But. I live amid many adoptive parents, many of them, based on what I hear, are unaware of the inner lives of adoptees, including their own children. Last week my alternate universe daughter was visiting and as she looked around a group of people at a cocktail party, she said, You must know a lot of adoptive parents--this is the kind that adopt. She was talking about professional couples, often with more money than time, with the wife who has a career just as demanding and successful (or more so) than her husband. Most did not try to have children when they were in their twenties. Many long-time second marriages. For whatever reason, they adopted in their late thirties or forties.
I simply deal with it. Sometimes it means that at least for a time, I take a step back from their lives. I found the impact of dealing with a newborn adoption was emotionally wrenching--I couldn't stop thinking about the grieving mother, wondering how this child would be when she grew up. In other words, just being around an adopted infant threw me back in time to when I was the grieving mother.
WHAT DO PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT ADOPTION?
Everybody in my circle of friends know that I have been involved in some manner in adoption reform. I'm sure some of them think I am more than a tad obsessed. Because they don't really want to know more about what is troubling about adoption, they don't look me up on the Internet or ask. And I admit that until I know the lay of the mindset of the adoptive parents, I am not bringing up adoption as a topic of discourse. They love their children and that is that.
Yet I assume that most of the highly educated people I know have a modicum of information about the rules that govern adoption today. My being quoted in the New York Times piece a week ago--which is the paper everyone reads where I live--surprised some of them.
So it was with dismay that I learned a few days after that that an adoptive mother of my acquaintance--a bright, appealing woman who is involved in the community--expressed ignorance on the issue of sealed birth certificates. Upon learning that what I was fighting for had something to do with "birth certificates," she remarked to a friend that she didn't understand what the issue was. She said something along the lines of--That's odd--my [adopted] kids [two] have their birth certificates.
Both of her two adopted children are in the twenties; both were adopted in New York. The oldest lives in a distant state; the other lives at home. Unless an Act of God intervened in their cases, they do not have their original birth certificates. The adoptive mother's name is on their birth certificates, as well as her (former) husband's, as if they conceived their adopted children and she gave birth to them. How clueless is she? I was alarmed and dismayed. If this intelligent woman doesn't know squat about the reality of this aspect of her now-grown children's lives, no wonder we can't get these laws to fade away faster. If she doesn't know this, what hope is there?
HER CHILDREN HAVE THEIR 'BIRTH CERTIFICATES'
I wondered if she overheard one of those kids recently mention with some certainty how many DNA markers we get from each parent. A step-parent adoption was under discussion at a recent luncheon when he offered this information, and maybe I'm reading into it, but it occurred to me that he must have more thoughts about his natural/first/birth parents than just knowing that bit of biological data. A week or two later I heard the comments that her kids "have their birth certificates." You can fill in the rest.
I don't know this young man well at all. He probably wouldn't recognize me if I ran into him in the street. I don't know his adopted sister at all. Their adoptive mother apparently knew where the girl's birth mother lived (nearby), and soon after the child went to the adoptive home, was initially terrified that the birth mother would want to come and "get her back." I feel for the "child," I feel for her first mother. I don't know anything else, but again I was struck how different hearing of the woman's fears sounds to ears with different experiences. I thought: Oh, too bad the mother couldn't. Others would think: Well, what a relief that she didn't. How could a woman (ie, the first mother) do that? How cruel! I thought: too bad for the girl that her natural mother didn't come back and get her.
Our fears and experiences rule our perceptions. They fly from our deepest feelings. I've often exhorted first mothers and adoptees to make known their feelings, but I'm all too aware of how--in the emotionally charged world of adoption--it is difficult to be public. It's like being stripped bare and exposed to the bone to people who may only be critical. I still remember hearing that someone pounded the table in anger when I first came out of the closet.
As for the mother above? Apparently it will take a mighty wind to reach her and others like her. We can't all be on soapboxes all the the time--I avoid the subject with people I know not well, or what their feelings might be. I do not bring the subject up with adoptive parents unless asked, or with people I know who would like to see me go quietly into the night. I must have a life that isn't all adoption all the time. I must have a life that isn't constantly disputatious. This is exhausting enough as it is.
But we must do what we can, where we can, however we can. Jane talked to an aspiring legislator the other day who had never thought about the issues involved, even though she has an adopted sister (from China). We--both mothers (natural and adoptive) and adoptees need to drive the story into the media as often as possible. Twelve states now have adoptee access to original birth records in one way or another, though many have that noxious birth parent veto. Change is coming--let's give it a kick in the pants.--lorraine
TO THOSE WHO ARE SEEING ADS FOR ADOPTION AGENCIES, I APOLOGIZE. WE ARE TRYING TO FIX THE PROBLEM WITH BLOGHER, BUT THE ADS COME UP AUTOMATICALLY BECAUSE OF THE WORD "ADOPTION." LET US ASSUME THAT THE ADOPTION AGENCIES WOULD BE JUST AS HORRIFIED AS WE ARE TO SEE THEIR ADS AT FIRST MOTHER FORUM, BUT THE AUTOMATIC REFERRAL OF ADS DOES INDICATE WHAT THE AGENCIES ASSUME ABOUT THE USE OF THE WORD, 'ADOPTION.'
FOR SUMMER FUN
The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind....Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction." Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review
We do have lives other than that involved in adoption. Yes, amazing but true. IF YOU ARE READING HERE, AND ORDER FROM AMAZON--NO MATTER WHAT--PLEASE DO IT BY CLICKING ON THE BOOKS HERE. Thank you.