Monday, September 1, 2014

I will always be a woman who gave up a child

The other day I was reading a new book, Soldier Girls: the Battles of Three Women at Home and at War, and I came to the section at the end where a therapist is helping one of the women get over the effects of two deployments, one in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. The woman, called Desma in the book, was injured when the supply truck she was driving in Iraq hit a roadside bomb. She ended up with a traumatic brain injury, although she had not been compensated for that disability. The doctor treating her also believed she was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which she was also not being compensated for either.

Desma had a troubled childhood and had been removed from her mother and put into foster care. One of her therapists wanted her to probe into her past but Desma did not want to talk about it because it flooded her with emotion--namely anger. Now that she as back home, she felt a "snarly, pissy kind of rage."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thailand's booming business in surrogacy is an ethical swamp

A surrogate has twins. One of them has Down Syndrome. The biological parents only want the perfect child, and leave the Down Syndrome baby with the surrogate. Later it emerges, the father, David John Farnell, was convicted of 22 charges of child sex abuse in the 1990s in Australia. He met his current wife via a matchmaking agency. The child with Down Syndrome remains in Thailand with the surrogate mother, Farnell and his wife have the "healthy" twin. 

A Japanese businessman, multimillionaire Mitsutoki Shigeta, has had at least 15 children with surrogates whose births were weeks or months apart, and were all living in one house. The 24-year-old says his motives are pure; a large family is all he wants. He broke no law;

Monday, August 25, 2014

A father grieves his troubled adopted son

Edwards Hirsch
Although I have compassion for Edward Hirsch and Janet Landay, I have to believe that if they had known something about the effects of adoption, their son might be alive today. Instead he died of an overdose in 2011 at age 22. The elegy Hirsch wrote for him is the subject of a New Yorker article "Finding the Words" by Alec Wilkinson.

Hirsch and Landay adopted their son, whom they named Gabriel after the Biblical Gabriel, at six days. Although Gabriel was born in 1988, when open adoptions were advocated by adoption professionals and were becoming commonplace, Gabriel was adopted in a closed adoption, arranged by attorneys. The parents' ignorance about adoption--admittedly this is a harsh word--is sorely evident throughout

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Help for a mother-to be to keep her baby


We can preach all day about why mothers should keep their babies, but the realities are some just can't see a way to do it. Their families won't help them and they don't know where to turn. One of these women, Morgan, who lives in the Houston area commented on our post "If you're uncertain about adoption, keep your baby":
"I don't want to give up my baby but I feel like I don't have a choice. I'm 19 years old and truly have NO support. I'm three months pregnant, the dad left for good. I told my mom, thinking I could at least get emotional support, but I got the exact opposite. I need to move out of my grandfather's house before the baby is born and I just got fired from my job, no income. I have six months or less.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

At the hospital: The innate need to know who you are, the desire to return 'home'

At the hospital a certain night nurse and I bond over this story: Her husband was a foster child, never adopted so that the parents did not lose the cash payment from the state for him and his sister.* The father wanted to adopt him when the father was dying, but the man said: too late. He was told for years that his his mother had died, but intrepid wife (and my new friend) somehow did not believe the story. She knew her husband needed to have some information to close up the gap in his heart.

Through major sleuthing, and sending flowers to the people whom she knew had the information, my friend was able to learn the mother's name. Now she applied to every single state for the

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Secrecy in adoption replaced by public confessionals--how cool is that?

Mariah MacCarthy
Is giving up your baby a new fad--a re-packaged baby scoop era substituting a public display for secrecy--or a harbinger of permanent changes in child-rearing?

 Rapper, storyteller, and burlesque artist Mariah MacCarthy's one woman show Baby Mama: One Women's Quest to Give a Child to Gay People has a one night stand at the Dixon Place Theatre in New York City this Monday, August 18. According to press notes, the show "tracks one birth mother's adoption journey, from conception to placement with the gay couple of her dreams--while still living her life, dating, and attending the occasional orgy."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Family Reunions: Missing the one lost to adoption

Jane (front right) and family at Maui reunion
[My husband and I our daughters and their families are in Olympic National Park for our triennial family reunion. My four siblings and I have held these events since 1975 and take turns arranging them. This year was my brother David's turn. Sadly he passed away last August but his sons have taken charge. Following is a post I wrote August 5, 2011 just before our reunion held in Maui.]  

Family reunions are a fine tradition but for me and other natural mothers, they can be a catalyst, bringing our buried grief to the surface, reminding us of the missing unnamed and unacknowledged family member.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Writing the first letter to the adoptive parents

You and your surrendered child have reunited; he's told his adoptive parents about you. You're thinking about meeting them but you're scared. Chances are though, they're as scared of you as you are of them. Thinking of first and adoptive parents meeting reminds me of the scene in E.T. when Elliot and the Extra-Terrestrial see each other for the first time. E.T. might stand for Each Terrified of the other.

First parents may feel inferior to the adoptive parents who seem to have all the power. Adoptive parents may fear the child will leave, the biological bond stronger than the nurturing bond. Everybody's on edge.

You're thinking of writing the adoptive parents and and trying to set them at ease but the thought of a letter sets off another round of fears.

Friday, July 25, 2014

If you're uncertain about adoption, keep your baby.

We just received a comment from an expectant mother trying to decide about adoption. She writes:
"I'm Nolee and I'm 22 yo. I'm 4 months pregnant now and most days I think adoption is the best option, that my baby will be better without me, that my baby will have a better life NOT because a social worker told me but because I told myself this, I'm sure this is the best way to go.. until I reached this forum and specially the comments here and now I don't know what to do. I'm not prepare to raise a child in any level, financially, emotionally and as much as I love this baby I feel keeping him/her it's gonna hurt both of us. Now I'm so confused. Now I'm even thinking that adoption is the wrong

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lorraine says, See You Later

Some of you may have noticed that I have been not writing much of late, or that I mentioned upcoming surgery on my ankle--a replacement. Now I have learned that I may not be able to have a replacement, but may need a bone fusion instead, or some of both. But whatever the operation is--on August 8--I will be out of commission for a while. And as I build up to the surgery, my time is filling with the pre-op stuff that needs to be done (blood test, a dental exam, a physical exam) and endless appointments with a physical therapist to build up the muscles in my leg, as well as that magical "core" that exercise gurus talk about these days.

I am also polishing of my manuscript of hole in my heart, following the reading of it by fellow blogger Jane, as well as two other friends, and I

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Time to end the myth of first mother's right to privacy

"Birth mothers right to privacy" -- these words get tossed around like snow in January. Advocates for unsealing birth records write countless pages of logic trying to refute this assumed right.  No matter the data, that only a minuscule of mothers have signed "no contact" preferences or demands, opponents beg for the right of the little lady in the closet. They try to bolster their bogus claim with U. S. Supreme Court cases upholding the right to practice birth control (Griswold v. Connecticut) and have an abortion (Roe v. Wade).

The truth is that the little lady has no right to keep her child's identity a secret because she has no right to have her child adopted. It's adoption, not consent, which triggers sealing of the birth certificate. This is the holding of the courts in Tennessee and Oregon which have upheld laws allowing adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Here's the opinion in the Oregon case, Jane Does 1 -7 v. the State of Oregon by Chief Judge Paul De Muniz with citations omitted.*

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Challenging closed adoption records in the courts

It's time adoptees come together in a lawsuit to strike down sealed record laws. But before I go into this, some history. Over thirty-five years ago a small group of intrepid New York adoptees filed a legal action action in federal court asking the court to declare laws preventing them from examining their adoption records unconstitutional. They sought not only their original birth certificates,  but also their court records and their files at the agencies which handled their adoptions. They faced a formidable army of lawyers representing powerful interests--the City of New York, the courts, and major adoption agencies. They lost.

From that time on, adoptees have been understandably reluctant to challenge these unjust laws in the courts. Instead, they have taken their
case to unsympathetic legislators, only to be told time and time again that

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Refusing to help kids here while trolling for kids abroad

Children in Nogales, AZ facility
About 40,000 accompanied minors and young children with their mothers from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have crossed our southern borders illegally since October. Another 12,000 have come from Mexico. These children and their mothers, hoping to escape the violence and poverty back home, have been herded into warehouse-like accommodations awaiting reviews by governments officials. They are confronted by angry mobs, demanding they leave immediately.

One might think that the self-styled child savers, those eager to bring poor children from poor countries to the U.S. for adoption, would be bending over backwards to help these would-be immigrants. One would be wrong.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The right to know your origins in an inalienable right

The authors of the Declaration of Independence identified certain rights granted by our creator. These natural rights are inalienable--they can't be taken away by governments. Among them, the authors wrote, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's not an exhaustive list. The Supreme Court has expanded it to include the right to decide on the upbringing of our children, the right to marry the person of our choosing, and the right to make our own reproductive decisions. Surely the right to know where you came from should fall within this list. 

Adoptees made this argument in a 1979 New York court case, Alma v. Mellon.* The federal Court of Appeals pooh-poohed the claim, contending the need to protect the adoptive family and the first mother's family trumped the adoptees' need to know their heritage. The judges made the patently absurd claim that mothers gave up their children on condition of anonymity. Does anyone believe that any first mother had a conversation which went like this: "If you don't guarantee me that my child will never, never, find me I'll just keep him?"

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When is the 'right' time to search? Wait and it may be too late

Should first mothers search? Do they have the"right" to search? We know that reunion is the beginning, not the end, of a long journey, and it is often strewn with pitfalls and disappointments. Yet we both feel that knowing is better than not knowing, that answers about what happened to our children lead to a more peaceful life.

But many birth mothers do not search. They wait. The other day we received a message on Facebook from a first mother who is asking for prayers for her sister, who is dying. Her sister, as you will read, is also a first mother, but a mother who did not reunite. If her son should search, he will join the thousands--millions--of others who reunited with a grave. If you are thinking about searching "some day," that day may be too late.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What [some] adoptive parents don't know hurts others--their children

We do hear from some adoptive parents here who "get it" that the "child" they adopted has two families and it appears to be healthiest for him or her to maintain a connection to that first family, especially his mother, that is not broken.

But. I live amid many adoptive parents, many of them, based on what I hear, are unaware of the inner lives of adoptees, including their own children. Last week my alternate universe daughter was visiting and as she looked around a group of people at a cocktail party, she said, You must know a lot of adoptive parents--this is the kind that adopt. She was talking about professional couples, often with more money than time, with the wife who has a career just as demanding and successful (or more so) than her husband. Most did not try to have children when they were in their twenties. Many long-time second marriages. For whatever reason, they adopted in their late thirties or forties.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Considering an open adoption? What you should know

Although we at First Mother Forum don't think of ourselves as the Suzy Orman of the adoption world, we recognize that much of what takes place in this world is similar to financial transactions. We've written the following piece to help mothers who have decided on adoption protect their and their child's rights to the openness they need and deserve.

This is a draft. We ask our readers to add their thoughts. We'll incorporate their ideas and post this as a permanent page.

About 14,000 to 18,000 voluntary infant adoptions take place each year and virtually all of them have some degree of openness. We at FMF have learned, however, that mothers surrendering their infants often have little idea of the different kind of open adoptions and are unaware that they can negotiate the terms of open adoption agreements. Often mothers are

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The changing status of 'bastards'

"More Millennial Mothers Are Single Than Married" trumpets Wednesday's online edition of Time. Only about a third of mothers aged 26 to 31 are married according to a study by Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers found that unmarried couples have a higher break up rate, leading to "'multi-partner fertility. ...This kind of family instability ... can be tough on both finances and on kids and leads to a calcification of social inequity.'" In spite of these negatives, the Time article reports that while their kids may lack in financial advantages, they are no less happy than kids in two parents families.

Their happiness doesn't spare these children and their parents from the scourging pen of conservatives like George Will who point to this "illegitimacy rate" and attribute the immorality of young women as the cause of societal dysfunction (conveniently ignoring countries like Iraq and Nigeria which have extremely strong rules on the sexual behavior of women but have erupted in chaos.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to F--- up adoptee 'rights'

the Mad Hatter Lorraine
So again this year we in search of justice for the adopted are going down in ashes in Albany. Another year in which thousands of adoptees born in New York state like my daughter will be denied their original birth certificates which would have the er, real, parents in the lines where one's real mother and father are to be named. 

Today I am too riled up to not use Real because first mothers are the er, real biological mothers in the minds of real people, so though we understand all parents are in a sense, real, go with this today. We mothers not in the closet are the oppressed today, and yesterday, and just as native Americans do not want to be called Redskins, we do not want to be called anything other than real mothers today. 

The bills in New York that we had so much hope for were amended way beyond reasonable. It includes a birth parent veto. Period. Before anything at all is released, the birth parents must be found (within four months) and give their notarized permission. If the birth parents can't be found to give their permission for their names to be released, or they do not respond, a judge can decide that doing so would be detrimental to the "welfare" of the "birth or adoptive parents." 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Adoptees and first parents for to access to OBC --In today's NY Times

Lorraine testifying in January at hearing for adoptee right
With only four days left for legislators to do something in New York to give adoptees their constitutional right, the  New York Times finally covers our struggle--read it and let's give 'em hell in Albany!

 Today's article: 
  • New York Adoptees Fight for Access to Birth Certificate
  • >"She said opponents were conflating two different things: the public shame — now largely a thing of the past — of an unwanted pregnancy, and the private matter of children’s knowing the identity of their biological parent."
  • Letters should be exclusive to The New York Times

    Letters should preferably be 150 to 175 words, should refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days, and must include the writer's address and phone numbers. No attachments, please.

    We regret that because of the volume of submissions, we cannot acknowledge unpublished letters other than by an automated e-mail reply. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified within a week. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

    To send a letter to the editor: (for readers of The New York Times)

    Letters should preferably be 150 to 175 words, should refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days, and must include the writer's address and phone numbers. No attachments, please.

    We regret that because of the volume of submissions, we cannot acknowledge unpublished letters other than by an automated e-mail reply. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified within a week. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

    To send a letter to the editor: (for readers of The New York Times)
  • AND THEN: 
  • Contact Governor Cuomo:
Contact the Speaker of the House, Sheldon Silver

Contact the leader of the Senate Health Committee, Kemp  Hannon:

Contact the leader of the Senate, Dean Skelos:

AND DON'T FORGET TO CONTACT YOUR OWN ASSEMBLYMAN AND SENATOR. The time for politeness is over. People have lost their rights for far too long. The time to right this wrong is now! Let them hear us roar! --lorraine

ALSO FROM FMF: Gov. Cuomo: Right the wrong of sealed birth certificates THIS YEAR

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What's wrong with stepfather adoption?

Thousands of fathers will not be celebrating Father's Day...either with all their children or expecting a phone call. These men let their children's step-fathers adopt their kids and now live with "what if" so familiar to those who lose their children to adoption. Consider this anecdote of a man we encountered recently: 

Three generations are sitting at the end of a table. A man in his forties, his grandmother, and his father. Son and father are the spitting image of each other--and both look like Grandma. The subject of legal costs came up. The son says that at his company, he paid six dollars a month for a legal insurance policy that would cover simple legal matters, and so he asked if that would cover the cost of "fixing" his birth certificate since his it did not have his father's name on it--but the name of the man who was married briefly to his mother and "adopted" him. "In future generations they will be able to trace the family, but they they'll come to me and take a left turn," he said, matter-of-factly but obviously frustrated.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Egg 'donor' and child unite on 'Katie'

UPDATE on 6/12: Katic Couric successfully navigated the reunion between Britten Gilmore, her mother Janet Schreibman, and Brittan's "egg donor" JoLana Talbot and Talbot's two daughters. Couric and her guests minced no words in emphasizing the importance of knowing biological relatives and the joy of establishing a relationship with them. Kudos Katie! 

What we found remarkable was the complete openness of Britten's parents, who told her the truth about her origins when she was old enough to ask (apparently where babies came from), and continued to answer her questions as she got older. JoLana Talbot said everyone should have all the friends and family they could, and the Schreibmans spoke of expanding their own family. Hugs all around. Britten and her half sisters, especially Talbot's younger daughter, look very much alike. When JoLana mentioned "strong genes" we noticed that nobody winced. 

For the half hour that this story took up, little was asked of Britten's father, who is both her day-to-day dad and her biological father.  Wendy Kramer who, with her son, founded the Donor Sibling Registry spoke from audience, saying that since the registry began in 2000, it had made 11,000 matches. FMF assumes that the site is booming today. Reunion shows always lead to an uptick in search and reunion.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

When adoptive parents reject the birth/first mother--they reject the 'child'

Woman at work
When I met my daughter and her other parents, it was 1981, and "open" adoptions were unheard of, and just as unheard of were natural mothers popping up for reunions--and meeting the adoptive parents. In some ways, my initial meeting with both my daughter and her parents was made a lot easier by the fact that no one knew exactly what to do and the insidious language that permeates adoption today was not yet written. 

So everyone was going on instinct--let's do the best for "our" daughter, and the weekend went smoothly. 

What went so right? My daughter Jane's parents were welcoming me into their home. This let my daughter--who was 15 at the time--see that it might be possible to have a relationship with both kinds of parents: those who raised her,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A birth mother remembers the first call to the adoptive parents

I remember the fear I had when I had to call my daughter's adoptive parents and tell them that I was "our" daughter's other mother. Would they reject me and slam down the phone? Would they call the police? How could I assure them that I did not want to steal my daughter back?

There isn't a lot you can say to make yourself presentable--saying "I don't want my daughter back" is a lot like trying convince someone that you are not a racist. But before I got to that, I had to introduce myself and tell them who I was: My name is Lorraine Dusky and 15 years ago on April 5, 1966 I had a baby girl at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, and I believe that girl is Jane.

Then I held my breath. Because my daughter Jane was not an adult, I felt I had to go through her adoptive parents.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Secrecy in reunion: How can I tell my adoptive parents? Or my other family?

Is it safe to make contact in a way that would protect my MOM, but allow me to know my birth mother?" inquired one of our readers. She went on to tell us:

"I am an older adoptee ... (54) my birth mother is 73 and my adoptive mom is 83. My "MOM" has never wanted me to search for my birth mother and so I didn't for many years, because I'd never knowingly hurt her. I've just recently had the search done and want to contact my birth mother, but don't want my "MOM" to know as this would hurt her very badly. I am an only and have no children, and I'm not sure if I want to get to know my half-siblings. (I have good reasons for that.) There is no way I am telling my adoptive mother about this, (my Dad passed away in 2007.) She'd not understand."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gov. Cuomo: Right the wrong of sealed birth certificates THIS YEAR

In New York, we watched our neighbor New Jersey pass legislation that allowed a time period for mothers to request that their names be removed from the original birth certificate. We understand that the legislation, after more than three decades, was the best that Gov. Chris Christie would sign, and yesterday he did. In New York, we have the promise of nearly all the votes we need--if we could get our legislation to the floor.

But a few powerful legislators have been able to stymie the legislation year after year by preventing it from coming to a vote. They are Dean Skelos, Kemp Hannon, Helene Weinstein and Sheldon Silver. They are Republicans and Democrats. They are all from New York City or Long Island. They drive me crazy. Gov. Cuomo has not revealed his leanings, but he is so political (and clearly wants to be president) that it seems likely that if he sensed pushing the legislation would help him reach those ends (and he is running for re-election this year), he might do something.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How much does DNA matter?

Lorraine and daughter, Jane, 1982
How twins separated at birth relate to one another when reunited has fascinated behavioral scientists--and me too, ever since I plunged into that group of mothers who would give up a child and later be reunited. Did my daughter and I find many seemingly uncanny similarities? That grew and strengthened as we got to know one another? 

Yes. And yes. Honestly, our reactions to life were so similar that there were times it was as if we had never been separated. One of my fondest memories is sitting in the outdoor garden at the top of the World Trade Center (yes, there was one once) for a half hour, sitting on a park bench, and watching helicopters dance around the Manhattan skyline. Not only were we both not afraid of heights, we sought them out. But I've written about our similarities before so first time readers will have to take this at face value or check out some of the links below. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Assisted reproduction ignores the best interests of the child

Jacob Szfranski, unwilling to be a father
Last week, a Chicago judge awarded custody of frozen embryos to Karla Dunston over the objection of her ex-boyfriend, Jacob Szfranski, who donated the sperm used to create the embryos with her ova. In 2010, 38 year old Dunston, a physician, learned she had cancer and treatment would render her sterile. After the embryos were created and frozen, Szafranski decided he did not want to be a father and sued for custody of the embryos.

A trial court ruled for Dunston based on the fact that her desire to be a mother outweighed his desire not to be a father. An appellate court reversed, holding, according to the Chicago Tribune, that "the case should be decided based on contracts and agreements between the two parties rather than just who has more compelling interest in the fate of the embryos." (emphasis added). On Friday, the trial court again awarded the embryos to Dunston. Szafranski said he will appeal again.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Why I won't miss Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters--as everyone with a television set know--retired the other day with a great deal of fanfare on the tube acknowledging her role as someone who pioneered women in broadcasting. I watched The View wondering if there would be a mention of her adopted daughter because Walters rarely if ever mentioned her. Nada.

But earlier that day on Good Morning America Walters read a message from her daughter, Jackie, that made her eyes mist, as I learned later from a clip: "I just wanted to say I was thinking of you tonight. Tomorrow is a special day. You have impacted this world as very few can. This is a transition towards a new journey. I love you and wanted you to know how proud I am of you." 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jason Patric wins right to be a 'father'

Jason Patric--sperm donor and daddy
UPDATE: A California Appellate Court yesterday reversed a lower court which held that as a sperm donor, Jason Patric had no rights concerning his child--even though he was the only father the child had ever known. The Appellate Court sent the case back to the lower court to determine Patric's legal rights, The case is expected to resume at trial where it left off in February, 2013. In this case, common sense and the law converged. The post below was written before the decision, and it trumpets our belief than whenever possible, the rights of the biological parents of a child should be preserved--not only for the father and mother, but also for the health and well-being of the child.