Sunday, March 1, 2015

When lying becomes a defense to hide the real person

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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

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

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Different expectations upon mother and child reunion

The rash of comments at the last post (Adoptees can't stop first mother's pain) got me thinking about the mother/child reunion dance. It is so fraught with possibilities for missteps that sends the other into a tailspin, or what's worse, may send someone beating a hasty retreat. I had my own do-si-dos with my daughter Jane, but they didn't begin until years had passed, and so I feel that we escaped what so many have written to us about.

What adoptees have said is that when they meet their first mother and she goes on and on about the horrible boyfriend who left her stranded and pregnant, the pain of relinquishment, the years of sorrow and disorientation, the concomitant feelings of worthlessness, the adoptee is left feeling: Geeze, I was the cause of

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Adoptees can't stop first mother's pain

One of our readers, Mashka, wrote this comment on a FMF post about dealing with an adopee's "no contact" request.

"My B mom tracked me down through a "search angel", found me on facebook and constantly IMs me telling me that I "owe" her a meeting because of the "pain and hurt and wounding" she's dealt with over the years since I was adopted. Honestly these days I'm ignoring her. I haven't blocked her yet, but it is on my mind unfortunately. ... I've been reading this blog trying to get a sense of my b mom's viewpoint and mindset, and I think she's still off in left field."

Mashka, you don't owe your first mother anything but being kind and understanding to someone in pain is the decent thing to do. This doesn't mean you have to let your first mother dominate your life. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hole in my Heart on its way

Lorraine and Jane, 1983
After more than five years, several rewrites, many tears, rejections from publishers, more tears, picking myself up, dusting myself off....a Lifetime movie that was in the works but died, more rewrites, a book contract I couldn't sign, cutting 20,000 words (!), a story that kept changing as time marched on, encouragement and love from my ever-supportive husband and good friends, et cetera, my memoir, Hole in my Heart, is going to be available in March or April. I'm a publishing it myself. Enough with the waiting.

To make that happen, I put Hole in my Heart up on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform, last week and asked for just enough to pay for copy editing (by a first mother who does this in real life), and someone who will format it for publication.

As I write tonight, I want to thank those who helped so generously and quickly to make this happen: Darlene Gerow

Thursday, January 29, 2015

After reunion, birth father rejects returning daughter

Dear FMF: 

I am a 44-year-old adoptee who found my birth parents this year. My birth father had listed himself in a mutual consent registry in California 15 years ago, but I didn't find out until I spent a year getting my non-identifying information. He stayed with his teenage girlfriend while she was pregnant with me, and when he married (someone else), he told his wife he had a child who might show up one day. Through him I was able to meet my mother, and that is going well. 

My birth father and I had a warm and emotional first meeting in a local park, and met there again two weeks later with my two-year-old daughter. He did not invite me to meet his family, he said, because of upcoming surgery.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Orphans in film, literature a universal: Now playing at your local miniplex

Lost Boy "Eggs"
Three films now playing, The Boxtrolls, Paddington, and Annie, reflect our endless fascination with orphans. The Boxtroll tells once again the story of a child separated from his real family who becomes a hero. The Boxtrolls are quirky, mischievous creatures who live underground among the trash and wear discarded boxes, take in an infant boy. He is called Eggs because that is the label on the box he wears. When an evil human devises a plot to destroy the Boxtrolls and replace the human king, Eggs ventures above ground,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Telling your children about their adopted sibling

When my lost daughter Rebecca contacted me, I was faced with telling my other daughters, ages 25, 23, and 20 about their half sister. I could have not done so of course, but I wanted to have a relationship with Rebecca. I recognized how awkward it would be to keep her a secret. How to explain long telephone calls, hours on the computer writing emails, trips out of town. If she remained a secret, she would not be able to visit. More fundamentally I realized that it would be unfair to Rebecca to keep her a secret as though I was ashamed of her.

She asked me several times during our initials correspondence if I had told my daughters about her. She was curious about them; perhaps her interest went beyond curiosity reflecting a natural desire to connect with those to whom she was related biologically.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Korean adoptees are returning to their native land

After the separation: the persistence of roots
Stories about adoptees from other countries often talk of corruption in the system, of mothers being scammed into giving up their babies, of the angst of individuals raised in a culture not their own. But they seldom actually mention the grief of the birth mothers--or how the adopted individual might process it.

But a single sentence in a New York Times Magazine piece did it for me: "My life in the United States, no matter how good it was...never made up for my omma's grief."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Downton Abbey: Once again dealing with the scandal of a 'bastard'

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith                 Photo: Nick Briggs
Today we go from reality TV (trash or not, that's for you to decide) to midbrow Downton Abbey. The story line is going further and further into the Lady-Edith-had-a-bastard-baby thread, and they are doing a bangup job with it.

For those who don't follow this highfalutin' soap opera from BBC, a primer: The not-beautiful middle daughter ends up with somewhat of a job--writing columns for a newspaper--instead of a husband. But an affair follows with the editor of the paper, who is unfortunately married to a mad woman locked up

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Second daughter brings joy to Catelynn, Tyler

Happy mom Catelynn
"I actually get to feel happy about leaving the hospital," Tyler Baltierra tweeted as he prepared to take his new daughter, Novalee, and her mother, long time girl friend, Catelynn Lowell, home from the hospital last month according to E News. "Crying happy tears instead of sad ones feels amazing! I don't have to be heart broken this time."

Tyler, you didn't have to heart-broken when you left the hospital after Catelynn gave birth to your baby five years ago. Then Tyler and Catelynn handed their daughter, Carly, to adoptive parents Brandon and Teresa Davis, an affluent couple who lived in North Carolina, far from Catelynn and Tyler's home in rural Michigan, making visits difficult and costly. Surely there were willing parents not several states away.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Contacting siblings when a woman denies she is 'the' first mother

Diving in the unknown....                      photo by Ken Robbins
What do you do when a first mother denies she is your mother, but the proof that she is seems irrefutable? What do you do about siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, other family members? Do you contact them?

The question comes up often because it happens all too often. Recently I met a woman in her sixties who believes she found her natural mother, but the woman, now quite elderly, wrote back that she was not the person being sought. However, if the woman is the birth mother--as the records obtained by the adoptee indicate--the adoptee may have full siblings. And she would love to know them.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

When a first mother decides to search

First weekend Lorraine and daughter met
To search or not to search--that is the question. Some first mothers were told they have to forget and get on with their lives as if there is no child out there. Some were told they would never forget, but that they "cannot ever find" their child. In one's head runs society's admonitions: Searching would be unfair to the child. To the adoptive parents. You can practically twist this around to tell yourself that only a bad, selfish person would search for the child she gave up. Malarkey to that.

Adoptees fear searching because they were schooled in the thought that their birth mothers (who are mothers for all of their lives, not just at "birth") have put the child they gave up "behind them" and made those "new lives" for themselves they were urged to make. They might have been told by their adoptive parents or friends or relatives that contact by their child would just open old wounds.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Why all should have the right to their true identity and kin

Indiana adoptees have made a short but powerful video about the blankness of not knowing one's true identity, and it's our last post of the year.  In a few interviews, it conveys the loss and pain of not knowing one's identity and kin.

May 2015 be the year that New York and other states join the growing list of those that recognize adoptees are people too, people who have an innate right to know the truth of their origins.

For all of you in search, we wish that 2015 be the year of your success. For all of you who have found but have broken relationships, may they be healed this year. For those that is not possible, may 2015 be the year that acceptance is not painful. And may we all have a Happy Healthy Prosperous New Year.--lorraine and jane

Monday, December 29, 2014

Another year of progress in adoption reform

On New Year's Eve 2013 I wrote that we had reached the tipping point in opening birth certificates to adoptees with Washington, Rhode Island, and Ohio joining ten states granting access and Pennsylvania expected to follow.  This year Connecticut, Colorado, and New Jersey joined the parade making 16 states granting access although some have restrictions like first mother vetoes. Here's the list: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington. For more information on these laws, see FMF's Resources page.

Sadly, a New York bill died in committee and we haven't heard of any action in the other three big population states--California, Texas, and

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Surviving the holidays as a first mother or adoptee

Christmas lights 
Christmas can be the bluest time of the year for us in this strange sorority of adoption--first mothers and our lost children, the adopted and their missing mothers, and the fathers too who think of the children they do not know.

It can't be helped. The music of redemption and joy is in the air, and the constant barrage of ads reminds us of those we can't send presents to. We may had a joyous reunion with a lost daughter a few weeks ago, only to find that she won't respond to our texts or emails. Or a son's girlfriend has given away a grandchild, and it is triggering all the remembrance of that awful time

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Giving up your baby before he's born

Mother and child, photo by Lisa Roberts
Should the law allow mothers to sign consents for adoption before the birth of their child? A few states already allow a woman to sign away her baby before the baby is born. This is outrageous and absurd, asking a vulnerable woman at a time her hormones are going bonkers to make a decision that will affect her and the as-yet-unborn child for their entire lives, as well as the generations to come.

You want to ask--What were they thinking? when someone came up with this horrendous idea. Sign here! and we'll give  you a gold watch to boot? You know right off the bat that the adoption industry was behind this noxious and unethical practice. Back in the day when Jane and I relinquished, no such crazy system was in place. Only as adoption became a big business did the purveyors of babies--in response to demands from their true clients, the adopting parents, did even a whisper of "pre-birth" consent come into being.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Waiting on the sidelines: Peter Kassig's first mother

First mother Rhonda Schwindt waited for months for news of her son, Peter Kassig, until she learned from news reports that he had been beheaded by ISIS. Because she was Peter's first mother, not the legal next-of-kin, the U.S. government refused to keep her in the information loop.

Rhonda Schwindt placed Peter as a newborn for adoption with Paula and Ed Kassig, who kept in touch with her over the years, she told Barbara Harrington of Indiana Public Media. Schwindt later married and had two children, Jana and Sam. When Peter turned 18, he asked to meet his first mother, and they were able to reunite within a day. Peter became a part of the Schwindt family and formed a close bond with Jana, 12, and Sam, 10.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Adopted or Not?

This caught my eye a few weeks ago and...I thought of all that I have learned from adoptees. How do you feel when you see this picture? Write down the first thing that comes to mind and leave it as a comment, please.--lorraine

Monday, December 8, 2014

Should 'adopted' be mentioned when people are in the news?

Special bond: Peter was very close to his sister, Jana (pictured), whom he nicknamed 'Little Punk' 
Peter Kassig and his biological sister, Jana
The news the other day about Grace and Matthew Huang, who were finally cleared of starving their adopted daughter to death, in Qatar always mentioned: adopted daughter. They are Americans of Asian decent, the daughter was from Ghana, as were the other two children the Huang's adopted. But as the media followed their story, the word "adopted" always preceded "daughter."

Qatar does not allow adoption, and so the family was rare in that country. The Huangs were suspected of having adopted the girl to harvest her organs or for medical experiments. The couple was arrested, jailed, freed but unable to leave the country for

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How did the Romanian adoptees fare? Better than those left behind.

From a Romanian charity, see below
How did the Romanian children who were adopted by wealthier families in the West compare to those who were raised in institutions?

One of the complicated issues of international adoption is whether are children are better off being adopted into a foreign culture, thousands of miles from their original habitat, or left to grow up in institutions in their native country--if homes cannot be found for them there. Most often the institutions that would-be adoptive parents visit are gruesome hell holes; yet we do know that in a great many cases, the operators of these institutions keep them that way exactly to extract as much money as possible from horrified people of good will. Even when given the money to fix up the orphanage, the operators leave them as is to extract more money from visitors. And we know from reports from other countries, such as China and Nepal and Guatemala, that children are stolen to keep those institutions full of "orphans" to be sold to Americans.

It's a never ending cycle. That children were unconscionably warehoused in Romania during the Ceausescu (pronounced Chow-chess-cu) years, as we wrote about in the previous post, is without question, and surely, unless sold to be a slave or to be used sexually, it is better to grow up in relative comfort far away from home than be left to flounder in an institution.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Adopted from Romania, told her mother was dead, reunited via Facebook

Imagine such a world: Mothers ordered to have five children apiece; the government checking up on them at work and elsewhere to see that they were not remiss in reproducing, all in order to create a nation of "worker bees." All forms of contraception and abortion are outlawed. Poor, overwhelmed mothers were unable to care for their children, and they began to be warehoused in state-run homes.

Tens of thousands of children born under these brutal conditions. Though the children were not orphans, pictures of these benighted children made their way into the press. Largely advertised as orphans, many were adopted in the United States and the United Kingdom. When the children disappeared, mothers were told their children had died.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Is it incest? Genetic sexual attraction between adoptees and first parents

Romantic attraction between parents and their children or between siblings separated by adoption is almost unheard of outside the adoption-reunion community, but it's more common than many think. According to the online The Independent, a study by University College London found "half  of reunions were accompanied by anything from temporary attraction to obsessive sexual obsession."

I had tender, nostalgic feelings for my 31-year-old daughter Rebecca when we first reunited in 1997. Like someone who is newly infatuated, I couldn't get her off my mind. I was anxious about every phone call and every email. Eventually, the intensity of those feelings subsided. Other mothers have talked about the desire to stroke and touch their newly found children, as if they were still babies we could fondle and pat their hair.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dad chooses parenthood over football scholarship

Mason Riddle with  Dad Sam and Mom Bri Krokum
It's a story we'll all heard--and some of us have lived through--high school athlete gets girl pregnant. The choice of abortion or adoption would be what many would make; to chose the other path--to be a father--would mean forgetting his dream of  a full college scholarship playing for a school in the top level of college ball, Division 1. Pro players usually come from Division I schools.

And so it was for Sam Riddle, the star quarterback of Century High's team in Portland, Oregon. In the middle of the 2012 football season, when Sam was a senior, he and his girl friend Bri Krokum learned she was pregnant. "'I almost passed out,' Sam told

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving: Finding something to be thankful for when we're feeling low

Lorraine,surrounded by brother, sister-in-law, nieces and husband, T'giving  2014
It's that time of the year again when all the family that we miss comes leaping out of the background to appear front and center in our hearts and minds. It can't be helped. While we are trying to focus on what we are truly thankful for, we find ourselves thinking about what and who is missing.

I'm no different. 

This year my brother and his wife are driving from Michigan for Thanksgiving. They are picking up my two nieces in Manhattan (one in art school there, the other just back from Thailand) and

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Vance Twins: Raising awareness about adoption realities

Speaking up and speaking out about a controversial issue is always scary the first time. Adoption as we know it today has become highly controversial, as adult adoptees and first mothers have opened up about the painful effects of adoption, whether they are the ones who lost a child to be adopted, or the child who grew up in a family not her original one. 

Yet at the same time, with more people--straight couples, gays couples, single people--desiring to adopt, a several billion dollar industry world wide has grown up to serve that market.Those who want to adopt do not want to hear that adoption is anything other than a win-win solution. They imagine there are babies everywhere that need to be adopted, and such a baby will be the fix for infertility; at the same time many churches, both conservative and liberal, are part of the pro-adoption movement to "rescue" children from poverty.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Adoptionland: Brutal essays by adult adoptees expose the truth of intercountry adoption

The Vance Twins--Jenette on left and Janine 
With news that Vietnam is once again going to allow their children to be adopted out of country, reading a collection of essays by people who were uprooted and transplanted into new cultures is ice water on all those squishy ideals of what intercountry (or international adoption) does. The writers whose essays come together in Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists portray the dislocation as wrenching and brutal, an experience that leaves a scar neither time nor distance can temper.

Though I am no fan of adoption in general I recognize that sometimes adoption is the best solution to a bad situation. But I have read enough about intercountry adoption to see it as

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adoption in the news: Let the media know our side of the story

"'We strongly believe every child belongs to a family,'" Amy Gilson of Dallas, Oregon told the reporter for the Salem Statesman-Journal "Helping Hands", 11/8/14). Amy and her husband Tom are raising funds to adopt a seven-month-old boy from Ethiopia, inspired by the Biblical commandment "to look after widows and orphans in their distress." (James 1:27.) They have put up $27,000 towards the $35,000 they will need to bring little "Callen James" to their home. They have taken second jobs to raise money and are soliciting donations.

I fired off a letter to the S-J pointing out corruption was rampant in Ethiopian adoptions and the child may be a victim of kidnapping, not an orphan. (The complete letter is below). I pointed out that children adopted intercountry and transracially often have problems adjusting and