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

Jane
"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

Jane
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

Lorraine
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

Lorraine
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

Jane
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'

Jane
"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."
  • THERE WAS NO COMMENT SECTION AT THE TIMES SO WRITE A LETTER
  • 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:

    letters@nytimes.com (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:

    letters@nytimes.com (for readers of The New York Times)
  • AND THEN: 
  • Contact Governor Cuomo:
  • http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php
Contact the Speaker of the House, Sheldon Silver
http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Sheldon-Silver/contact/

Contact the leader of the Senate Health Committee, Kemp  Hannon: 
http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/kemp-hannon/contact

Contact the leader of the Senate, Dean Skelos: 
http://www.nysenate.gov/senator/dean-g-skelos/contact

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?

Lorraine
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'

Jane
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

Lorraine
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?

Jane
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

Lorraine
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

Lorraine
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. 
 ________________________

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day is here: Do something to chase away the blues

Lorraine 
Okay, it is that terrible day again for many of us--mothers whose children were adopted. I've certainly had my share--when I didn't know where my daughter Jane was, and then after I found her, she rarely acknowledged me on this day, and that felt terrible too. In my mind I could see her buying flowers for her other mother, the family going out to lunch, a funny card--you know, the whole works--while I didn't even get a phone call.

Some of you are in the same position today and damn! it hurts.

But instead of letting self-pity engulf you today, get up and do something that you like--or will at least keep you occupied: weed the garden, clean out the closets, go to the movies (no sad ones!), go shopping (and treat yourself to something nice),

Friday, May 9, 2014

On Mother's Day: What does it mean to be not 'ready to parent'?

Basketball MVP Kevin Durant and his Mom
Wanda Pratt, poor, black, young, single raised her son Kevin Durant to be a giant, not only the best player in the NBA, but a man of charity and grace. As he received his MVP trophy, Durant shed tears of thanks for his mother's love and dedication and Pratt shed tears of joy.

As I watched this moving scene, I thought of Sydney Syverson whose essay about giving up her daughter for adoption appeared in the "Less Travelled Roads" column in the Spring edition of Portland, the quarterly alumni magazine of the University of Portland, a Catholic college in Portland, Oregon. Syverson, white, middle class, educated, in her 20's proudly explained that she surrendered her newborn daughter to biological strangers "not only the best

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Who's your Daddy? Why some first mothers won't tell

While we at First Mother Forum encourage mothers to tell their children who their fathers are, we know it's not rare for mothers to be reluctant to reveal this information--or to downright refuse to tell. 

Adoptee/memorists B. J. Lifton, Amy Dean, Jean Strauss, and Zara Phillips write of their struggle to learn their father's identity. Lorraine readily shared information with her daughter Jane about Jane's father. Blogger Jane didn't need to tell her daughter Rebecca who her father was--she found him before she found Jane.

We understand the need to know about one's father, and appreciate the frustration when mothers refuse to tell. Since we don't believe that people in general and birth mothers in particular are cruel, we offer

Monday, May 5, 2014

Daughter reveals why she walked away after reunion, Conclusion: Part 5

Jane and Lorraine--before or after this break? Don't remember. 
A continuation of the story started on April 27.  (Taken together, they are a chapter from my memoir-in-progress, hole in my heart. 

A few weeks later. It is a gray cold day, Tony is outside raking leaves. I want to be alone when I make this call. I sit in the kitchen at the table and punch in Jane’s number. Bill answers, registers neutral. He says they are working in the yard, he’ll tell her I’m on the line. Would she even come to the phone? A minute later Jane picks up and says, Hello. I breathe deeply and begin:

I know we talked about this before, and I’ve told you what it was like back then, but today I just wanted to say, I’m sorry—I’m sorry you were adopted.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My (reunited) daughter doesn't speak to me: What did I do now? Cont., Part 4

The weekend Jane and I met, 1981
Fall 2003. I am on a panel of birth mothers at a Concerned United Birthparents retreat. One of the other women speaks rather long and forcefully about her therapist telling her repeatedly that giving up her child “was not her fault,” words a therapist had her repeat until she believes it, she feels it, she knows it. Her relationship with the father is a fleeting one-night stand in France, and maybe she does feel that way but I find her insistent “not my fault” message at odds with my own frame of mind. I did give a baby up for adoption. In some way, that was my fault. I've always tried to own up to what I did.

When I get up to speak, I talk about taking responsibility for our actions, no matter what. There's no winner, no polling of the audience, no instant feedback. I have no idea how those in attendance react.

 Later I attend a healing session led by Carol Schaefer, author of The Other Mother. Now as I hear Carol’s soothing voice, guiding our visualization, I see Jane [my daughter] coming toward me,

Friday, May 2, 2014

What did I do wrong now? Cont. Part 3

Happier times, Jane and Lorraine 
This is the third part of a four (or five) part series about my relationship with my daughter when, after a seemingly great couple of years of reunion, after knowing her for more than two decades, she suddenly and inexplicably pulled back. Links to the first two parts are at the end of this post. This is from my memoir still in progress, hole in my heart.

Summer.  I go to Wisconsin to pick up Britt [my daughter's daughter] for her summer visit, which will be for two months. Jane [my daughter] and Bill [her husband] are living in his small cabin in the woods, and Britt stays with the Rhymers [Jane's adoptive parents] during the week, and attends the same elementary school as she did before Jane married. Though Britt had flown by herself from Madison to New York before, after fanatics in airplanes brought down the World Trade Center, the Rhymers insist I come to Wisconsin to pick her up. I’ll fly in on Saturday, we’ll leave on Monday, and maybe I’ll be able to talk to Jane and patch up whatever needed patching. They will try to broker this, Gary [Jane's adoptive father] says.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What did this first mother do wrong now? Cont.

Lorraine
Continuing the story of my daughter's strange and hurtful behavior, when we had been close and she suddenly pulled back and wasn't talking to me, answering the phone, or emailing. I was dead meat to her.

April, same year, 2003. At American Adoption Congress’s 25th anniversary convention in Atlanta, I am one of the keynote speakers. The AAC is comprised of adoptees and both first parents and adoptive parents, and stands for openness in adoption, including taking down the sealed-records statutes. I talk about the early days of this movement, and how far we still have to go. I do not gloss over the rabid opposition we faced then, and still do.

Monday, April 28, 2014

UPDATED: NJ adoptees to get birth certificates in 2017

Pam Hasegawa 
UPDATED ON 4/29

New Jersey will soon join the list of states giving adopted people their birth certificates. In a compromise worked out with Gov. Chris Christie, first mothers will have until the end of 2016 to have their names redacted from the original birth certificate (OBC).   After that date, adopted individuals at 18 may request their original birth certificates.

Yes, this is not a perfect bill. Yes, it unfairly gives a few birth mothers the opportunity to deny their children the truth of their origins. But given that the choice was either this--or nothing--as long as Christie was governor, the New Jersey Care people, after fighting for change for more than three decades, agreed to this compromise. FMF salutes them for making the wise choice.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

First Mother to (reunited) daughter: What did I do wrong now?

Lorraine and Jane, 1982 
I may have published this excerpt from my memoir, hole in my heart, earlier but last week another first mother was suffering the pangs of have her daughter leave her inexplicably once again, and at the same time I was going over the section below about just that. So for my sister first mother, and all of us who have suffered through this, I am repeating this section here. For new readers, I relinquished my daughter in 1966 in a closed adoption, and we reunited in 1981. So we had a lengthy relationship by the time we step into my life here in 2002.