|Lorraine and her new accessory|
Last week a brave adoptive mother, Dina McQueen, wrote a revealing post about her four-year-old daughter from Ethiopia. In it she wrote of how, since McQueen had video of the girl's birth mother bringing the daughter, now named Aster, to the drop off, the little girl wanted to watch the video over and over and over again, and how she became inconsolable for a brief time after--though it seemed long to Mother McQueen. I forget exactly what the girl, Aster, called her video but it had some version of "birth mother" in it. Eventually, with time, love and patience, McQueen was able to calm the girl down and the post ended with the girl, at least for the time being, able to move on with her American mother to a sweet resolution.
Wow! I thought, here's a post that eloquently speaks to the real sense of loss and dislocation this four-year-old is experiencing. Here's a post from an adoptive mother not afraid to be honest about the difficulties of not only adopting, but adopting from another culture and continent. How often can you read and honest essay like that? It was a first for me. To be honest, I hoped that some prospective adopters reading might be turned off to the whole idea of adoption, and thus reduce the world wide market for adoptable children. The girl wanted to see the video of the mommy whose tummy she came out of again and again, and that would have to be disturbing to some.
REVEALING POST IS GONE FROM HUFF PO
I meant to write about the post this week. I had bookmarked it. But this morning it was gone, taken down at the request of the writer, apparently because she got so many drubbings for writing publicly about the girl. And this week we have Public Apology To My Daughter with snippets of a few comments, such as:
Furthermore, why are adoptive parents discussing their children's private moments in public settings? Please, I urge you to respect your child's privacy and stop telling their stories for your own personal profit.Let us ignore that McQueen may or may not get paid for her blog--Huff Po doesn't have to pay its writers. The bigger issue is that writing about one's life entails writing about interactions with other people. There's no way around it. Should my husband, at his blog, discuss the abortion he and his first wife had due to her receiving a full body x-ray when she was two weeks along, and the risk of abnormalities caused by that around 50 percent? Should anyone write a memoir? And especially, should anyone write an adoption memoir? Judging from the above comment McQueen quoted, the answer would be an emphatic no.
In publishing Birthmark in 1979, the first to reveal the agonies of relinquishing a child, I had to write about my parents, my college romance that ended, the father of my baby, Patrick Brasley; his crumbling marriage and thus his wife; my bosses at the newspaper where Patrick and I worked; the unmarried teenager I shared a room with at the hospital; the social worker, Helen Mura; Florence Fisher; Robert Jay Lifton; attorney Gertrude Mainzer, an adoptee named Ann Smith who had gone to court to get her records unsealed, and others in more minor roles. The book ends before I found my daughter so she is not a "live" character, though the book is about her and dedicated to her. The point it, you can't write anything personal without talking about someone else and your interaction with them, and how it affects you. I wrote the book because I felt it was time for mothers like myself to emerge from the closet and because I knew I could withstand the screaming hot criticism--anger--that I knew would follow and be directed at me. It did and it was.
WRITING IS THE BUSINESS OF WRITERS
Adoptees write adoption memoirs, birth mothers write their stories, and so do adoptive parents. I do not read adoptive parent blogs in any number--the few I do are listed in the sidebar, and I respect the writers for their openness in dealing with hard questions about being second mothers. Sometimes they write about their children involved; other time they write about the issues. I am aware that adoptees are very critical of anything written about them, more so, it seems to me, than people not adopted, because it is yet another example of something over which they have no control. But family members in any family where a writer pops up have to deal with being used as models in fiction, or as actual characters in any memoir. My friend Emily Prager wrote a sensitive memoir, Wuhu Diary, about taking her adopted daughter back to China when she was five to see if they could learn more about Lulu's original family, and I've heard her be roundly criticized. Writers write about life, about themselves. They have for all time and will in the future. To criticize McQueen because she writes for a living makes no sense. I was told repeatedly I only wrote Birthmark for the money. Believe me, there were a lot of subjects that would have made a lot more money. Writing is the occupation of writers, and the nay-sayers often forget that.
Though I did not see the barrage of comments that McQueen's post generated, I'm going to venture a guess that many came from people who did not want to see the hard truth of adoption in the mind of a four-year-old expressed so vividly, so raw. So they attacked her, and were outraged--outraged--because she wrote about how she dealt with a daughter having a difficult time. McQueen is the author of a book, Finding Aster: Our Ethiopian Adoption Story, about how she made the decision to adopt after major surgery. McQueen is in her late 40s now; and the daughter is four, as I recall. The book description at Amazon says: In the end, Dina openly expresses with a clear and focused voice that choosing adoption to grow a family need not be a last resort.
If only providing that child were not a last resort for the mother.
I'm getting off the track here. The point is, you can't write about adoption with any force without writing about it personally. Adoptees, adoptive parents and first mothers all write blogs from their personal experiences--and interactions with the major people in their lives--the adoptee in question, the adoptive parents, the natural parents, the siblings, adopted and natural. At FMF, we do that plus try to keep up with trends and news in adoption. Mothers, both biological and adoptive, are frequently excoriated for writing about their personal experiences--but that is what people want to read, and what they best learn about the experience from, not a dry pile of statistics and generalities. McQueen's original post--that she was bullied into taking down--was a true gift.
When I wrote about my grief at the beginning of the year, revealing that my adopted-out granddaughter--after what seemed like a great beginning to a relationship--had chosen to have no contact, adoptees began writing comments about how she must be feeling and why. Since that was all speculation, I took them down, but not before I received a nasty comment (not published) from a friend of hers. Yet my granddaughter had written about her visit to our home portraying it rather negatively. Knock me over with a spoon! I had no idea I was being overbearing when I opened my heart and our home; I thought we were having a great time. But yes, I did recognize the visit was too long. I let her writing stand without commenting, or complaining. It was how she felt at the time she wrote it. And I learned from it. We--in the larger sense of the word--need to give each other room to write about our experiences and how they affect us.
TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY
However, the same pushback is not leveled against adoptees for writing about their birth parents in often unflattering terms. Sarah Saffian's book, Ithaka, was such a demeaning diatribe against her hippie, pottery-making birth parents in Vermont I wanted to throw the book against the wall. The book itself would not have been the good read it was without her father's eloquent letters to Saffian, a fact nowhere noted by the ungracious author. Yet everywhere I read (except here by Jane) Saffian received flattering, even gushing, reviews. The same was true of A. M. Holmes's The Mistress's Daughter. Her mother sounded like a lowlife in need of an education. Holmes made no bones about being embarrassed to be her mother's daughter. An adoptive mother encouraged me to read the lengthy piece Holmes first published on the same subject in the New Yorker. Yikes, I thought, no wonder this adoptive mother wanted me to read it, the real mother is so damn needy and uneducated! Her father is a weak shit. Thank god I escaped was the message Holmes conveyed in no uncertain terms.
If there is to be honest writing about adoption, it has to come from all quarters--including adoptive parents talking about the difficulties of raising someone else's child. McQueen's post did not reflect negatively on her daughter at all. I thought, McQueen is raising a child without teaching her what is off-limits regarding her own origins--what a great thing! The piece unflinchingly demonstrated how a four-year-old understood her life, and how she missed her real mother. McQueen came across as sensitive but real. We read little about this side of adoption, especially from adoptive parents. I'm sorry McQueen took down her piece, and instead wrote an apology. The world need more of the kind of honesty McQueen showed us. --lorraine_______________________
Source: Public Apology To My Daughter
From FMF: Harvesting Children from Ethiopia for Families in America
Why Reunions Go Awry: What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Birthmothers
From Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform:
2009 Ethiopia Adoption Program Suspensions and Investigations