Thursday, September 11, 2008

Birth Mothers Attacked as Usual...or, Maybe I Need New Friends

I seem to be attracting fireballs lately--mainly because a) I'm writing about my daughter and telling people, so that brings up the whole idea that I found her, not the other way around; and b) I live in a world where adoptions are plentiful--everybody knows at least three people who have adopted and so far, so good. The kids are generally doing fine and so...the elephant in the room is the specter of the birth mother coming back.

That would be me.

So after just having had that horrible eruption with my close friend and neighbor, Yvonne, I got gob-smacked the other night by childless successful corporate attorney, also a friend. Call him Aston. He is godfather to one Chinese adoptee, who lives down the street from us, she's now fifteen; friend to another women who also has a Chinese girl, now fourteen; and one of his very best friends has a white son...from Gladney in Texas, one of the agencies that supports the National Council for Adoption.

Anyway, those are only the adoptions we know about that Aston is close to. God knows what started it, but he went on a long nasty harangue about how any birth mother coming back is always interfering, always upsetting this nice family, and after the parents have "invested" so much, both financially and emotionally, this WOMAN HAS NO RIGHT TO DO THAT!!!!

After I tried to make a case for the agony of not knowing, and gave him a brief history of sealed adoptions (Kansas and Alaska didn't count because they weren't big enough states) he came up with this question: What part of the pie chart of a birth mother who searches can be ascribed to self-interest? ....

Tell me, how do you answer that?

My husband Tony was there throughout and took Aston on as much as I did because that question left me speechless. The "discussion" might have taken place in a courtroom. Aston didn't know (why would he?) there was any research about birth mothers. Or the great mystery in the life of an adoptee. I did have him leave with both a copy of The Adoption Triangle and the Donaldson adoptee report. He's never had kids, when he and he wife wanted to adopt, his mother talked them out of it.

Damn, I can't even write about this without crying. All I know is that birth others are really seen as the pariahs by the elite class of adopters who have never been in the position of being poor, or feeling they had no options. Yvonne is one, Aston is another. Aston's wife, who did want to adopt quite badly, it came out, mostly said nothing but she at least got it that birth mothers would feel ...what is the word? Aston and I ended up using agony to refer to the pain birth mothers feel.

Here is what I emailed him the next day:

What I never got around to saying during your prosecutorial attack--the pie chart question seemed only designed to make birth mothers look bad and in doing so denigrate me--was that adoptees often want to be found because it indicates that their mothers do think about them, want to know them, want to know what happened, that the baby wasn't just dropped off and the woman/teenager went on with her life as if the child was a mere temporary inconvenience.

I'm just one person but I have had stacks of letters over the years thanking me for what I do from adopted people; what they want is for their mothers to find them. Adoption is painful, and keeping everything locked up--no matter who does the searching--does not make it less so. Only in the minds of people who have never walked the walk. Since you have such strong opinions that I'm in the wrong in such a major way,
I hope you will take the time to read some of the material, including the birth mother survey that is at the site I sent yesterday. (you don't need to read it all, you can find the relevant sections from the TOC.
Unless you walked in my shoes, I don't think you can understand the depth of feeling that goes toward one's one flesh and blood. As someone one said, we can be casual about our own parents, but our kids always have us by the balls.
lorraine
In a message dated 09/07/08 10:10:49 Eastern Daylight Time, nccar@mindspring.com writes:
Lorraine,
I have given the following young lady your email and asked her to contact you, as her adoption was handled in New York. Please if you can pass her along to anyone who might be of assistance to her. She contacted me through the Care2 network.

Hello Ms. Roberta,

Thank you for responding to my inquiry. The main dilemma that I have been encountering is that I was born in Miami FL, but taken away from my mothers arms (when she moved up to NYC I might have been 1 yrs old) and put into foster care in Bronx, NY and that eventually led into an adoption by a family that was not well receiving of me as the adoptee. I somehow remembered from the time I was 4 1/2 yrs old that the foster care agency was located on 349 East 149th Street; Bronx, NY 10451 because of the building structure and the CitiBank logo on there; however, nobody knew the name of the agency that was once in the basement area of CitiBank back in 1984-1990's. I was told by CitiBank reps that that organization left during the 90's. This is the only detail I could recall of that has made me continue asking people if there's a way to get the agency's name during 1984. I even wrote Governor Pataki to please help me in this search and he replied with several agency's names in the Bronx and they claimed that I don't exist on their system.

I greatly appreciate your interest to assist me in any way, I hope to receive guidance if that's possible so that my life mystery can come to an end. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Christina

Do you think this woman would feel that her birth mother was causing an unnecessary conflict in her life if she were to call upon her daughter?

One more thing, that I did not bring up that night: Aston's father was the guardian ad litem for the Schmidt/DeBoer child, Baby Anna/Jessica. Who argued in the Michigan court that the baby's best interests were with staying with the DeBoers....Who in my mind were nothing but baby snatchers as the real mother asked for the child back within the time limit but fought her for two years in the courts. Incidentally, the DeBoers later divorced.

Oh yeah, where did all this take place? At my dinner table, just the cozy four of us. I'd love to hear from other birth mothers about the reactions they get when it becomes clear they were the ones who did the searching.
--lorraine

17 comments :

  1. I put my info "out there" and was contacted...does that make me or my son the searcher?

    I haven't discussed the situation with anyone who I think will be unsupportive...why expose myself to that kind of negativity? But if this conversation had happened at my dinner table, I would have told him to get the f..ck out of my house.

    As for the question, "what part of the pie chart of a birth mother who searches can be ascribed to self-interest?"

    Let's apply that to adoptive parents:

    "What part of the pie chart of an adoptive parent who discourages searching can be ascribed to self-interest?"

    "What part of the pie chart of an adoptive parent who prefers a closed adoption can be ascribed to self-interest?"

    "What part of the pie chart of a person who CHOSES TO ADOPT can be ascribed to self-interest?"

    (As a side note, he should try reading Mei-Ling's blogs to learn about the feelings of an international adoptee).

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  2. I'm impressed at your persistance with your 'friends'.

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  3. In answer to the question, "What part of the pie chart of a birth mother who searches can be ascribed to self-interest?", let me say:

    If the mother's need to know that her child is okay and the willingness to be there if her child needs her is "self-interest", then 100%

    An appropriate follow-up question might be: What part of the pie chart is the adoptive parents' need to take another woman's child to replace the one they didn't have because they spent their fertile years making money instead of babies?.

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  4. pie charts?

    You have got to be kidding me.

    I don't think I could take someone like that seriously.

    My friends are nice to me, it feels very nurturning. I am voting for you to find some new friends

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  8. Hi, It's me Lorraine here--I just wanted to add that I do have lots of loving, understanding friends...it's just that I happen to also have a lot of women friends who delayed childbirth and had careers, or came from well-off families...and so me, the working class kid, operates among them...with a different life experience. Thank god my husband understood everything from the first moment I met him. I had written Birthmark already, and so told him within an hour of meeting him who I was and what I was about.
    thanks for the comments.

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  9. As an adoptee, I would like to comment on that question.

    I think 50% of that chart goes to birth mothers and 50% to adoptees. We are both interested and I think you can go as far to say self-interested. But it comes from a birthmother that is interested in her child. And we are interested in our mother. Yes, I think you can also say self-interested because it is for you; not anyone else. Either party doesn't go searching for Joe Blow off in the corner. No. We do it for us.

    I think instead of sending him study after study, send him to some adoptee and birthmother blogs.

    He is probably one of these people who tell mothers that they are raising their children wrong since he is the perfect parent. Especially since he has no children. You know the people I am talking about.

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  10. I find it incredibly sad that anyone would question why a mother wants to find her daughter or son, and especially calling it interfering.

    Losing a child you wanted to raise, but were considered unprepared for parenting(at that time), is still losing a child.

    The Salvation Army is known for reuniting families separated through war, disasters and other situations, but not adoption. Why not?

    The reason a mother surrenders is really irrelevant. It's her child, and she should never be judged for searching for that child. Losing a child to adoption is just as tragic as losing a child for any other reason. But the adoption industry will have believe that those mothers (and fathers), their daughters and sons are happy about the whole situation. In adoption, normal human emotions and needs are viewed as unpleasant, irrational and selfish.

    Seems we're all a special breed of humans who can't possibly share the same feelings as other humans.

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  11. Sounds like Aston was taking out his views about his father's involvement in the Baby Jessica case on you.

    As to the "pie chart" other people have already brought up the fact that adoptive parents have self-interests as well, neither parents are selfless saints just doing it all for the child, although both adoptive parents and birthparents are portrayed that way in the adoption fairy tale.

    As a mother who contacted a teenager and adoptive family who did not want contact, I have agonized enough on my own about whether this was a selfish thing to do or not. I have come to the conclusion that yes, it was somewhat selfish, somewhat immature of me to go to my son at 16, but that is in hindsight and because of the outcome which was not good. However, other mothers contacted kids that age and younger and it did turn out to be the best thing. For most of us it was a mix of self-interest and sincere concern for what our children might want or need to know, neither a purely selfish nor selfless act.

    It is human to want to know what happened to your child, and how he or she feels about it. It is also a risk some of us took, with varying outcomes. It is no more selfish than adoptive parents not wanting the adoptee to know anything about his heritage or birthparents. People, any people, are a mix of selfish and unselfish motivations. Why should birthparents be expected to be cardboard saints who exist only for the will of others?

    Aston was way out of line.

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  12. As an adoptee who knew from a very early age I was adopted, initially there was no need to know. I relied on the information given to me by others about the circumstances of my birth. Then, when I became a little less naive and realized that everyone puts their own spin on the information and when I became a parent watching my child's mannerisms and seeing things that were "me" vs. his dad, I developed an intense desire to know my background, to see what was genetic vs. environmental, to hear from the lips of the people who were directly involved in the situation that resulted in my adoption. Only then could I know what really happened. I bring to this a different spin, as 100% of the pie chart in initiating my search was my (the adoptee's) self-interest. If you don't have this significant vested interest and you're not ready for whatever might emerge from Pandora's box, then you shouldn't go down this road.

    Further, while I've established a relationship with my birthdad, my birthmom has made it very clear that I have no place in her life. She moved on, creating an entire life and new family with no room for me. While at first difficult to accept, I at least have the information about who she is, what the medical history is, etc. I will never have the luxury of hearing from her the circumstances of my adoption or being able to let her know she made a good choice for me, but I do take a little comfort in knowing the real story of who I am, where I came from, etc. I would say to the interrogator that one can ascribe 100% of the pie chart to the "searcher's" (whichever party that may be) self interest, and that's okay! If we're all brutally honest with ourselves, much of what we do is because of self-interest.

    One other thing, I think it is extremely presumptive to assume that people adopt because they've waited too late to have children or were too fixated with money. What about the numbers of people who are simply infertile from the beginning. If we're asking for empathy and tolerance from adoptive parents, then we too must extend it to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Further, I think we must remember that our adoption systems tend to skew adoption opportunities to the haves, in an attempt as they put it to not cause further trauma to the child(ren) being adopted. Thus, resentment of the adopters is energy that might better be spent modifying the systems to expand the opportunities to more families who have ample emotional resources.

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  13. Carolinemtgy wrote: "Further, I think we must remember that our adoption systems tend to skew adoption opportunities to the haves, in an attempt as they put it to not cause further trauma to the child(ren) being adopted."

    I don't think the intent is to provide more opportunities for the child, rather those with the haves are the people who can afford to buy babies, therefore agencies generate more profit. Does higher income equal less trauma for adoptees? I'm not sure how having more money lessens any trauma.

    Years ago when adoption was operated primarily by social service agencies, there was no cost for adoption, but agencies received donations and funding based on how many children came into care and how many were adopted.

    Children went to all kinds of homes, including the working class. That doesn't happen as often now, except in cases where it's foster-to-adopt, and even then some for-profit agencies are partnered with non-profits, so there are still hefty fees involved.

    I am not asking adoptive parents to have empathy for me, nor do I expect it. I would think adopters would be the first to approach legslators about sealed birth certificates, given how much material is available about the harm caused by secrecy. They can take care of the kids they adopted - that has nothing to do with me.

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  14. My son and I were reconnected through Soundex, i.e. mutual consent. I registered when he turned 18, he registered at almost 26. I wanted to search, but didn't because I was afraid he'd be angry or reject me, and more so that what the judge told me when I signed the papers that it was over, final, that I must never interfere in his life. He was already estranged from his adoptive parents when we met. So now interference in that relationship, no mixed loyalties.

    So I really have no experience in that area. But I'd have to agree that any selfishness exists on both sides, and it's a good selfishness -- why are we not allowed to be self-interested anymore? Supposed to give our whole lives over to others? Worry about what people are going to think, that the a-parents are going to be hurt? Mothers and children want to know and it's best that we do know, whether we want to continue the relationship or not.

    I don't have a single friend (or even acquaintance) who has said the kinds of things your friends have said to you, Lorraine. I have been wholly supported, even by adoptive parent friends and relatives. I tend to think that they get it, to some extent, because of me, and that they might be more receptive of their children's birth mother entering their lives, again because of me. I hope so.

    But I would never be so arrogant as to suggest that you need new friends. That's for you to decide. What works for you. I will say, as a friend once said to me, "rest in safe, strong places." As in, don't give anything else too much weight.

    Hugs, Denise

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  15. I agree that Aston was talking from his own father's perspective of that disasterous case though of baby Anna. I am sorry he was so heartless and I feel he owes you an apology.
    I hope he realizes that soon and offers one.((((adoptee hugs))))

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  16. *Pie charts* ?
    Seriously, I'm aghast.

    What insensitive dolts. I am truly sorry you've met with such callous responses.

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  17. Lorraine, you have to stop hanging out with the upper classes!:-)Seriously, those who feel most entitled to everything are also most likely to have no sympathy for birthmothers, especially "uppity" ones. Lawyers who have had any connection to adoption are the worst.

    I have generally had better reactions from those less affluent and less educated, including adoptive parents. Infant adoption today is much more the province of the wealthy than it was when we were kids or even when we surrendered. The exception is black and grey market which were generally always big money.

    A white newborn is the last thing to buy, usually in your 40s or 50s, after the huge house and all that goes with it, certainly after the sucessful career is well-established. Times have changed.

    Of course none of this is meant as a sweeping generality; of course there are wealthy people who are understanding and poor and middle class people who are judgmental. I do think though, that the higher socioeconomic circles you travel in, the more likely you are to meet people who feel entitled to adopt and resentful of birthmother "interference". After all, we are supposed to remain a part of the anonymous servant class.

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