York's City Hall for adoptee rights legislation in 2013. 

When people ask for something for themselves--rather than others asking for them--they are more likely to get it.  Sounds simple, right?

I'm thinking about rights for adoptees and natural mothers. 

Twice recently I have heard the above idea expressed. On CBS This Morning a woman was talking about this being the week students must make their final decisions about where they will go college this fall. The woman noted that since financial considerations enter into it, if the circumstances of the family have been reduced since the application was filed, they should call the financial officer, explain the changed situation, and ask him to reconsider the aid package being offered.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Approaching a natural mother without scaring her away

Dear First Mother Forum:
I found my natural mother and we are writing to one another--but I am so afraid of offending her, and she seems quite wounded when I bring up my father. My life as an adopted child was not good, and while I don't blame her for that, I'm afraid of telling her about it. Is there a blog post that might be helpful?--Walking On Eggshells

This is a common story, and we hear it from both sides--both natural mothers and found children going into reunion are terribly afraid of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing--and neither ones of us knows what the trigger points for the other person will be.

We've talked about what natural mothers need to avoid upon reunion before, but never written about what might upset mothers. So here goes.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The thriving domestic adoption craze

Lorraine and reunited daughter, Jane 
 Earlier this week we covered the subject of children who might be adopted who are in foster care, and international, or intercountry adoption. Today we finish this chapter talking about the reality of adopting today in America, a topic that seems particularly relevant after a recent comment at the previous blog from a woman who signs herself: Birthmumof2.

She wrote of having a good, open adoption with the adoptive parents of her two full siblings she has relinquished to a family she knows and trusts. She baby-sits for the children; the parents and she trust each other. Yet it was the ease with with she relinquished a second child with the same father as the first that we and

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Catelynn and Tyler face reality

Natural mother Catelynn of the TV show Teen Mom was a sad person to watch last night as she sat talking to Teresa and Brandon Davis, the adoptive parents of her and Tyler's daughter, Carly. As you know, we have been quite critical of both Catelynn and Tyler for turning themselves into advocates for adoption.

But last night in the episode of Teen Mom OG where they meet Teresa and Brandon after a year they came across as merely young natural parents coming to terms with the reality of giving up a child: They are and will be the underdogs in the parenting equation. Their contact with daughter Carly is dependent on the permission of Brandon and Teresa.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What about those babies in....any-poor-nation?

The previous post dealt with the prevailing attitude towards adopting in America today--that there must be a lot babies who need adopting--when they aren't. Continuing that theme of What About Children Who Need adopting, today's post talks about going overseas to adopt:

In the quest to rescue children from deplorable conditions in another country, the number of children adopted from South Korea ballooned to more than 100,000. The exodus of babies began after the Korean War with the mixed-race babies left behind by GIs, but the flow of children didn’t stop when most of those children were settled in America. Exporting children to America became a cash cow for the country, and only lately has this become a national embarrassment.

Today, Holt International Children’s Services, the same agency that facilitated a great many—if not most—of the Korean adoptions, now advertises a side business of guided trips back to Korea for adult adoptees, who may be in search of their parents. If they are lucky enough to find them, now a language and cultural barrier separates parent and child.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What about children who need adopting?

Lorraine at her desk 
While we have been discussing the great damage done by people like Catelynn and Tyler for their continuing advocacy of adoption as shills for Bethany Christian Services, I thought it might be useful to post an overview of adoption attitudes and practices in America. Surely some readers who find themselves here read our posts and say--What about all those children who need to be adopted? 

As I was writing Hole in My Heart, my upcoming memoir, I realized that some readers would have that very thought, and so I include a section under the rubric of "Facts and Commentary" to answer them. It will be posted over the next week in three sections. Part I is today below. 

As for Catelynn and Tyler, it appears that they will meet with the adoptive parents of their first child, Theresa and Brandon Davis, in a segment of Monday's show of "Teen Mom OG" (10 p.m. EST/9 CST). Of course it's edited, but it will be interesting to see the interaction of the four parents of daughter Carly. As for how deeply Catelynn is involved in pushing adoption, I just picked this up from Catelynn's Twitter feed online: Hi, I'm Catelynn from Teen Mom. My goal is 2 be an advocate 4 adoption. Contact us on website 4 speaking engagements & join our fan page!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Post your adoption experience on the Washington Post

Here's an opportunity to publish how you feel about adoption! Syndicated columnist Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post has asked first mothers to respond to a woman whose daughter is considering adoption for her unborn child. The mother wrote: 

"My 20-something daughter is single and pregnant. She is considering adopting the baby out. This is a decision she alone can make and we fully support whatever she decides. However, I know she looks to me for input and advice. Never having been in a place to make this decision, I don’t know what to say.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mandated counseling for mothers-to-be

As I was reading Montana's new law allowing adoptees access to their original birth certificates,* I came across its law mandating counseling for mothers prior to relinquishing their parental rights. I was blown away!

For starters, the law mandates that mothers must have a minimum of three hours of counseling that includes information about keeping the baby, resources to help them keep their baby, options for continuing contact between the birth and adoptive families, and post-adoption grief and loss.

This is information that segments of the adoption industry don't want parents to know. For a close up view of what happens when adoption decisions are made without full information, just watch Catelynn Lowell

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tyler Baltierra's adoption regrets

"This whole adoption thing was supposed to be a lot different in my opinion," said an angry Tyler Baltierra on MTV's Teen Mom OG (Original Girls) aired Tuesday night. He had just posted a video on of the daughter he and his girlfriend Catelynn Lowell relinquished for adoption five years earlier, named Carly. Catelynn cautioned Tyler that Carly's adoptive parents had warned them not to post pictures of Carly. "What happens if they get mad and say you're not going to see her any more?" she asked. Then, if she were talking to someone considering giving up a child, she added, "You have to make sure you pick the right people for you."

Tyler exploded: "That's a huge thing--if any pregnant woman is watching this, pick the right couple and make sure you go over everything."

Saturday, April 4, 2015

South Korean adoptee faces deportation

With few restrictions on who can adopt internationally, children from abroad may be subjected to abandonment, abuse and even death at the hands of their adoptive parents. No one knows this better than Adam Crapser who was not only excised from his "forever family" and abused in foster care, but now faces deportation.

Adam and his sister were adopted from South Korea by an Oregon family* in 1978 when he was three. The family did not apply for citizenship for Adam. The adoption disrupted when he was ten and the children were separated. Adam was placed in a series of foster and
group homes, ending up with Thomas and Dolly Crapser who abused him over the next four years. They also did not apply to make Adam a U.S. citizen. Eventually the Crapsers were convicted of abuse.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Boycott sealed record states!

Money talks when it comes to social change. That's a lesson for those of us pushing for legislation allowing adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate need to learn.

We can see this from the brouhaha over the Indiana and Arkansas "Religious Freedom Restoration" Acts.* Aside from Apple's gay CEO, Tim Cook, I suspect the major businesses threatening to boycott these states, NCCA, Walmart, Angie's List, etc. don't give a hoot about gay rights, but they know a public relations nightmare when they see one. Being perceived to be on the side of discrimination against gays who want to marry their loved ones doesn't fit their corporate image. And there are way more gays and their supporters than "Christians" who fear damnation from providing flowers to a same-sex wedding.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What not to say to a natural mother

Excerpt from Hole in My Heart, soon to be released:

Adoption reform, like all causes that move with the speed of the tilt of the earth, can be grueling. To do the work means you keep revisiting the place of your greatest pain. I try to stay away from adoption as my life’s leitmotif. I might write the occasional letter to legislators—I did get so involved in New Hampshire when a bill allowing adoptees access to their original birth certificates passed that the chief sponsor, adoptive father Lou D’Allesandro, called within the hour to celebrate. 

Yet when new acquaintances asked what I’d written, or what I was working on, the words I-am-a-mother-who-gave-up-a-child rarely passed my lips,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Selfless surrender of infant? Or a snow job?

"Woman Selflessly Gives Up Her New Born for Adoption for an Incredible reason" trumpets the San Francisco Globe. And what is this incredible reason that propelled Amber to make "one of the hardest decisions a mother could possible make"? The incredible bond the prospective adoptive parents had with the "birth mother" of their first child.  Gag me with a spoon!

With incredible saccharin, the twisted logic continues: "Here is a woman who, against her insanely strong motherly instinct realized that she couldn't provide the best life possible for her child, and so was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her daughter. ...She's a mother who loves her child so much, she's willing to endure agonizing heartbreak to give that child the best opportunities in life."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How do natural mothers fare?

Considering the flak the last couple days at First Mother Forum, today seemed like the right time to include a portion of the book I'm about to publishMy book is a largely a memoir--of my relinquishment, search, reunion and relationship with my daughter Jane-- but it also has sections of journalism that puts our painful story in a larger context. From Hole in My Heart:

Adoption is trumpeted today as a universal good thing. For infertile couples who wish to have a family, it is a solution. For religious organizations and fellow-travelers, agencies that use the mantle of religion, it is a business. For liberals who want to do good and keep the sense of family about them, it is a way to keep population growth down. Celebrities who adopt get on the cover of magazines, increasing their likability and encouraging ever more people to

Friday, March 20, 2015

Catelynn and Tyler's open adoption closing?

Tyler Baltierra & Catelynn Lowell
The honeymoon adoption of the daughter of Tyler Baltierra and Catelynn Lowell, one of the original couples on MTV's 16 & Pregnant, may be coming to an end. The oh-so-perfect adoptive parents Brandon and Teresa Davis "have threatened to cut off contact" according to inTouch. They're unhappy with Catelynn and Tyler's behavior and refusal to "follow adoption rules." They "violated the Davis' trust because they posted photos of Carly on social media." They're concerned "with Carly now five being in the public eye as she gets older."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The awful legacy of adoption

"The world is wrong. You can't put the past behind you. It's buried in you; it's turned your flesh into its own cupboard. Not everything remembered is useful, but it all comes from the world to be stored in you."--Claudia Rankine wrote in her book of poetry, Citizen.

Rankine, who is black and was born in Jamaica, was talking about race, but when I read her words I thought how they applied to mothers who relinquished children and the children who so relinquished. We trail our history behind us like a veil that never leaves us, and instead becomes part of us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ohio opens sealed birth records Friday

In Ohio on Friday some 400,000 adoptees will be able to answer the question of origin and identity as the original birth records of those adopted between January 1, 1964 and September 18, 1996--the years in which Ohio records were sealed--become available to them. The forms are  available on line or in person at the Department of Health on Thursday, and must to be notarized or delivered in person no sooner than Friday. For thousands of native Ohioans the end of anonymity begins.

State officials are expecting a crowd; their website urges workers to expect delays in finding parking and to plan ahead accordingly. Adoption Network Cleveland, which worked tirelessly to pass this legislation, is hosting a event for those who will be downloading and filling our the necessary form on Thursday night at the Crowne Plaza in Columbus, the state capital, where the records are held.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mother vs.Texas 'Christian' adoption agency for her year-old son

Kiara Citizen-Williams grieves for her lost son
Evicted from her home, young mother Kiara Citizen-Williams reached out for help to Christian Homes and Families in Houston, Texas. Five days later her year-old son, Bryce, was gone--Kiara does not know where. Now she's facing an uphill battle to get him back.
According to a report from Fox TV in Houston, a caseworker from Christian Homes, Melanie Wallace, met Kiara and immediately took her to a UPS store, and had her sign an affidavit for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. A UPS worker in the store notarized the document, and a random customer served as a witness. Wallace took Bryce and left.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why I wrote Hole in my Heart

no retouching!
One writes a book for a lot of reasons--memoirs often because you feel you must, and that is what I felt more than three decades ago when I wrote Birthmark, the first memoir about relinquishing a child to adoption. 

needed to write about the god-awful experience of giving up my child to understand, accept and assuage my guilt--and because I knew I was strong enough to handle the criticism (that's not the word that comes to mind, but you can imagine another) that would come my way. It did. In shovelfuls.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Justin Harris--and another sad story of an adoption that shouldn't have been

The Harrises and the three kids they kept
The Harris family at Christmas
Sad and horrific stories--like what happened Selma 50 years ago--can effect change. And perhaps the latest re-homing scandal will dampen the enthusiasm for the Christian push to spread god's word by multiplying the faithful, however that is done--by birth or adoption.

We refer to the god-awful mess swirling around the Rep. Justin Harris of Arkansas. In 2013 he and his wife Marsha rehomed two sisters aged three and six they had adopted from the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), placing them with Stacey and Eric Francis--a former employee of their Christian pre-kindergarten, Growing God's Kingdom.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

When lying becomes a defense to hide the real person

Lying is a subject that I write about gingerly, but it is an issue that I had to deal with as my daughter often simply could not tell the truth--either to me, her natural mother; her adoptive parents, and even friends. Recently this came into FMF's mail box from an adoptee I'll call Anna:
"i read a piece on first mother's forum where you discussed adoptees' lying and playing fast and loose with the truth - in particular, making up fantastic stories. i have done this. i can't speak for anyone but myself but i can tell you why i have done it -it's a test, plain and simple. not so much to see if you will believe me or the story, but what you think of it in the first place. you and anyone to whom i'm telling the story. 
"for instance, if i tell you a story about my having done a compassionate act, then i can get your reaction to me, you can judge me, without really judging me, since i never really did it. i can test you from a safe

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Giving up your baby for adoption is a 'courageous decision.' NOT!

"A birth mother in Western Wisconsin made a courageous decision that enabled me and my wife to have a family of our own" began WEAU TV reporter's Bob Gallaher story about his own open adoption of a daughter.

"Adoption is a courageous decision" with "loving" often inserted after courageous is an oft-repeated phrase from the adoption industry's lexicon. The truth is, though, that adoption is never a courageous decision. Instead, it is a life-altering decision driven by fear and desperation.

Fifteen year old Sammie Pohle who "made the adoption plan" which enabled Bob Gallaher and his wife Colleen to become parents admitted "I was scared, I was disappointed in myself. I just wanted to shut myself out from the rest of the world and disappear." Her mother, Amy Veltus, added, "There was a little anger, scared for her, worried, a lot of stress."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Should a natural mother be able to visit a child after adoption?

Where is my baby? 
"Working on a show: Should a birth mother retain visitation rights to a child she chose to place for adoption?"  That's the question over at Dr. Phil's Facebook page...and as I write there are hundreds of comments and nearly 500 shares.

The responses are all over the place, but a good number of them reveal the anger and ownership feelings of many adoptive parents, and even adoptees, to wit:
"No. You chose to put a child up for adoption and you have no rights after you sign that page."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Downton Abbey's Lady Edith finds a way to keep her baby close

Marigold and her mum, Lady Edith, on Downton Abbey
Lady Edith's story on Downton Abbey of what to do with her "bastard" baby Marigold has us in the adoption community engrossed and disturbed, always anxious about how this mother-and-child bond is going to be played, since MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE WATCHING.

Because more than eight million viewers tuned in for the first episode this season, a lot of people will be influenced by how the Crawley family handles the baby born of an unwed mum--and the mum herself, Lady Edith. The stakes are high, the scandal is huge, the shame would be great.