I tell my bridge partner I can't play next week because I'll be in Salem (Oregon's capitol). "What am I going to Salem for?" she asks. I hesitate, "I'm working on legislation to require that mothers considering adoption have time after delivering their child to make the decision." She looks concerned: "What about the adoptive parents? It wouldn't be fair to them if the mother changes her mind."
Another bridge partner tells me her daughter's two adopted sons, ages 12 and 14, are holy-terrors. I suggest that being adopted may have something to do with their behavior. Perhaps, if her daughter could contact the birth parents, and allow them into her sons' lives life, that might help. She tells me that yes, her daughter could contact the birth parents through the agency, but shakes her head. "I don't understand how that would help. Their parents are kind and loving; adoption has nothing to do with their behavior."
I push harder. Her daughter might read about adoption from an adoptee's point of view and recommend Journey of the Adopted Self by B. J. Lifton. The following week, I ask my partner "Did you tell your daughter about the book I recommended?" No, she forgot. But it doesn't matter anyway, her daughter is sending the boys to a wilderness camp.
FEAR OF ENGAGING KEPT ME SILENT
I'm having dinner with a neighbor from my condo. "Now that you're retired, what do you do to keep busy?" she asks. "Oh," I say casually, "I spend time with my grandchildren, I play bridge, I write on a blog, I go to movies with my husband." I sandwich the blog in with my other activities, all typical for an older woman, hoping my neighbor doesn't ask about the blog. She doesn't.
In these conversations, and in many, many more, I bypassed opportunities to educate someone on the hard truths about adoption. I could have told the first woman, the one in her her late 30's, "Adopting a child is not like having your own child. And it's painful for a mother to give up her child; I know because I gave up a child. We still live in a patriarchy, a society that looks down on single mothers, doesn't give them enough help. The demand for infants has created a market where mothers-to-be are coerced or misled into giving up their babies."
I could have told my first bridge partner, "What's important is what's best for the child, not the needs of the prospective adoptive parents. Children generally do better raised in their natural families. I know a lot of people who were adopted who struggle with being raised by people who do not share their looks, talents, or interests." Saying this, however, might have led to "how do you happen to know a lot of adopted people?" I would have had to say "I'm a birth mother and I've gone to a lot of adoption-related conferences, and been involved with adoptee rights organizations."
I could have laid my cards on the table with my second bridge partner, told her I gave up a child, and since my reunion with her, I've educated myself about the impact of adoption on both child and mother. Adoptive parents may be the most loving parents in the world, but the children have to deal with the fact that their first mother did not want them. They to live with people who may be very different from them, who share none of their inherited traits and physical characteristics. Her daughter should try to deal with the adoption issues.
I could have told my dinner companion "I write on a blog about adoption. I'm interested in the subject because I gave up a child."
FINALLY, SEIZING AN OPPORTUNITY
I did seize an opportunity in a recent conversation. When my husband and I were out to dinner with a lawyer and her husband, Susan and John, I told them, when asked what do I do to keep busy, that I wrote on a blog. The lawyer asked what the blog was about. "Adoption," I answered. Then, "How did you get interested in adoption?" I sucked in my breath. "I gave up a baby."
Without waiting for a response, I launched into a description--I hope it did not come across as a diatribe-- about the lifelong impact of adoption for mother and child. John was puzzled, "I though a child was a blank slate, as long as he was placed as a newborn, there were no problems."
"There are still issues," I assured him.
Susan mentioned that she had learned recently that Judy, a legal secretary we both knew but whom I had not see in many years, had reunited with the son she had given up years before. "It was hard on Judy, losing her son," said Susan. "When you see her again, ask her to call me," I offered.
I like to think that my telling my story led Susan and John to understand that Judy was not unique in her feelings; perhaps Susan and John would speak up when they heard someone glibly describe adoption as "just another way to form a family." At the very least, I gave them something to think about.
I wish I had had the courage to seize the opportunity in countless previous conversations to educate my listeners. The myths about adoption--that selfless mothers make adoption plans because they are not ready to parent, that the fathers are scoundrels or unknown, that children meld seamlessly into their adoptive families, that openness prevents angst for both first mother and child. The institutions who make their money off adoption, the media, Hollywood, politicians, religious authorities--the folks who influence public opinion--spread this false scenario. If we want to adoption to change, it's up to us, those who have lived adoption, to take our message to as wide an audience as possible .
I tell myself, I need to walk out of the closet for good.--jane
Adoptive parents say the darnedest things. To us.
Can the media get adoption right?
As a first mother it's better to speak up than suffer in silence
Telling the family, and the world: I am a First Mother
Journey Of The Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness "Betty Jean Lifton, whose Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience has become a bible to adoptees and to those who would understand the adoption experience, explores further the inner world of the adopted person. She breaks new ground as she traces the adopted child’s lifelong struggle to form an authentic sense of self. And she shows how both the symbolic and the literal search for roots becomes a crucial part of the journey toward wholeness."--Amazon
Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self "This book was extremely helpful in allowing me to see and feel how other adoptees have experienced the same sense of loss I have coped with since childhood. As an adoptee, adopted as an infant, and finding my birth parents after 30+ years, it was amazing to have a book which so clearly outlines the stages of my life, and allowed me to understand the feelings I have had for so long. The book is a quick read, but has depth in the way it will touch any adoptees soul." --Bill Sawyer, an adoptee review at Amazon. Lorraine found this book especially useful in understanding her daughter and her emotional issues revolving around being adopted, and lent it to a neighbor, an adopted girl in high school, who devoured it and immediately lent it to her best friend, also adopted.