' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Review: The Wages of Adoption

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: The Wages of Adoption

I was thrilled to get this new review of Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption, last night when I was in Manhattan with another natural mother, Barbara Monckton Thavis (more about that in a later blog). It's from a total outsider to our world, I am pretty sure (don't know her and yes, the bio makes her female).

One note: The reviewer says I do not fully diminish the power of non-genetic bonds--never intended to!  The kind of mother/daughter relationship I have with my alternate-universe daughter* Jennifer taught me the power of bonding in a way I could not have imagined without her coming into my life, and I know other first/birth mothers feel this way, despite the loss we share for a child. Anyway, the review. In order not to steal their work, jump to the website of the East Hampton Star:

The Wages of Adoption
By Evan Harris


26 comments :

  1. The outcome is even worse when you give birth to a boy. They never want to find you. I believed at the time that I was doing the greater good. I gave him life and yet all I read is that I shouldn't have bothered. He will never forgive me or understand what I did. I would not change what I did but lord almighty was I fed a load of crap about doing the RIGHT thing.

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    1. My son looked for me.

      I think you should be careful about making such sweeping statements as they can make people really lose heart.

      I hear you about being fed the 'do the right thing for your child' bullshit. I heard it too.

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    2. Unknown, I hope that your son's perspective might change with the passage of time - although I realize it might not. He is entitled to his viewpoint and his feelings. I placed two sons for adoption, one found me after 35 years, and stated to me that after having children of his own, he realizes how hard the decision must have been for me. My other son wants nothing to do with me, and will not even entertain any discussion about me, and he recently stated (not to me) that he will never understand how anyone could give away their kids. I wrote a letter to him almost a year ago, which he never answered. I imagine the pain is just too much, and he sees this as an unhappy chapter in his life which is now closed. I accept that, and - as a matter of fact - I have no choice. That is how it's going to be. Maybe it's naive but I hope, eventually, for a shift or change.

      You were robbed of your son, and he was robbed of you. I wish you the best, and still hope that time will do something to soften his viewpoint. But you did your best with the understanding that you were doing something good, not bad, for your child.

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  2. Anyone who ever thinks that a male child will ever think what you did was in their best interest is out of their minds. I was fed this line of bs in 1978 about giving my son up for adoption. Catholic charities. Have you ever noticed there are no websites just for boys looking for their mothers?

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    1. I would not generalize that much, but "I was forced", "You were abducted", "They stole you", "They were too strong and I too weak", "It was the only way to save your life" seem to me the sort of answers a man would expect from a loving found mother to "Why?". I would say that "Loving choice", "best interest", and the like communicate continued rejection. Please go for something "normal", like having been brainwashed, rather than that you thought it in his best interest while you were sane and sound of mind.

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    2. Excellent point, Theodore. I would add at the same tine take responsibility. "I believed the social workers, parents, etc. but I was wrong."

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    3. Taking on responsibility, good idea, but don't overdo that, certainly not at first, and if possible cast your responsibility as your weakness, your failure against a test designed to let you fail, rather than as your rejection of him.

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    4. How about just tell your own true story as best you can, whatever it is, rather than trying to either evade or take too much responsibility. Taking responsibility for your own part in the surrender as you honestly see it it always good,as Jane says, so is adding the mitigating circumstances and not forgetting the responsibility of others for what happened. The real story is seldom simple black and white.

      It would not work for me to say to my son "you were abducted" or "they stole you" because that was not true for me and he would see right through that lie. That does not mean I did not love my son and want to keep him, but circumstances were such that was not possible at the time.
      Every one of us has our own unique sad tale to tell. If our adult children cannot accept the truth, whatever it is, that is out of our control. The truth is all we have to offer, and a wise and mature adoptee, male or female, will accept that truth if honestly offered, just as we as mothers must accept their truth whether it is what we envisioned or wanted to hear or not. On both sides, it is about being willing to listen with compassion and move on from the past, not constantly rehash and set blame on anyone.

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    5. Well said, maryanne.
      I don't think that much strategy is necessary for a birth mother, as long as she is as sincere and honest as she can be, and doesn't let fear be her main driving emotion. As a birth mother I feel sad and guilty about not keeping my children. However, I did, and still do, believe that it would help them to have a happier and stable life. Having said that, a lot of forces can be in play at the same time, which results in our children being taken from us, albeit by our own decision. We wouldn't have arrived at this decision if the general outlook were not so bad for us and our children. No one would.

      If you let your conscience be your guide, as they say, the conversation becomes much simpler and is off to a good start, no matter the eventual outcome, good, bad or indifferent.

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    6. Maryanne and Adoption Digger, high five for your comments :-)

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    7. Thanks Anon, and New and Old, I know how difficult your situation was with your kids being older. "Let your conscience be your guide" is all any of us can do, no matter what our circumstances at the time of surrender. There is no place for strategy or game playing in any authentic relationship, which is what we all want with our kids.

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  3. My boy said he probably would not have looked for me, but who knows because I found him when he was very young. However, he does not blame me, is not angry even though his adoptive family was not great, and we now have a loving relationship. I too was fed a load of crap about saving my child from me, but in the end I was, to quote C.S. Lewis, "surprised by joy" at the wonderful man my son turned out to be. Not all male adoptees are bitter or vindictive. Some of the angriest adoptees are female, just read the adoption blogs.

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    1. Maryanne, as you know I am thrilled for you as I know what a struggle it has been. I often wonder what causes such bitterness and anger for some and not for others? All first mothers I know were fed the load of crap about saving the child and of course we thought we were making the loving decision. Many of us, myself included, were teenagers and unable to support ourselves. Since this is so widely known (or is it?) , one would think that the adopted person would direct any anger at the industry versus the mother/father.

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  4. To Mo and unknown. That was not my experience with my son, who found me. I hardly dare to tell you that he is kind and considerate, and we have had over ten years of a warm and loving relationship.

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    1. I have a warm, affectionate, funny and confiding relationship with my son too. We are, in his words, 'very close'. However, I sometimes detect flashes of anger and dismissiveness which feels both understandable (he was given up for adoption) and unfair (I was sixteen) - I doubt he is even aware of these having escaped from him. I also feel the blast of profound compassion and empathy from him too which moves me to tears - for him and his kindness, and for me and our loss. We are loving and close, but at different times we each peer into the unfathomable abyss that adoption has introduced to our lives, and in those times I think our energies are reserved for keeping ourselves from falling into its pit. I do know that our love and connection with each other is very healing for us both.

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  5. From my experience, men are less likely to search, are more able to sluff off the impact of their adoption; but those who do decide to search and connect are doggedly determined and once stated, do not veer off course, as I have known many women do. Every adoptee, male and female is impacted by adoption; how they react is a matter of genes, education, emotive response, etc. Maryanne's son and their shared history is a good example of how things may play out.

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    1. My story is certainly a good example of "you never know" and "it ain't over til it's over".But so far I have not heard any others much like it in the details, finding the child so young, so many years of silence, finally such acceptance by a gentle, grounded and forgiving person, and the final twist, becoming an adoptive grandma when this son and wife adopted. Stranger than fiction certainly, as so many stories are. I am having a great time shopping for presents for my grandkids including a kid's book about Rosa Parks, and lots of cute toys.

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    2. Shopping for grandkids is an absolute delight! Tony and I are going to "Britt's" graduation from college next week, and one of the things that she asked specifically if we could do was go shopping for her present. Well, it will be for Christmas rather than graduation because I am giving her a family heirloom for graduation. Smiley face here!

      Have fun, maryanne, it is something that some of us get to enjoy.

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    3. You have fun too at your granddaugter's graduation! Shopping for gifts is indeed fun, especially for the little girl as I had no daughters. Dolls and doll clothes, Yayyy.Action figures for the little boy is easy, one of my grown sons still collects them. But my grandson's other interest is football, that I know nothing about, none of my kids were into team sports, nor was Mike, but we are learning to support what our kid likes, which I think is is vital especially in adoption. Encourage them to be who they are.

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  6. I'm kind of surprised you liked this review. If it were my daughter, and he said these things about her without actually knowing her, or her demons--whatever they were--I'd be mighty pissed. He mentioned *fashion* as part of your bonding. I felt that was dismissive.

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  7. The reviewer does specifically mention my daughter's demons--leaving out the sexual abuse at the hands of her grandmother's live-in partner, which added to her woes--and how she interacted with others. My daughter was not sweetness and light.

    A memoir is not worth the paper it's printed on if it doesn't tell the truth. Our reunion like most of them we read about here was complicated; we had to deal with the aftermath and the vicissitudes of being adopted. The reviewer did not misrepresent the book.

    Fashion and style is part of my life, Jess, and I make that clear in the book. If it had been "food" I would have written about that. Stylistically, my daughter and I were...er, cut from the same cloth. I would have preferred she used the word style, but that's very small potatoes.

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  8. Just call me oscar(ette)December 5, 2015 at 11:04 PM

    Not wanting to deflate your euphoria, sorry, the review came across as condescending, patronizing, and minimizing. Some of the words she used were dismissive to some (if not most) of the points you try to make. At least it seemed that way to me. I mean the references you point to in the book are not YOUR personal opinions. If I had just read that being raw in adoption loss, I would have made the assumption that the writer of the review was a 'well-versed' adoption advocate. Even not being 'raw' now, I still feel it was written by someone who 'promotes', or at least sides with adoption practices, with how some of it triggered me. Maybe I read it wrong.

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    1. Hmmm. I didn't read it that way, and I just reread to see if I could see your perspective, but I still did not. Birthmark had several reviews from quite unhappy readers (sometimes identified as adoptive parents or outraged adoptees) and they of course were negative. (I put some of them in Hole♥). When a writer comes along and challenges the accepted wisdom (adoption is good, always) it is hard to get anything other than: that is HER personal opinion. Overall I think it is a good review--when you praise the writing ("both catchy and absorbing," "command of the language and adds a healthy dose of humor to corral her emotion around the issues into a cogent, well-paced narrative") note the humor, say that the Facts & Commentary sections are "mini opinion pieces serving to highlight and extend the ideas about adoption Ms. Dusky explores throughout the book" you do not have a reviewer being dismissive.

      Perhaps because I have been in journalism a long time, am a theater critic myself, have reviewed books for several publications (and lived with a longtime book reviewer), I understand the mindset of a reviewer not invested in the issue being explored.

      Overall, I saw it as a review that might entice some adoptive parents or adoptees to read the book. And that is the ultimate goal: to change people's minds about adoption. I have had several acquaintances tell me that I brought up ideas regarding adoption that they never had considered before--the damage relinquishment does to the birth mother, or the sense of abandonment adoptees unconsciously absorb and the impact of that.

      I read it as a thoughtful review that was largely positive. If it gets readers to the book itself, it is a good review for the writer of the book.

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    2. I read it the same way as you Lorraine.

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  9. Just call me oscar(ette)December 5, 2015 at 11:09 PM

    Oh, and "The Wages of Adoption"? What, like the ''wages of ----- sin''? Oh, such a 'kind' review.

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  10. OT but important: This will probably not mean anything to most of you newer people, as adoption reform has no history and people fade and vanish so quickly without a trace, but a great lady of adoption reform has died. Carol F. Gustavson of Hackettstown NJ passed away on Dec.2 at the age of 85. She had suffered for many years from Alzheimer's disease but was once one of the most active people in adoption reform.

    Carol was the adoptive mother of four children, Jeff, Gary, and Sue, adopted as infants, and Cindy who she took in as a troubled teen and adopted as an adult. Carol was the founder of Adoptive Parents For Open Records in the 80s when so few adoptive parents supported our cause. She helped all her children search and reunite when they were young people, something nobody was doing at the time. She was a member of CUB, other groups, went to demonstrations for open records with her big APFOR banner, spoke out constantly, and was a good friend to many of us birthmothers and adoptees. Carol walked the walk as well as talking the talk. She was also an early supporter of gay rights, her oldest son Jeff is a survivor of many years HIV positive thanks to new drugs, and her daughter Cindy is a lesbian out for many years. Carol and her husband Russ were active in adoption reform until her cruel illness made it impossible to continue. She was a woman of deep faith which sustained her through many troubles. Now she is at peace, but she leaves a legacy of courage and love that deserves to be remembered and honored. Carol was in every way that matters a real mother. May she now rest in peace, "she has run the race, she has completed the course, now she is home." Learn about her, remember her, and carry on.

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