Sunday, July 26, 2009

Desperately Seeking Birth Mother

The Adoptee-Rights Demonstration in Philadelphia last Tuesday, (7/21/09) has come and gone but the numbers were small, and the impact the greatest for those who attended. (The Philadelphia Inquirer put the number of demonstrators generously at 120; blogger Baby Love Child attended but she says only 66 people showed up, and she's less than thrilled with how it went. Over at Musings of the Lame, Claudia had a different reaction. I dunno. I wasn't there. Mea culpa, and I do mean that.

But unless there were a thousand people screaming for their rights, the real impact on legislators was minimal.

Yet taking part in something that you feel strongly about brings a wonderful lift to the soul because you are part of something larger than just your own dark feelings about OPENING UP THE DAMN RECORDS for all adopted people, regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual preference--or the state they live in. I add those unnecessary qualifications--adopted people come in all shapes, colors, sizes, etcetera--because these qualifiers are part of the "rights" language, but adopted people are somehow left in the dust because not enough of them control the power structure in this country. Yes, the movement has adoptee Paula Benoit, and she was the sparkplug in the legislature in Maine; but we need one of those in every state that still has sealed records.

Until then, we are going to get this, courtesy of fellow blogger Linda today:

This announcement was printed in the Star-Ledger, NJ's largest paper, today. It was in Section 1, tucked among other ads, and looked like an engraved wedding announcement:
I am an adopted girl
born in West Palm Beach, Florida
on July 22, 1986
I want to thank my birth mother for
GIVING ME A WONDERFUL LIFE
and would welcome contact at
My initial gut reaction was if her life was so wonderful then why seek her birth mother? asks Linda: "But of course I know why she's seeking, what's missing. Of course I'll write her, wish her well on her search. She's 23, the same age my daughter was when she found me."

Well, I know why she had to add that about her adoptive parents: Loyalty, and guilt because she is looking at all. Look, I am not going to beat adoptees over the head for feeling loyal to the parents who raised them--it's only natural if they had a good fit with their families--and if that has to show up in the "adopted girl's" [noted without comment] ad, so be it. It's good for everyone to read between those lines. Jane, my only daughter, my surrendered daughter who was adopted by genetic strangers, felt guilty for having too good a time with me, feeling too comfortable, especially at the beginning, and this colored our relationship in some ways all through the years.

Near the end of her life, when we seemed connected like two peas in a pod, Jane wrote that while she felt as if my family was her true family, that we accepted her no matter what, I know that feeling that her adoptive mother had turned away from here hurt her deeply. I could be her "Lorraine" or "Maraine," but I could never be Mom, the mother who raised her and never replace that woman in her heart, no matter that her adoptive mother said some pretty cruel things to our daughter. I will never forget the time Jane called, sobbing--I picked up the phone and she said: Tell me that you love me. Her adoptive mother, Jane said, had just told her on the phone that she did not love her. I don't know much about the rest of the conversation, so I won't presume to fill in the blanks. Yet they made up within the week. Not so when we had a break; Jane would walk away justlikethat and cut me off for a year.

My troubled daughter did have a conflicted relationship with her adoptive mother, who always seemed more than a little pissed off that Jane had problems. At least the woman (she is 23) who placed the ad above has parents who understand her need to search (to give them their due, so did my daughter's parents), and support it. We at First Mother Forum once posted a story about a woman who was seeking her natural parents in Korea, and within 24 hours were contacted by the woman to take the post down, lest her adoptive mother here in the United States see it. And presumably break the adoptive mother's heart--which was more or less the topic of our last blog, Adoption Is Always Painful.

Checking the blog roll at the bottom of the page, with adoption reform stories that Google has picked up, there's a story from the Palm Beach Post about this ad, as it apparently ran in several newspapers across the country, since Linda picked it up in New Jersey. (If anybody else saw it, please leave a comment and tell us where.)

But that story from the Palm Beach Post contains a line about women who are fearful of being reconnected with the children they surrendered that makes it seem that most do not want reunion. I basically don't know what to think; my informal survey of people who contact birth/first mothers came up with results all over the place, from close to half to one or two out of a hundred. I can only conclude that the fear of contact does lie deep inside some women who were brainwashed into thinking they should forget about their first child (and pretty much have) and then do not deal with a sympathetic voice, or birth mother, who helps them overcome their fears of letting the child out of the bag.

The point is, all of this does she or does she not want to meet me baloney should be moot; adoptees everywhere should have the right, the unrestricted right, to the honest and true information of their birth.

Birth mothers in the closet, get some damn backbone and tell your families about your first/surrendered child or children (yes, that does happen, life being life). Those states that insist on using confidential intermediaries should hire an army of evolved birth/first mothers to make the contact because their percentage of successful reunions seem to be way higher than that of neutral voices who have not been through the war of giving birth and surrender, and lord, that feels like war. And adoptees need to let it be known, through ads like the one above, through talking to their adoptive parents, to admitting to their friends, to writing to legislatures that their curiosity is as natural as being born.

Girls just wanna have fun, like Cindy Lauper sang, and adoptees just wanna know. --lorraine

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18 comments :

  1. Interesting perspective.

    For the record as someone who was in attendance of the protest I would like your viewers to not that BLC did not "attend" the protest, rather she surreptiously filmed the event from a distance, people she did not interact with nor have permission to film.

    She is not a professional journalist, Jeff Gammage the reporter from the paper is.

    In addition, BLC did not have access to the activities going on inside the convention hall where we were talking to the legislators. That was where the majority of the financial donations were spent.

    BLC "reports" so many wholly inaccurate statements that it would be crazy time-consuming to refute, and I for one have no interest in trying to appease someone whose interest lies in tearing the protest down for fun.

    Thanks for your support, it does the adoption community so much good.

    Keep up the good work.

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  2. Thank you for post today it led me on an incredible web tour. The sad part is this, when googling Adoptee rights and OBC I am led to so many blog arguments between ARD and Bastard Nation. At this point it no longer matters who is right or wrong, the continued bickering is damaging the fight. There needs to be a moderated "quiet peace" for the cause. There are so many incredibly articulate adoptees out there speaking for their rights but that is getting lost in the drama. Big Hugs to the 3 of you and *update* I will a grandma very soon. Kristy

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  3. Lorraine,

    For many women from closed adoption era their families do know they were the ones who forced
    the surrender to save "their" reputations.

    I was forced at 16 to surrender no choice, no help from my family nor the social worker, it was all
    about getting my baby for the next adopter.

    I will speak the truth of my surrender it wasn't something I had a choice in it was a done deal from the minute my mom and step found out I was pg.

    to have a choice means there is something one can choose from and there was no choice!!!! seems there are even mothers that have gone through the same experience that seem to be saying that they had some choice. What choice, with no help?? Othrs who have benefitted from adoption like to say WE had a choice to keep our babies, NOT SO...

    I do know many women who are speaking out to that fact, the fact they were forced, coerced, left in maternity homes till they had the baby then they were released from prison without the baby.

    so families do know they just want us to shut the f up and never speak about the adoption, as it now makes them look bad. my own mother never spoke about my son till i found him 26 yrs later.

    plenty of parents knew especially when we were living at home, not college students, but high school students.

    My true and only choice would have to raised my son in with our family. But we all know the great social experiment called adoption was going full bore in the 60's. One more thing my baby wasn't a mistake, a gift, or anything like that he was my baby my child my heart and soul. It tore me apart to lose him and who in the hell cared, not the worker, not society, no my parents, no the ones that benefitted but me and him as we were never the same the day he was born. Thanks to adoption and its twisted idea of I wasn't suitable because I was unwed. Also, my son's dad was ground up by the war going on another piece of meat fed to the grinder for what? For our betterment, for our good?
    I think not for greed, and need, which in itself is the evilness that men can do to others for all of our future.

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  4. I didn't go to Philadelphia either, but I'm not beating myself up about it because I know I couldn't.
    However, I was there in spirit, and regardless of whatever the nay-sayers say, I think those people deserve serious credit - not to be put down, subtly or not so - for what they did.

    ". . . unless there were a thousand people screaming for their rights, the real impact on legislators was minimal."

    Maybe. But maybe not.
    'Great oaks from little acorns grow.'
    I don't think it's for any of us to say with certainty what kind of effect the ARD will have in the long run. Though for myself, I believe they have made a positive impression that will further the cause for open records.

    As far as BLC "attending" the event, it's perfectly evident that she did not "attend" - not in any sense of the word.
    Not one person who really was part of the demonstration has come forward to say that she did.
    Which seems a little odd.

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  5. I am the woman who placed the ad in the West Palm Beach Post and whom the article is about. I just want this to be known... I did not put in the line about having a wonderful life to make my birthmother feel guilty. I truly did have a wonderful life and I just want her to know that. There is not supposed to be a read between the lines with that. I'm sure that many people will take it that way. Im my mind the least I can do is let her know that I grew up in an extremely loving and understanding family and that she made the best choice possible for me.

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  6. If this were a results-driven campaign, the organizers would be sweating majorly over the significance of their low numbers and not patting themselves on the back and talking about what a great time they had on their blogs. Is open records a cause to get behind or not? If only 66 people care, then it isn't one. It is a shame to read this history of ARD and how the will to go massive ("go big or go home") got sidetracked by bickering and back-biting. Sorry, but isn't it just the way in f***ing adoptland.

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  7. Well, word on the street is that BN has had many a protest with as many as 12 people in attendance. And they do weird things (like pretend to be judges and bury stuff) at their protests which seem counterproductive to gaining anyone's respect or regard.
    I certainly do not want to be associated with that kind of melodrama.

    The reality is that because of BN's shady actions a year ago, the founders of ARD were forced to create an ad hoc situation that is for now fairly grassroots. It is going to take time to build up to the thousands. I think it's a bit unfair to expect this of a group in only their second year of operation.

    Give them time to get it together and try not to give the haters too much credit here.

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  8. Lorraine, I didn't quite get the guilt thing either. Truly, pleading total ignorance on this one. Was it because she called herself adopted or because she had a nice life. God, I hope if Sim were ever to place such an ad, she would ONLY say she had a nice life if she felt she'd had one, and not because it would please me.

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  9. And one more thing.
    You said, "But unless there were a thousand people screaming for their rights, the real impact on legislators was minimal."

    I disagree.
    This is the motto I live by:
    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
    -Margaret Mead

    But I guess I'm more of a glass half full kind of gal.

    Listen, I didn't get to go this year and my contributions were belatedly monetary and small but there is no way I am going to sit there and take it while weirdo stalkers and people who didn't bother to lift a finger blatantly criticize something that people I know and love personally poured their hearts and souls into.
    At least they did something. At least it's a start.

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  10. "If this were a results-driven campaign, the organizers would be sweating majorly over the significance of their low numbers and not patting themselves on the back and talking about what a great time they had on their blogs."

    My understanding is that they increased their numbers from last year. Which is great. Especially in this economy. And that is a bad thing?

    And who said it was 66? BLC? My experience with her is that she is no friend with the truth.

    And why shouldn't they have a great time? A bunch of adult adoptees together in Philadelphia? Sounds like a good time to me.

    Wish I could have been there.

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  11. To second anon, the 66 number comes in from BLC and matches neither the registrations nor the professional journalists report.

    I think you are also missing the bigger point, which was reaching the legislators, which we did.

    Lemme guess, who weren't there?

    The sad truth of the matter is adoptees will not be coming out in big numbers any time in the forseeable future. We have to be smarter to make up for a lack of size.

    But I get that so many of you are so very disatisified with the results that you imagine.

    I am so sorry!

    Really I should have stayed at home like you all and fought the good fight of not doing anything but blogging! that is so awesome, you clever folk.

    Is someone running a more effective visisble campaign? I would love to support them, esp. if it can be via bitchy posts on my blog while eating chips.

    Oh Rock ON!

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  12. I get that people are sitting on the sidelines carping and it's a kick in the face to the people who attended.

    But what other cause would plan for a national demo for an entire year and declare fewer than 100 people a success? You're just getting started? please.

    Either 2 things. 1. the cause is crap. 2. no one's figured out how to capture the public imagination. If you can't put it across, you're doomed.

    Have you ever asked yourself why the average jane or joe should give a crap about your cause and can you really answer that question? Because it's not likely that legislators will move without public support. Evan B Donaldson likes to make a big deal about how so many people are "touched by adoption" but only a tiny percentage of women give up babies for adoption now and only about 3% of the public adopts. So how do you make this an issue everyone can care about? BN's push to make this a civil rights issue was the right approach. Too bad the whole movement couldn't be held together.

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  13. I think one needs to keep in mind that this was only the 2ND ARD. And it was bigger and better than the last one. And it will continue to be so from now on.

    I was there, marching and chanting, and even though I'm a bit shy I talked to some leggies outside the convention center. As has been stated, MUCH of the work was done inside the convention center, where kooks were not present to the best of my knowledge.

    Our numbers might have been small, but our passion is infinite.

    EP

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  14. Regarding thanking the birthmother for giving her a wonderful life -- a huge insult. Here's a piece I wrote for the recent issue of Origins-USA's newsletter.

    Telling Mom She Made the Right Decision is Wrong

    As a reunited mother, I believe there are two myths that need to be put to rest along with “you’ll forget and get on with your life” -- that it's comforting to a mother to be told that she made the right decision and that mothers give away their children because they love them.

    These were brought home to me when I read "Birthright" (1994) by Jean Strauss, an adoptee. Strauss describes her first conversation with her birthmother:

    “One reason I had searched for [her birthmother] was that I wanted to tell her that she’d done the right thing. I always felt she deserved to know that. I proudly said it now on the phone, sure that this one sentence would make her feel good about her decision thirty-three years earlier to relinquish me for adoption. ‘You know, you did the right thing when you gave me up.”

    Her answer burst my hallucination. ‘I’ll never believe that. I should have never let you go. I wish I had taken you and run.’”

    My daughter told me much the same thing: “You made the right decision “No,” I responded. “I made the wrong decision; it may have turned out well. But the decision was wrong."

    Decision-making requires adequate information and viable options. We were depressed, frightened, and alone. The information we received from our families and the “professionals” was incomplete, inaccurate, and in some cases, outright lies. Our families wanted to avoid shame; our babies’ fathers wanted to avoid responsibility, and the adoption agencies needed the baby to stay in business.

    The correctness of a decision has to be judged by what we knew at the time, not by how it turned out. (If I spend my life savings on lottery tickets and win, it doesn’t mean that the decision to invest in this way was correct.)

    We did not know what would happen to our babies once we gave them up. By telling us we made the right decision, our children are saying in effect: “any person would have been a better parent than you would have been; any situation would have been better than living with you” These are not comforting words.

    (The counterpart to telling a mother she made the right decision might be for the mother to tell her child “I’m glad I gave you away.” No child would want to hear that)

    Strauss’ mother also says to her in their first conversation: “I want you to know that I have always loved you.” Strauss responds “‘I never doubted that … My mom taught me that giving a child up for adoption is an act of love.”

    We did not give up our children because we loved love them. We gave them up in spite of the fact that we loved them. We gave them up because of self-loathing, fear, anger, depression, hopelessness. We gave them up because we had no resources. We gave them up because we had been told to act with our brains and not follow our hearts, that this was “the mature” decision, the “responsible” decision. We gave them up because we felt sorry for the unknown but perfect couple who would adopt our child. We gave them up because we were told that if we loved them we would give them up.

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  15. Yes, my daughter telling me that she had a wonderful life, I made the right decision hurt right to the core, she did not intend it that way and I understood where it came from. She said she hoped hearing she had a wonderful life would give me closure. Closure? No, probably not ever, but I understood she was trying to be kind. I wish I would have had the guts to say what I was thinking but I didn't want to chance losing even the small amount e-mail contact I had with her. Now that I rarely hear from her, I realize I should have just told her.

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  16. I don't suggest that adoptees are intending to insult their birthmothers when they thank her for giving them a wonderful life. In fact, I quote from Jean Strauss' book, "Birthright" where
    she tells her birthmother, expecting her to be pleased, that she made the right decision. Jean is astonished when her birthmother takes offense.

    Adoptees are often unaware of the implications of their statement thanking their birthmothers for giving them a wonderful life. I've heard many adoptees say they want to search in order to thank their birthmothers for giving them away! This shows a profound ignorance of the birthmother experience but is typical of the public in general.

    A much better opening statement would be "I've had a wonderful life and now I'd like learn about the circumstances of my adoption and get to know you."

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  17. THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR, THE JOURNEY IS LONG. I HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF RESPECT FOR ALL INVOLVED. SUPPORT THE ISSUE AND EDUCATE AMERICA.

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  18. I'm both an adopted child and have just adopted a child of my own. My entire life, I've not been interested in searching for my birth family, because most of the reunions I've heard of have gone so poorly long-term, because the parents who raised me weren't "substitute" parents they are my parents, and frankly, because of the fear that my biological family may cause more hurt and pain than loving addition to my life.

    But since I've adopted (internationally, because of the complications of having a birth mother and birth family who may change their minds), I have been reconsidering. I'd love to tell my mother that I'm grateful she let me be born (read carefully.... that I'm born, not that I'm happy she gave me up. I don't waste time being happy or unhappy about that. At this point it is and it doesn't matter one way or the other. It can't be changed, so why spend a moment of precious time worrying about it.)

    However, all the possibilities still worry me... is this REALLY a good idea? Are they good people? What if they're not - what would that do to my family? Will they become more of a burden to my current family than if I'd left it alone? Will they want more than I can or am willing to give? What am I hoping to gain... and will it really matter to my life?

    Frankly, after reading this site and others like it on the web, seeing how, well, touchy and odd and a little scary some of the birth mothers are about reuniting and the relationship afterward, I'm once again leaning toward not contacting. It's just not worth the risk to my sanity, my family, and a happy peaceful life.

    However, if you can forgive any wording you may find offensive, I really just would like to tell my birth family that I am incredibly grateful that I was permitted life - that I was given a chance to live.

    That's all I'd want out of a notification or reunion - a "check in" to let them know that it turned out fine, so if there was any pain on their part, I might could help ease it. There is no pain on my part - whether that hurts anyone or not.

    I see all the pain on the web from the birth mothers side and it truly breaks my heart. I wonder how much pain my daughter's mother is in right now... or not? Maybe she's grateful this chapter of her life is over. Maybe she didn't want her. Maybe, maybe... just like my birth family, there's no way to know. I pray my birth mother and father are at peace with their decision. I'd just like to tell them that it turned out ok for me. I'd hope that that was their main concern, not for how it turned out for her... isn't that the role of a parent? Especially a mother?

    Whether the adoption decision was "right" for my birth family or not, I would love to be able to tell them all that one thing. I am happy to be here. My husband loves me, my daughter (so far) loves me, my family loves me. I have friends, a productive job, pets... and a life I'm proud of. I hope my biological family is settled in their lives about my adoption, and isn't eaten up with the ache and guilt I've seen in cyberspace.

    It may be like I feel about adoptees - most of us who aren't unhappy aren't starting web sites, aren't complaining online, aren't shouting from the rooftops... we're quietly living our own lives - as there probably are many, many birth mothers and fathers who have accepted their decision and moved on.

    So if you're my biological family - whoever you are - thank you. If you're tearing yourself up about the adoption, please stop, get counseling, or find a positive outlet. There are tons of adoptees out here who aren't racked with pain, who aren't unhappy. It truly upsets me thinking that my birth family may be ruining their lives eaten up by something that happened 40 years ago and at this point, can't be changed. I hope you are among those living happily, and that those still in pain find peace.

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