' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Judge: Egg Donor Cory Sause is Boy's Mother--and will get parenting rights

Cory Sause and son
An Oregon judge has ruled that an egg donor mother has the right to be part of her child's life, despite the efforts of the wealthy sperm-donor father who wants to cut her out of the picture. The ruling was based on the "contradictory" agreement that the egg-donor mother and the father signed prior to the birth of a son and emails and other evidence showing that the father intended to keep the mother in his son's life, changing his mind only after the boy was born. In her decision, Judge Amy Holmes in Portland said that she will meet with the parties to develop a parenting plan.

The case does not signal a breakthrough for all egg donors who after birth wish to participate in the resulting child's upbringing, for this case involved an agreement between two parties who were a couple at the time an egg was implanted in a surrogate, and the agreement signed was not cut-and-dried as is usual between parties who do not have a prior relationship. The child, a boy named Samuel, is now two.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

NBC's This Is Us tackles foster care and a mother who returns to claim her daughter

Are you watching America's most engaging and informative show on adoption these days? This Is Us continues to surprise and delight me with its examination of the adoption issue and most specifically, how it depicts the emotions and actions of the adopted person at the center of the drama, Randall Pearson--nerdy, successful, sensitive--brilliantly portrayed by Sterling K. Brown. It is an examination of many of the issues that are usually not fodder for primetime TV, in fact, any TV at all.

Last season we dealt with Randall's adoption and his adoptive mother's duplicity in dealing with knowledge of the identity of his biological father, who could have met Randall as a young teen when he was searching and curious on his own. But his otherwise sterling adoptive mother (Mandy Moore) prevented it. For those who haven't watched, the adult and married Randall went on a search without telling her, and found his father in one of the first episodes. The whole gamut of emotions of reunion, anger at his adoptive mother for keeping his father secret, telling the grandkids who this older guy was, the father's late-stage cancer, and his death was played out while we stayed riveted. And wept. One birth father of my acquaintance told me that he watched and cried every week.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Can mothers who lose their children to adoption be thankful?

Jane in 1968
Thanksgiving has always been intertwined with the birth of my surrendered daughter Rebecca* and our reunion. She was born exactly a week before Thanksgiving in San Francisco 1966 and we re-united a few days before Thanksgiving 31 years later. As we tend to do with five-year anniversary dates, I am looking back and reflecting. What has my life been for the past 20 years? What have I learned?

When I left the hospital on that bleak November day, I began living two lives, one life in real time, law school, marriage, three more daughters, a career; the second life in my imagination. What was Rebecca was doing at each of life's landmarks? Did she graduate from high school, go to college, marry? I tried to mentally add her to family pictures. Still, if asked how many children I had, I redacted her, answering disingenuously "my husband and I have three daughters."

Over the years, I thought about looking for Rebecca but the time never seemed right. I knew finding her would not restore her as my daughter and it could derail my life, damaging my relationship with my raised daughters, upsetting my career. On November 18, 1997 a relative, an aunt by marriage, called telling me that Rebecca had called her and sent a letter. I was stunned, frightened.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Three adoption stories: Anna Mae He and the words 'adoptive parents'; Chinese adoption, adopting from foster care

After a week in which two unremarkable but normal adoption memes unhappily reverberated in my life there was a bright light of relief, and probably not in the way you, Dear Reader, expect. First the negatives.

Recently reader Jay Iyer sent me a link to stories about the Chinese girl, Anna Mae He, who was fought over by her parents--a grad student and his wife, both Chinese and in the country on a study visa--and two Americans who wanted to adopt her, Jerry and Louise Baker. With the "help" of Mid-South Christian Services Jack and Casey He thought they were placing their daughter temporarily with the Bakers. For the Hes, it was a time of personal turmoil and financial need, added to by Anna Mae's premature birth that left them with a  hospital bill of $12,000. A temporary placement with another family did not seem unusual to the Hes' culture.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Adoption tax credit doesn't strengthen families, it destroys them; nor does it reduce abortions

Couples and singles whose incomes are under $203,540 who adopt a child, domestic or foreign, currently receive an adoption tax credit of $13,570. The credit reduces their federal income taxes dollar for dollar for every dollar the spend on adopting a child. The credit is estimated to reduce federal revenues $3.8 billion over ten years. Adopting a spouse's child does not qualify for the credit. In their tax bill--otherwise laden with benefits for the rich--House Republicans sensibly proposed eliminating this credit because it primarily benefited wealthier Americans.

Religious conservatives in the Senate, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and John Hoeven of North Dakota, demanded the credit be restored. Joining them were House conservatives and religious groups who argued that by eliminating the credit, the bill went against the GOP's anti-abortion platform. The assumption being that the credit reduces abortions by increasing adoptions. "The adoption tax credit is pro-life and pro-family" said Rep. Mark Walker, a pastor from North Carolina.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Adoption in the media: Social Q's and This is Us

Adoption finds its way into many facets of media today.

a) In the Social Q's column in the Style Section of The New York Times today, under the heading "All Facts Aren't Equal," a 14-year-old who signed himself as Gabe writes that when he and his family and friends recently were hanging out and shouting out random things about each other. He said of his 13-year-old brother: "My brother is adopted!"

He adds that indeed his brother is adopted, but wonders if it was right for his parents to tell him that he hurt his brother's feelings--since "...that's not logical." He goes on to say, "I was just stating a fact--like if I had said his eyes are blue. I don't think I have to apologize. Do you?"

Friday, November 3, 2017

Joan Didion's Blue Nights, an adoption memoir revisited on the release of documentary about her

With the release of the documentary about Joan Didion, The Center Will Not Hold, a repost of a blog written in 2011 after the release of her memoir, Blue Nights, which dealt extensively about her relationship with her adopted daughter.

Joan Didion's adoption of her daughter Quintana Roo has been on my radar ever since I realized she and her husband had adopted a daughter because their daughter was born within weeks of mine, and both girls were surrendered as infants. It wasn't until Quintana was ten or eleven that I paid more attention because one of my best friends in New York, who followed the lives of literati with interest, began insisting that this girl Quintana had to look a great deal as I must have as a child.

It was true. Except for the fact that I was a bean pole growing up, she did seem to me (and most assuredly to my friend) that she looked like I did as a kid. Photographs bore this out. Quintana was often mentioned in the magazine stories about her famous parents, including her age, and just as my daughter turned eleven, so had Quintana.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

After calling Dad, First mother responds!

ALMA Founder Florence Fisher and her father
Update: Just a short note regarding the last post of a woman who wasn't getting a response from her mother when she wrote...but put the course of action into her own hands and made a call. Dad Answered! He had been looking for her! She found a welcome and within days was interacting with her siblings.

Mom was still holding back, and had written a letter saying: no go. Not ready.

Until two days ago! All I can share is that our adoptee friend got a lovely note from her first/birth mother who included her personal phone number and suggested a time they talk. So...I repeat myself here: Sometimes--most times--direct contact through the phone is the best route to go. It is what most search angels and confidential intermediaries use. And adoptees and mothers can too!--lorraine
And yes we know, it is not always rainbows...but it might be and you will never know without trying.

For previous posts in this chain see:

When DNA yields a first mother's (or father's) rejection

Original post:

When DNA yields a first mother's (or father's) rejection

Also from FMF

Telling my family about my first child--and then going public

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA
on October 31, 2017

If you are searching for family this is the guide to read. Richard writes in a warm, 
inviting tone and takes you along his journey, making you feel that surely, you can do the same. I read it as a 
first mom who found my daughter a different way (paid searcher in the 80s) but DNA is the way to start the 
search today. You'll even like Richard's adventures meeting people he thought were his relatives, but were not! 
Highly recommended for anyone searching, whether the adopted or members of the original family.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

When a man answered--it was the adoptee's father!

A few weeks ago I wrote that adoptees who find their parents--which is most often a mother--contact them directly via telephone if they can, rather than write a letter. Letters can be put aside, answered in the great foggy future, forgotten if one has "neglected" to tell one's spouse or other children about the one given up for adoption.

As I was writing I realized that since adoptees have every right in the whole blooming world to take matters into their own hands when they find their birth/first natural parents on their own. I urged them to call rather than write. It occurred to me that since adoptees talk about free choice being taken away from them (it is), this was a case where they could grab it by the horns, so to speak. I wrote: You don't know what will happen when you make that phone call, but it does put control into your hands rather than someone else's, and control over your life and identity to a large part has been taken away from you.

A week later an adoptee wrote this to me:

I recently popped back on FMF and it changed my life.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top of the Lake: China Girl--Part detective story, part reunion story, all riveting

Anybody else watch the Top of the Lake: China Girl on Sundance?

It's a detective story, all right, set in Australia, but it turned out to be a who-done-it wrapped around a first/birth mother reunion complete with adoptive mother Nicole Kidman playing the adoptive mother. Already I'm hooked.

The detective story involves a body of an Asian girl which is stuffed in a trunk that washes up on a beach around Sydney; but nearly as soon as that plot line begins we learn that the detective Robin (the talented Elisabeth Moss), is going to the home of the adoptive family of her daughter. In the previous series of Top of the Lake, we'd learned that she had given up a child to be adopted. Robin had been raped on prom night by three guys; she was 16 when the girl was born. The adoptive parents had written her in her native New Zealand, but she did not respond. Now a few years later, she's in Australia, and goes to their home.

Seventeen-year-old daughter Mary (Alice Englert) is rebellious, has a terrible relationship with her adoptive mother (Kidman), and is coincidentally involved with a sinister nut job who's much older than she is and who will be part of the who-done-it.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Canada to pay millions to victims of forced adoption in 'scoop' era

When will the awful news about international adoption stop? "Canada Agrees to Pay Millions in Lawsuit Over Forced Adoptions" read the headline in the New York Times yesterday. Indigenous children ripped from their parents and villages and sent to strange people as far away as New Zealand and Europe.

As we've heard in other adoptions of scale, the nonnative families the children ended up ranged from loving to abusive--but largely failed to educate them about their culture. What was told to the adoptee about their backgrounds--or why they ended up in a strange land--was left up to the families. You can imagine how that went.

Any little kid--many of them appear not to have been taken from their parents at birth, but when they were four or five--is going to wonder: What am I doing here? Where is my real family? My mother? My father? My sister? What are these people saying? Why is the food so strange? What did I do? Why why why? 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Annie Lane's damaging advice: When one child has an open adoption, and the other doesn't

Annie Lane
Annie Lane, a columnist with Creators Syndicate, offered up some noxious advice recently to "Anxious Adopter," who has two adopted children, a girl, 6, and a boy, 4. The boy's adoption is open and he visits his first/birth mother twice a year. The girl's natural mother, however, requested a completely closed adoption. There's the rub. The girl wonders why she does not have another family like her brother has. Lane tells the adoptive mother: "You might want to consider whether these visits would be good to continue in the long run. Are they good for your son? Do they confuse him?" Clearly a not-subtle recommendation that Anxious cut off contact with the boy's mother to spare the girl any disappointment, as well as to make life easier for "Anxious Adopter."

Friday, September 8, 2017

When DNA yields a first mother's (or father's) rejection

DNA is reaping more connections daily, to judge by the mail that First Mother Forum is getting about what to do as the trail to one's biological family heats up. Since cousins, aunts and uncles are revealed--seemingly more than direct hits to biological birth parents--the next obvious step for the adoptee in search, or the found family, is to see exactly who this new person is related to, and how. Especially when...no one has heard of this "cousin" or "niece" or "sister" before.

Then the questions begin. Uncles (who are brothers of the woman in question) express at first disbelief, and then...call their sisters, who are birth mothers--and since the brothers express doubt that the DNA can be accurate, there must be some mistake, right?--their skepticism feeds the woman's desire to keep the secret child just that, a secret. Unfortunately this chain of events is leading to many denials, especially from women like myself who gave up their children in the Sixties and earlier when we were told secrecy was the way we were supposed to live our lives. I imagine the thinking of these women goes, I've gotten away with this secret child and my husband/children/even my brothers and/or sisters don't know about her, and I'll just deny it. End of story. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Comments from the crypt to First Mother Forum

Just a quick run through of some of the comments we get that we do not post:

Advertisements--usually from someone in a foreign country--advertising a baby for adoption: Hello i want to give my newborn baby girl up for adoption, i just do not want her to suffer so i need a very loving and suitable home for her. any couple or single mother looking to adopt a newborn 3 months old message me now...that one seemed like a scam, but we do get others that appear to be sincere. 

Followed by an email address. I clicked on the link of the sender and it took me to a foreign country....I assume it was a baby-selling scam. We get comments like this about every other month.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What's the matter with closed adoption? EVERYTHING

Sometimes it is necessary to remind new readers that adoption--particularly closed adoption--is far from the altruistic institution that society and, typically, as a reflection of society, how the media portrays it. Today's post explores that thought and was triggered by a comment FMF received recently at a 2009 blog, Why Is Adoption Like Slavery?

Making the comparison, despite how it is framed, usually draws a number of comments from people unhappy with the comparison; yet at its core, the contracts of adoption still drawn up today in states where birth certificates are altered and thus, original ties are obliterated, result in social engineering as wrong as slavery was; the contracts involving adoption also treat the individual as a legal res to be handed over to another party, without input from said individual, at the time of delivery, and into the unending future.  As the late Cyril Means wrote: "Apart from slavery there is no other instance in our laws, or in any other jurisprudence in civilized system of jurisprudence, in which a contract made among adults, in respect of an infant, can bind that child once he reaches his majority."

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Who has a baby to make 'it' a gift? And why has this attitude permeated society?

My daughter Jane, at four or five, given up with 
blood, sweat and tears, and never a gift
How would you--adoptee and mothers--feel about a photograph of a pregnant woman's belly with a blue ribbon wrapped around the belly and tied in a bow?

Five Likes under the photograph on the Facebook page, Hoping to Adopt.

I would do a screen shot and show it here, but that function doesn't work on Blogger, no matter how I try to do it.

Lorraine at 5 years old 
I came across this the other day when I got a "friend" request from Hoping to Adopt. Bemused and thinking, Boy, have you stumbled into the wrong person for your cause and Facebook page, I went to the page and saw the aforementioned photo. Also one of those slogan things that unforunately I cannot remember exactly but it was designed to scrub "give up" in adoptese. It went something like: No one gives up a baby; no one gives up on her child. Since I am one of those who refuse to insist on prettifying language--I use "given up" as well as surrender and relinquish as it suits me. I also like given up because it so exemplifies how I felt at the time: I gave up thinking there was another way. My story is simple and as old as time: The father was married, promised to divorce but at some later time, the pregnancy in 1966 was scandelous and shameful; I felt the push of society to give up, and give my child to parents who supposedly were better qualified to be my daughter's parents.

Without the details, I pointed this out on the Facebook page, got an immediately apology from the owner of the page, he was sorry and did not intend to offend, he wrote; but I responded again saying, then stop trying to scrub the language of what adoption means to the first birth biological blood kinship natural mother. [What to call us mothers who bore the children of adoption is another problem for another day.] I would relate the exact exchange here but when I went back to Facebook later in the day, both the original saying at Hoping to Adopt and my comments were gone, including in my own list of my Facebook comments. Fair enough.

There are other sites about hoping or wanting to adopt on Facebook; I never comment because what is the point? But this photograph of a belly-wrapped gift really gets my dander up. Who is having the baby that is the ribbon-wrapped gift to this couple? The idea that the photograph perpetuates about women having babies they "gift" to those hoping to adopt is sickening. Any thoughts?--lorraine

POSTSCRIPT: The page has either been taken down or changed but the blue ribboned belly is visible to me no more. I may have been blocked, but there is another page by another couple with the same name. I may have been blocked by the other page owners. At another page by the same individual who responded to my comment, however, I did see the slogan that he likes so much: There is no "giving up" in adoption. No body gives up on their child. It appears to be a slogan from adoption.com. He and his wife are hoping to adopt a third time. They do not seem to be considering from foster care, or adopting an older child. It appears they are in the market for a newborn.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Are adoptees emotionally connected or detached to their biological/birth parents?

The question of connection between natural parents and their offspring emerges increasingly as DNA provides the links to family members who were not raised in that family. Some adopted individuals--and especially those who have been searching for their kin--are likely to feel a strong pull to their blood relatives, mother and father included. But not all adoptees feel this way. For some the disconnection may last, especially if social standing and education and religious beliefs are strongly divergent from one another. For some, the feelings of connection are likely to change over time, from cool to engaged to definitely! And if the mother and her family are rejecting, the gamut of emotions will go from hot to cold in time.

Reunion is so damn tricky. If you watch Long Lost Family

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Contacting siblings when a first mother is silent

Whether to contact family members--when the first mother is not responding--is the question that comes up often, and it's a doozy. The adoptee who searches wants to be reaffirmed and warmly accepted by her first mother, of course, but failing that, what about all those other relatives out there, including siblings!? And if Mom is not responding to repeated efforts for contact, then what?

This question is going to come up more frequently as more and more adopted people are finding not only their true heritage (1/3 Eastern European, 1/4 Southern Italian, 1/6 Scandinavian, a smidgen of Jewish, Irish, etc.) but also...that they have relatives who are also curious about their DNA--and what do you know, blood cousins, aunts, uncles, even siblings pop up! Getting a message that in essence ties you to a family by blood is going to reveal parentage on a greater scale than ever before. While DNA

Monday, July 3, 2017

Another adoptee suicide makes the news

There was a time when adoptee suicide was a matter for other people. I could hear about this one or that, and feel it was part of some "other" category than the one I was in: first mother, found daughter, complicated relationship.

My found daughter was alive; struggling, yes, but making a life. After more than the usual share of hiccups--epilepsy, sexual abuse by someone part of her unofficial adoptive family, a neurosis that led to continual untruthfulness, a daughter she gave up to be adopted--slowly but surely she emerged on the other side. Now she was happily married, and had a smart and sassy daughter who did not share her emotional or physical problems. After being shuttled off to learning-disabled math classes in high school, now she had an

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Adoption--Is it the new normal?

Is adoption "normal?" The question isn't asked because of course adoption is not normal--in the normal order, babies stay with their mommies and daddies are nearby, one hopes, if not actually right there changing diapers and sharing the middle-of-the-night feedings.

But adoption seems so prevalent today that it no longer seems abnormal. In my world, everyone knows someone who has adopted, or who is adopted, or who is thinking about adopting.

Consider: The other night I learned that a woman I see a couple of times a year at some gathering--and is a rather well known psychotherapist in New York--is adopted.  While she herself is almost certainly not ancestrally Jewish, she keeps a kosher household and according to our mutual acquaintances, has made clear that she is most decidedly NOT interested in learning the identity of her natural parents.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

'De-facto parents': Another way to steal children?

Would-be parent Kelly Gunn
What makes a parent? How does money play into who ends up with legal rights when a couple separate?

The legal issues surrounding gay couples where one has a child or adopts one continue to be litigated one case at a time.  As with any couple who separate, the child becomes the battle ground, as is the case of Abush, a seven-year old Ethiopian boy.

He was adopted in 2011 by Circe Hamilton, She and Kelly Gunn, a successful business woman, began a relationship in 2004 and moved in together in 2007. They began talking about adoption that year and attended an event for would-be adoptive parents. Jane Aronson was one of the speakers. She is a pediatrician and adoptive mother who calls herself "the orphan doctor" and is a comrade-at-arms with intercountry adoption advocate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet.*

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Feminists exploit anti-family adoption laws

 When I read Liz Latty's excellent piece on why mainstream feminism is pro-adoption* I was reminded of three strong feminists I've known in Oregon, all of whom served in the Oregon legislature and were adoptive mothers, I don't know why they adopted; two had biological children as well, suggesting to me that they saw adoption as both a way to save a child and a way to build their families without increasing the population.

From a few discussions with these women, I'm convinced of the sincerity of their actions, but also convinced that they wanted to accept the adoption industry Orwellian double think: Mothers love their children so much that they make the selfless decision to place them.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Adoption: The only option for low income women under the Republican agenda

Republicans celebrate House passage of AHCA,
Or, a bunch of white guys smirking that they can
take away health care and facilitate adoptions..  
To 217 House Republicans, choice for low income women means abstaining from sex or losing their children to adoption. By a four vote margin, the House passed the American Health Care Act. Twenty Republicans and all 193 Democrats voted  against this draconian measure. The AHCA caps Medicaid funds to the states, which will result in doctors cutting or denying services to low-income pregnant women. The AHCA allows states to permit insurance companies to exclude maternity benefits from their policies and deny coverage for "pre-existing conditions" including pregnancy. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

h♥le cont.: As a first mother, testifying for adoptee rights in New York, 1976

By 1976 the New York state legislature amazingly enough is considering a bill that will allow individuals born and adopted in New York to obtain their original, unamended birth certificates.

Florence [1] is planning a lawsuit to have the amended birth certificates be declared unconstitutional, but holds back now. If New York’s law fell, could the rest of the country be far behind? Florence and I troop up to Albany with a handful of others—adoptees, adoptive parents, a phalanx of psychologists and social workers, attorneys, adoption-agency heads, and another natural mother who turns out also to be an adoptee, a double-whammy that is way more common than most people know.[2]

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

h♥le, cont.: Telling the family about my lost and adopted daughter

This next section in hole in my heart follows the preceding blog, where I have just testified the first time in court for an adoptee hoping to access her original birth certificate. The judge has turned down her request. The year is 1974. My daughter was born in 1966 and due to living in another state at the time of her birth, my family did not know about her.

A few weeks later, I fly to Michigan to tell my mother. If I am going to be public, she has to know before she reads about me in a newspaper or sees me on television. Given our fight over college, spilling the truth to my father would have been much more dreadful, but his death two years after my daughter’s birth spares me  that humiliation. I tell my mother at lunch, over gin and tonics, and I see her wince when she understands what I am revealing. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

h♥le, cont.: Testifying to unseal the birth records of an adoptee

Lorraine testifying a a public hearing on
unsealing records in New York City, 2014
An excerpt from Chapter 8 in hole in my heart. Previous sections can be found by scrolling down on the HOME page.

February, 1974

I’m in an airless, overheated courtroom in the Bronx, where I will soon testify—as a natural mother—that we do want to know our children. An accountant named Ann Scharp is trying to get the records that were sealed thirty-seven years earlier when she was adopted. Her identity is likely to be sealed in papers at Spence-Chapin Adoption Services. She’s there to show that she has “good cause” to get her adoption agency records. If any adoptee has taken the trouble to go to court to learn their identity, doesn’t that  prima facie demonstratethat she ought to be able to find out who she is? But never mind—we know that whether her “cause” will be deemed good enough depends solely on this one person, this man in a black robe sitting up high in the judge’s seat.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter: The day I miss my lost daughter most

My garden today
Holidays were always bittersweet without my daughter. Easter is a huge holiday in the Polish Catholic tradition, so big, in fact, that when I was a little girl I remember trying to decide whether I preferred Christmas or Easter as an occasion. Even without the presents from Santa, Easter was equal to Christmas because it brought other gifts: coloring eggs with both my parents on Thursday or Friday the previous week; making bread with my mother early Saturday morning, before anyone else was up; then moving onto the pastry, stuffed with walnuts and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, the heavenly aroma filling the house by noon; preparing a basket of special foods for breakfast on Sunday and taking it to church to be blessed in the mid afternoon on Saturday; making nests from corn flakes and chocolate to be filled with jelly beans.

Sunday meant searching for a hidden basket of goodies somewhere in the house, my father making sure it was never easy to find; followed by Mass in our new Easter outfits with a pink carnation pinned to my shoulder, followed by a breakfast of those blessed foods, and then, finally big extended family dinner with my aunts and uncles and cousins with ham and Polish sausage and borscht and the hard-boiled eggs topped with beets and horseradish ending with my mother's delicious prune layer cake with buttercream frosting. And, of course, lots of chocolate.

Then suddenly, in my early twenties, I was the mother without the daughter to pass on these traditions. I gave

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

h♥le, cont.: Upon learning that birth records would be sealed--FOREVER

About to be swallowed up by the deep                             photo by Ken Robbins
“But we’ll be able to—find each other when he’s eighteen, right—or twenty one?” I ask matter-of-factly—it’s half a statement, half a question, surely that’s the case. I am talking to the social worker at Hillside Terrace, the euphemistically named adoption agency. Her first name is Helen, but to me, she is Mrs. Mura. She is in her thirties, not that much older than me. She is my confessor, my therapist, my authoritative conduit to adoption. Other than Patrick, and an occasional visit from my lone girlfriend in town, Christy, Mrs. Mura was my only outside contact for those last months. Christy works on the afternoon paper in town; she and I were both young, ambitious and from elsewhere when we landed in Rochester, but she’s busy with her own career, and I rarely hear from her.

I am holed up in my apartment, and don’t venture much beyond a nearby
grocery store, the pharmacy across the street, and the library a few blocks away.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

h♥le in my heart: The Sixties, the inevitable, the life-changing reality

The long winding road ahead               Photo by Ken Robbins
The mores of the times kept a’changin’ with the music, but no cultural shift happens all at once. While the sexual strictures were loosening, and hip young women like myself were supposed to be sophisticated about sex—not only having sex but wildly enjoying it—the heart-breaking irony was that being caught “in a family way” without someone to marry you revealed a society still stuck in the sexual shaming of earlier decades. Good girls still didn’t do it. Smart girls didn’t get caught. A great many found ways to get an abortion. The lucky ones got married. It’s estimated that more than a quarter (27 percent) of all children born to women between the ages of 15 and 29 in the decade between 1960 and 1970 were conceived before marriage.*

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Today is my daughter's birthday

Jane and Lorraine, April 1982, about a week after her birthday
Today is my daughter's birthday.

Okay, I'm done trying to ignore it. Some years I do better than others but today, maybe because the forsythia bush outside is ready to burst into bloom, maybe because I'm packing to move and going through a lot of adoption papers, and finding letters from her from that first early part of our relationship, and letters from people who wrote me after Birthmark was published, maybe because moving upends your life and you keep making decisions about what to keep, what to pitch, maybe because the song on the radio coming back from the super market was that soulful She's Got You by Patsy Cline, maybe because I watched Long Lost Family two nights ago, maybe because...well, there it is.

Having my daughter and giving her up to be adopted is the single most traumatic event of my life. Relinquishing her was more than a life-altering event; it was an invisible barrier separating me from the rest of humanity. I would always be a woman who lost a child to adoption. I would find her, we would have a reunion, but nothing would ever be as if she had not been adopted. Our relationship would proceed, but it would always have that huge hole in it, and neither one of us would ever get over it.