Last night I couldn't help myself, I delved into that book that started the terrible argument with my friend Yvonne over whether or not the givers of life have any rights--any rights at all--to find out what happened to that life. And I read enough into The Brotherhood of Joseph by Brooks Hansen to realize how far--how incredibly far--we have to go before we are going to change hearts and minds among adopters. I know that word--adopters--invokes revulsion in many and I'll grant that it does seem like a cruel term, but Mr. Hansen says that when he hears a kid on the bus ask a girl if she's ever going to look for her "real" parents, the word evokes in him the same feelings as if he had heard "nigger" or "cunt." So for the moment, let me call him and his wife Elizabeth, ADOPTERS. Because that's what they are; for the record, he prefers "actual parents." He never says what he would prefer we first parents would be called. Actually, he would prefer us dead, though he doesn't say that. He doesn't need to.
A brief rundown of the story. He and his wife, age 36, want to be parents. Are desperate to be parents. Somewhere between the wife's age of 36 and 37 they hop on the fertility-industry train. Apparently they missed the biology lesson that says that after age 29 a woman's fertility starts to decline and .... keeps going down. After four years of the awful business--and it is pretty grim--and going into debt, they try a donor egg from a relative of the wife's That fails also. He admits freely that they wanted their own kid: "...we are a species, 'let's face it--that prizes the blood-bond uber Alles. And the law makes that pretty clear...Even distant grandparents can wedge a child from the arms of adopted parents just by showing up in court." (As if, but that's another story.)
He then explains why an open adoption is repugnant: "Just because we'd been through the IVF wars and lost, that didn't mean that Elizabeth should always have to save an extra seat at the dance recital." He's incensed that prospective adopters could pay for the care and "late-night Whopper runs" of a pregnant woman who was considering giving them her child and then "change her mind, keep the baby, and not have to pay back the prospective couple one red cent..." He calls open adoption with its "update letters, report cards, scheduled visits, etc., "seem like one giant free baby-sitting scam."
So it's off to Russia to adopt where they get Ilya or Theo, I can't quite tell. And though the book seems to end there, I'm aware--remember, he's the son of friends of Yvonne, the adopting grandparents live in my little town and are people I occasionally run into at the supermarket or the ATM--they get a second child from Kazakhstan. Apparently the well-educated Mr. Hansen and his wife never read Cicero:
Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to be condemned to live forever as a child.
They want a kid that will never be able to have a relationship with any kin, or most likely, never be able to learn more about his ancestry than the adopters know and tell him. By choosing this kind of adoption, they are choosing to form person that can never know, never have a history other than the one they create.
I awoke early this morning in one of those aggravating mind frenzies, thinking, if this is what Yvonne ( see earlier blogs) thinks is not only possible, but preferred, if this is what informs the opinions of people like Aston (the moneyed class, let's be clear), if there are people like Brooks and Elizabeth Hansen, we have so much further to go than we thought. I try to be sympathetic to people who adopt, but lord, since there is no reciprocity evident in so many of them towards the women who gave their children life, it's kinda hard to be understanding of their plight. And feelings. (To make the book even more in my face, it's blurbed on the back by another friend, this one a writer and the adoptive father of a darling Chinese girl. She really is darling, I'm not being sarcastic.)
Which brings me back to The Locator. I've seen all four episodes and they have all been adoption-reunion stories, and no matter how much Troy Dunn charges for people who aren't his pro bono cases, these stories pack a wallop in a half hour, and the more people that see them the more we are going to change public opinion about open adoption, and open records for adoptees and birth parents.
The other day I got an email from a compatriot in the fight to open records and the basic gist of it was--tell stories. Tell stories about separation and reunion. Get to people on a gut level. You can quote statistics about "unresolved grief" from the Donaldson report on birth mothers, but that doesn't do as much good as one heart-breaking story of loss and reunion. So let me encourage all of your nay-sayers about The Locator, and its media commercialization of one of life's most basic stories--mother and child separation--to think about it in a different light. The more people who see it, the more we are going to be able to reach the hearts and minds of legislators, and people like Yvonne and Aston and their friends.
The Locator website at WE has a silly mind game, Troy Dunn's blog, a reunion registry (yeah, really), summaries of the episodes, but in the end, the television show reminds the audience that life does not begin with adoption, that the need to know one's past is universal, and only those who have been brain-washed not to think about the past, or have been too hurt to let themselves wonder, shut off this curiosity.
It's on in back-to-back episodes on Saturday evening, starting at nine p.m.