To add to the story--In writing about Yvonne to my blogging pal Linda, I believe I hit upon what bothered Yvonne about me searching so much: her own feelings of abandonment.
Her famous French mother was basically a high falutin' courtesan, and after she divorced Yvonne's father, had numerous affairs and a couple more marriages to wealthy European playboys, and left the raising of the children to their father. So Yvonne was raised in boarding schools with her sisters, both in France, until the divorce and the war, and then in this country. She says she hardly knew her mother when she went to live with her outside of Paris when she was seventeen. Her older sister did not see her mother for nearly two decades....
I've been attacked before by people who really hate that I am a mother who searched, that I am not against first mothers searching, that adoptees have the right to search, but unquestionably, the ones who are the most angry/upset are those who were abandoned by their own mothers. And that's what I think has happened here.
This is the letter I sent to Yvonne yesterday:
I am still quite distraught about what happened Sunday, but the white flowers seemed to say that you feel that we are only having a "disagreement" that could be easily patched up. It left the ball in my court to call you and say, Oh gee, let's forget it, let's be friends. I didn't accept the flowers because they would have only been a reminder that to you, I am, at the most basic level, a "reproductive agent." Without any rights except to mourn the loss of my child all my life. Instead of flowers, I would have welcomed a phone call to talk. I still would.
I don't know if the wine loosened your tongue, but if it did, it certainly only brought out how you really feel about women like me. I can not be separated from other women like me, anymore than you, in your mind, can not be separated from the French who did not stand up stronger against the Germans. That is a subject I have certainly not broached with you--for what purpose?--and I recall your angry reaction when Cocteau was criticized for collaborating with the Nazis. YOU WEREN'T THERE AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY ANYTHING was your hot and instantaneously emotional reaction when the comment was made at our dinner table. Yet you can tell me--no, insist with anger and certainty --how I, and the other women like me, had no basic human need/instinct/right to ever find out what happened to the children we gave up for adoption. Yet you have not lain in my bed. You have no idea with the experience is like. Yet you make ironclad judgments about it as if you had lived through it yourself.
Would it surprise you to know that in 1980, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, after holding numerous hearings around the country (for which I testified) issued a Model Adoption Act that included these words:
"There can be no legally protected interest in keeping one's identity secrete from one's biological offspring; parents and children are considered co-owners of this information regarding the event of birth.... " The Act would have given both adoptees and birth parents the access to the information. It also included this phrase: "modern attitudes and realities of adoption no longer support the cloak of secrecy upon which sealed records laws were based." But adoptive parents, and the financial backing of the Mormon church (for their own reasons of "family" in the afterlife) have fought this tooth and nail. Most other countries today do not seal birth records of adoptees. Adoptions from places like Siberia and Kazakhstan are suspect because there are several known cases of stolen babies, forged relinquishment papers, and the like.
People like Brooks Hansen go overseas, it appears, to get babies so they can have babies without an identity other than the one they give them. Most adoptions in this country today are some form of "open adoption," in which the parties know each other. These natural mothers--i.e. reproductive agents--apparently have a much less difficult time in their lives reconciling with the fact that their children are adopted. Let me ask this--and I don't know the answer--how old was Brooks and his wife when they decided to have children? In their most fecund reproductive years? Their twenties? Later? Much later? It is always sad when someone who wants to have children can not, but that does not entitle them ipso facto to someone else's child.
Your vituperative attack on me--and referring to us as "reproductive agents" is an attack on me-- went to the very core of who I am and what I have been about for most of my adult life. I have, over the years, received hundreds of letters from grateful adoptees, and other natural mothers, aka "reproductive agents", for the work I have devoted a large part of my life to. The letters are full of tears and thank yous. And of course there are always a few from adoptive parents who want to kill me. I have tried not to talk about this to you--though it is basic to who I am--because I know how you feel, and that nothing I ever said would open a crack in your feelings that I am wrong, and should shut up and sit down. Your mind was made up.
But know this: All adoptions do not work out well, no matter that the few that you know of have. Kids get returned; one parents dies, or they divorce and the new partner often doesn't want the kid and he's shuttled off to boarding schools and summer camps with little affection the week they are home in between; adoptees end up back in the care of the state; the statistics that I can show you prove that more adoptees end up in therapy, special schools, on drugs, both prescribed and illicit, have other children out of wedlock, are prone to pathological lying, etc. than the general population. Some adoptees can not search for any number of reasons--they may not have a birth certificate with the right date on it, or even the place--and only the natural mother can reconnect, because only she has access to the accurate facts of that birth.
Adoption is way more complicated than your experience has shown it to be. This is not just from my own experience, or from a few friends; I have a small library of books/academic papers/reports about this. I have testified in Albany to a joint Senate-Assembly committee, in Washington to a Senate committee, and in court for adoptees who want their records, been on television more than a dozen times talking about adoption reform. This is the subject of my life.
What I feel from you is a basic rejection/repugnance of all women who have surrendered children ("reproductive agent" says that), or at least all women who want to do more than say a million rosaries for those children. And that has to include me. So where does that leave us? I don' t know, but if you like, I would welcome you to come over and talk. If you want to do that, please give me a call so we can set up a time. I have been so very upset by this break. I hope we can repair this, but you have to understand that I can not erase from memory the words I heard you say with such vehemence. I am writing all this because I feel I could never get it all out if we talk. And I feel I not only owe you an insight into my feelings, but also would like you to know what the extensive literature on adoption says.
This break has hurt me deeply because I have been so very fond of you. I have often thought of you as the sister I never had. Our closeness has only made this worse. It is as if my sister told me I was worthless, and that how I have lived my life was a mistake.
I'll let you readers know what comes of this. She does not read her email everyday. I know some of you may not understand, but I do hope there is a way we can come to some sort of understanding and have a relationship. None of us are perfect, all of us have glitches, and there is much about her that I like. Coming to the realization about her mother was liberating, and made me think more predisposed to excuse her. Though I don't know if my analysis will have any bearing on the outcome.
- Resources: Laws, Searching, Reunion
- Resources to Help Parents Keep Their Babies
- Favorite Adoption Quotes
- Considering Open Adoption? What You Should Know
- Response to The Adoption Option
- UPDATE: NY Adoptee Rights
- Letter to Birth Mother or Sibling
- Giving Up Your Baby?
- Writing the First Letter
- 'Positive' Adoption Language?
- What We Think About Adoption