' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum

Thursday, October 5, 2023

RIP: The fire behind adoption reform, Florence Fisher

Florence Fisher, the spark plug who ignited the adoption-reform movement in 1971, died peacefully on Sunday, October 1. She was 95, and in failing health for several months. 
While she has long been retired from active work in adoption, she founded the largest adoptee-rights organization, Adoptee Rights Liberty Movement, better known as ALMA, which at its heyday in the Eighties had 50 chapters in cities large and small across America and about 50,000 members. At the time, it was the largest national reunion registry, numbering about 340,000 searching adult adoptees, natural/first/birth mothers and fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and others hoping to find family members. It operated out of walk-up couple of rooms in a midtown Manhattan office building, staffed largely by volunteers and Florence, who welcomed all who climbed those stairs. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

A small snapshot of adoption awareness creeping into the news



Two obituaries in the August 6 Oregonian caught my eye. The first of a woman, Kathleen, born in 1933. She majored in Home Economics at Oregon State College; in 1954 her studies culminated in a ”Home Ec Practice Home,” a six week live-in course where each week a student was assigned as cook, housekeeper, or baby-tender of an actual toddler…”  Kathleen became an adoption social worker.

 Adoption agencies placed babies entrusted to them for adoption in these college “practice homes” both to give students baby-tending experience, part of the essential education of young women along with baking and sewing, and to evaluate the babies to see if they were suitable for adoption. I wrote about practice babies on FMF in 2011.  

The second obituary was of a man, Robert, born in 1953, 20 years later. He and his wife “raised an amazing daughter, Hannah…. Bob also had the opportunity to share a relationship with his biological son, Steve … and his granddaughter, Kennedy.” It’s likely that the son was placed for adoption as an infant and, thanks to the search movement and the opening of records was able to unite with his father. 

Similarly, Lorraine was acknowledged as her daughter Jane's birth mother in her 2007 obituary in the Wisconsin newspaper that carried it. Her adoptive family or husband in Wisconsin had passed it along to the funeral home as well as the newspaper.  Thus Jane's obit carried the full truth of her life, rather than pretending that her life began with adoption. One can hope that the practice becomes more common as time passes and people acknowledge that adoptees have a life--and a family history--before adoption. Life begins at birth, not adoption. 

With the first obit, we have an example of how a woman with little to no experience about the impact of adoption on both the adoptee and the natural mother would affect their lives became an adoption social worker. Later, we have a recognition of the man being a birth father of a child who was relinquished for adoption, and even earlier, of a birth mother being acknowledged in her daughter's death notice. 

A snapshot, seemingly minor, of how society has changed for the better. -- jane

A late PS from lorraine, who happened upon her wedding announcement to Anthony S. Brandt in the New York Times on September 21, 1981...and realized that it put her connection to adoption fair and square: 

The bride, a freelance writer and a former senior editor of Town & Country magazine, will retain her name. She was graduated from Wayne State University. Her books include ''Birthmark,'' published by M. Evans, a personal story of having a daughter and giving her up for adoption. She has been active in the movement to open the sealed birth records for adult adoptees. 


Monday, May 8, 2023

I am obsessed with the trial of E.J. Carroll against Donald Trump

I am obsessed with the trial of E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump for defamation. She is me and I am her. I remember the era of the Seventies through the Nineties in which we newly liberated women flirted and tried to carry on like men sexually--throw off the shackles of the past. People openly flirted at the office, sexually laced jokes in nearly every setting were the usual, and we didn't let anything bother us. We were cool, smart, sophisticated. 

But we knew enough not to go to the police when we were raped.  Because we heard the cops wouldn't take us seriously, we thought...well, maybe we shouldn't have worn "hot pants" to work, maybe we did flirt a little too much...maybe--well, the cops wouldn't believe us anyway. And who wanted to be picked over by not only the police, but the D.As who wouldn't bring a case to trial, and god knows, if they did, we knew the opposition lawyers would pick up apart. 

So we carried on, as if...nothing had happened. We were women, we were strong.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Why Some First/Birth Mothers Reject Reunion, Part 2

The work of my life

Why do some mothers reject reunion? Because they have closed up that hole in their heart. It's still there, underneath the scab, but they are afraid to let anyone rip it off. Besides they haven't told...the people in their lives today.  There's more to say than I did in a previous post and so I am continuing the except from the new edition of Hole In My Heart, Love and Loss in the Fault Lines of Adoption, which to the end of the day is on sale for $2.99 in ebook.  Now about those mothers:

...These women may have told their partners. Or not. They may have told any other children they had. Or not. They may not have had other children. They may have told their best friends. Or not. Cousins and more distant family members may know of the birth and adoption. Or not. Having found no succor from their mortified families throughout the pregnancy, birth, and relinquishment, they never talk to them of it. Neighbors and work friends probably do not know. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Link between Adoption and Suicide is Real

Daughter Jane and Lorraine
It was a bracing morning being brought back to reality about how the world see the woman who gave up a child for adoption. Not nicely is the short answer. 

A ten-minute morning interview for drive-to-work radio show in the New York/New Jersey area led to be being mentally whacked for having a relationship with a married man, which I did, and his having an Irish Catholic background was another reason to pile on the  criticism. She gave the listeners advice--don't have an affair with a married man, look where that led for this stupid person I'm interviewing.

We did cover that I found her, that her adoptive parents had already tried to find me, that her epilepsy was almost certainly caused by the birth-control pills I took when I was pregnant but did not know...and then she asked how my relationship with my daughter was today.

I had to say that she died. Since the next question was going to be about that--I told the truth. She died by suicide. Mincing words is not my style. I was able to say some more but since people listening today might come to the blog to read about suicide, I'm excerpting a small section of Hole In My Heart below: 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Why Mothers Reject Reunion


Besides the debatable differences on the grief scale for those involved in open or closed adoptions, there is a second issue: What happens later. And that requires looking at the impact of shame, humiliation, grief, and gossip—and the subsequent secrecy—that surrounded the mothers who relinquished their children decades ago. For months, the pregnant women, some of them high school teenagers, hid their growing bellies from the outside world. They were forced to drop out of school and go into seclusion, possibly with faraway relatives or in a maternity home—some even committed to psychiatric institutions—all to shelter their families from the ignominy of the unwed and unwanted pregnancy. Every day was a reminder of how disgraceful it was to get pregnant outside marriage. Knowing that they were going to relinquish their babies to adoption, birth itself was sad, harrowing in the present and haunting in the future. 

Monday, January 2, 2023

Barbara Walters was no fan of adoption refom


While the media is rightfully pouring ink and airtime out over the death of trailblazer Barbara Walters at 93, I'm reading about her and looking for somewhat different references than the general public: her relationship to adoption. Walters adopted a daughter, Jacqueline, in 1968, two years after I gave up my daughter for adoption.

By 1976 Walters was hosting a show that would be the prequel to The View. Called Not for Women Only, she presided over a panel of experts, with knowledgeable audience members sitting at round tables close to the front to be easily be interviewed. One day the topic was the adoption-reform movement, specifically adoptees searching for their natural mothers. Florence Fisher, the adoptee sparkplug who had ignited this tinder keg like no one before her, and I were present as those "knowledgeable" people on the subject. I'd already gone public as a woman who had relinquished a child by then, and had appeared on the Today show and in the Op-ed pages of the New York Times. Knowing the blowback I had received by coming out as one of "those women," I was expecting hostility. I have no clue who the supposed experts on the panel were--certainly there was no one espousing our point of view, most likely it was adoption lawyers and agency owners and social workers--and eventually Florence and I and a few others were able to speak. 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Law & Order: SVU tackles adoption story line with honesty

Law & Order: SVU this week dealt with Oliva Benson's adopted son's (Noah) finding a half brother nearby. Noah, 12, brimming with excitement, wants to meet him ASAP. Soon enough, Oliva and Noah drive from Manhattan to a nearby suburb to meet the boy and his adopted family, who are picture-perfect wonderful in their comfortable suburban home, decorated to the hilt for Christmas.

Big brother and Noah go off to play a video game, and when they appear for dinner, Noah asks to spend the night; Oliva stays for dinner and apple pie, but checks into the nearby motel, where the 2nd story line--about a creepy hidden camera in her room--proceeds.

What a pleasure to watch an adoption story line so realistically portrayed! Oliva lets her son guide the experience, but with some reluctance and pain as she sees his enthusiasm for a blood relative. As some point, he refers to his "real family," and you do see a tinge of ouch! from Oliva--but the son isn't looking--and she quickly agrees to what he wants.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Birth mother grief is acknowledged at last--Amy Coney Barrett may have done us a favor by acting as if it doesn't exist

Jane and Lorraine, 1982
 At last the unending grief of giving up a child to adoption is being recognized by others outside our closed circle! Today's New York Times has a piece vy Meg Bernhard about a social scientist and writer named Pauline Boss. She has been studying and writing about unresolved grief and I'm reading the piece and WHAM, I come upon these words: 

"It [unresolved grief] can take many forms, often quotidian: an alcoholic parent, who when inebriated, becomes a different person; a divorced partner, which whom our relationship is ruptured but not erased; a loved one with whom you've lost contact through immigration; or a children you've given up for adoption." 

At last. 

Later in the piece, Boss brings our issue up again in when she says that ambiguous loss is not a theory for everything, and that how people describe their loss is a key indicator whether it is ambiguous: "'Am I married or not since my husband has been missing for decades?' 'How to I answer how many children do I have when I gave up up for adoption.?'" 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Should I tell my sister the son she placed for adoption long ago is looking for her?

Lorraine Dusky
I sometimes open the New York Times Magazine and turn to The Ethicist, Kwame Anthony Appiah, to see if he's got another column about adoption, which seems to be his topic du jour on a pretty regular basis. While he proudly announces his highborn and mixed-race background, he has come down in the past for natural/birth mother privacy with the thud of insufferable and clueless righteousness. 

Today it was Bingo! again for the headline reads: "The Son My Sister Placed for Adoption Wants to Find Her." What Should I Do? 

Well, of course, I answer, Call your sister immediately and tell her! Give her the man's name and encourage her to reach out. Certainly anybody not adopted can understand the primal need to seek out one's own heritage, and help your sister, if she is hesitant,  to put herself in her son's shoes. 

I recently was involved somewhat in a similar case. A close friend (whose mother appears to have given up a child herself in France, which she kept secret from everyone until her deathbed,

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

'Give up' or 'surrender' or 'relinquish'? 'Forced' or' stolen'? The impact of culture on adoption language

A preview of the new cover of
hole in my heart. Coming soon
How we think about life and its exigencies, its ups and downs, cultural shifts and societal norms, the everyday incidents and the big moments that change the course of our lives are framed by the language we use. My daughter was born "out of wedlock," a phrase that most understand, but rarely use; yet it was commonly heard when my daughter was born--if people talked even talked about this. (Of course they did, but all very hush-hush.) 

I've never shied away from saying: I gave her up. When an acquaintance--an adoptive mother--criticized me a decade ago for using that phrase, I was quietly astonished. Quietly because I didn't want to raise a fuss--but since we had been friends, and she knew all about my story, I was surprised that even she had been influenced by the adoption industry, an industry that prefers the antiseptic sounding, "make an adoption plan." I feel now, as I did then, that I gave up: gave up on finding a different path, gave up on believing my daughter's father would leave his wife and family for us and our new family; gave up on being able to write and support myself, and a baby. I gave up, and in the process, I gave up my daughter. Society made me feel I couldn't/shouldn't keep my daughter, but at the same time, my parents did not "force" me to give her up. They did not even know about her. My social worker did not push or coerce me to leave my baby with her agency; in fact, I think she would have been relieved had the father, with whom she had some contact, changed his mind and said, Bring her home, we'll figure this out.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Mother denied visitation with son conceived with her egg

An Oregon woman who let her former boyfriend, wealthy Portland developer Jordan Schnitzer, use her eggs to create a son lost visiting rights to that son--now five--this week. Cory Sause, 38, had been able to visit her son since 2017 after a protracted court battle. 

In a 2-1 decision, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the lower court making Schnitzer, 70, the sole legal parent of the boy, Samuel. The majority opinion stated that Sause had not demonstrated a full commitment to parenting as required by Oregon's assisted-reproduction law to have parenting rights.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Surviving Mother's Day as a Mother of Loss

Here it comes again, Mother's Day, impossible to delete from the calendar or totally ignore due to the incessant ads that pop up everywhere, from the internet to the newspaper to gifts on the morning shows that are "Perfect for Mom." 

I got my hair cut today and as I was waiting to pay my bill, I heard the receptionist say to the woman ahead of me--Happy Mother's Day. The woman responded, I never had children. Neither, it turned out, did the receptionist. When she said this to the woman, I could see they shared a moment of understanding.  

When I approached the receptionist, I quietly told her Mother's Day is a painful reminder not only for women who never had children--and wanted to--but also for those whose child had died, or were like me, a woman whose only child had been relinquished and adopted. In years past I might have ignored her well-meant gesture, but I'd known her for a while and felt comfortable speaking up. Besides, she had several more days to remind other mothers of loss that this godawful holiday was upon us.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

If you don't care about your origins, why are you searching First Mother sites?

I am the daughter of a mother who was an adoptee" wrote Annie on an old FMF post. "My mother adored her parents and God help you if you'd identify them as her "adoptive parents."

Several years ago my mother sent her DNA to Ancestry.com to decipher her ethnicity and to learn medical concerns--if someone reached out to her. She had a lovely email exchange with her birth mother and genetic brother, which she shared with me, and able to answer both questions, but ultimately said she had no desire to meet them, as they were strangers to her. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Film: The Other Son poses questions of identity

Switched at birth is a fantasy that may young children imagine growing up but when it does happen--as in a 2012 case in Russia--the two families and the children have a tanged weave to unfold.

In The Other Son, a 2012 French film, the intensely human tangle is additionally knotted by who and where the two households are: one is in Israel, the other the West Bank. That's a huge wall to overcome. At once, The Other Son plays on two levels. One is the great divide between the two groups involved, as they are basically at war with one another. The other is the personal drama of finding out that the child a mother gave birth to, a child who you believed carried your blood, a child who is genetically yours, is another couple's son. You can see how this has special relevance for not only mothers like us, but also individuals raised in another family, another religion. Is identity determined by your genetic fingerprint of your biological inheritance, or by the environmental influence of where you grew up?

The switch of the two sons, just about to turn eighteen, is discovered when one of them is about to join an elite corps of the Israeli army. A routine blood test reveals Joseph cannot possibly be the son of his parents. The only answer: switched at birth, which a routine investigation soon reveals. Brought up quite privileged, Joseph is the dreamy, musically inclined son of a doctor and an army officer. He hopes to become a singer-songwriter. The couples' biological son has been raised by Arabs living in the West Bank.

Yassin, the Jewish son raised as a Palestinian, the other son, has just graduated from college in France where he is planning to return for medical school, the Israeli family learns. And his real mother is a doctor. France is a bond between the families, because the French doctor was born in France, as were her husband's parents. French is the language they speak fluently at home. The film is in French, Hebrew, English and Arabic, with subtitles as needed.

Many scenes will touch our hearts, beginning with the one when the two couples meet at the hospital and learn the awful truth. The grace and sad acceptance with which the mothers handle the situation feels very true as they share photographs of the other son, looking for resemblances. Time will show how they long to know and cherish their original son while still very much remaining the loving mother of the son each has raised. The fathers are a different story: they are concerned about their blood being raised by the "other side," and at least one of the fathers needs reassuring that the son is really his.

Eventually, after a strained first meeting of the two families at dinner, the two boys on their own find their way to visit their biological families at home. Yes, my heart leapt when the mothers first touch the sons they carried and gave birth to. And the moment when Joseph discovers that his Arab father is musical too. And when a photograph reveals that one son looks remarkably like someone else in the family. To the director's (Lorraine Levy) credit, she found actors who actually resemble one another, not the frequent mismatch we often find in movies.


While the emotions are big, the film is restrained, and the most difficult moments are sensitively underplayed with skillful acting by everyone. Particularly poignant is the moment is when Yassin returns home from Paris, before he knows the truth. His father, a mechanic, is working underneath an old red Mustang. He rolls out on his pallet, briefly greets him but does not rise, and says he will finish working on the car and see him at home. The camera follows him back under the car. This is not his son. Yet this is his son. The son he has loved and raised.

One of the ironies of the film is how easily Yassin, the true Jew raised Palestinian, with his new identity papers, is now able to cross the check points and come into Israel, and that allows the two sons to become, if not friends, friendly acquaintances. 

My mother, my daughter, my granddaughter and me
For mothers like ourselves--many who have searched for or longed for the "return" of our children--the film delves into all the psychological implications we can imagine: the difficulty of telling the sons the truth of their origins; their shocked reactions; the mothers' emotions as they hope for some sort of relationship with the son who is theirs, but also not theirs; the reaction of the Palestinian older brother who now feels that his brother, whom he loved, is one of the hated enemy.

While some may see The Other Son as a film about the exigencies of the endless Arab-Israeli conflict, and the stark differences between the lives of a middle-class family in the West Bank and one in Israel, it is much more about the emotional interactions of all the characters, and the implications for their lives. All are genuinely nice folks caught it a emotionally difficult situation.

Some of the critics have caviled that the similarities between the sons and their biological families are too convenient, not real. But we here at FMF know of these amazing synchronicities, some that have occurred in real life that would be considered too contrived to be used as fictional devices. My daughter and I could not snap our fingers on our right hands; she arrived her at 16 with the exact same sandal as I had, all the more amazing because they were made by an Italian company named Famolare with a modest output; her walk was a close version of mine, as was her heavy step; her strong suit was writing and English; she wrote poetry, as I had when I was young; she liked the easy camaraderie of pubs, as her Irish newspaper columnist father had. In photographs taken roughly at the same age, she resembles my mother so much they could be taken for each other, if not for the different hair styles. In short, in so many ways she was like me and my family, and like her natural father, Patrick, that it was as if I had raised her. Put that in a movie and the critics will rip you to shreds. We did not, however, have the great divide of a difference of political and religious opinion to conquer. Both of us were raised Catholic.

I loved this film. I am encouraging people not of our kind--the sisterhood of first mothers, and adoptees--to see this compelling snapshot of identity crisis. It is a insightful human drama that never sinks to bathos, while uncovering emotional truths that hide behind a question as simple as Who Am I? Films like this can only help to begin to open the door to the self-evident need of everyone to know the truth about themselves. Would the boys have been better off never knowing the truth? Then they would never have found someone who looked like them, who had their same talents and traits, or known the quiet joy that brings. They would have eventually wondered why am I so different from everyone else in the family? How come I don't resemble anyone? I often hear that Late Discovery Adoptees have these questions, and have them answered only when they learn the truth of their origins.

The film ends without any real resolution as to what will be in the future for these young men and their parents--both sets of parents, both lives--but it is a hopeful future. Personally, I could not have stood it any other way. My own daughter and I had many ups and downs in our relationship, but we always came back to one another. Near the end of her life, she said to me on the phone, that while she loved her other family, "I see it now, you and Tony are my real family." That might not be everyone's ending, but that's how it was for us.--lorraine
See also:

Explaining Adoption Reform Issues to the Hip, Educated Masses
Generations After Me Are A Part of Me  
Blood Relatives: Why They Matter



  1. Your account of The Other Son and it is driving me nuts--it hits home so hard. As you know, the third part of my recent novel,The Rescuer's Path, recounts the reunion between the Jewish Malca and the young woman Julie, yielded to adoption at birth while Malca grieved her Arab-American lover's death.
    And I have been very emotionally torn during the recent weeks of Israeli-Palestinian war, so that this film comes at a particularly poignant time. I plan to see it.
    Whether I'll tell my son of it depends. His adopters were, like me and his first father, of mixed heritage--one Jewish, one Central European--and so Jewishness is less important to him. And sometimes--as we here understand--he shies from being reminded of being adopted, of exactly what our relation, first mother and son, "really" means.

  2. Robin said...

    There is a story on MSN.com of two boys who were friends and didn't know they were actually brothers.

    'So happy I had a brother': Boys meet as friends, discover they are siblings"
    November 27, 2012 5:45 PM

  3. I think this is the story Robin means


Sunday, February 21, 2021

'Adoptees' Best Interests' ignored by agency

I recently published a photo of this story on Facebook, and many stated they could not read it. It dates from Feb. 6, 1982. I found my daughter in November, 1981, and we had reunited with her parents' blessing at the Madison, Wisconsin airport within days, and I spent the weekend at their home. Here is the column as it appeared in the New York Times op-ed page the following February. 
Lorraine and Jane the weekend
we met in Wisconsin, 1981.

You couldn't pick them out of a crowd, but adopted people are different. Two traits set them apart: a vague sense of disconnection or dislocation, and difficulty forming a strong sense of self. The lack of a specific heritage, which tells them how and where they fit into the cycle of life, is thought to be the root of the problem. To be missing a past might not sound like much, but that's because the rest of us have always known where we came from. ''My Mom has really gotten interested in genealogy in the last few years,'' one 16-year-old adoptee wrote me, ''and it's fine for her, but it doesn't do anything for me.''

Adoptees also lack family medical records at a time when doctors place increasing emphasis on them. At least, I told myself, that was something I could give my daughter when I gave her up for adoption.

My social worker insisted that I fill out detailed medical histories on myself and her father, and I eagerly complied. Through the years, I volunteered to pass on additional information;

Thursday, February 4, 2021

American Baby: A Riveting indictment of closed adoption in the Baby Scoop Era--Mothers manipulated, infants 'tested,' agencies lie

 Women who relinquished children for adoption in the Baby Scoop era that began after World War II through more modern times don't often talk about the experience except to each other because it roils up the bad feelings that lurk within. It's hard for us to talk about the personal horror we lived through, and if we do tell those outside of our sisters, we wonder if they really believe us, and if they do, it's likely...that they think we had a particularly bad experience and it couldn't have been like that for everyone...right? 

I wrote a thousand-word piece about why adoption was not the answer to abortion for a prestigious liberal magazine. It was accepted. It was handed off to an editor. She peppered me with questions about how birth mothers really fared in the long run, from whence my data came, could it really be true? Hadn't open adoption changed the landscape and wouldn't that make it all right? Or at least a lot better? 

She turned the rewrite, now longer, over to a college-age (I assumed) male researcher (he left in September) who had never heard such things

Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year's Day: That time of year when we long to connect

It's New Year's Day and I am reading a terrific new book about horrific adoption practices called American Baby, subtitled the "Shadow History of Adoption," but as I read about how records came to be sealed, how babies were treated as goods to be sold/given to wealthy families, my mind keeps turning to the sadness that is dripping across my Facebook feed. Adoptees and birth mothers write about the despair of not connecting, decades after birth and separation. It's that time of the year when our social impulse urges us to connect.  

Mothers are distraught because their children, now grown and found, do not want to stay in touch after a brief reunion, or a non-reunion following connection via Facebook, email or telephone. Adult children are diffident about reunion, while mothers are breast-beating in sorrow, hoping, waiting for more. Adoptees are crushed that their found biological families--mothers especially--do not embrace them because of politics, strangeness, or just...because they can. My Facebook feed, which has eliminated nearly everything but adoption-related posts, is difficult to read now. I see less often the posts of friends from outside of adoption, even family members are less likely to come up. 

And while now and then a "good" reunion story comes through, the bulk of them are overbearingly sad. I try to write a few words of comfort, but I remember the days when my daughter did not speak to me, and how much it hurt. I remember my granddaughter once telling me that my daughter once said, "We are not going to see Lorraine" anymore now. That's when a letter to my granddaughter was returned with a bright red "Refused" written on it. My daughter's husband at the time was a postman. But that separation too came to an end. 

The beach near my home 

In time, Jane would call and begin the conversation with "How are you?" as if we had spoken only days earlier. I learned not to question her about the absence, the messages not returned.  What was the point? Did I ever get used to her comings and goings? Yes, somewhat. Eventually, I grew a protective shield. I cared less because how many times--after decades--was she going to stomp on my heart? Then things would be going great and I'd let down my guard and I'd do or say something that upset her, or her adoptive mother would say or do something that hurt Jane, and Jane's way of dealing with that was to shut me out. Again. 

Adoption hurts. Beginning there and moving forward with the knowledge that nothing will ever be as if the rift between mother and child did not happen may be the true beginning of healing for both sides. Honesty, without being cruel, can help. Adoptees can say, I just can't deal with this now, it's too much, give me some time. Knowing how much pain is involved for birth/first mothers who ache for reunion, I hope that that "time" does not extend into "forever." Mothers can admit the flow of painful emotions are overwhelming, but they should recognize that the child, if wanting reunion, needs them now as much as an infant does for sustenance. Now the need is for emotional sustenance. I cannot stress enough that the pain that rejecting mothers inflict by rejecting adoptees seeking reunion and recognition in the family is as great as an infant crying out for milk. 

For some, this horrid year of Covid and death will not have ended with the tolling of the bells at last night's midnight. Some reunions will never go the way we wish them to, and we simply must make do. The people who want to be in our lives will be; you don't have to go chasing after them. In the end, we all must accept that our lives can not be detached from our past. We can overcome a great many setbacks and difficulties, but they are still with us. It is what we do with them that determines our future and our peace of heart.--lorraine

PS: Soon I'll write more about that book American Baby, A Mother, A Child and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

After The Wedding is a story about a mother and daughter reunion; Catch it On Demand

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world...is a line from Casablanca of course, but the other night I had a similar experience watching a film from On Demand that I knew nothing about....

After scrolling through what seemed like hundreds of movies to find something that wasn't a horror, action, comic book-themed movie, I came upon a drama called, After the Wedding. Info said it was about memories stirred up by attending a wedding. Hell, I'm about memories, right? Weddings, right? It starred Julienne Moore and Michelle Williams, both actors I like. I hit Play. 

Isabel, (Williams) works at an orphanage in India and is summed back to the US to secure a $2M donation for the orphanage. The rich lady (Moore as Theresa) considering the donation is insisting Isabel show up in person to make the pitch. Reluctantly, Isabel flies to New York City.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Are all parents who adopt internationally saints? Tucker Carlson thinks Amy Coney Barrett is one.

Last night I tuned into Tucker Carlson on Fox who was railing against people who are railing against Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett for suggesting that her adoption of two black children from Haiti is not at least open to circumspection. Carlson went on a lengthy discourse about how terrible it was to attack her, or basically anyone, who had adopted children from another country. Period. Of course they were children who had no parents and would have pretty much starved to death if not rescued by people in America was his message.  

In the past we've posted here at First Mother Forum about the gross negligence and crass commerce that is involved in some adoptions from foreign countries. Parents take their children to orphanages during the harvest season, thinking they can go back and get them when it is over, only to find the children gone and adopted in a far away land. Parents are duped into thinking their children will get a good education in America, and come back to them prosperous, and take care of them. But of course they never come back. Or if they do, they are such changed people that even communication is impossible without an interpreter. 

The baby flow out of Guatemala was finally staunched after the government there did their own investigation and discovered that fully half of the adoptions during a ten-year period were corrupted with kidnappings and murders, falsified birth certificates, and fake relinquishment documents. As soon as corrupt adoptions from one poor country are shut down, they pop up in another. Religious organizations are often involved, giving the business a healthy sheen of benevolence and good works. 

Carlson of course mentioned none of this. His point was straight-forward: Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, as do all adoptive parents who adopt poor children from a foreign country, have near sainthood status. I don't know anything about the circumstances of the children the Barretts adopted. How carefully the backgrounds and extended family of the two children were checked. If adoption was truly the best option because, after all, it requires taking them from their native culture and dropping them into ours. All may check out for the Barretts and I am not passing judgment on their decision. Their faith appears to be a guiding force in their lives, and indeed they may have rescued children who needed rescuing. 

Rather than the personal defense of Amy Barrett's decision to adopt twice--once shortly after she discovered she was pregnant--that was irritating, it was Carlson's enthusiastic support of all such adoptions, and the sanctified glow that it gives all adoptive parents. Surely some deserve it. There will always be babies that need homes and parents other than the ones they were born to. But Carlson's pro-foreign adoption rant reminded me once again that adoption is still seen by a large percentage of the population as an uncomplicated act of charity, without all the questions and difficulties that lie under the surface for so many of the adopted, and yes, in some cases, the bewildered parents who never intended their children to be adopted. 

Numerous memoirs belie the falsehood of such unthinking support of such adoption. Recently I write an essay--actually two--for a new book by the Vance Twins, Janine and Janette, who have chronicled not only their own story about being adopted from Korea, but brought to light numerous heart-breaking tales from children adopted from many cultures. Tucker Carlson should take a look.--lorraine

On a personal note, I expect to have the second edition of hole in my heart finished soon. My husband had a knee replacement this summer, I'm involved in a local community project, and...I just let myself get distracted from finishing. But it's coming soon! 



Encouraging intercountry adoptions with hard cash

Senate bill encourages more international adoption

Friday, July 17, 2020

Adoptees making contact with natural/biological/birth family in the time of Covid-19

Has the coronavirus pandemic changed your feelings about searching? In the midst of a life-and-death crisis, adoptees and the mothers and fathers who relinquished them certainly have thoughts about whether this is the time they should delay search or contact.

We've said it before, but we will say it again. There is no right time, nor wrong time to reach out, there is only time. When I read Joan Didion's Blue Nights, she wrote of how inopportune it was when her adopted daughter Quintana was contacted by her biological sister by mail that had to be signed for on a Saturday. I thought: What better time? It's not a work day; she's likely to be home; she's likely to have time and space to deal with the flood of emotions. Yet somehow, Didion found this unacceptable: ...[O]n a Saturday morning when she was alone in her apartment and vulnerable to whatever bad or good news (italics mine) arrived at her door, the perfect child received a Federal Express letter...."

Friday, March 6, 2020

To Amy Dickinson: First/birth mother's right to privacy is a myth

Should a man who has just discovered he has a child--DNA testing at work--reveal to his son, who he and his family have warmly welcomed, the woman who he strongly believes is his mother? It's a question that is sure to come up more and more in the future as more people join the DNA data banks.

Washington Post columnist Amy Dickinson dealt with the question the other day, but gave the father advice that is just plain wrong as well as misinformed.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

First/birth mothers: Letting out the secret of the child no one knows about; telling the family about my first child, relinquished to adoption

Jane and Lorraine, 1982
New York's Gov. Cuomo announced yesterday that more than 3,600 people applied for their original birth certificates within 48 hours of the new law that allowed adoptees to obtain a copy of their original or "pre-adoption" birth certificates. He noted the numbers of people indicated how "valuable" this "policy change" was.

Damn straight!

All this interest does mean that a great many mothers and fathers whose children were relinquished for adoption will be eventually contacted. Not every adoptee will search, but many will. Many mothers and some fathers who have been in denial about this possibility may be fearful of being contacted. Worried about "what the neighbors will think." Or, what our (kept) children think? Will I have to tell him/her who the father is? Or they may start remembering the awful time of pregnancy and relinquishment, the shame of the past, the fear of being "found out" that they were "knocked up." My god, even the language of previous times sounds judgmental, indicative of the shame of that era.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

It's a blue, blue Christmas for many connected to adoption

At my house 
Ahhh, Christmas. Carols piped in at Starbucks. Christmas specials on television. Radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music from Thanksgiving until New Years Day. Presents. Buying and wrapping. Dinners, pies that you will bake. Phone calls to family members and loved ones far away. Christmas Eve in the Polish tradition--that means me--a meal so special it has its own word: Wigilia, pronounced vi-gil-YA. It's all centered around family. 

There is no way to avoid...Christmas, the holidays, Hanukkah, Kwanza, no matter what religion you are and what your beliefs are. For mothers who relinquished their child for adoption, for individuals who were relinquished, Christmas is always full of reminders of whom is missing around the table, but never far from our thoughts. Reasons why do not matter. We live with the present. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Gov. Cuomo signs bill giving adopted people in NY their original birth certificates

My daughter (center) with her daughter, my mother
and me. My family. 
As on January 2020 individuals born and adopted in New York will be able to have a copy of their original birth certificates with the names of their biological parents, if so listed.

What a simple statement of fact.

How long it has taken to write those words. For me, nearly a half century.

Many of you already know this because it's been all over Facebook and Twitter and even the eleven o'clock news last night. Yesterday evening when I got the news from my husband--Florence called  and she told him--when I was out having tea with a friend not related to this issue. At first, sitting on the couch in our living room, I hardly reacted to his words. I had been assured the signature was coming even though the wait was driving us all nuts, and so now, I thought, Oh, thank god, Cuomo's finally signed the bill.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Finding Your Roots could be the conversation starter you need to talk about adoption

Jacket photo on Birthmark, 1979
Last night I watched as rapper LL Cool J dealt with discovering that his mother was adopted, that the grandfather who lovingly raised him was not his biological grandfather.

He was shocked and surprised because of the love and caring he felt from the grandfather, and stunned about his mother because she herself did not know she was adopted. Later, LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith) and his mother were invited into her and his biological clan, one where they found people who they looked like, and also shared a love of boxing. Both his biological grandfather and grand uncle were successful boxers. His uncle was a champion who held a title for four years. Together this newly reunited family watched an old film of his uncle and grandfather boxing, and shared photos of the boxing gym where this grandfather (or his uncle, there was a lot of information to take down) trained both white and black boxers. Apparently on the back cover of one of his albums, LL Cool J is in a boxing stance with a punch. When

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

When people say: I'm not curious about my roots....

Sometimes things pop up in the media that indicate somethings in the air at the same time I've been ruminating about same. I've been planning to write about one of the more noxious things that people have said to me--about as "out" a birth/first mother as anyone can find. Sometimes I feel they say it simply because they are irritated with the idea of me, and want to poke a stick at all I stand for, that is, openness in adoption. I'm talking about the many times adoptive parents have said: My daughter/son isn't in the least curious.... Sometimes the speaker adds: I've even asked them if they wanted to search--said I wouldn't mind--and they say, NO, they aren't curious.

Then comes the unanswerable stare: What do you think of that? What do you have to say about that, Ms. Media Maven Birth Mother....? I usually mumble something along the lines of, Well, not everyone is curious....and curiosity comes and goes in waves, as I've seen.... Or I just throw up my hands in a macht nichts, it-doesn't-matter gesture, everybody is different, etc., and move the conversation to safer ground. And sometimes I do say: A lot of adoptees search without ever

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Adoption Loss: Unrecognized grief that mothers endure alone

In a New York Times opinion piece, Hope Edelman's vivid  description of still grieving at the loss of her mother 38 years earlier when she was 17 (New York Times 8/25/19) brought to my mind how much losing a child to adoption is like losing a loved one to death  Edelman wrote: "At the time, I thought grieving was a five stage process that could be rushed through and aced like an easy pop quiz. When I still painfully missed my mother three and five and even 10 years later; my conclusion was that I must have gotten grieving wrong." Her words echoed what Lorraine wrote 40 years ago in Birthmark about her 13-year-old daughter adopted at birth: "Of course I knew I would always remember her, but I didn't think it would be most of the time. She pervades my being."