But we have avoided, temporarily, the long discussion about adoption. I personally can not think of another topic that would invariably lead to what is so likely a personal and possibly passionate discussion, except maybe if I were having a sex change operation and writing about that. After nearly 30 years of marriage. To a man.
By dinnertime, when it was clear all was copacetic, and they had talked about their own children and their own ups and downs (no grandchildren, they would like some, neither of their grown children is complying), I took the initiative and fessed up. What became clear over the next twelve hours is how the woman saw me as possibly--maybe probably--unusual in how I had so negatively reacted to having relinquished a child. She did know of a sister of a college friend who "got in trouble" back in the Sixties, but that was the closest connection she had to a birth mother. This is an intelligent women with a PhD whose husband is a retired professor, who have lots of friends in various parts of the country. This is a woman I would be friends with if she did not live a thousand miles away. This is someone I will be glad to see again.
But because she had never met a birth mother who talked freely about what it was like to relinquish a child, she asked, in different ways and a couple of times:
- Was I the only woman who gave up a child and "felt like this?"
- If my daughter's relationship with her parents had been better--ie, if she had been totally accepted and happy in her family, better adjusted--would it have been easier on me?
- Might then I have accepted what happened and not been so...hmmm, what to say here..."upset" about having relinquished her?
- How did I think the depression after adoption compared with what I might have felt after an abortion?
- How had relinquishing my daughter affected my life?
- But I saw this couple once and they were going to adopt and they were so happy....
- And there are other women who feel the same way? You're not...unusual?
I said in no uncertain terms, my life had been irreparably damaged ("fucked up" is what I actually said) after I gave up my child; that some people have compared what happens to us to post-traumatic stress disorder (and let's not go into that discussion all over again, please), that my life was never the same, that buckets of tears over the years followed this decision, that I never forgot and that giving up a child is a continuing source of sorrow, it is not like burying a child (which as some of you know, I have also done), and I explained why. The sorrow is great, but there is an ending to it; adoption grief continues like a song fragment in your mind that plays over and over again.
I explained about sealed records--how they are sealed not upon relinquishment but upon adoption, so there is no pretense of doing this for the "protection and anonymity" of the first/birth mother; about how getting this message across to legislators is like climbing Mount Everest without a sherpa or extra oxygen; about how adoption today has become a cold business and no, it is not the Catholic Church or the abortion foes who are the greatest enemy of ending adoption, but the adoption industry itself; about how the pressure for "product" (that is, infants) for the agencies has produced all kinds of corruption, kidnapping and murder in counties such as India and Guatemala; that despite how happy adoption makes childless couples adoption is not made to make childless people happy, but to give homes to children who need them. If I'd had the UN quote at my lips I would have added that:
“Regrettably, in many cases, the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenues each year . . .” United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, 2003.
When they were leaving in the morning, she talked about getting together her outfit for her high school reunion that night, and showed me one of the choices; I told her about the nightmare of finding something to wear as the "birth mother" to my daughter's wedding. It was a nice moment.
And I couldn't help think, after they left, how much educating we mothers must do. I was reminded of Jane's blog recently about trying to convince a relative to not encourage her daughter to give up a child, and how the woman Jane spoke to seemed convinced that Jane was unusual and the only one who felt that way. I don't know how simply talking to my new acquaintance over part of the evening and again at breakfast will change the course of adoption reform in this country. Or how much the demonstration in Louisville on Sunday at the summit meeting of state legislators accomplished. Or if the the many many blogs about the pain of adoption from the viewpoints of the adopted themselves, and their birth/first mothers reach the right eyes.
But they are something, and they do add up. We are no longer silent. Every single person you educate about adoption today is one more than yesterday. Call it climbing a mountain. You do it one step at a time. So the next time the opportunity comes up, don't let it pass by unacknowledged, don't let the person walk away uninformed. --lorraine
"Mother & Child" has finally come to eastern Long Island, and I'm planning to see it soon, if not tonight. (The link will take you to Jane's review.) I did catch "The Kids Are All Right," (about kids contacting their sperm-donor dad) and will write about that in a day or two. And by the way, Birth Mother/First Mother Forum is now available on Kindle. How about that?
Yep, that's my memoir there. If you are going to order it, please do so through FirstMotherForum. I am trying to find a way to run ads other than those from amazon.com here, but every time I try, ads for adoption agencies appear along with the search firms. I can handle the search firms, but NOT ADS soliciting product for their businesses.