Friday, February 5, 2016

When you give up a child...

What was life after relinquish a child to adoption? What did we natural birth mothers do in those early years? How did we cope?

One day at a time. I had come to the realization in the hospital that I could either be a crazy woman weeping on the floor forever, or I would have to stand up and move forward in my life. It actually felt like a viable choice.

I was alone, in a city (Rochester, N.Y.), far from family (in the Detroit suburbs), and my only support was the (married) father who had been paying my rent and all other expenses for the past four months. I needed a job, and quickly. Going back to The Democrat & Chronicle, where I had been working as a feature writer and reporter, was out of the question; I turned to a temp agency--and was promptly offered a job there as a proof reader.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

96-year-old mother meets adopted daughter--after 82 years!

Lorraine at work
Reunion stories are becoming more and more common, the news media loves them, and each one should be celebrated because each is another nail in the coffin of sealed records as A Good Thing. Instead of that, sealed birth records represent social engineering run amuck.

We don't write about them often at FMF, but every now and then one tugs at one's heart strings more than usual, or has a message beyond simple reunion relief. That is the case today.

An 96-year-old mother was found and reunited with her daughter of 82! And in the Very Sealed Records State of New York.

Lena Pierce was only 14 when she had a child in 1933 in Utica. She cared for her baby, whom she named Eva May, for six months until the state of New York intervened,

Friday, January 29, 2016

Adoptive mother shoots down open-records bill

Oops--for all reading now I mistakenly thought this just happened--but it happened last May!  I was in a rush to post because when I saw it come up yesterday, I was outraged. Sorry for the confusion, but my feelings about sealed OBCs are one and the same. --ld

An adoptive mother--Texas State Sen. Donna Campbell--single handedly shot down a bill that would have given anyone adopted in that state the right to their original birth certificates, allowing for the potential to find their natural/birth/biological/first parents, and to learn of any heritable health risks. Sen. Campbell, the adoptive parent in question, pulled the bill back in May, the day it was to be voted on, without explanation.

Hours before the end of the session, the bill's author, Sen. Brandon Creighton, rallied 13 of its co-sponsors, and made a quiet plea to the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, to put the bill back on the calendar before the deadline at midnight, but to no avail.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How do natural mothers end up?

Relinquishing my daughter changed me and not simply because through that act I came to a cause that shaped my life; but the giving up of her made me feel apart from the great forward rush that is a normal life. No one wants to end up like me. No one wants to grow up to be a woman who gives up a baby. No one would wish that for her daughter. Tell someone this fact about yourself and no matter what they reveal, you feel their shudder. You are stabbing at the status quo, disturbing the peace.

The celebratory way adoption is portrayed today—on television, in the movies, in magazines, by the growing list of celebrities who adopt—largely ignores that behind every happy adoption is another mother missing her child, and another family mourning the missing

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The enduring pain of adoption loss

"Does the pain ever end?" asked a newly reunited natural mother.

"It's always there somewhere," I answered, "but it moves into the background as your relationship evolves."

I thought of this as I was having lunch with Anne, a natural mother friend, the other day. I had known Anne since the early 70's through Oregon politics and the feminist movement. It was only after my reunion 18 years ago that I learned we had something else in common.
Both of us had given up a daughter in San Francisco in the 60's. We went on to marry and have three more daughters. We celebrated our 47th wedding anniversaries in December.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What is an 'open' adoption?

First weekend with my daughter, at her home
The other day one of my friends commented that a mutual acquaintance had an "open" adoption, which was news to me. I'd heard the son in question talk knowingly about genetic testing, 23 + Me, etc., and I had assumed that he had undertaken DNA testing--or was considering it--to locate biological relatives. Then my friend added that our mutual acquaintance, the adoptive mother, knew the name of the young man's biological mother. Thus, an "open" adoption.

"She told him [her son] that if he wanted the name, she would give it to him."  I flashed on the remembrance of hearing that she knew the natural/birth mother was from the area where we all lived that I 'd heard a few years earlier, and was anxious that the boy's original mother would want her child back. Worried is the word I remembered. I had not assumed that she knew the woman's name. That had not come up.

So she knew her name all along? And the son knows all about DNA testing, as if he has no other route to his biological family?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

'Preferred' adoption language is bunk

I remember the exact moment someone I was friendly with corrected my language. She was an adoptive mother who knew my daughter Jane, and she was someone who early on found her daughter's natural mother at the daughter's request--the girl was 12 at the time--when the adoption had been closed. We'd met professionally and had become friends.We'd often had lunch, either alone or with our husbands.

Nothing in the way either of us spoke about adoption had ever been a sticking point. One afternoon I casually said something about "giving up" my daughter. For the first time ever, my friend decided to "correct" my language. Giving up sounds like you are drowning or something, she said. You made an adoption plan, she said. I

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Summing up 2015 in adoption

I see blue skies somewhere...
I could write: look how far we've come for adoptee rights. Or: look how far we yet have to go. Both would be accurate. This year we've seen progress in continuing to bring our cause to more people's attention. Nearly two decades after Oregon became one of the first states to unseal adoptees' original birth certificates, the state passed legislation allowing birth parents to request adoption court records--a first.

Colorado will allow adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates come January 1 (realistically, Monday the 4th), any previous disclosure vetoes notwithstanding--except for a very small loophole.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Whose name is on your 'birth' certificate?

When Lisa Phillips Stackman of Indianapolis gave birth to her daughter, Lola Jean, seven weeks ago, she expected that her spouse's name would appear on Lola's birth certificate. If Lisa's spouse had been Jack, instead of Jackie, it would have.

Under Indiana law, the husband of a woman giving birth is presumed to be the father and his name goes on the certificate--even if he's not the father. But because Lisa's spouse was a woman, Indiana officials have refused to put her name on the certificate. Lisa and Jackie are suing with six other same sex couples claiming their constitutional rights have been violated because Indiana officials refused to place both spouses names on the birth certificate.  Lisa and Jackie's case may be more compelling because Jackie is Lola's biological mother. She had embryos created with her eggs and frozen two years ago, before she met Lisa.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's a blue blue Christmas for some

To judge from the phone calls and emails and Facebook messages I've been getting, this Christmas season is unusually grim for many of us--first mothers,adoptees, fellow travelers and here I am bragging about the wonderful time I had with my found daughter's daughter (otherwise known as granddaughter) at the previous post.

But I remember.

The tearful family dinners before I told my family I had a daughter and gave her up for adoption. The ones just as bad when I didn't know where she was. And then, after I found her, the year she wasn't talking to me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Silver Linings come to this first mother

Dear Readers:
Ten days ago my husband Tony and I were in Marquette, Michigan for a granddaughter's graduation from Northern Michigan University. First, I'll get the bragging out of the way: Granddaughter Britt was magna cum laude, with an added plus: the Secondary Teacher Education Award. Her name will be on a permanent plaque at the school.

You can imagine the pride I felt. Well, it wasn't just pride, because there were moments during the graduation I couldn't help think back of...where I came from in this journey to get there. Losing her mother to adoption in 1966. YEARS of feeling devastated and desolate, wondering if I could ever climb out of this deep dark hole in my life, my heart, my soul. Giving up a child to adoption is something you never ever get over, not really, but there my husband and I were, in far northern Michigan, nearly as far North in the state as you can go, on the shores of Lake Superior, watching my daughter's tall, lovely blonde daughter graduate from college. And I've known her since the beginning.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Kohl's adoption-reunion video sparks debate. Of course.

At last a company has made a video clip that celebrates reunion--rather than relinquishment!  It's the first time I've seen a commercial company focus on reunion between mother and child rather than separation! So I'd like to salute Kohl's for doing so. This popped up today on Lavender Luz's open adoption blog and I had to share this immediately.

It has over 300,000 views at this point, so this is not exactly breaking news, but still--it's a feel good

Monday, December 14, 2015

A reluctant poster mother for adoption reform

When my surrendered daughter contacted me 18 years ago, appearing in the Oregonian, Oregon's largest newspaper, was the farthest thing from my mind. I had kept my secret from all but a few people for 31 years and the thought of sharing it made me a nervous wreck.

Sunday my story was included in an article by Amy Wang about Oregon's 2014 law allowing adoptees and natural parents to access their court adoption files. These files allow mothers to learn the adoptive name of their child and the names of the adoptive parents.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Genetic Sexual Attraction is a hot topic

Mother, wife and son/husband in Night Is A Room--photo does not convey the supposed age discrepancy; the acting does. 
Incest and adoption are themes that run deep and wide in drama, starting with Sophocles' Oedipus plays. And they are going strong on the New York stage.

Night Is A Room is about a birth mother/son reunion, orchestrated by the husband's wife for his 40th birthday. The review in the New York Times darkly hinted of a surprise plot twist sure to bring gasps at the end of the first act.

Okay, I thought: either a) son murders mother or b) son and mother have sex. Both seemed plausible; I had no inkling of the playwright Naomi Wallace's background. Did her first-hand knowledge of affairs adoption enter into this drama? Or was it just a topic she read about somewhere?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: The Wages of Adoption

I was thrilled to get this new review of Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption, last night when I was in Manhattan with another natural mother, Barbara Monckton Thavis (more about that in a later blog). It's from a total outsider to our world, I am pretty sure (don't know her and yes, the bio makes her female).

One note: The reviewer says I do not fully diminish the power of non-genetic bonds--never intended to!  The kind of mother/daughter relationship I have with my alternate-universe daughter* Jennifer taught me the power of bonding in a way I could not have imagined without her coming into my life, and I know other first/birth mothers feel this way, despite the loss we share for a child. Anyway, the review. In order not to steal their work, jump to the website of the East Hampton Star:

The Wages of Adoption
By Evan Harris

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sheldon Silver: A blockage to unsealing OBCs in New York is convicted

Sheldon Silver convicted of corruption
One of the main blockages to freeing up sealed birth certificates in New York has been convicted of federal corruption charges. Sheldon Silver, who held a viselike grip on the New York Assembly, was found guilty this afternoon of seven counts of federal corruption charges, ending a trial "that was the capstone of the government's efforts to expose the seamy culture of influence-peddling in Albany," according to The New York Times.

Silver, 71, was elected to his seat in Albany from lower Manhattan nearly 40 years ago. While we had enough votes to get a clean bill (or so we thought) to unseal birth certificates

Friday, November 27, 2015

Daughter sues to undo her adoption

Melanie Gilmore and Zella Price
Melanie Diane Gilmore filed a petition in a St. Louis court seeing to undo her adoption and restore the parental rights of her natural mother, Zella Jackson Price. To FMF's knowledge, this is a first of a kind lawsuit. If successful, it would make legal history. It would put another nail in the still popular myth that a child can be seamlessly transferred from one set of parents to another.

Gilmore was born prematurely 50 years ago, on November 25, 1965 in St. Louis. The circumstances of her adoption are murky. Price says a nurse told her that her daughter had died but she was not allow to see her daughter's body nor given a death certificate. Gilmore began searching for her natural mother soon after her adoptive mother died when she was 20. She had her original birth certificate with her
mother's name but was told her mother had died. Gilmore's adult children began searching for Price when they were planning their mother's 50th birthday party. They found her

Be thankful for the people with you

Thanksgiving 2014 at Lorraine's house --Lorraine's brother Tom (next to her), wife Judy, and daughters Sasha (front left, and Adrienne, right of Lorraine)
This morning, the morning after turkey and all the rest, take a moment and be thankful for the people in your life--the ones who know you and cherish you for who you are and what you mean to them. For a time, at least, do not focus on who was missing at your family table, but the people in front of you.

If there are some far away, give them a call and say hello, thinking about you, if yesterday you were too busy.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wall Street Journal decries loss of 'right' to be surrogate

Indian surrogates
The Wall Street Journal owned by billionaire media magnate Rupert Murdock rarely sheds tears for the poor and downtrodden.  It's come to bat, however, for Indian women threatened with losing income as surrogates if the India passes proposed legislation which criminalizes surrogacy for foreigners. A government-appointed body has already notified clinics they should stop offering such services to couples overseas. Since WSJ's readers are comprised largely of moneyed readers who are the ones to seek out surrogacy services, WSJ's crusading for wombs-for-hire is merely self-serving.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

'Steve Jobs' the movie: Apple's visionary as bitter adoptee

"Steve Jobs" the movie is a surprising anti-adoption tract about a hugely successful marketing genius embittered about being "rejected not selected" as another character points out halfway through the two hours, one minute of the film. Throughout, the angry Apple guru struts and sputters and lashes out at everybody in his sight-line. It's a very long, tedious two hours, one minute.

This includes Chrisann Brennan, the mother of his child, whom Jobs deserted when she became pregnant--while they were living together. While we have statistics that show that adoptee women are seven times more likely to give up a child for adoption themselves than the rest of the

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How relinquishing a child affected my friendships

Friendship has been on my mind lately as it relates to how my friends have changed because of being someone who relinquished a child for adoption during a far different era, found at fifteen in 1981, and wrote about the experience and talked about it in the media and to legislators, always hoping to effect a change. That records for all would be open. That there would be far fewer adoptions. That mothers--if they chose to give birth--would keep their children.

Along the way, some friends and men in my life understood why I was so committed, but others fell away. But it's not about the men in my life that's on my mind, it's the female friends. Now my connection to adoption has been pretty intense, I'll grant you that, so it goes without saying that friends had to understand me and accept that part of me if we were going to be close.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Should adoptees have rights of real identity?

Dusk                                                                                         photo by dusky
Should it be mandatory to give adult adoptees full access to their birth records if they want it?

It seems hard to believe but people--including the National Council for Adoption--are still debating this question, and not recognizing it as a clear violation the the rights of adopted individuals, citing as ever the confidentiality of the mother/
father/whomever. In the November issue of The Costco Connection--yes, that Costco, the discount chain--the question is being asked and anyone can vote on line. (Link below.)

Monday, October 26, 2015

How to arrange an ethical adoption

Dear First Mother Forum:

My spouse and I are moving forward with plans to adopt in the U.S. We are hoping for an infant adoption, using a non-profit agency with many years of experience. The agency only does open adoptions, which is what we want. The open adoption agreement would be legally enforceable, and we have no intention of betraying it in any event.

I am looking for resources/information that will help us ensure, to the fullest extent possible, that we (and our agency) are respecting the rights, concerns, perspectives, and needs of the birthparents and adopted children. And I want to make sure we solicit those resources not just from people who are cheerleaders for adoption, but also from people who are critics of the adoption system. That's why I'm writing you.

Also I noticed that you used the word "real" in the tagline for First Mother Forum.  Does that necessarily mean, in your view,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Selling underwear, promoting adoption

Does adoption sell underwear? I was just about to hit "Buy Now" on my Jockey bra order, when I saw the plea: "Give $1 today and bring comfort to adoptive families tomorrow" and a link to "Jockey Being Family." At the site I learned that "Jockey Being Family is our company's commitment to help strengthen adoptive families for successful futures."  Jockey has donated more than $3.5 million to adoption organizations.

Well I thought, maybe this is okay. Families that adopt hard to place children need all the help they can get. But then I saw this: Jockey offers best-in-class adoption benefits to employees. The adoption process can be costly and time-intensive. At Jockey, we're proud to provide an extensive adoption benefits package to our employees including a $10,000 stipend per child each year and resource and referral services."(Emphasis added.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Adoption Disadvantage?

I'm wading once again into the issues that being adopted raises and for the sake of peace in our bickering family, the divisive issue of primal wound shall be left out of the equation. 

Years ago I had a very public spat with Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard law professor who never appears to know of an international adoption she doesn't applaud, over the research showing that adoptees have more psychological and behavioral problems in general than the non-adopted. We were both guests on the PBS NewsHour and she called all such research: "Garbage." Her exact word. 

Despite her haughty dismissal, such research continues to accumulate--and now a new study found that adopted children tend to have more behavioral and academic problems in kindergarten and first grade than children raised by their biological parents. According to a research brief from the Institute for Family Studies, "young adoptive children" [a phrase new to me] were more likely than biological ones to get angry easily and fight with other students." This is only one of the differences psychologist Nicholas Zill found when he examined a longitudinal study of 19,000 students conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics beginning in 1998.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Natural mothers live dual lives

My surrendered daughter wrote something to the effect that "maybe everything is about adoption for my birth mother." I bristled at the remark.

I have a large life outside of adoption--with my husband to whom I've been married for almost 47 years, the wonderful daughters I raised and the two incredible grandchildren the oldest brought forth. I have volunteered with a program to introduce school children to the courts and I currently serve on a committee at my condominium.  I play duplicate bridge once or twice a week. I read a lot, mostly non-fiction. I go to concerts, plays (spent Thursday afternoon watching a local production of "Our Town"), movies, festivals, political fund raisers, and fun things going on in Portland, Oregon where I live. I have traveled on six continents. Lorraine and the other natural mothers I know also have full lives outside of adoption.

Yet the truth is, all of us who lost a child to adoption also have a separate life inside adoption. For many of us it was for years a secret life, existing only in our memories and imagination. Eventually the secret became impatient to be free and we reunited with our lost child and introduced her to our families.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


There is a silver lining.....from Long Wharf in Sag Harbor the other evening. 
Thanks to Liz O'Keefe in Australia, I removed the nasty widget bit that was still causing trouble with the comments, and Voila!  Jane and I will be back soon. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


We are currently experiencing technical difficulties--to say the least, which occurred when we installed Disqus and then tried to remove it. We are trying to fix the problem but we are technically challenged. If anyone with blogging proficiency can help, please email me at Thank you. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

'Primal Wound'--Why is the concept so upsetting to some?

Every expert who studies adoption acknowledges that children are best raised by their natural mothers, unless undue circumstances intervene. Being wrenched from the mother that nurtured you in the womb, whose smells and voice are familiar in an organic, original sense, and given off to new people--strangers--is a wrenching experience with a deep and lasting psychological impact.

Some call it a "primal wound," a phrase made popular by psychologist Nancy Verrier with the publication of her 1993 book The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Epilepsy, Adoption, Pharmaceuticals: Suicide

Lorraine and daughter in 1982, happier times
National Suicide Prevention Week was earlier this month. Those who know my story know that my daughter committed suicide. This is one of the "Facts and Commentaries" from my recent book, Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption. My hope is that those suffering with any of the maladies listed here, or their friends and families, will see this as a cautionary message, and get help before it is too late. I tried, but could not save, my daughter.--lorraine

A few days after the first anniversary of my daughter’s suicide, in December of 2008, the Federal Drug Administration announced that it would require makers of epilepsy drugs to add a warning about the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors to the products' prescribing information or labeling. Behaviors, I assume, means suicide attempts, some of them successful. Depakote, the drug Jane took, is on the list. The FDA actions are based on the agency's review of 199 clinical trials of 11 epilepsy drugs—released only a month after her death—showing that patients taking those drugs had almost twice the risk of suicidal behavior or thoughts than those taking a placebo.

But what was not answered was this: had the epileptics taking the placebo had their lives upended by as many seizures, great and small, as my daughter had?

I mentally add in the cocktail of drugs—an anti-depressant and Depakote—that Jane was taking. What about that? And what about the adoption?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What babies learn before birth

Lorraine, Jane and "Britt" in the early 90s. We are all so happy.
What do babies learn from their mothers in utero? Apparently quite a bit. Scientists are finding that even the inflection of a baby's cry correlates to the sounds of their native tongue and that food preferences are instilled in the womb.

While the debate at an earlier blog post over whether giving up a child for adoption imparts an initial shock that psychologist and author Nancy Verrier has called a Primal Wound raged on, I heard the end of a TED talk on NPR. What I learned was that biologists continue to collect information proving how much a mother's diet, her voice, her speech, her mental health and general well-being influences the fetus, and thus--her baby!