Sunday my story was included in an article by Amy Wang about Oregon's 2014 law allowing adoptees and natural parents to access their court adoption files. These files allow mothers to learn the adoptive name of their child and the names of the adoptive parents.
NEED TO CREATE GREATER AWARENESS OF THE LAW
Only 18 natural parents have taken advantage of this first in the nation law. This low number suggests that many who could benefit from the law are unaware of it. I agreed to appear in the Oregonian article because I want to spread the word about the law. I encourage our readers to do likewise. I'm happy to answer any questions about the law. Just email email@example.com.
This is not the first time I've been in the paper. I appeared in a full page ad* in the Oregonian in 1998 with four other natural mother supporting Oregon's Measure 58. This ballot measure which passed with 57 percent of the vote gave adult adoptees the right to have copies of their original birth certificates. Over 11,000 have done so since the law went into effect in 2000.
DISCOMFORT IN BEING OUT
In truth I'm not comfortable coming out as a natural mother. I find even discussing my natural motherhood with those not connected to adoption stressful. I stayed home yesterday, watching football with my husband (Go Seahawks!). I just didn't want to risk a chance encounter with any neighbor in my condominium who may have seen the article. Tomorrow I'm scheduled to play bridge at a nearby duplicate club which has about 60 regular players. I owe it to my partner not to cancel. If anyone says "I saw you in the paper Sunday," I'll want to sink into the floor. Instead, I'll just smile and move away.
TELL OUR STORIES
Part of the reason for my reluctance at revealing this sad part of my life is that I have no excuse for what happened. I was not a teenager, I knew enough to be careful, I knew Rebecca's father could not be counted on. My mother did not kick me out of the house (in fact she never knew about my first child). I had some job skills and likely could have gotten some help from family members. I did not explore keeping my daughter, mindlessly accepting the mores of the times.
The shame that accompanied these sad events in my life lingers on even though I've been fortunate to know my daughter and her fine children. I greatly admire women like Lorraine who not only told people about her daughter but wrote a book, Birthmark, about her pregnancy, appeared in television interviews, and became a crusader for opening records. I know, though, that if I and other mothers like Karen Gjerning, and Denise Guedon who also appeared in the Oregonian article, don't tell our stories, nothing will change. The lack of natural mother stories reinforces the widely held opinion that mothers fear disclosure. This allows segments of the adoption industry to oppose open records legislation under the pretense of protecting mothers from their shame.
Tomorrow, I'll just nod and smile when someone tells me they saw the story and just concentrate on playing a sharp game of bridge.--jane
*Measure 58 ad from November, 1998 Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the full ad which included my picture and that of four other first mothers.
New Oregon law makes adoption records easier to access than ever --online edition -- available to everyone
Adoption story-blanks are filled in -- print edition available to Oregonian subscribers only
For more about the law see Oregon to allow first mothers easier access to child's adoption records
On a personal note, today is my sister Lucy's birthday. I spent about eight moths at her home in Orange County, California after Rebecca was born and surrendered in San Francisco. I am so thankful to Lucy and her late husband, Mike, that I had that opportunity to rest and sort things out. With their encouragement I went to law school, something few women at the time.
Lorraine here: Great, Jane@! Congratulations! Every story always leads to more action, more searching, more activists, more pressure on legislatures to change the damn law! I believe my name is there somewhere among the 500. I remember being contacted to add my name. I love the ad.
Post script: It was great at bridge yesterday. I walked in the door and a woman ran over and told me what a wonderful article it was. Soon I was surrounded, treated as a celebrity. Some told me how brave I was; others that they were thrilled to know someone on the front page. One woman gave me a copy of the article she had clipped out, thinking I would like extra copies. All in all, a fine day although my bridge game was not great -- came in 13th out of 14.