Saturday, December 26, 2009

We Survived the Holidays but are Mad as Hell


We survived the holidays with scant abrasions on our wounds. Only a few people continued to offer their condolences over my daughter's suicide two years ago, thank the lord, because each reminder demanded a change in tone--Oh, remember you daughter died around this time of year, they are thinking and so they say just that...Why Yes, I do remember, I would imply in tone and look, but I'm thinking, You know, I don't need to be reminded, I think of her quite often, really, and I miss her like hell, and can we just get on with life and not have you think of  THAT every time you see me at the holidays?

...I know people's tongues are loosened by the merry spirits, but hmm....I'd rather not be reminded in the midst of merry-making, thank you very much. People mean well, I know, but there are times when one (that would be me) would rather be just a friend, not an acquaintance with a story trailing me around like a tattered boa I can't quite drop, it's always there.

But in the meantime, the newspapers around the country are filled with reunion stories, from Long Beach to Montgomery, Alabama but still the New Jersey clock continues to run out on the bill that would give adopted people the right to their original birth certificates. The New Jersey Senate passed the bill in 2008, but to become law it needed passage in the Assembly within two years, and now it is clear it will die because the Speaker of the Assembly, Joseph Roberts, refused to let the bill out for a vote, even though the Assembly had to votes to pass it! With a super majority, no less! Even though we flooded his office with letters! A Mommouth College poll showed that the public--75 percent--is for giving adoptees their birth records and right to know who they are.

What's wrong with you, Joe? Have you no decency? Have you no compassion for the thousands of people adopted in New Jersey who had their rights stripped from them at birth? We get quite heated up on the issue, because, because, well, Roberts and his ilk in New York and every other state are on the wrong side of history. And I'm mad as hell.

Yes, those few natural mothers who fear their own children would be able to file a non-disclosure form, for up to a year, and their names would be blocked out from the searching adoptee, but other states with similar laws (Tennessee and Delaware) have had only a minute number of people asking to remain anonymous from their own children, a concept I understand intellectually but emotionally can not fathom. Why would any mother not want to know her child? The mind boggles.

In Oregon, birth parents may file a no-contact form, but the number has hovered in the low eighties of those requesting no-contact for several years, while more than 9,000 original birth certificates have been requested.Who are these women, I wonder? How did their mothering instinct become subverted?

I dunno what's wrong with the world. And while we can't even get the open records for adoptees passed in New Jersey, and New York, where the painstaking step-by-step, legislator-by-legislator work continues, I'm having dreams of throwing opening the records for us first/birth mothers too--as in, why the hell not?

In Canada, our fair neighbor to the North with egads! universal health care, the four provinces (out of ten, along with three territories) that's nearly a quarter of the provinces in number if not in population) allow birth mothers the right to see the adoption court orders, and so they are privy to the names of those who adopted the children they bore. Imagine that. Over her in the backwards U.S.A., the collective mind goes pretty much gaga over that thought, and when we work for open records we don't even bring it up. Are we too brain-washed?  To polite to upset the applecart? Alberta's law has a non-disclosure veto that either side can file, but in British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador the door is open to birth/first mothers as well as the adopted.

Here we are more likely to struggle with the attitude that seems to me to be nearly universal among the unknowing: that we mothers HAVE NO RIGHT to search, because we will be disrupting a happy person (and his [adoptive] family) who does not want to be disturbed with their real identities and mothers coming back. Of course we know that is hogwash, but we have gotten into some pretty sticky situations ourselves with acquaintances who brand us selfish for searching. (As in, what part of your pie chart was selfish when you went searching for your daughter?) Those folks are the ones who want to take us out to the woodshed and give us a good thrashing for having such radical thoughts.

I realize I'm rambling on, and getting worked up over this and Christmas is not really over. Time to wash my hair and take off for the movies for several adoption-free hours. --lorraine

Note: The records are sealed in the three territories also. 

9 comments :

  1. Excellent post.

    Canada stats = the population of the provinces with open records equals 2/3rds of the total population of all of Canada. Not to say they had the same majority of adoptions but it probably would be similar.

    But there is still along way to go.

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  2. "Why would any mother not want to know her child? The mind boggles."

    As an adoptee I respectfully point out that some people are of the opinion that that it isn't "her child". I agree that one would think there would be a natural curiosity on both parties to want to see a picture or know some details but not everyone who's given up a child, especially the one's assured privacy way back when, has told many (if any) people in their life they've given up a child for adoption.

    "I'm having dreams of throwing opening the records for us first/birth mothers too--as in, why the hell not?"

    I also don't think it would be beneficial to every situation for birth mothers to have the right to contact on a whim with no consideration given to how it will affect the child/adoptee at that time of their life.

    There are definitely improvements to be made to the systems that govern adoption records and disclosure. In my opinion it should be done more on a case by case basis as opposed to enforcing general laws that cannot be fairly applied to each and every person as they are all such unique situations involving unique individuals and various personality types.

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  3. Ah, I should mention, it is 4 provinces out of 10 which have open records. We have 10 provinces and 3 territories.

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  4. "Why would any mother not want to know her child? The mind boggles."

    Yes, that one truly boggles the mind, but I would guess that some mothers have just put that "incident" out of their minds... as we were told to forget it EVEN happened!!

    I too have searched for my bdaughter and have found her but unfortunately, she is one of those adoptees that does NOT want any contact what-so-ever!! )o:
    But I do get to see her Facebook pictures - and I just found out I'm a grandmother... she did say she 'might' want contact after she has a child (she is 40), and now just had one... praying she WILL contact me in the near future!!

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  5. Campbell, one of the things about closed records is that it treats even adult adoptees as if they were little children who need to be protected. Instead of adults who have the right to choose whom to have a relationship with.

    I read on your blog how the government has treated you like a child, and I don't think that this is at all fair to you. You did not need a government "protecting" you from your natural mother when she wanted to share her email address with you.

    Open records for mothers gives the adoptee the choice whether they want to search or not, and whether they want contact or not. My son likely would never have searched for me, out of fear of his former adoptive parents, but he was overjoyed when I found him thanks to open records in B.C. He had been suicidal before I found him, and credits me with saving his life. Another mother whom I helped find her son thanks to open records at least was able to talk to him 3 times by phone before he died. Unfortunately they were never able to reunite in-person.

    Reunion was a life-changing experience for myself and my son. We are both thankful that records opened here in B.C. in 1996. It gave us both the opportunity to take back what was taken from us, our mother-son relationship.

    May I ask which province you were adopted in?

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  6. Oh I completely agree that the government absolutely needs to assess the people they're dealing with and not treat them like children. Their role should be to facilitate. If open records are as you describe and that people who don't want contact, biological parents or adoptees, still have that choice available to them then I'm all for it. I believe it is on the horizon here also. My adoption was in Manitoba.

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  7. Campbell, I think the government has no business facilitating contact between adoptees and birth families. I think birth certificates should be available to adoptees and birth parents in exactly the same way as they are for the non-adopted. There is a powerful word called NO that any adult can use if they are contacted by someone with whom they don't want a relationship, and existing laws to prevent harassment in the unlikely event that may occur. As it stands now, at least in the U.S., in closed records states adoptees have no choice but to contact their birth mothers via government intermediaries, even if all they want is the information of their birth.

    Facilitating contact turns into yet another money-making scheme based on adoption. if such services are mandated by law, people end up charged outlandish prices with no way to protest if the services they receive are substandard (which they often are).

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  8. triona, I meant the government's role was to facilitate as opposed to treating the parties concerned like children. Also, any fees I paid (if I paid any, I don't recall) were minimal in my province in Canada.

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