' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Part 2: A relationship with my daughter goes awry. Reason unknown.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Part 2: A relationship with my daughter goes awry. Reason unknown.

Jane and Lorraine sometime in the 90s.
Continuing the story of my relationship with my daughter, as she came and went over more than a quarter of a century. When the previous post left off it was March. 

(Copyright Lorraine Dusky 2013, may not be copied or reproduced in any form)

April. At American Adoption Congress’s 25th anniversary convention in Atlanta, I am one of the keynote speakers. The AAC is comprised of adoptees and both first parents and adoptive parents, and stands for openness in adoption, including taking down the sealed-records statutes. I talk about the early days of this movement, and how far we still have to go. I do not gloss over the rabid opposition we faced then, and still do. 


Tact in the service of reform is often ineffective; it can obscure the depth of one’s passion and muddle the message. Taken to its extreme, it confuses the opposition. While mildness may let you continue talking to the opposition, talk is sometimes all you get without any real progress. Just as there was no way for abolitionists to speak to slave holders without raising their hackles, so it often is about adoption issues. That day I do not mince words and point out that no matter how you slice it, no matter how many adoptive parents say they are in favor of open records, the legislators who remain the staunchest opponents frequently turn out to be adoptive parents, or near relatives.  

Adoptees and first mothers I know sit up front and nod in agreement. I think my talk is being well-received.

Well. As a group, the adoptive parents are quite less than pleased, and tell me so during the question period after; later I hear some of them spent the better part of the day smoothing their own ruffled feathers. Adoptive parents may be insecure and sensitive on adoption issues, but rarely if ever do they hear criticism directed at them as a group—and particularly not from a birth mother. We are supposed to be tending our wounds, and the very idea that we might criticize them is offensive. They took our kids, didn’t they? Adoptive parents are familiar with two reactions: sympathy, because they couldn’t have children of their own, and praise, for adopting someone else’s outcast. Who does this woman think she is?

The only adoptive parent who is friendly is Adam Pertman, director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, an adoption think-tank. When he sees me in the hall soon after my talk, he grabs me and gives me a big hug, and continues on his way. I do not even know who this effusive stranger is at the time. Though some first mothers revile Adam because they think his writing censures them in places, I’ve never been able to stay mad at him for any length of time. We are on the same side.

What I do not share except with one other mother at the conference is that my daughter has retreated. Again. I am a poster first mother for reform and reunion, and my own daughter isn’t speaking to me.

On one level I feel like a fraud; on another, whether my daughter is speaking to me or not is immaterial to my message: adoptees deserve to know who they were when they were born, and reform will not happen without a phalanx of first mothers announcing that we do not want to remain anonymous from our own flesh and blood. There will always be those fearful few who want to stay anonymous from their children, for any number of reasons—because they have never told their husbands, or their other children, because their religion has told them they belong to another family now and forever, because of the incapacitating shame they feel—but the vast majority of us desperately want to know our children, no matter how secretive and pathetic we were at the time we relinquished them. In the path to unsealing the records, we are needed. We cannot stay in the closet. Our voices must be heard.
                                   
Her birthday is two days after I get back. 

I had sent no gift, no card. I thought about calling, but assumed she would hang up when she heard my voice. Or maybe they already had Caller ID (we did not) and she would not pick up. Or if she did answer, I’d get a cool response that announced: Oh, it’s you—why are you bothering me? You are nothing to me. Or I’d leave a message that went unanswered, as they all had since the Big Freeze began. And you know what? I am fucking exhausted by this fractious relationship, exhausted trying to figure out how to react to Jane, tired of getting beaten up by something I could not fix. I do not call.

But I don’t get off lightly, I spend part of the day deep in the blues. A first mother friend, Linda, who knows what I am going through, calls and I burst into tears. We email each other pretty much every day. Unless you are one of us, you would be surprised how often adoption passes by in the culture: on television dramas, in celebrity gossip, on your street and in your office. You want to escape, but can’t. A never ending supply of reminders of the biggest, and saddest, event of your life confront you daily, and to each other we could make note of them. We are alternately snide, ironic, infuriated, or merely calmly observant in our emails. We can express our feelings to each other without being thought obsessive or loony. Linda’s daughter had cut her off too after she, the daughter, had found her and the reunio had been ecstatic. Reason? Unknown. Or maybe it was because Linda had used the guest towels hanging on the rack when she visited, as her daughter had remarked unfavorably about that. She didn’t use the right towels. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.--lorraine
TO BE CONTINUED.
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Part 1: A relationship with my daughter goes awry. Reason unknown. 
RECOMMENDED READING
The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories A collection of essays from first mothers, adoptees and adoptive mothers that gives great insight to the experience of adoption from all sides. "This is one of the few books written about adoption that has brought tears to my eyes with the emotional intensity shared by the writers in their stories from all perspectives of adoption. I would recommend this book to anyone touched by adoption, or who is considering entering into the world of adoption, whether through adoptive parenting, placement, counseling, or reunion."--Amazon (Full disclosure, my essay opens the book. Right now it basically costs the shipping, as the price is listed at .01. Yes, really. A truly worthwhile book for anybody interested in this subject. Order by clicking on the title link or book jacket. And yes, that's my earlier memoir, Birthmark, in the sidebar that can also be ordered.

40 comments :

  1. First off, I love you two and your blog.

    That said, for me, as an adoptee, after being in reunion for 3 years, I didn't speak to my birthmother, two of my brothers, or my grandparents for 18 years. It is complicated and not so easy to explain.

    It took me years to reconcile in my mind the fact that who I grew up thinking I was is not really who I am (if that makes sense). Also, after years of idealizing your 'real' roots, to find out they don't necessarily match your dreams is pretty disheartening. In addition, they might not match who you know yourself to be at all (for example, I am a peace-loving person concerned about social inequality and social justice. My birthfather is a multi-millionaire bank president who thought of nothing but himself and was almost indicted in the 1990s for fraud! I could not believe he was related to me. (hee)

    Then, when you have grown up forming your whole identity around being 'different' or 'unique,' to find out that the only thing that is really unique about you is your very soul and your particular combination of attributes is pretty jarring. Literally, it took me years to accept that on my mother's side, I am certainly the "apple that didn't fall far from the tree".

    The way I had psychologically managed my situation (religious fanatic, abusive a-parents, no knowledge whatsoever of my real roots), was to know that I was "unique" and different/separate.

    When I met my birth family, I knew all that wasn't true. There was nothing about me it seemed that was particularly unique. My mother and I could have won a mother-daughter lookalike contest. That shook us both up.

    But yet for years I still felt it necessary to make myself be different. However, all my likes/dislikes/hobbies/attitudes were matched somewhere in the extended birth family. There was no escaping the reality! The last straw for me on this was when I got a rare breed of dog and gave him an unusual name. I figured at least, owning this unique little creature and giving him a name I made up would make me different (than "them"). When I showed a picture of my new pup to my next oldest brother, he said "Oh that looks like our old dog, Gromit" (name remarkably similar to the one I chose). Sure enough, my brother had the same breed of dog with almost the same name. I just couldn't believe it. When my other brother said "the way you call your dog 'puppy' sounds just like Dad," I finally gave up, and just accepted myself (and them). Then finally the conflicts I had went away. Now I know it is okay to be like other people - even those who so deeply disappointed you.

    I think these issues are inherent in the way you have to develop your identity as an adoptee, especially if you do not identify with your a-parents. Finding out that your whole identity is false takes years to sort out. It is so tramatic sometimes it feels the only choice you have is to disconnect or disappear. It's either that or be crushed psychologically and emotionally. For me at least, it was really more about what was going on inside me than anyone else. Fortunately, my birth family was understanding and not resentful (my grandparents didn't understand, but everyone else was tolerant).

    If the adoptee's identity is hidden from them, along with their genetic kin, then that is really probably the most basic form of "mind control" there is. Identity issues can be seriously tough and it can take years to sort out.

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  2. KatieP:

    Thanks for the interesting analysis about identity and reality. I've written before about the similarities that my daughter Jane and I shared--including her showing up one time with the exact same model and make of a shoe--made by an Italian company with a limited output, as their website says today, Famolare. That blew me away--for like your unusual breed dog, I am not talking about something as common as say, navy blue or white Keds.

    Finding out about your birth father must have been a jolt! Luckily for Jane and me, we were somewhat similarly positioned in the middle class (though her adoptive father's steady income made her life less chancy than ours) and had the same basic religious background (Catholic, though I am a "lapsed" one), and same political leanings (liberal). So that made a lot of our relationship easier.

    Eighteen years is a whole generation. I think you indicate you were back in touch with them and was it difficult? Did they have any resentments that you had turned your back on them for such a long time? I hope you come back and let us know.

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  3. Finding my family changed me emotionally as well, but in a different way. I was thrilled that I looked just like my mother and happy that she didn't want to give me up.

    It was very hard for me to see how my family had gone on without me. Both Mom & Dad had other children. The story was that I had died at birth, and looking into my families lives, it felt as though I had. Whatever empty place my passing had left had been long closed and healed over.

    I was a reminder of things they would all rather forget. As my father said, "we never thought you would find us".

    I texted my mother "good morning", she told me there was something wrong with me.

    I bought her a mother's day gift, she accused me of buying the ugliest gift possible, just to hurt her.

    My fathers family sees me as the angry adoptee. They think adoption was the best thing to happen to me.

    Both of my parents have told me they wouldn't have minded being raised by other families, and one Aunt told me she wished she was adopted.

    I get no birthday wishes from my parents, but their kept children do.

    Despite all this, I haven't ended our relationship, but I'm done reaching out. I keep saying that, but yesterday I went to the emergency room for pelvic pain. It turned out to be just a bladder infection, but I texted my mother about it. She said she was glad it was nothing serious.

    I gave my brother (mom's son) 19 dates at the beginning of the summer to come to our beach club. He never came.

    I don't know if I'll ever see any of them again, and I'm trying to stop caring, just as I had to do as a child.

    There is no place for me in their lives. I'm just a ghost. They prefer the dead baby over the living me.

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  4. Lorraine part of your post really jumped out at me. I'm a first mom, and an adoptive mom (via foster care). As a result I read a lot of adoptive blogs, many of which are by women who are facing infertility. You're words: "Unless you are one of us, you would be surprised how often adoption passes by in the culture: on television dramas, in celebrity gossip, on your street and in your office. You want to escape, but can’t. A never ending supply of reminders of the biggest, and saddest, event of your life confront you daily, and to each other we could make note of them. We are alternately snide, ironic, infuriated in our emails. We can express our feelings to each other without being thought obsessive, or loony."

    Those thoughts are echoed over and over again in the infertility community. Perhaps some of their projected anger is a result of feeling something very similar to you and not knowing how to express it. And perhaps the two communities (first mothers and infertiles) are closer than we think and have more in common than we usually recognize.

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  5. adoptomuss: Damn.

    Just sucks. My heart is sorry for your heart. One wonders why we have to bear such hurt in a lifetime. You do not deserve this.

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  6. Momof3:

    I don't know about the sharing of emotion with the interfiles. We are sorry we had to give our babies up, and the culture seems determined to encourage other young women to do the same, so that other people who couldn't have children can raise them.

    For what? So these young women can end up like us in ten, twenty years hence? This is what I read a few minutes at an adoption agency blog, written by a birth mother:

    I chose adoption because I loved my child. This parental love allowed me to put his needs before my own when making my choice.

    By that token, most babies ought to be given to parents with more resources. That's the message that is still being touted--as it was in my day.

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  7. Lorraine, I am on the edge of my seat, waiting to read more!

    You make an interesting point about the birth parent - child relationship possibly being easier to navigate when the child is raised with a background similar to that of the birth parent. Reading KatieP's and adoptomuss's harsh truths, I worry greatly about how my adopted son, now only 5 years old, will handle his birth family some day. They have an extremely troubled existence riddled with crime, long prison stints, drugs and abuse and it will likely be painful for him to reconcile all of that. But he will need to, as it is part of his identity.

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  8. Momof3,
    It's an interesting point. I honestly felt a good deal of kinship with my SIL when they went through the pain of infertility. She lost something too (many times over the years), something that she would never get back. And while it wasn't the same depth of grief, it was very similar.
    I find that we first mothers often think that our pain is the deepest, the most wretched, and the most onerous. Sadly, there is so much pain in the world, that we are not alone...but I think we forget that sometimes.
    My SIL and I had many long, deep discussions about loss and giving up a child (because she was giving up a hypothetical child). We both sought counseling and spend many years crying over the phone to each other on anniversaries. Over the years, she lost 8 pregnancies...some quite late. And eventually gave up the dream of having a child.
    It has been almost 34 years since I gave up my boy. We are in the first, tentative steps of reunion. When my SIL (possibly my best friend) and I have lunch with him, I can see the pain in her eyes. My son is alive, he's healthy. She will never be able to see the smile on her children's faces.

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  9. Jay:
    You have a big job ahead of you, to make your son understand and accept his background, yet find a way to navigate past the trouble, and not despise his natural parents. All too often I see adoptees who were raised in a higher social stratum act and feel superior to them, with them, and thus, hurt them deeply. And I'm not even taking about the problems that you mention. The things that he picks up now--including your own attitude (and husband, sibs) towards his other parents and family, at this young age, will have a lifelong impact. You know what they say, Give me a child before seven...and you have them for life.

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  10. Momof3: Let me add I do feel empathy for the women who are infertile, because society ended up this way, and so many women don't even try to get pregnant until it is difficult. And though biology hasn't changed at all, as far as we know in this regard, certainly women aren't dropping out of college generally to have chldren or having them in their early twenties, as was the norm before The Pill, and effective and easy-to-use birth control. It's a conundrum. But all the moaning and irritation that adoption is so difficult/expensive today does get my back up. Dammit, getting another person's child ought to be difficult.

    What you have picked up on is how differently infertile women and first mothers view all the adoption-centric information constantly being blasted at society but our reactions all fall in the same categories of snide, ironic, infuriated, or simply sad.

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  11. To Jay Iyer,

    I am in reunion with a father who has made some poor choices in his life. Nevertheless, I love him fiercely.

    I have half of his DNA, so we definitely share some innate traits, abilities, etc. But, his choices are not part of my identity.

    Yes, your son will have to reconcile any fantasies with reality. And, he may have to take some time to process the fact that his b-family's choices are just that--choices. Their choices are not his destiny. They are not a reflection on him as a person.

    My recommendation to you is to always speak kindly of them.

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  12. "What you have picked up on is how differently infertile women and first mothers view all the adoption-centric information constantly being blasted at society but our reactions all fall in the same categories of snide, ironic, infuriated, or simply sad."

    It's fairly simple. Both are populations who may have experienced trauma and PTSD.

    Likewise, some adopted children experience trauma due to their experiences.

    One would think this would cause alliances and an outpouring of empathy for these various forms of trauma.

    btw- Just an observer, but I shouldn't think it's a good idea to encourage the idea that adoptions should cost any money, much less the extreme numbers common today (25-35K and more.) The state should pay for all costs to remove the possibility of corruption, reduce incentives to relinquish, and eliminate commercialization and commodification.

    Added to those numbers is a problem specific to the US - the lack of health care and birthing costs. No other 1st world country is so uncivilized as not to have basic health care.

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  13. "I chose adoption because I loved my child. This parental love allowed me to put his needs before my own when making my choice."

    That sentence has so many misconceptions, half-truths and lies in it. How does she know it is best meeting the adoptee's needs by giving him up for adoption? Even if she is basing her decision on the "two parents are better than one" argument, we all know that many adoptive parents end up getting divorced and the child ends up with a single parent. There is no mention of how the child will feel about being tossed out of the family and being given to strangers. And the automatic assumption that adoptive parents always provide a good home is an outright lie. Tell that to the 23 murdered Russian adoptees and all the other adoptees who are abused or who end up being unloved and unwanted by their new 'forever families'.

    I read this quote recently by actor and adoptive father of two, Hugh Jackman. "I don't think of Oscar and Ava as adopted. They're our children....Things happen the way they were meant to".

    How nice for him. Maybe the CHILDREN feel differently. They are, after all, the ones who are actually adopted. They are the ones who lost their entire original families on both sides and had no say in the matter. Also, I sensed some defensiveness in his answer. It is the stigma many adoptees face all of their lives that they are not really considered part of the adoptive family.

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  14. "the culture seems determined to encourage other young women to do the same, so that other people who couldn't have children can raise them."

    I think what's really behind the push for adoption is so that the people who are doing the transaction can make lots of money off moving children from one family to another.

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  15. Jay Iyer wrote:" But he will need to, as it is part of his identity."

    I think you need to make the distinction to your son that these poor choices on the part of his bio-family members are part of his background, they are not part of him. I had some relatives who also made bad choices and for a while I felt tainted by them. But no one is responsible for another person's behavior and it is not a reflection on the child. They are simply a part of the adoptee's history. A difficult part to be sure, and one that can be hard to come to terms with, but your son needs to know that he is in no way responsible or tainted by how his closest blood relatives chose to live their lives.

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  16. I would also expect some camaraderie among those who have infertility and those who have given up a child. The pain is so similar (at least what I've seen of it).

    Lorraine, I don't think that them moaning about how hard/expensive adoption can be is an insult at all. We all moan about how hard our life is. Much of this blog (your blog) is voicing about how hard it is to be a first mother...right? So, how is it any different?

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  17. Lorraine, Heather, Robin, I VERY much appreciate all of your points about how I can help my adopted son Lenny reconcile his family history without looking down upon them or worse, outright rejecting them. It is invaluable to me to get the perspectives of people who are dealing with these issues in their personal lives.

    I completely agree that Lenny can reject the choices his family made without rejecting the people making those choices. There is another element to the choices, and that is that I know enough of his birth family history to understand (to the extent I am able) why his first parents might have made those very poor choices. They really weren't given much of a chance to choose more wisely, and I hope Lenny will be kind and understanding of that.

    Right now, because he is so young (5 years old), the details he has from us are limited. He knows about the drug addiction but not the crimes and the abuse. We also talk about his parents' good qualities - both inheritable traits as well as good values they try to live by and want for their children. I also am able to assure Lenny with complete confidence that his first parents wanted him, as did his grandparents and several uncles and aunts, and they no doubt love him very much. That they were unable to follow through on that love and provide him with basic care and safety is no reason for Lenny not to cherish the love they have for him. I would be very sad if Lenny rejects them.

    As he grows older and we reveal more unsavory details, we are going to have to dig up every ounce of compassion and empathy we possess to make sure he remains accepting of his family. Some of the news will be hard to take, I really ache for him just thinking about it. That's when your perspectives are going to come even more in handy. I also am prepared for the possibility that he/we may need professional help at that point. Thanks again,

    Jay

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  18. Lorraine,
    I think what Momof3 was getting at was that the emotions surrounding infertility and the loss of a child via adoption are quite similar. And the statement you made about adoption being everywhere in media/life/work, the same thing could be said of healthy pregnancies (and all the triggers that those produce for interfiles). I'm in the odd, unique position that I am first mom who also is dealing with infertility. I can tell you that the emotions surrounding my relinquishment and miscarriages (4 so far) are very similar. There's a sense of loss and not understanding that weighs on me when I think of both.

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  19. Congratulations on another great article Lorraine. Your pictures are a treasure and I look forward to more. So beautiful.

    I think it is important to note that one of the comments spoke to trauma and PTSD caused to first parents and infertiles alike. I assume this was spoken by an infertile as there was no mention of the inevitable trauma and PTSD to the adoptee. So telling.

    It may be a false belief but I believe there is a common and understandable reason adoptees pull back. Check out Joe Soll's 'Fear of Mommy Love'. Once I understood I could reach out and tell my son I loved him and missed him and that he wasn't to blame I stopped taking his ongoing silence personally. He was quiet for almost 16 months but we're back on track. My first few notes were signed off with Love Buck, the next few I was brave and used First Mom. His warm reply came after I used Mom and I'll never again sign off any other way.

    Still, his absence was so painful and it helps to acknowledge and grieve it. I will not be surprised if more extended silences are to come. I suspect it is likely a natural reaction to such unnatural circumstances. I am blessed in that my son's adoptive parents aren't interfering as far as I'm aware and my son isn't overly swayed by their opinion either. They're religious and he isn't, enough said. We've agreed to simple boundaries - that we'll try our best to show compassion, be gentle and treat each other with respect by not assuming to know what the other experienced, is thinking or feeling. It's a good foundation and like any mission statement will be tested and hopefully improved upon.

    One last comment on Anonymous that said she was in the 'odd, unique position' of suffering from infertility. I'm sorry to say that it isn't unique at all. Some studies and estimates are up to 50% of first moms suffer from secondary infertility and don't have more children. Studies can be found on various Origins sites. More 'side-effects' of adoption the industry doesn't want you to know about.

    I can't imagine how difficult reunion was before the information age. Texting and FB can be quite impersonal but it is still contact.

    I admire your ability, Lorraine, to speak in front of adoptive parents. You're an inspiration. xoxo

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  20. "I can tell you that the emotions surrounding my relinquishment and miscarriages (4 so far) are very similar. There's a sense of loss and not understanding that weighs on me when I think of both."

    While the experiences are different, the pain of undergoing clinical states of trauma could be similar. Medically, it's not an exact science, in being able to predict when and how people experience trauma. What we can do is respect and acknowledge pain and trauma where we find it.

    It is difficult for anyone who has undergone trauma to be told that their pain is not pain; or their trauma is not trauma. The best that we can do is treat other people as precious, especially when we find them to be suffering from various forms of pain.

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  21. Blogger Lorraine Dusky said...

    The trouble that I have with people who have trouble conceiving in their 30s and 40s--so they are infertile--is that fertility is designed in the human body to reproduce at our strongest time--in our teens and twenties. Unfortunately, that does not coincide with life today. However, that does not change biology, and young women and men today tend to put off having children for a long time. Of course there are other medical reasons that some women have trouble conceiving, but in general:

    From a strictly biological perspective, the 20s is the best decade for conceiving and carrying a baby: Experts say the average woman's fertility peaks when she's 24. Fertility begins to decline in one's late twenties and takes a precipitous drop after 35.

    Like every woman, you were born with all the eggs you will ever have: about 1 million at the time of birth. By the time you reached puberty, your eggs numbered about 300,000, but only about 300 are released from the ovaries during your reproductive years.

    As you get older, your ovaries age along with the rest of your body, and your eggs become less viable. For that reason, younger women's eggs are less likely than older women's to have genetic abnormalities that result in Down syndrome and other birth defects.

    I try to tell this to all the young women in my life to make sure they get the message. If you want children do not wait until you are in your late 30s.

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  22. Jay said:

    ". . . I worry greatly about how my adopted son, now only 5 years old, will handle his birth family some day. They have an extremely troubled existence riddled with crime, long prison stints, drugs and abuse and it will likely be painful for him to reconcile all of that. But he will need to, as it is part of his identity."

    "I completely agree that Lenny can reject the choices his family made without rejecting the people making those choices."

    ". . . we are going to . . . make sure he remains accepting of his family."

    Jay, with all due respect, it sounds like you have already orchestrated this reunion and have predetermined its psychological and emotional benefits for your son. The person you have left out of the equation is your son and how he might feel as he grows up. He's only five now and he needs time to process his relinquishment and adoption as he grows into an older child, teen, an adult. You seem to be of the opinion that contact must occur and that your son will suffer without it. Maybe at some point, you might find it beneficial to cultivate a stance of pure openness, letting your son articulate his feelings even if they are not acceptable to you or even if he decides to close the door on his past.

    Occasionally, trolls and sycophants camp out at adoption blogs. Though I have no proof and am happy to admit I've been wrong before, it occurred to me that you might be a troll. Either that or you're going for the Good Little Adoptive Parent Award. I can think of one or two people you might be in competition with, nothing major.

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  23. BeeHive: Jay found this blog because we wrote about the Veronica Brown case and its injustice, to the girl, to her father. She comments on other blogs about the Veronica case. She wrote a good piece on being and adoptive mother for Huff Po. Personally, jane and I welcome her here.

    We have used a whole blog of hers on July 22nd that you might wish to read. We welcome adoptive parents here who do not come to merely criticize or throw stones, and in particular, increase our understanding of life on the other side.

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  24. Hi BeeHive,

    I absolutely do not intend to tell my son what to do in regards to his birth family, I can only tell him my own feelings on the matter. And, as a parent, I have to prepare myself for possible ways in which he might react (to the extent I am able, obviously I cannot predict or even know all of his thoughts and feelings).

    I am not a troll, nor am I looking for an award. I live my life and I comment about issues that are dear to me. Not sure how my comments qualify as "trolling" anyway, not sure who I'm supposedly baiting here.

    Thanks,
    Jay

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  25. Jay, please email me at forumfirstmother@gmail.com.

    Right now I am putting up a new post.

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  26. Lorraine,
    I am 26 and infertile. I'm an advocate in the infertility community. I've been following this blog as a way to educate myself on the various aspects of adoption. I've learned quite a bit. I've never commented, because I don't believe it's my place to comment here. However you're most recent comment on women and infertility has prompted me to break my silence.
    While it's true that many women wait until their 30s to try to conceive, that's not the only thing that causes infertility. In fact, most infertility is caused by a biological condition: PCOS or Endometriosis or Fragile X or any number of other conditions, many of are present regardless of age. In addition 20% of all infertility is caused by male-factors, which is not as age-related as female issues.

    According to every study I've read, fertility starts to decline at age 20 and goes into freefall about age 35 to 40.

    I was told at the age of 19 that I would never have children due to my Endo, but I never gave up on the dream of having a child. I got married at 23 and tried for the past 3 years to get pregnant. Nothing, zip, nada...just miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. And then surgery after surgery.

    I can't compare my pain to yours, but I believe it's just as potent and heart-wrenching as any other kind of pain regarding children.

    Here's the thing...I've done everything "right": stayed healthy, don't smoke or drink, have a college education, married a great guy, and tried to get a jump start on having kids (even put off some great job offers to not stress myself out). And here I am, 3 years later...my stomach scarred up, my hormones out of whack, and empty arms. At what point do I give up this dream? I'm a good girl who can't have children.

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  27. P.S. BeeHive, now that I have processed your comment to the extent of fully separating the substance from the personal attack, your point about trying to be too predictive or controlling of the outcome for my son is valid. As a parent I am aware of the dangers of doing that, envisioning his future without taking into account his own feelings on the matter.

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  28. I don't think there could ever be that kind of comraderie between first parents and those who have struggled unsuccessfully with infertility, mostly because those who are infertile seem to end up having such disdain and anger towards those who are able to have children.
    And then once the infertile becomes an adoptive parent, the balance of power is just too great to overcome.

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  29. Kate: I'm sorry to hear about anybody in the kind of lonely grief that you describe--actually no matter their age.

    I do know that infertility comes from a lot of reasons, and affects younger women too, like you, who have been trying to have a child at the right age. If you do decide to adopt, will you consider truly giving a home to a child who needs one, that is, a child in foster care who has been overlooked so far for reasons like age? Because "infertility" of aging-out women is the main reason that "there aren't enough babies" to fill the demand, there is societal pressure on some women to relinquish their babies, when mother and child should stay together.

    While we write for everyone, I rarely think of women wanting to adopt as our readers. Thanks for commenting and reminding us.

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  30. "Because "infertility" of aging-out women is the main reason that "there aren't enough babies" to fill the demand, there is societal pressure on some women to relinquish their babies, when mother and child should stay together."


    I would think that someone would choose adoption as a result of religious beliefs, or other personal reasons that caused that person to choose adoption. Medical reasons such as cancer, perhaps: women who have been previously diagnosed w/ breast cancer shouldn't get pregnant for medical reasons for fear of bringing back the cancer.

    Egg donation costs less then adoption and embryo donation costs a fraction of the price. If the infertility is age related, embryo or egg donation fixes that problem.

    I should think that infant adoption will become less popular in the future, except among religious people and people who are medically unable to carry, can afford adoption, yet are unable to afford surrogates. (If someone can afford adoption, they can usually afford a surrogate.)

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  31. One final comment about female infertility and adoption.

    These are the facts. Men adopt more frequently then women. They adopt at double the rate. This makes sense when you think about which couples are most likely to adopt. Gay men cannot use sperm donors as gay women may choose to do.

    "In 2002, about 2 percent of the adult population aged 18-44, or nearly 2 million persons, had adopted children (4). More than twice the percentage of men (2.3) had adopted a child compared with women (1.1). These percentages represent approximately 1.3 million men and 613,000 women.
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db12.htm

    I would like to gently suggest that it is easy to criticize those with infertility, specifically infertile women, because there is a cultural stigma against infertility that goes back centuries. Women who could not have children were often seen as "evil" because they were inherently disruptive to sexual and gender norms. Those women were not able to perform the function of bearing children, and thus disrupt the patriarchal system of land ownership and inheritance. Women were often blamed for their infertility and were more likely to be accused of witchcraft.

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  32. Anon 6:53:

    Surrogacy and egg donation and embryo donation may "fix the problem" of creating a child for parents who desire one but then opens another set of concerns and possibly unanswerable questions about self and identity for that child or children created.

    What about long-term family medical history? What about getting rid of anonymous "donation"? These children deserve better.

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  33. "I think it is important to note that one of the comments spoke to trauma and PTSD caused to first parents and infertiles alike. I assume this was spoken by an infertile as there was no mention of the inevitable trauma and PTSD to the adoptee. So telling."

    Missed this comment. I study trauma.

    Trauma is obviously not restricted to only two types of experiences. I am not sure what is "telling," but trauma can manifest in many situations in which the person feels extreme stress and lack of control. It is variable for the individual; individual A may acquire PTSD to a situation in which person B does not.

    From a personal point of view, I have no connection to adoption.

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  34. After these comments started about infertility, I remembered that at the AAC conference referenced above one program I attended stood out:

    One presentation is particularly bothersome. The evening before, I noticed a woman in a wheel chair with a toddler. She was impossible to miss, but I didn’t know her and no one I hung out with mentioned her. Yet when I walked into the program on donor children, lo! She’s the speaker, telling how she decided to conceive a child with anonymous donor sperm. All she, and the child who was there with her, would ever know was that the father in question was Greek. I am appalled—this at a conference supposedly devoted to truth in adoption? To working towards all adopted people being able to learn their original identities? And someone chose to showcase this woman, who brought a child in the world with only half a known heritage? Afterward, we the audience sit in stony silence for a long moment during the quesiton-and-answer period; finally Annette Baran, one of the pioneers of reform, gets up and tells the woman what she had done was not only opposed to the purpose of the AAC, it was furthermore, just plain wrong. Several of us are ready to burst into applause as we wait for the woman to respond. She has no answer for Annette.

    Another note: While barren might suit the negative description of a childless woman in the past, today that hardly seems a word that anyone would use, as more women chose to be childless. The negative connotations are being shed--except I suppose, for those women who feel their purpose in life, their desire in life, is to be a mother. I have several friends who did not have children, but interesting careers instead and fulfilling lives just the same, and only one feels deeply sad about not having had children. Just last week Time magazine did a cover story about couples (and women) opting out of motherhood. Considering the population problem Earth faces today, that is undoubtedly a good thing.

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  35. "Surrogacy and egg donation and embryo donation may "fix the problem" of creating a child for parents who desire one but then opens another set of concerns and possibly unanswerable questions about self and identity for that child or children created.

    What about long-term family medical history? What about getting rid of anonymous "donation"? These children deserve better."

    My answer went to the question of infertile heterosexual couples and their role in creating "adoption demand."

    For those concerned about adoption, the rise of 3rd party reproduction in both heterosexual and gay couples may or may not be of interest, depending on how you feel about those various issues. It's simply my take on the historical trends.

    In the U.S.A., in terms of anonymity, people may choose a known donor who is willing to be contacted, share medical information, and stay in contact.

    Reputable clinics include medical history back to grandparents, ethnic heritage, schooling/professions of relatives, and other information about the egg donor (interests, profession, other details.) And if the egg donor is in contact, one can share medical information as it occurs. In a recent development, the egg donor bank being set up for Australia allows contact with donors at age 18, to abide by Australian laws.

    The question went to the role of infertile people in "adoption demand." Technically speaking, 3rd party reproduction will lower "adoption demand" for those people who have uterine environments who can carry. I was curious about the focus on people with medical infertile issues versus other populations who adopt, when adoption demand is quickly rising within other populations (the gay community, for example) and infertile couples are increasingly moving towards 3rd party reproduction. My guess is that these trends are too new to be really accounted for in adult experience.

    **Gay parents are increasingly involved in 3rd party reproduction and adoption. This is how gay families will be growing their families in the future, as people have left the closet and are less likely to be involved in heterosexual relationships early in life.

    20 years from now there will be a large population of donor and adopted children who were raised by gay parents chatting on twitter (blogs are now for us oldsters; even facebook is now being called "mombook" by the kiddos). Those young adults will be speaking about experiences specific to their lives and I would guess the historical context will be different then those those people who were adopted in in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

    **On last note on trauma. People caught in medical systems for long periods of time grow vulnerable to trauma, for a variety of reasons.

    **Certainly I agree many people do not want to raise children and live that way by choice. Two of my friends recently arrived home from a bike trip in France. They never wanted children, seem quite happy and live an enviable life.

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  36. In Great Britian, anonymous sperm donation is outlawed. It has cut dramatically back on the number of sperm-donor children:

    "Britain in 2005 changed the law protecting anonymous sperm donors and allowed children to learn the identity of donor fathers - one reason, fertility experts say, there are fewer donors now.

    "The only countries that seem to have enough sperm are those that pay - like the U.S. and Spain - or the countries that retain anonymity," said Allan Pacey, a member of the British Fertility Society that warned of the shortage in the British Medical Journal. (We do not see this as a "warning," but a good thing.)

    "In the countries that have removed anonymity ... there seems to be a problem," he said.

    In 1991, Britain logged 503 sperm donors, according to figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. In 2000, there were 325, and in 2006 - the year after the law was changed - the number dropped to 307."

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  37. In practice there isn't a shortage of sperm, because the USA exports a lot of sperm to clinics around the world. There's a lot of ethnic and racial diversity in the US, and the selection is quite large, which makes American sperm desirable. Known donors who can be contacted at 18 are also available, so there's choices that people like. And some countries require known donors for import.

    Like the UK, Australia has also passed anonymity laws. There's also a "shortage" of sperm in Canada, but almost all Canadians use American sperm, so in practice it's easy to get.

    “There are babies from our donors all over the world,” says Allard. “It is so interesting to think about. Eighteen years from now, I’m going to have someone from Australia contacting me to make contact with their genetic father. I’m super excited for that.”

    http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/2/4145560/come-and-get-it-how-sperm-became-one-of-americas-hottest-exports

    ICSI, invented in the late 1990s, has made sperm donation much less common with heterosexual infertile couples because sperm can be inserted into eggs during IVF. Most men aren't infertile, they are sub-fertile.

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  38. To Anonymous (August 11 @12:04 PM),

    I think there will be superficial differences between donor-conceived babies and adoptees. But, overall, I think similar issues will surface.

    Most people are interested in their genetic heritage. Donors who give their eggs and sperm are still largely allowed anonymity. This much change.

    And, while having medical history given at the time of donation is better than nothing, let's face it: most donors are young, and their own parents are still relatively young. Therefore, most family health issues won't yet be evident. This is why any egg or sperm donations must be done with full transparency.

    No more shadow b-parents. It didn't work for adoptees. It won't work for donor-conceived children.

    There are just too many reasons that adoptees and donor-conceived children have a right to know and a need to know about their biological heritages.

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  39. I am a reunited adoptee. I thought I was doing the right thing when I became an egg donor- my belief was that by helping an infertile couple I might be keeping that couple from taking an infant from a family. I thought that the important part was the that was carried by my mother; I didn't connect with the need for medical and genetic history at the time. How wrong I was! I have registered on the donor registry and filed a waiver of confidentiality at the agency I worked with. A complete genetic testing was done as I knew just limited info on my father's side. But I felt that I used a reputable agency- and part of the contract that I made a requirement was that they would make sure the couple agreed to tell the child and that they were aware they could contact me at any time with questions. I was young and naïve and of course I now have concerns that my requests will not be honored. I would not do it again, and while I can't say that it was a mistake (I do know twins were born and no child is a mistake) I do not believe in closed records in any format- donor conceived or adoption. At 18- any adult should be able to obtain their information.

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  40. donor eggs, donor sperm...no differrent then adoption..you are giving away your son or daughter. Your parents grandchildren, your family legacy...please...how do people think thats ok?

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