How different the climate today is regarding adoption from when I and others relinquished in the Baby Scoop Era (post WW2 and the early Seventies) was clearly demonstrated as we talked among ourselves. Young and vulnerable women of all ages are pushed into thinking that giving up their child is the "right" thing to do for more reasons than infected our thinking back in the 1960s. Far too many who meet the prospective adoptive parents end up feeling they don't want to disappoint those "nice people" who would be such a great family--if only they had a baby. They have been calling and expressing their concern for the well-being of their "baby mama" during the pregnancy, and lulling them into believing that they, the adoptive parents, are truly concerned about the feelings and well-being of the pregnant woman.
|Barbara Thavis and Lorraine. Barbara organized our |
excellent accommodations at the airport Hilton.
Another told of the adoptive family--extended family, that is--who ended up in her room at the hospital shortly after she gave birth, and basically had a pizza party to celebrate the baby she was giving them. If ever that sounds like a nightmare, that is it. Others felt coerced by family, lack of financial support, the family-to-be exerting pressure to give up the baby. Others talked about adoptions that were supposed to be open but were quickly slammed shut, or nearly so. Lawyers who assure pregnant teens they are representing them find out all too soon the lawyer is really ONLY there for the adopting parents.
|Lorraine with Emm Paul|
What united us all was the profound sense of loss that leads to unresolved grief after adoption enters it. One women lost her child because she had no family support or other resources, but seven years later, graduated from college--with a second child--and became a math teacher. One woman lost her child only because of poverty and a lack of support from her family. A first grandmother thought it would be best for her daughter to go to college rather than raise a child, but then saw how her daughter crumbled after relinquishment, and how the loss of the child affected everyone in the family, as well as the young man who is the father.
|Lisa Nelson-Woolsey and Linda Russell Kats|
|CUB President Patty Collings, Lynn Johansenn and moi|
Now she has a whole closet full of diapers and other necessities to give to women who need practical help. Lisa, one of the founders of Saving our Sisters, and first grandmother Linda Russell Kats of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma gave a joint presentation about the Christian attitude towards adoption--but with a bent to preserving mothers and families, not rendering them apart. Linda is a therapist specializing in adoption issues. Several women spoke of trying to find therapists who understood their grief, but found them wanting in understanding our particular sorrow that does not lead to resolution or "adjustment to the situation."
Lynn Johansenn, SOS founder and conference organizer, told stories of rescue and help to first mothers who needed practical help, because that is often what it comes down to: Women lose their babies because they have no where to turn for assistance. Often their families turn their backs and without their support and financial aid, they lose their children.
|Pamela Salela and Carolyn Pooler|
Carolyn Pooler of Kansas City, who has been active in the Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement, and is adopted herself, was giddy with joy at having recently found her father's family through DNA. Andrea Kelley, adoptive mother, told me she found one of her children's mothers in Ethiopia, and has founded an organization to reconnect family members separated by adoption. Expect to hear more from Andrea later.
My educated guesstimate is that at one point or another, every one in the room had a tear or two in their eyes as the stories of loss tumbled out, one after another. Some of us like myself have been talking about losing our children a zillion times over the years, but in this sympathetic atmosphere, I got teary myself more than once--even during my reading from my memoir, which hasn't happened before. Others who came had never met another woman who said she was a first mother before, and there we were--strong and standing in spite of our loss, new mothers and old, from all walks of life, political leanings and spiritual beliefs. With camaraderie and understanding we bonded, over intimate talks, over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thank you, Lynn and Lisa!
It is so healing to be with other women who have walked in our shoes.--lorraine
For information on how you can help, Saving Our Sisters has a Facebook page. Practical and/or financial help is always needed. Always.
Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
"... a fascinating narrative and Lorraine Dusky’s convincing and self-aware indictment of the interlocking pieces in the 1960s machine that forever scarred her life and that of the daughter she surrendered in a reluctantly decided and reluctantly closed adoption."--Marianne Novy, author of Reading Adoption: Family and Difference in Fiction and Drama