Monday, January 18, 2010

The Grief of Giving Up a Child to a 'Better Life'


Eventually we will turn away from Haitian adoptions, but below is the kind of story that bugs us, and it is representative of so many international adoptions: that there is a mother, a family, back home somewhere waiting. One can not solve all of the problems of the world, but one should make an effort to do what one can. And this to me, just adds to the misery of being poor and without resources. This story comes from WMUR News in New Hampshire.

A girl named Grace, adopted from Haiti when she was nine, is waiting to hear if her mother, Mimose Lubin, is alive, as she lived in Delmas, one of the hardest hit areas. In a one-story apartment. Grace now lives with the Winslow family of Center Barnstead, New Hampshire, who adopted her along with her brother, Jon, when he was two. His family lives in an area that is far away from the quake zone, and they are probably unharmed.

I am so torn when I read these stories: would the girl be better off with her mother? How did her mother feel about handing her over? How did relinquishing her daughter impact her life? But if she had not been sent to live in American, she might be maimed or dead. And the same is true of the boy, Jon.

Were the mothers crazy, or sick, were there no relatives who could care for Grace or Jon? I want to know. I imagine what these mothers were told--that their children would be better off, have a good middle class life in the land of milk and honey and unlimited opportunity, have a future not dreamed of if they stayed in Haiti. Yes, I am sure they were told that, and the mothers gave up their children for the promise of that better life. And soon--months, a year--there is no going back for any of them, mother or child.

I gave my daughter up, as did our readers, my friends, because we felt we were without resources. Yes, I gave up, we all gave up. We could not cope with a baby. We had no funds. Society told us we must do the right thing. My daughter was relinquished in a time when all cultural forces inveighed on me, telling me that a two-parent family, a middle class man and wife of "professionals" were the better parents. I'm not angry with my social worker, Helen Mura, because she did not lie, she did not sit there and tell me that I would be better off without the child, she merely listened and kept her box of tissues filled; I came to her with plans intact, the father a married man who did not want to keep the child--and oh how I think of Rielle Hunter and John Edwards and their "love child" when I read their story in the supermarket line. I came to Mrs. Mura at Northaven Terrace in Rochester, New York in my fifth month defeated by the winds of circumstance and society, and I did not put up a better fight.

In the end, my lover, my daughter's father, did not leave his wife in time to let me keep our daughter. When he did, two years later, it was too late, our daughter was gone. Did my daughter have the better parents, the better life? Certainly they had resources I did not have, but in the end, I don't think so. She was a textbook case of all the psychological problems that beset some adoptees, and she had the double-whammy of also being epileptic. And, oh yes, of being sexually abused by a grandmother's live-in companion. Triple whammy.

Because I have been focused on my career, now and then someone has said in the past, Oh, you did the right thing, you would not have been a good mother, you wanted a career too much.

I used to accept that, maybe it was part of the punishment, maybe it was part of their rationalization in a feeble attempt to make me feel better, maybe they just had to say it, but one day, my husband,  my dear husband who has always understood--we are going on 29 years this year--said, How do they know that? They don't know what kind of mother you would have been. You would have been a good mother.


That made me reconsider myself; it was a piece of putting back an ego that had been smashed. Sometimes, I'm sure I would have been irritated with a baby's demands, her epilepsy would have been a burden for us both, but you know, I know I would have been a good mother to a daughter I came to know and understand.

We were much alike, my daughter and me. I would be a different person than the career woman I became, that's all. Yes, I always wanted a career, I won't argue that point, but I did not know how much maternal instinct would roil up in me once I knew I was having a baby. I did not know how much I would want to keep her. I did not know how giving her up for a better life would ruin mine.

And so, when thinking about the situaiton in Haiti my head hurts and my heart aches. I want mothers to keep their babies, rich and poor mothers to keep their babies. I want the world to see that simply removing children from their families and sending them off to foreign lands and genetic strangers is not always the answer. I want the world to know that such relief is also the beginning of grief. --lorraine

_____________ 
It's Unexpected, show about girl not adopted who tracks down her parents, starts tonight. 9 p.m., Eastern and Central time.

8 comments :

  1. "Yes, I gave up, we all gave up. We could not cope with a baby. We had no funds."

    Lorraine, you know I have a great deal of respect for you - but this is not true for all of us. I never gave up for any thing like those reasons. I gave up because I had NO choice.

    My daughter was removed and returned so many times I was beginning to think it was some kind of sick game - 5 months with mom - 1 month in foster hell - then back to mom only this time with night terrors and fears that did not make sense. 6 months with mom and then taken because I moved to have a good job, nice house and childcare at my job - ooops, you can't do that, you might be an adult but we OWN your child - 3 months in foster hell, one broken leg and assaulted in more than one way.

    Moved back with dad, the craziness of the social service upsets lost me my job. Dad's wife says "no niggers in my house". Dad folds like a wet paper bag.

    I beg them to move her to where I live - NO they say - we are putting her back in foster hell home that tortured her, sign the papers or we will and we will take you to court every six months until you are proven unfit.

    I remember broken leg, black eyes, bruises where no child should have bruises - especially not at 2 years old - not even three and I signed - I could not let them hurt her any more.

    Money was not an issue, protecting my child was. I did not care about resources, it always worked out in the end, what I cared about was the screams of my toddler in the middle of the night because the same freak that molested me when I was 12/13, was molesting and beating my child. I signed because I had no choice except to protect my child.

    Believe me at that point, if I had been allowed to have her for a weekend, I would have taken my baby and vanished. I knew how. I just was never in the position to do so, at least not after I had hard evidence of what was happening.

    So, no, there are more reasons than money, apartments, resources, that create this hell.

    In Haiti, the one thing I do know is that a lot of those children are given up because they are simply poverty stricken. The one level apartment could have been a cardboard hut - I know they exist, I have seen them, in pictures of Haiti and in Panama when I lived there.

    When are the greedy baby theives going to stop?

    You know something Lorraine, you did not do a darn thing wrong, don't let this thing eat you up. You did what you felt you had to, now, let us stand together and stop it from being some other poor girls only "choice."

    ((((Lorraine))))

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  2. Oh that makes me sad. You would have been a good mother. (I've only seen your web-sized picture and I can tell that is your daughter's photo...she looks like you!)

    As for Haiti, you do have to wonder what the circumstances are that have lead those women there to make those choices. I have a very very close friend who was born and grew up in the Dominican Republic and she told me that her parents and pretty much everyone she knew there, dreamed of America. Her parents were wealthy and were able to send her to boarding schools in the U.S. to ensure that someday she could become a citizen, but they were the exception. I figure a lot of mothers in the 3rd world countries do see America as the land of milk and honey. But you are right...rich and poor mothers should be able to keep their babies.

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  3. I agree with you.

    Society cannot continue to use a system of "lesser evils" to avoid managing dependancy and upholding human rights. If the "lesser evil" to seperating mother and child is the solace to be found in a two parent home and a surplus of material posessions, parenting would be reserved only for an elite class. But we do see that attitude escalating in adoption. We measure a person's worth as a parent by what they can afford. To those who have less we tell them the "right thing" is to surrender their children. Society has then absolved itself from providing equal human rights. The parenting rights of the poor are not as protected as those of the rich. Children are viewed as a posession to be afforded.

    Consequentialism has burrowed itself into adoption practice. It gives agencies liscense to seperate mother and child by less-than-ethical tactics because the "end" (the child being in a "better home") somehow magically "forgives" all. The end does not justify the means and the means does not justify the end. The fact that Grace was not harmed in the earth quake because her adoption placed her in a different location does not absolve an unethical adoption (if her adoption was unethical, I have no clue). A child having a good life and material posessions does not make someone taking them away from their first mother instead of giving her help "right" either.

    ((hugs)) Loraine.

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  4. Amanda,

    "Children are viewed as a posession to be afforded."

    I hate to say this, but we teach this to our children. Consider this, when our children come of age and talk about college or marriage or whatever, we counsel them to wait until they can "afford" it to have children. In fact, an entire generation of people, the one that were born around 1963 or so, waited until recently to have their children. It allowed women to have their careers, then their families.

    The only problem is that the older a woman is when she has her children, the less likely she is to even conceive. That leaves an entire group that are well off - rich if you will - from having had wonderful careers (mind you this is a small population, but lots of cash and possessions) and have acquired a large amount of capitol, without children and who were taught that having children was the only way to be more than the "couple" that they are. The only way to be a "family".

    This sense of entitlement has been passed on in a thousand ways to the children that have been raised since the early 1980's until the present. The drive to have everything given to them immediately and without question and from whomever they demand it.

    Yesterday my niece was over helping me - as she does now on a very irregular basis since my husband became ill - and we were sitting on the couch talking. The one thing that struck me is that because her mother is such a pain in the behind (I love her dearly) she never taught her daughter that sense of entitlement and so her daughter is taking her time getting ready to leave home, but already thinking of home and family and life of her own. Not in a proprietary or needy way, but logical and thoughtful. She knows that she is not fond of noise and children that are mean, so she has to think carefully about how she wants her children, if any, to be.

    On the opposite end, her misbehaving, demanding brat brothers are totally enthralled with their sense of entitlement and are the most greedy, rude, nasty little beasts on the face of the earth. I still love them, I just don't like them all that much.

    I keep saying this and will until someone either hears it or tells me, en mass, to shut the heck up, but WOMEN need to stand up and say NO. NO you can't have that girls baby. No you can't have our dignity. NO you do not have the right to give my child/her child a better life just because you have money.

    NO.

    And I am not sure which picture you are talking about - if it is of her as an adult - yikes - let me know, she is not at the point where that is ok. But yes, she most definitely looks like me. But she does look like her father too - his jaw line and nose, and long legs and feet - LOL!

    I am very proud of her. Always was. Prettiest baby around and loved and cuddled and intelligent and happy - until they screwed her up. Now, she has everything, except the cuddled and happy, but the rest still applies. I am still proud of her.

    Ladies, I say again - When are we going to stand together?

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  6. I'm an observer of an adoption by M, a woman who finally succeeded in adopting a baby a few years before her fortieth birthday. Birth Mom was about 30, a single mom with a 12-yr old daughter, and pregnant with a baby fathered by a married family man. She thought she could provide a better life for all concerned by giving her baby away to someone better able to care for it than she was. She signed up with an adoption agency, and chose an adoptive couple from the agency's online registry. The couple, M & P, physically resembled her child, was college-educated, with a high combined annual income of at least $200,000 and lived in a big beautiful home appraised at over $250,000. M was a successful career woman and P had a high corporate managerial position.

    M & P supposedly underwent a thorough background check, but somehow nobody noticed or cared that: (1.) their marriage was rocky, and they had been separated more than once in their less-than-10-year marriage. (2.) M has a history of severe, debilitating migraine headaches that require periodic trips to the emergency room and brief hospitalizations. (3.) M's mother had a brain aneurism that led to her to death by suicide when M was 15. (4.) M's maternal grandfather also committed suicide. (5.) M was alienated from her own father whom she blamed for her mother's death, and has not spoken to him in years, even though they live 15 minutes apart; consequently Baby would have no maternal grandparent support. (6.) P's parents were divorced and would not be able to provide Baby with a united paternal grandparent unit. (7.) Alcohol played a very significant role in M & P's social life.

    The adoption was a bit unusual in that prior arrangements were made for M & P to go to the hospital when Birth Mom went into labor, and to take Baby home directly from the hospital. M took many pictures in the hospital, and had many photos taken of her and P holding "their" new baby. One picture M deliberately avoided taking was of Birth Mom, alone or with Baby. M decided to give Baby her estranged father's surname as his first name, even though her husband despised the man. M & P argued over whether to raise Baby as a Buddhist (M's preference) or as a Christian (P's preference). Before Baby's 4th birthday, M & P were divorced. M has begun online dating, and attracts men who drink too much, just like she claims P did. P's company relocated him to a foreign country. Baby now has no regular contact with his adoptive father or his adoptive maternal grandmother, because M is also alienated from her ex-mother-in-law. M relies heavily on hired help to take care of Baby as she juggles career, dating, migraine headaches and single parenthood.

    Somehow, I can't help but think that Baby would have been better off with Birth Mom and his 12-year old half-sister. As Baby approaches his fifth birthday, the verdict is still out.

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  8. The grief goes both ways.
    It has been my observation that one of the most stunning and painful realizations for many adoptees is that they wouldn't have had a 'worse' life if they'd been kept, just a *different* one - one that, in many cases, would have been at least as 'good', if not 'better' than the life they had with their adoptive family.

    I can only imagine it must be quite confounding.

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