Saturday, August 29, 2015

Adoption in America is everywhere

O'Hare in Chicago
How truly adoption has permeated society since I became involved--in 1966 when I relinquished my daughter--came home to me during my trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to visit my granddaughter, known to readers as Britt. Getting there involved going from New York City through Chicago, a five-hour plus wait for an evening plane to Marquette, which is situated on Lake Superior.

I sat next to an elderly gentleman--older than me!--and as we got to talking I asked him why he was going to Marquette. I had simply said I was going to meet my granddaughter. Well, he said, I've got a story to tell, I'm adopted.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Adoption may cost us our grandchildren

I am at a small resort near Bend, Oregon with my husband Jay and my youngest grandchild, ten year old Katie. I've known Katie all her life; she's the daughter of one of my raised daughters. Never any question but that she would be in my life.

Not so with the four children of my daughter, Rebecca, lost to adoption. Their mother had another mother who they knew as Grandma. I was fortunate that Rebecca introduced me to her children when we first reunited. I didn't claim the title Grandma lest I be accused of usurping a position I was not entitled to; I signed birthday cards "Jane." I cringed when strangers, seeing us together, referred to the children as my grandchildren, fearful the children would be upset. Still I developed relationships that continue.

Lorraine too has a relationship with the daughter of her lost daughter. She is off this week visiting her granddaughter in Michigan. Other natural mother aren't so lucky.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Contacting one's child after the photos stop

Dear First Mother Forum:
My son turned 20 this year and I would love to send him a note, letting him know that I have never forgotten him. His birth father and I each wrote him a letter before he was born explaining why he was given up for adoption.

Assuming his adoptive parents gave them to him, he has some pictures of me when I was pregnant with him, and of his birth father, as well as pictures of me with him and his adoptive family when I gave him to them. They sent pictures over the years when I requested them, but it has been a little over 10 years since I last requested/sent anything. 

Not because I don't care but because life moves on and you have to move with it. I really

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dusky weaves the personal with the political

Janet Mason Ellerby
Lorraine's new memoir brings together her story as well as the larger tale of adoption in the 20th mid-century and the imperative for change. This is the message of  Janet Ellerby's engaging review of Lorraine's new memoir,
Hole In My Heart, published this week in the CUB Communicator.--jane

“Until I had answers, I would be stuck in a mire of remorse and recrimination...I could not move forward into my next act, until I found her.” Thus writes Lorraine Dusky in her compelling new memoir, Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoptionShe continues: “For mothers like me, adoption has no closure as long as we do not know what happened to our children.”

At the heart of Dusky’s memoir lie the emotional and psychological wounds natural mothers must endure after capitulating to adoption, whether open or closed. But closed adoption, Dusky argues convincingly, is especially egregious. It is not only exploitive and cruel but ultimately legally and morally wrong.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Telling your child he was conceived by rape

So what if your child was conceived by rape?

Or some other really not pleasant circumstance? If you don't exactly know who the father is?

Adoptees may be reluctant to bring up the question of conception because it is so personal, and too much information is not what they are looking for. But they are going to want to know the how. If you the natural mother was in a relationship--as both Jane and I were--more specifics are unnecessary. People in a relationship are known to consummate their love. They have sex.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Telling your child about her/his conception

Mothers often feel it necessary to explain the circumstances of pregnancy to the child lost to adoption. In our attempts to cast ourselves in a positive light (or absolve ourselves: it was not my fault!), we  may unwittingly send a negative message to our child. Not only were they to too unimportant to keep but they owe their beginnings to coercion, carelessness, or ignorance. They were a big mistake from day one!

We're about our defensive unplanned pregnancy. We know the questions presented from outsiders when we tell them about our child asked or not. "How could you let yourself get pregnant?" "Why did not you use birth control?" Why did not you have an abortion. "Or less kindly," How could you have been so dumb? " Conservative Christian listeners may send the implicit message" How could you do that knowing it was a sin? "

Friday, July 31, 2015

A natural (birth) mother's secret--time to let go

The rape, the MULTIPLE RAPES, the woman slowly coming forward, then faster, then in great hordes, accusing the Great Bill Cosby of rape, often with the use of drugs. One of his attorneys tries to make the case that Quaaludes, a strong sleep medicine, was widely used for sexual pleasure four decades ago.

Oh please. The attorney, Monique Pressly--female, black, attractive--pleading his case in public is obviously designed to make us feel--what? That all the women are liars? Sympathy for The Man? I feel nothing but disgust. Another guy who thought he could get away with sexual assault because the women were afraid to come forward, and when they did, people didn't believe them. Until there were too many to deny.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What were the Sixties like and other ?s

Yesterday was a day of highs and lows. First of all the heat and humidity on the East Coast are unbelievably high, and I ran off in the morning to a live half hour interview on Bonnie in the Morning, on a local NPR station on Long Island, WPPB.

The man who has the hour show before Bonnie greeted me with a big hug--I know him from the local bird seed and supply store where he also works, and it was clear he already knew the topic, even though my story was all news to him before then. We usually discuss the merits of safflower seed vs. sunflower in the summer to discourage the hoards of grackles and starlings.

Bonnie Grice
Bonnie Grice was most interested in the story of the Sixties, as she was probably born in the Sixties, and so has an image of that "swinging" time that did not correspond with what I wrote. Her three-hour show consists of interviews and chatter about local happenings and all kinds of music. To me, Woodstock was three muddy days in 1969 that I avoided or missed, depending on your point of view, but that was far removed from the era of constricting  roles for women, incredible shame for being unmarried, unengaged, and unlucky enough to find yourself pregnant. All the changes would come later. The Swinging Sixties happened in the last year or two of the Sixties--and in the Seventies.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hoping for tough questions

Daughter Jane and Lorraine in the 90s
Okay, I am focusing 24/7 on Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption and so the poor ole' blog is taking a back seat. I'm being interviewed on Monday, July 20, on Bonnie in the Morning, on Long Island's NPR station, WPPB, 88.3 FM sometime after 9:30 a.m.  Hoping that I get the tough questions that make for an interesting interview that leads to more, etc., I wrote up a few questions and answers for Bonnie Grice, who is a great interviewer and host. I'm sharing them here;

We think of the Sixties as a wild and crazy time, when sex came out of the closet and birth control was readily available.
That is the late Sixties, and the Seventies. I

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An agency lies, a mother grieves, a son is lost

Lorraine with thinking cap in her garden 
A terrible "misadoption" story about the horrific Louise Wise Agency in New York City was in my inbox days ago, well before it actually appeared in The New York Times. It the story of a Jewish teenager who reluctantly gave up her son in 1961 after immense pressure from family, and critically, the agency worker who lied to her when she wanted to get her son back before he was adopted.

At the time. Wise (ironic name, should be Louise Liar) kept babies for a couple of years in some cases to see that the merchandise was healthy before the children were adopted. (What happened to those who were deemed unfit is unknown. But I have a good guess. More about that later.)That is what happened to Margaret Erle, who was a 17-year-old high school student when she became pregnant.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lobbying for OBCs in New York

What is it like to lobby for a bill that gives adoptees the right to know who they are? We in New York have worked long and hard for a clean bill only to be rebuffed year after year. We need more bodies, more people willing to be strong and stand up for their own rights, and while mothers must be part of the effort, it is adoptees in numbers and unafraid to ask for what should be theirs by fiat are the ones who will bring this victory home.

As noted previously, a very bad bill supposedly for adoptees did pass the New York Assembly in the last hours of the session this year and was sent to the Senate. Our hope is that the bill dies there and next session a new clean bill that gives adopted individuals the right to a copy of their Original  Birth Certificates (OBCs) will be introduced. A well-place source in the Assembly tells me that the counsel of the Speaker of the Assembly was the person who amended our bill and tacked on ridiculous restrictions, but that he retired at the end of the session.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Liberty and Justice for adoptees--WHEN?

"The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity" began the Supreme Courts' opinion in the gay marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges. Absolutely agree. And it's about time the courts make good on that promise to adoptees who still can't obtain basic facts about themselves in a majority of states.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UNJUST Sealed Birth Certificate Laws

My original birth certificate--everyone should have the same
As the legislative session wound down in New York, the Assembly passed a bill that allows natural birth parents not only a veto, but put in place a confidential intermediary system, those assuring that many more birth mothers will deny their children knowledge of their original identity. The bill (S5964) was referred to the Senate Rules committee but in the flurry of activity that engulfs the legislative chambers in the last hours of every session, it stayed in committee as the session ended.

After years of work on giving adoptees the right to know who they are--without any restriction, without a natural parent veto--this legislation was disappointing. Assemblyman David Weprin who has been the main sponsor and spark plug for this bill obviously felt that he could not get a clean bill--no restrictions, no confidential intermediaries--despite strong lobbying at the end to kill the bill. It passed 125-19. My own assemblyman Fred Thiele, who has been a staunch supporter of the original bill that had no restrictions, in the end joined those who voted for this bill.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fathers: Never too late to find your child

We set aside a day every year for children to honor their fathers. Although the day is co-oped by the likes of Hallmark, Sports Authority, Cabela's, it's still an important rite, enjoyed by families nationwide.

For children adopted as infants who do not know their natural fathers, it can be a day of sadness. Their fathers not only abandoned their mothers, justifiably many fathers would argue, but deserted their children as well. In fairness to these fathers, the patriarchal culture played a part. Sex is good for men, taboo for women, and if a girl got in trouble, well, it was her fault. Back when many of these children were born, the double standard was alive and well; remnants of it remain. Many men walked away, joined the Army, finished school, whatever. Even if they were inclined to do the right thing,

Monday, June 15, 2015

A first mother's point of no return

Jane in 1968
 Natural mothers have a date burned in their brains--the day events put them on the trajectory culminating in the loss of their child. It is the day they saw him leaning against the wall at a high school dance, the day they went to that party they really didn't feel like going to--and were raped, the day they had unprotected sex because he pleaded or they thought it was safe or they didn't know any better. Our destinies as childless mothers seem fated.

For me, the day was in 1965, when I decided to return to Alaska from graduate school in the South, intending to resurrect--or end--my relationship with Millard, the man who would become my surrendered daughter Rebecca's father.

I began dating Millard the summer before, right after I graduated from the University of Alaska. I was thrilled! He was thirty, more sophisticated than the college boys I had dated, a professional, fun to talk to, attractive--Warren Beatty

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Doctor tricks natural mother

Nearly three decades ago, an infertile couple who wanted to adopt wrote up a resume about themselves and sent it to several obstetricians through friends of friends. Though they were not from New York, they got a call from a doctor in Brooklyn. His patient was an 18-year-old about to go to college, and she and her boyfriend were planning to give up their baby.

The mother-to-be chose the couple--from their letter--but though they wanted to meet her, she did not. She did agree to let the prospective parents have a photograph of her. But the prospective adoptive father wanted to meet her.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Why were adoptee birth certificates sealed?

My husband, Anthony Brandt, wrote this column less than a week ago, and it seems apt to publish it here as it is his outsider take on what he saw happened to his cousin when she became pregnant in high school. It also explains why he was so understanding of my life as a mother who relinquished a child when we met. And it led to a disagreement over on Facebook when I posted it. 

As many of you know, he has been a staunch supporter of my involvement in the issue of my life, and supported me and writing this book, even though money has always been tight in our household. 
Anthony Brandt--in his hat
May 31, 2015
The Adoption Tragedy
by Anthony Brandt

Lorraine, my wife, is within a day or two of signing off on the last corrections to her new book, Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption and very soon thereafter Amazon will be publishing it, making it available via Kindle or as a bound book, selling for a price yet to be determined, but probably around $12.00. What a long road it has been--five years, as many versions, always refining it and making it better. I'm proud to have traveled this road with her and done the little I could do to encourage and help

Thursday, June 4, 2015

HOLE IN MY HEART: Let's change the world

Jane and Lorraine, summer 1982
Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption is for sale at Amazon.

I can hardly believe it--I mean I can, that is a figure of speech. But after so many years of writing and rewriting, of acceptance by a small adoption publishing house and then a contract I wouldn't sign, after almost a Lifetime TV movie (a script writer was already blocking out scenes), after agents calling to say they loved the writing, after hearing from editors at the usual publishing houses that "there wasn't a big enough audience for this story--but good luck with placing it elsewhere"--it does feel amazing to finally have Hole In My Heart in print and out there for the world to read.

I'm a little scared of course--what if? It just goes quietly into that good night and that's it?

Someone asked me about a week ago about what I hoped to accomplish with this book and I immediately answered before thinking: I want to change the way people think about adoption.

That's it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Natural/Birth Mothers who search and are rejected

When I gave up my daughter Rebecca in 1966, I promised myself I would search for her when she turned 18. It made it easier to give her up. I've since learned that mothers commonly made this promise.

I didn't tell my social worker of my plan because I was afraid that if she knew, she might send my daughter to China or some place where I could never find her. I was aware that records were closed, birth certificates altered to show adoptive parents as THE parents. I told myself I would go to law school (which I had been considering for several years) and as an attorney I could figure how how to beat the system and find my daughter.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Adopted...Looking to find birth/natural mother

The singer looking for his natural mother. It's Sunday, I've been a dog and adoptive parent Frank Ligtvoet sent me this video.  I hope messages like this keep making it possible for adoptive parents and adoptees and natural mothers to look upon adoption/reunion in a different way.


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.