' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum

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."

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Woman who says priest forced her to give up her child files federal suit to help others

"You have to think of your daughter as dead," a priest told a friend of mine whose daughter was adopted through a Catholic agency. Chilling words if ever was told to a natural mother upon relinquishing a child.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read a story in The Washington Post about a woman who sued the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Wisconsin province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order) for forcing her, as a teenager, to lose her son to adoption. In this case, the word "lose" is called for, as numerous influences operating with a jaded idea of what's right forced her to accept a adoption she never wanted.

While Kathleen, 18, and her boyfriend at at Saint Louis University (a Catholic school) were already talking about marriage, the nurse she had initially confided in began talking about adoption as if it were a done deal. The nurse called her mother, and soon Kathleen was on her way home. Father Thomas Halley was sitting in her parents' living room when she returned home to Omaha. It was the late Sixties, and the "Swinging Sixties" certainly were not happening in Omaha or St. Louis.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

When DNA reveals a new family member: 'It might not turn out the way you want it, but everyone has the right to their own history'

DNA is changing how many families will be surprised by the appearance of a relative in the family tree who suddenly appears as from nowhere.  You spit in a vail one day, and a few weeks later, there it is, irrefutable evidence that the family has a new kin--someone never heard of before! A person grows up believing he/she was mom's firstborn, and now--they've been demoted to second! Though we like to believe that siblings will welcome the addition of a brother or a sister--and some will--it's not the case all the time, and this is a reality that many adoptees have to face when contacting family members.

The newly demoted child--and I mean of any age--might be jealous, and upset at losing their special "first" status. "She/he has other parents--why do they need mine? Why can't we be a family--like before?" Or, "Where do I fit into the family now?" Not every returning family member will be the firstborn, and other issues will emerge. Children of birth fathers can fit anywhere in the spectrum and remind a wife, and his children, of their father's unfaithfulness, and then start figuring out what was happening in the intact family at the same time.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A 'birth mother' becomes a 'real' great-grandmother

Jane, Hiram, and friends
I just spent a wonderful four days with my granddaughter Rachael, her husband Shane, and her three month old son, my great grandson, Hiram at their home in Omaha, Nebraska. Since he is my first great grandson, I'm just learning the role. I will say this, though, he is my great grandson even though I surrendered his grandmother, my daughter Megan for adoption.

We describe our relationships by the language we use. We also create or deny relationships by the language we use. And so while I gave birth to Megan, many would deny me the right to call myself her mother. That official title belongs to the woman who became her mother through a paper signed by a judge. And to tell the truth, I have not been all together comfortable in referring to her as my "daughter." When she was born, someone at the hospital asked me to sign a paper authorizing routine medical care for her. The space next to the signature line said "mother." The word startled me. I did not think of myself as a mother. Her mother was a perfect somebody else selected by an omniscient social worker. The person who prepared the paper surely knew that. I felt the the wording was mocking me.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

We are not here to provide babies for failed fertility. Nor do adoptees want to be answers to infertility.

Does anybody who is adopted or who relinquished a child for adoption get a sinking feeling when they read a story about a woman who longed to have a child but put off doing so for years and then discovered that it was too late...and the story comes to an end in the penultimate paragraph with these two sentences:

"Donor eggs are an option. Adoption too."

Ah yes, "donor eggs" and "adoption too." I would have bet the farm that the story was going in that direction as soon as I read the headline: "Don't Put All Your (Frozen) Eggs in One Basket," on the Modern Love column in today's New York Times.

And indeed, the woman did want to have children early enough but her partner (and ultimately husband) kept

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Thoughts on the Fourth of July: Separating children from their parents is Un-American and cruel

Declaration of Independence
This Fourth of July we will again celebrate liberty, one of the unalienable, natural rights with which we are endowed by our creator as declared by a small group of men in Philadelphia 236 years ago. This Declaration gave rise to thee greatest nation the world has ever known. Subsequently the authors of the United States Constitution declared through the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that liberty could not be taken away without due process of law, that is through fair procedures.

In a long series of cases, the United States Supreme Court has held that the right to liberty includes "the fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child."

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Allow adopted people right to know their true identity

Too shy to push myself totally into the shot...
Some people have said they can't adequately reach the Albany Times-Union site where the piece I wrote that my assemblyman, Fred Thiele, referenced in the New York Assembly in the discussion just before the Montgomery/Weprin bill giving New York adoptees the right to their original birth certificates at age 18. It's at the end of this note about what has been happening since. 

As most know by now, the bill passed both the New York Senate and Assembly with an overwhelming margin, and now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature, which is expected. For reasons that baffle me on the one hand and are not surprising on the other, the emotional passage of this bill in the Assembly--the Senate passed it first the previous week--did not receive nearly the coverage it merits. Many of the speakers were highly emotional--not just three three who are adopted--and when the vote tally was first announced, a cheer went up in the hall. Yet media coverage has been scant. The NY Times so far has ignored it. Newsday did not. The big three news stations in New York City seem to have ignored it.  My local television station (Long Island Channel 12) did a good job, and another spot is scheduled, this time with an adoptee looking forward to getting his real not amended birth certificate in a day or two. I'll post the link when it appears.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


UPDATED 11 P.M. JUNE 21, 2019
Adoptee right bill passed!!!!!!!!
The vote in the Assembly was 140-6.
(Final vote; 4 abstentions.)
Senate voted last week, 56-6.

Many of the people we expected to vote against it folded, and two who had been our staunch opposition in the past spoke about changing their minds. Joe Lentol, for one, who had held up the bill in the past, as he is chair of Codes. Yesterday, however, when Codes passed it, he voted for it then, and spoke today on the floor passionately and eloquently about having his mind changed.

Assemblywoman Debra Glick did the same. In the past, she always spoke of birth mother privacy, but her tune was different today, about how times had changed. I couldn't believe it. Even Danny O'Donnell, who we have excoriated in the past for his attitude when we lobbied him, in the end voted Aye for the bill. Totally surprising!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Legal surrogacy in NY moves forward, adoptee rights stalled. Again.

Lorraine at 2018 Indiana conference with fellow New Yorker,
Suzanne Bachner, playwright,The Good Adoptee 
If surrogacy--renting a woman's womb for a high price--is legal, why isn't prostitution?

Both commodify a woman's body as a product to be sold, bartered, rented, call it anything you want, it offers for sale the use of a woman's body. If the surrogacy is unpaid--except for the expenses of the procedure itself and the birth of the baby--it's not quite the same. Family members--even mothers for their daughters, sisters for siblings--sometimes have offered to become impregnated with related DNA as sperm or egg or embryo and carry a fetus to term. I have no objection to that.

But the paying for the use of a woman's womb, and having her incur all the medical challenges of pregnancy and birth, changes everything. It takes advantage of impoverished women as well as students facing enormous college costs their families can ill afford. In fact, the better the school one is attending--think Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the like--and the fee can skyrocket to $200,000.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Will this "birth mother's" attorney really look out for her interests?

In Roseburg, Oregon, a small town 175 miles south of Portland, a woman I do not know will deliver a baby within the next 30 days and give her infant to the clients of Portland attorney, Scott Adams. An adoptee himself, he is a long time adoption practitioner.

Perhaps she responded to a "Dear Birth Mother" ad, perhaps she knows the prospective adoptive parents, friends of relatives, a couple she met while waiting tables, or a couple referred by her pastor. I do know that unless a miracle happens, she will leave the hospital with a flat stomach and searing lifelong pain.

An attorney she has met only recently perhaps for only an hour, hired by Adams and paid by the prospective adoptive parents, will within a day of the birth present her with a consent form prepared by Adams. Once she signs, the attorney will send the paper immediately through electronic means to Adams who will file it as soon as possible at the courthouse. Once filed, the consent is irrevocable.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Everyone wants to know where they came from, but sperm babies still made with only half a heritage they will know

Press Conference on steps of NYC City Hall, with Sen. Velmanette Montgomery,
 Assemblyperson David Weprin, and that's me with the big green bag to the left.
Today's Jeopardy Question: He once said: “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage... who we are and where we have come from.”

The answer is Alex Haley, author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

Then in the Style Section, there is a story about two black lesbians "Seeking a Sperm Donor Who's Black" about the difficulty of finding a black sperm seller, or donor, as is the common parlance. They won't use the sperm of any of their friends because he--even if he signs papers terminating parental rights--might want to be involved, ya know, one day. One of the woman was up for using a friend's sperm--it would be free, for one thing, "donated" sperm costs $1400--but the other states "I do not want to co-parent with anyone but you," referring to her partner. They have a very limited choice, and one of them is picky about the one good candidate (for health reasons) they finally settle on. She doesn't particularly like his looks. His skin tone isn't as dark as theirs, and she doesn't like that--but from the photo, they both clearly have some white genes intermingled with the black. 

What is missing here?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Happy Mother's Day? Hmm. Well, not for some of us.

Here it comes again, Mother's Day, impossible to delete from the calendar or ignore totally because of the incessant ads that pop up everywhere, from the internet to the newspaper to the super bargains on the Today show that are just "perfect for mom." I got my hair cut today and as I was paying the bill, I heard the receptionist say to the woman ahead of me--Happy Mother's Day. I happen to know the woman for years, and know she is the nicest person. But the woman ahead of me said, I never had children. Neither, it turned out, did the receptionist, she just thought it was a nice thing to say. When I paid my bill, I said, You know, Mother's Day is a painful day for all women who gave up a child. I hope you will stop saying that to everyone who comes in. I rather surprised myself because in years past I probably would just have let it go, but she had three more days to remind, once more, other first mothers that this godawful holiday was upon us.