Monday, November 24, 2008

Living in Interesting Times

Become a crusader and life never is boring...Today I'm thinking about that Arab curse that goes something like: May you live in interesting times.

A few months ago, as readers of Firstmotherforum know, I was scathingly attacked by a friend, a hot-shot bankruptcy lawyer and rainmaker, for having searched for my daughter and effecting a reunion with with her. Mind you, I've known "Aston" for nearly as long as I knew my daughter--since 1981. Aston started a cancer-care foundation for people who live on the East End of Long Island and my husband, Tony, is an active member of the board. We see Aston and his wife for dinner; we have mutual friends. Aston, incidentally, is godfather to the Chinese adoptee of mutual friends who have a home down the street. Aston and his wife,Marci, are childless; his mother argued against adoption and so they did not. I've known his wife for longer than I've been married, and I've been married 27 years. Shortly before this incident, she and I spent an afternoon together at a horse show. We're aren't, say, BFF, but we like each other.

Aston was not against adopted people searching and meeting their natural parents, but he was really against, really really against, first mothers searching. This would disrupt the adoptive family that has been getting on just fine, thank you, without interference, he insisted. He spoke of other mutual acquaintances who adopted from Gladney and then moved to Texas, where the wife was originally from, as really "taking a chance" because then the first mother might have an easier time finding them. (I don't know if this is one of Gladney's "open adoptions." Apparently the adoptive mother was worried about what the girl was eating during her pregnancy, and so at least knew something about her.) All of Aston's sympathy was for adoptive parents, who were there in the middle of the night, fixed the scraped elbow, read the nighttime stories, paid for orthodontics and SAT prep tests, et cetera. There was not an ounce of compassion for any first mother who searched. Marci, there at the dinner table also, said nothing. My husband felt she was anxious that Aston was going too far.

Finally, he asked: "What part of your pie chart in doing so is selfish? I just want to know." How do you answer that? The question was designed to make all first mothers who search look bad.

I have been quite torn up by this incident, for it made me acutely aware of how many people--including friends and acquaintances-- see me, a first mother who had the audacity to search, as well as the whole shebang of open records, particularly giving first mothers information about their children. We've got a lot of educating to do, and some people we will never reach. Aston represents legislators who will never vote for open records.

Except for answering the phone the time he called for my husband and I was curt, I have not spoken to him, or Marci. They have an annual party Thanksgiving weekend. I threw out the invitation. We did not RSVP. This morning I found an email from Marci asking if we are coming, that it's been too long since we've seen each other, signed "love." I have no hard feelings toward her at all.

In the larger world of searching and adoption reform, this incident is small potatoes. So what if my feelings are out of joint? Or even if this is the end of a friendship? This too will pass. I'm just venting today to friends who read this blog. You have to put aside the personal happenings and insults if you believe in a larger cause, one that you know is just and right, even when it seems everyone is against you. I know I sound hopelessly petty today, please forgive me, but I'm feeling blue.

Here is what I emailed Marci.

Dear Marci--

The conversation with Aston about adoption hurt deeply and has stayed with me and I would feel really uncomfortable coming to the party. Being a birth mother entails lifelong pain. It isn't something that happens once and you get over it. I have turned that into lifelong crusade both for opening sealed birth records for adopted people and the rights of mothers to find out what happened to the children they gave up. Aston's attack that night was therefore an attack on who I am so it is very hard for me now to know how to relate to him at all. It's also becoming increasingly awkward for Tony because of ------Foundation.

I tried to explain my feelings to Aston in a subsequent email but he never responded.

I'm very sorry because we have known each other for a long time--actually since before we had Tony or Aston in our lives. I don't know where we go from here.

This is one of those days I wish I didn't live in interesting times.
--lorraine

PS: In a day or two we'll be writing about international adoption.

5 comments :

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Narrow minded people who have no clue to what they are fighting against are just afraid of the unknown and trying to go for the popular opinions. I seriously doubt Aston has the ability of empathy or understanding. His world is with blinders on and you have every right to feel the way you do.

    Good luck with your better friends and put the others behind you.

    Teri Brown
    www.CraryPublications.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I still think Aston has some ax to grind of his own on this issue. He has a right to his opinions, but it was beyond rude and cruel to go on to you like that knowing what you have been through. You have every right to be upset.

    Ironically, if someone told me I was wrong to contact my son at 16, I would have to agree, given how it turned out in my case. But nobody can make a blanket statement about all birthmothers and all searches. Sometimes finding a very young adoptee is the right thing to do, sometimes it is not. I wish I had waited until he was ready and perhaps searched for me, but that's me, not everyone, and I would be as upset as you if someone I knew treated the subject the was Aston did.

    Sometimes it gets tiring to keep biting your tongue, even with old supposed friends.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the support everyone. We live in a small town and so it's impossible to not run into Aston and his wife and mutual friends and small dinners at which we'll both be there. No response as of yet to my email. I don't know if Aston has personal issues, but he is good friends with a lot of adoptive parents and I think he hears their POV all the time. And they are fearful of us.

    I did find my daughter when she was 15--I went through her parents--and because of her health issues (epilepsy), and the attendant lack of self-esteem, both of us knew it wasn't a moment too soon.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I asked an social worker in the UK in 1972 whether would be possible to trace my son (who would have been 12 at the time). I was told there wasn't a chance in hell - with the added proviso that, even if it were possible, it would be disruptive and perhaps even destructive to make myself known.
    I don't know what I'd have done if I had been able to find out his whereabouts, but I can't imagine knowing were one's child is and not being tempted to make contact. It's just another one of those adoption related crap shoots, I'm afraid.

    Of course, records were opened in the UK to adoptees over the age of 18 in 1975, by which time I was again out of the country.

    Returning to Aston, he does seem curiously lacking in sensitivity, empathy, whatever. It sounds fearfully like deep rooted ole' prejudice. At any rate, I'm sorry that his smallness of vision is causing you pain - as well as complicating your life.

    ReplyDelete

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