Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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

Jane and Lorraine, 1983
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 nephew (who has some sort of computer company) and driving out to Sag Harbor for a couple of days. The son's girl friend is arriving later. Did I mention the two dogs? It's been several years since I've had Thanksgiving dinner with any member of my immediate family and I'm thrilled they are coming.

My own daughter's last Thanksgiving was in Wisconsin, I was here, and she and I were on the phone multiple times that day.

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Reunion Worth the Wait

Minka, her daughter, and granddaughter
No matter why they lost their baby to adoption, an affair with a married man, teen lovers, a fling with a charming cad at a carnival in Ireland, mothers stories tell of the same inconsolable grief. And so it is with Minka Disbrow, a South Dakota farm girl, the daughter of Dutch immigrants, who was raped and became pregnant at age 16.

Minka's story as told by her granddaughter, Cathy LaGrow with Cinda Coloma in The Waiting, begins in 1928 when Minka joins her friends for a picnic and takes a walk around a nearby lake with a friend. Away from the other

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dear FMF: Why did my (reunited) daughter's Facebook posting hurt so much?

Dear First Mother Forum:
I met my daughter a few years ago and we have had a couple of good meetings. She looks a LOT like my mother when she was younger, and reminds me a lot of my sister…same mannerisms, laugh, big personality, sense of humor, etc.  

But don’t talk about that stuff with her for she will not go there…it is probably the damnedest thing I have ever seen. She mentioned a couple of things to me…we have the same dark brown eyes, but the last time we were together, my husband mentioned the similarities between her and my sister, and my daughter absolutely clammed up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Who serves 'Adoptees' Best Interests'?

You couldn't pick them out of a crowd, but adopted people are different. Two traits set them apart: a vague sense of disconnection of dislocation, and difficulty forming a strong sense of self. The lack of a specific heritage, which tells them how and where they fit into the cycle of life, is thought to be the root of the problem. To be missing a past might not seem like much, but that's because the rest of us have always known where we came from. "My Mom has really gotten interested in genealogy in the last few years," one 16-year-old wrote me, "and it's fine for her, but it doesn't do anything for me."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Adoption by Gentle Care: FMF's pick for the 2014 Demon in Adoption award

This year we are having no trouble selecting Adoption by Gentle care (AGC) an Ohio adoption agency, as our choice for the Demon in Adoption award, given annually by Pound Puppy Legacy. The award is given to an adoption agency, adoption practitioner, advocate, or politician instrumental in promoting adoption at the expense of natural families. PPL started this award eight years ago to "raise more awareness of the dark side of adoption and the negligent and corrupt practices we often encounter."

As in past years, PPL's followers have nominated exceptionally deserving candidates, Adoption by Gentle Care (AGC), however, shines above the others. AGC epitomizes the greed and utter disregard for the best interests of children ingrained in large segments of the adoption industry.

Monday, October 20, 2014

You can't deny DNA--it shapes who we are today

"It's easier to embrace a thief than a phantom." That's sentence that stopped me cold today as I read yesterday's New York Times review of a new book, The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape our Identities and Our Futures.

Biology and culture, nature versus nurture. We know both are important, we really do, but with the adoption-is-the-cure-for-so-damn-much culture that we are in today, that sentence: It's easier to embrace a thief than a phantom stopped me cold. Americans like to pretend that DNA and ancestry do not matter; we can make ourselves up new here in America. But. Biology matters. DNA is the raw material out of which we came.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cheerios video promotes gay equality but smacks of racism

There's a dark side to the Cheerios ad featuring a white gay Canadian couple with a darling little black girl, likely an American child, beyond the loss inherent in adoption. The ad smacks of colonialism, promoting the superiority of white homes as it promotes gay adoption.

The nearly three-minute video is of course intended to make us feel positive about Cheerios, manufactured by General Mills. While others have praised the ad for its positive image of gay men, how would the world feel about two gay black men raising a white baby? We seriously doubt it would have the same wide acceptance and elicit huzzahs from liberals. 

I'm not feeling my Cheerios in watching this ad, Actually I'm downright uncomfortable how the ad portrays adoption as sugar and spice and everything nice just like Cheerios.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cheerios Commercial: Gay dads adopt and sell cereal

Cringe making: A new feel-good Cherrios on-line commercial for the Canadian audience as two white gay dads talk about how they met, fell in love and decided to be a family by adopting a little black girl during a three-minute video. No doubt that Raphaelle she is being treated well, and that these two dads love her. 

We are supposed to feel all gooey-gooey about the fact that these two handsome, appealing men with charming French accents have been allowed to adopt. Problem Number One. We are all for gay acceptance, gay rights, gay marriage, but indisputable is the reality that gay and lesbian adoption will increase the number of people looking to adoption to build families. The unwitting result is more pressure on the adoption industry to find more babies from a dwindling market so that gay and lesbian couples can adopt somebody else's child

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jennifer Aniston to adopt! At last! It's a Girl!

Jennifer Aniston--Adoptive Mom to Be? 
Update on 10/9:  Jennifer Aniston is not pregnant and she is not considering adoption, at least not right now. That is the message that was delivered this week by her publicist Stephen Huvane. Recent rumored started by Life & Style have suggested that Aniston and fiancĂ© Justin Theroux are thinking about adopting. In a statement to Page Six, Huvane said in no uncertain terms that Aniston is not planning to adopt or have a child in the near future.
                                      * * * 

"Jen's Adoption Surpise" and "A BABY AT LAST" read the headlines at the supermarket checkout, and I thought, Who is surprised? Not I. Ever since Jen did not get hitched and/or get pregnant during her fecund years, I have been waiting for this piece of news--that she is going to adopt! Well, folks it apparently has happened, if Life & Style magazine is to be believed. "Jen & Justin's Baby Secret: They're Adopting" read the headline inside.

Oh! $@#!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finding Your Roots: Bastards show up in all family trees

Henry Louis Gates
How many of us have ancestors who were born outside of marriage? Plenty it would seem. Last week's episode of Henry Louis Gates, Jr's Finding Your Roots on PBS, found that the three athletic greats the program featured all had ancestors born under less than auspicious circumstances. Tennis legend and feminist Billie Jean King, Yankee all star Derrick Jeter, and women's basketball pioneer Rebecca Lobo each had an ancestor born--outside of marriage. Gates is a warm and engaging host, and the show never fails to emphasize the connection of natural families. Guests are likely to find surprises in the family background.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Open' adoption letters released in Texas...with redactions

Protesting at a Gladney event--in Texas 
Boxes and boxes of letters from first mothers to the adoptive families and vice versa that were left unattended when a major San Antonio agency shut down in 2012 will be forwarded to the people to whom they were intended, the state of Texas announced yesterday. However, though the agency, Adoption Services Associates, had promised "open adoption" to the unsuspecting and naive women who gave up their babies through ASA, all the identifying information in the letters will be blacked out.

We reported earlier a reputable agency in San Antonio, Abrazo (that only handles fully open adoptions), had stepped in and tried to help the first mothers who counted on continuing

Sunday, September 28, 2014

First mother reappears after 12 years--after a 'happy' reunion

When a first mother wants to resume contact--after cutting off the relationship 12 years earlier following reunion, how can an adoptee protect herself from rejection again? One of our readers, Nicole, wrote us saying she found her mother in 2002. But after several visits, including meeting her extended family, Nicole's mother asked "that we not continue having contact." Nicole's email went on:

"She wrote to me this July hoping to start a 'conversation' and we've exchanged a couple of letters. We've both lifted burdens of guilt and shame for each other and on balance, finding each other benefited us greatly....My dilemma is making sense of her recent contact and protecting myself from feeling rejected a third time....I've done a lot of therapy and healing, and realize I can't be hurt unless I allow it. But therapy is one thing. and her writing is reality and bewildering."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hearing from the (birth) father of a relinquished child

What about the fathers of our children? Or, as they are called today, baby daddies? When we don't marry them and they drop out of the lives of first mothers, what happens? Today we know of fathers who fight to keep the children the mothers insist on relinquishing, but those stories from an earlier era have not surfaced, though some children must have been brought into the father's family.

But for the rest of us, do we ever hear from the men who impregnated us again? Do we want to hear from them again? Were you in love with him and has that colored how you feel about him now? How would we act if they simply popped up again? Do we feel a bond with them because of the child lost to adoption? Did you marry the father after relinquishment?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Marriage after relinquishing a child--a good man helps

Celebrating our 25th anniversary 
Today is our 33rd wedding anniversary and after we did a quick stop at a church yard sale this morning and had coffee downtown outdoors--I thought about how my unknown daughter--unknown when we married--was a part of our lives from the very first time Tony and I met. Some of you know the story because I've told it before but today it's much on my mind.

We met at a Sunday brunch in February, introduced by a mutual friend, Gael McCarthy. We had both been on The Daily Collegian at Wayne State University in Detroit, and we both ended up in

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Open adoption--does it really solve all the problems?

When I gave my daughter up in 1966 all I really wanted—or thought I could ask for—was to be able to know her one day. That bare concession to the mother and child bond would not have made leaving her behind any easier, but it would have calmed my mind about the future. As I write today, open adoption is touted as the panacea for the pain of a closed adoption., or at least mute the anguish of mothers like me. Perhaps it would have been so—to know that she was safe and protected. But I don’t know how I would have reacted to other people being there for her, to be present but unable to make the decisions I thought best for a child of mine, a child related to me by blood, a child who shared my genetic makeup and family history.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pregnancy before Roe: I thought I was alone...but I wasn't

How many of us got pregnant during the years when mores were changing in fact but not in public acceptance--the years after World War 2 and before abortion became legal? When I read about the various states--North Dakota, Texas, Missouri, to name a few--which are making abortion increasingly difficult and expensive, I am reminded of the time back when...I got pregnant. This is a excerpt from my memoir, hole in my heart:

While I felt completely alone in my catastrophe, I actually had a lot of company. We women who got pregnant when we weren't supposed to in the Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies were trapped in the transition era that has come to be known as the Baby Scoop Era, a period that began after World War II and continued on through the Seventies. [1] 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wrong name on birth certificate?

Just when we thought we heard it all, Jane read about a new twist in the make-believe world of birth certificates. A Portland, Oregon lawyer wrote recently about a case where:

"Bio mother had child and her girl friend was at the hospital. The hospital checked the box as thought the girlfriend was a registered domestic partner and put girlfriend as parent on birth certificate. Parties were not registered domestic partners. Vital Stats says they will not correct the hospital error without a court order."

Once upon a time, birth certificates contained the child's name, date and place of birth, and the names of the child's biological parents. Then the

Friday, September 5, 2014

How much do genes count in who we become?

Lorraine and Jane, 1983
The full answer to the question posed in the title is still being debated and studied, because of course environment plays an enormous part in who we become. But consider:

When I found my daughter, she was writing poetry for the high school magazine and wanted to be a writer--as were both her father and I. He was also a major jazz buff with a huge collection of jazz recordings, and he helped me learn to appreciate it. Her adoptive parents were an insurance adjuster and a nurse.

My daughter had two daughters. One (who was relinquished and adopted) is a poet who performs spoken word with a jazz group. The other is an art major, choosing between teaching or art history. One of my uncles went to art school in California, but was never able to make a career in art. However, my brother was only ever interested in such a career, and began pursing it in high school. He went to art school, and became an art director before he graduated. One of his daughters, my

Monday, September 1, 2014

I will always be a woman who gave up a child

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

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thailand's booming business in surrogacy is an ethical swamp

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

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

A father grieves his troubled adopted son

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

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Help for a mother-to be to keep her baby


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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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

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

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Family Reunions: Missing the one lost to adoption

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

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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Writing the first letter to the adoptive parents

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

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

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