' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Open Adoption is "one free baby-sitting scam"....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Open Adoption is "one free baby-sitting scam"....

Last night I couldn't help myself, I delved into that book that started the terrible argument with my friend Yvonne over whether or not the givers of life have any rights--any rights at all--to find out what happened to that life. And I read enough into The Brotherhood of Joseph by Brooks Hansen to realize how far--how incredibly far--we have to go before we are going to change hearts and minds among adopters. I know that word--adopters--invokes revulsion in many and I'll grant that it does seem like a cruel term, but Mr. Hansen says that when he hears a kid on the bus ask a girl if she's ever going to look for her "real" parents, the word evokes in him the same feelings as if he had heard "nigger" or "cunt." So for the moment, let me call him and his wife Elizabeth, ADOPTERS. Because that's what they are; for the record, he prefers "actual parents." He never says what he would prefer we first parents would be called. Actually, he would prefer us dead, though he doesn't say that. He doesn't need to.

A brief rundown of the story. He and his wife, age 36, want to be parents. Are desperate to be parents. Somewhere between the wife's age of 36 and 37 they hop on the fertility-industry train. Apparently they missed the biology lesson that says that after age 29 a woman's fertility starts to decline and .... keeps going down. After four years of the awful business--and it is pretty grim--and going into debt, they try a donor egg from a relative of the wife's That fails also. He admits freely that they wanted their own kid: "...we are a species, 'let's face it--that prizes the blood-bond uber Alles. And the law makes that pretty clear...Even distant grandparents can wedge a child from the arms of adopted parents just by showing up in court." (As if, but that's another story.)

He then explains why an open adoption is repugnant: "Just because we'd been through the IVF wars and lost, that didn't mean that Elizabeth should always have to save an extra seat at the dance recital." He's incensed that prospective adopters could pay for the care and "late-night Whopper runs" of a pregnant woman who was considering giving them her child and then "change her mind, keep the baby, and not have to pay back the prospective couple one red cent..." He calls open adoption with its "update letters, report cards, scheduled visits, etc., "seem like one giant free baby-sitting scam."

So it's off to Russia to adopt where they get Ilya or Theo, I can't quite tell. And though the book seems to end there, I'm aware--remember, he's the son of friends of Yvonne, the adopting grandparents live in my little town and are people I occasionally run into at the supermarket or the ATM--they get a second child from Kazakhstan. Apparently the well-educated Mr. Hansen and his wife never read Cicero:

Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to be condemned to live forever as a child.

They want a kid that will never be able to have a relationship with any kin, or most likely, never be able to learn more about his ancestry than the adopters know and tell him. By choosing this kind of adoption, they are choosing to form person that can never know, never have a history other than the one they create.

I awoke early this morning in one of those aggravating mind frenzies, thinking, if this is what Yvonne ( see earlier blogs) thinks is not only possible, but preferred, if this is what informs the opinions of people like Aston (the moneyed class, let's be clear), if there are people like Brooks and Elizabeth Hansen, we have so much further to go than we thought. I try to be sympathetic to people who adopt, but lord, since there is no reciprocity evident in so many of them towards the women who gave their children life, it's kinda hard to be understanding of their plight. And feelings. (To make the book even more in my face, it's blurbed on the back by another friend, this one a writer and the adoptive father of a darling Chinese girl. She really is darling, I'm not being sarcastic.)

Which brings me back to The Locator. I've seen all four episodes and they have all been adoption-reunion stories, and no matter how much Troy Dunn charges for people who aren't his pro bono cases, these stories pack a wallop in a half hour, and the more people that see them the more we are going to change public opinion about open adoption, and open records for adoptees and birth parents.

The other day I got an email from a compatriot in the fight to open records and the basic gist of it was--tell stories. Tell stories about separation and reunion. Get to people on a gut level. You can quote statistics about "unresolved grief" from the Donaldson report on birth mothers, but that doesn't do as much good as one heart-breaking story of loss and reunion. So let me encourage all of your nay-sayers about The Locator, and its media commercialization of one of life's most basic stories--mother and child separation--to think about it in a different light. The more people who see it, the more we are going to be able to reach the hearts and minds of legislators, and people like Yvonne and Aston and their friends.

The Locator website at WE has a silly mind game, Troy Dunn's blog, a reunion registry (yeah, really), summaries of the episodes, but in the end, the television show reminds the audience that life does not begin with adoption, that the need to know one's past is universal, and only those who have been brain-washed not to think about the past, or have been too hurt to let themselves wonder, shut off this curiosity.

It's on in back-to-back episodes on Saturday evening, starting at nine p.m.


  1. I'm glad that not all aparents are like the people you write about. I think you're right to read the book and try to understand where they are coming from. Getting hostile with them won't change any beliefs; it will only cement them. Surely this lack of compassion, this hate, or whatever it is, spills over into other areas of their lives and they suffer for it.

  2. Wow. What an amazingly insecure person this author sounds like.

    Ordinarily I'd say "hateful tool" but I'm feeling generous today.

  3. As well as a self-pitying vituperative snob with an exaggerated sense of entitlement.
    A pox upon him, and may his pathetic book be swiftly remaindered ;-)

  4. The Locator is the best show!

    It puts a face on the reality of loss, and shows that you cannot change the reality of life. It should go miles to help change public opinion.

    Blood is thicker than water. In my reunion this has been the hardest part for me to accept, that I really am my son's mother. I have live so long in denial.

  5. This reminds me of something we've been discussing on my blog, about why adopters (let me repeat that for the Hansens' benefit, ADOPTERS) rename adoptees. I think it's all part of this entitlement mentality. They've gone through so much, darn it, they are gonna get a baby whatever it takes. And never mind anyone who gets in the way--like you nasty biological relatives who can't seem to butt out, or uppity bastard rabblerousers like myself, because obviously our experiences are peanuts compared to the awfulness of not being able to undergo personal reproductive mitosis.

    I try to be sympathetic too, but for crying out loud, adopters are not the only ones who suffer. In fact they probably suffer the least because they are only ones who "win" at adoption (other than the adoption agencies and their filthy lucre). And there are way too many adopters/prospective adopters who refuse to acknowledge any pain other than their own.

    I'm sure Mr. Hansen and those like him would be delighted, Lorraine, if you and your sister firstmothers would kindly kick the bucket. That's exactly why international adoptions are so popular, no inconvenient birth families to get in the way. I'm sure he'd be equally pleased if we adoptees would lobotomize ourselves so we can be fully grafted onto the adoptive family tree.

    Lay you odds some of the adoptees in these families will be out here with us in twenty years, using whatever medium replaces blogging to scream out their own disgust. As long as there are ADOPTERS like this, the cycle will continue.

  6. That sounds like an awful book about awful people, worst of the worst of modern entitled wealthy adoptive parents. May their children be a huge disappointment to them, which no doubt they will be.

    As to the value of "stories" from shows like The Locator, we have had those stories all over the media ad nauseum for at least 30 years, and I do not think they have really changed any minds and hearts, just provided for more sensationalism and distortion of what adoption and reunion are really about.

    It is just another "reality show" this one with an adoption theme, but really not sympathetic to the ongoing emotional complexity of the lives of adoptees, birthparents, or adoptive parents, nor to the cause of open records or open adoption.

    See how quickly the media turns to the other side when they get a juicy custody battle between adoptive parents and birthparents, like the infamous Baby Jessica/Anna case. How quickly we are assigned the role of bad guy in their cheap melodrama!

    The Locator is just one more way we can be exploited and made to look as cheap and trailer-trash like as adoptive parents like Mr. Hansen want to believe we are. It just feeds the stereotypes rather than educating anyone.

  7. About the value of the stories portrayed in "The Locator" - I agree with you, Marianne.

    Someone commenting on this show on another site smartly noted that among the commercials was one the 'Trojan Tickler' (complete with picture of the thing) and another for a dating website called sugardaddies.com.
    I mean, really. You gotta wonder at the message.
    Though it's hardly subliminal.

  8. I started my search after watching one of the daytime talk shows that featured an adoption separation/reunion story.

    I'd been searching on and off for years, but that segment made me pick up the phone right away and call the agency and ask for info. I was reunited with my mother and sibs within six months. That was 12years ago.

    Gotta wonder how may requests Troy Dunn has received. If the government won't allow us know who our fmailies are, then we have find other ways to find out!

  9. I don't have cable so I can only watch The Locator at my boyfriend's. As a result, I've only see 1 episode--2 reunions.

    Troy Dunn is such a scum and the show so contrived. And he's lost a lot of weight. He was quite the lard ass a few years ago when he was being hounded around by the Florida Attorney General and threatening to sue former clients (and adoption searchers) who had the temerity to complain about him on the 'net and the AG. One of the most bizarre moments in modern adoption history occurred when Troy, Bill Pierce, and Ron Morgan appeared together on the Dr. Laura TV show. This merry threesome got to drive around LA together in a van an swap stories. troy said he never takes a Gladney case because they are shut too tight. Ron has some god stories about the whole thing.

    Anyway, The Locator reminds me of one of my favorite shows, Cheaters, and Troy is AdoptionLand's Joey Greco. I loved it when he hopped in a plan to catch his quarry.

    I like reunion shows. I find the Locator amusing.

    As for Hansen, grab him, tie him up, and force him to sit in front of a Locator marathon some Sunday.

  10. Oh, Marley, I love your information about Troy Dunn and the FL attorney general. Do you have more information about why he was being investigated and what the outcome was? I do love the private jet bit...and your description of that Dr. Laura show is a stitch, but who is this Ron guy?

    All reunion shows have a certain amount of built-in exploitation but if they make more people search, if they make one more person call her/his legislator and say: GIVE US OUR RIGHTS! they have their place.

    And yeah, I'd love to tie Brooks Hansen and his wife, Elizabeth, to a chair and make them watch back to back episodes of The Locator. And Yvonne. And Aston, and all their adopter friends who are so damn uncompassionate about the women who gave these children life.

  11. I would rather force these people to read "Girls Who Went Away", attend Ann Fessler's art installation with audio of the women interviewed in her book, and view the movie "Magdalen Laundries".

    These people would just sneer and snicker at the Locator reunions and see it as even more reason to keep records sealed.

  12. sorry for coming so late to this discussion, but your post only came up in a blog search I just ran for reason unrelated.

    First let me express my regret that my book should have prompted such an angry and pained response in you and your readers. Obviously, these matters are delicate ones, bound to elicit strong emotions in anyone involved. I do, however, feel moved to correct a fairly major misperception that either your reading, or my writing, has created.

    It is certainly not the case that either my wife or I has wanted to wish away the birth parents of our children. We think of them constantly. We toast and honor them every mother's day, and as my book makes fairly clear - but I guess not clear enough - we will be happy, if either one of our children so desires, to go with them or facilitate in any way their desire to make contact with their birth mothers if and when the time comes. Indeed, part of the reason we chose to adopt from Russia (in the case of our son) was precisely because of the strong emotional connection that we feel to that country, to its culture and to its people. We wanted, as I said in a Russian court, and as is included in the book, for the place our children come from to be a place we love too, and feel connected to, and we do.

    As for the role that our children's birth mothers might play in our lives, it's true that in our case, we wanted a situation where the birth mother would not be a literal presence. That was a personal choice, based upon long, hard, and honest appraisal of who we are, and what our limits and our strengths are. Again, the book offers blessing to those who are more open than we are to open adoption, but frankly the assumption that everyone should pursue adoption with the same priorities and values - given the world of options that exists - is as willfully close-minded as you and your readers seem to assume I am.

    Again, I well understand the overwhelming feelings and insecurities that so much of this experience evokes in all people whose lives have been touched by it - infertility and adoption. My book was an attempt to reflect my own. And I regret that my writing should have evoked such a hostile response from you and your readers, though I certainly understand why. That said, I would never want to leave the impression that my wife and are anything but eternally and daily grateful for the extraordinary sacrifice and the endowment with which the birth mothers of our children have blessed us, our home, and our family. Whoever they are, wherever they are - and granted, these are questions which will be difficult (though not impossible) to answer, for reasons of their choosing as well as ours -they are each an angelic presence in our lives, and I'm not at all opposed to making, or helping to make, that presence more real, if and when the time comes, and if it should happen that this is what our children want. Be assured that our children are very aware of the circumstances under which we became a family. They know where they are from. The story of how we came to be a family is cause for constant celebration in our home. That story obviously includes the women who carried them and gave them up so that we could be their parents, and we are pledged as such to be sensitive to the questions and the needs of both our children, and committed to serving those needs in any and every way we can. Parenting is always and everywhere an evolving process. We open doors when we feel the time is right, with the idea that our children should become free, open, happy, healthy, and fully informed adults. But differnet people are bound to reach that goal in different ways and at different paces.

    Anyway, peace to you and yours, and I hope your work continues to bring your life meaning, though perhaps not at the cost of so much hostility and ill will. Our struggle was an long an arduous one, but I can assure it left me with a deep appreciation for the sacrifice, the love, and the good intentions of everyone involved - the ones we met, and the ones we weren't able to.

  13. bio said "That said, I would never want to leave the impression that my wife and are anything but eternally and daily grateful for the extraordinary sacrifice and the endowment with which the birth mothers of our children have blessed us, our home, and our family."

    This type of comment always irks me. First of all, I do not appreciate being blessed and/or thanked for the most painful experience of my life. Secondly, about the last thing I was thinking of when I relinquished my son was giving a gift or endowment to people I never met. It was pure and simple agony and the result of being resourceless and without hope. There were no angels,no glory, no altruism involved what so ever.

  14. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about responding. There is so much hostility and bad reading on this site, on the one hand I am moved to engage and clarify. On the other, I suspect there is no point and that it would be a fool's game.

    For what it's worth, I utterly reject Lorraine's characterization of what I wrote on the topics at question. Hers is a gross misrepresentation of what is actually in the book, cherry-picked for the purpose of stoking more anger in herself and in her readers, all prompted by the utterly preposterous notion that I was in any way equating birth mothers with "niggers" or "cunts" -which would be disgusting if it weren't so absurd. For myself and as a writer, I accept that it's part of the job that readers with their own grievances and histories will inevitably (and willfully) twist and misconstrue what I have written. Comes with the territory. That the commenters here have incorporated my wife - or my wife's name - into their jaundiced (and wholly misinformed) view of our experience does make me a little sick to my stomach, I have to admit

    It's too bad, too, because I actually think that birth mothers and adoptive parents do have a lot to learn from each other. There is a lot of insight to be gleaned from the site, no question, but the tenor of discussion in the comments section and in the original post - the reflexive defensiveness, open hostility, and utter disregard for the more probable and far more generous intentions of those who are trying to engage you - leaves me skeptical that this is the time or the place for achieving more and better understanding.

    The world is not your enemy. Neither are adoptive parents.

  15. I do agree, bio, that adoptive parents are not my enemy. In fact my sister has adopted four children, my son and daughter-in-law are currently waiting for a child to adopt, and I have a very pleasant relationship with my relinquished son's other mother.

    My discomfort comes when people glorify birthmothers and talk of the loving sacrifice they made so that others could have a family. This attitude makes light of our experience. I'm sorry that our pain is difficult for you to handle, but it is a fact of adoption. Having four adopted nieces and nephews, I do know that it is a wonderful to accept children into the family this way. But not for one second do I believe that their mothers made a loving sacrifice for my sister's benefit. They had no options left, so it that really a choice? I know when I relinquished my son if there was any gift giving going on, it was that I gave HIM the gift of a life I could not offer him at that time.

  16. From The Brotherhood of Joseph:
    "I was on the subway one time, and this must have been when Elizabeth and I were just dipping our toes. A bunch of teenagers got on, college freshmen, clearly all just getting to know one another. One revealed that she was adopted. Actually, her roommate yielded up the information--Yeah, she was adopted" My ears perked up. The young woman in question give it a kind of "big whoop" shrug--yeah, it's true--to which one of the boys replied, first thing out of his mouth, "Oh yeah, so have you tried to contact your real parents?" I damn near took him out at his knees. I should have, on behalf of the girl's actual parents, but I doubt anyone in the car would have had the slightest idea what I was doing. He was just trying to get in her pants, after all; show some interest.

    Still, that was a first for me, feeling the sting of mere words, but there's no denying: Depending upon the ears that heart it, that phrase "real parents" is right up there with "nigger" and "cunt." Except that no one out there appears to be remotely aware.

    --page 82.

  17. Bio,

    I have not read your book, but the piece quoted here about the kids on the bus and your reaction to the words "real parents" is every bit as hostile and unaware of the other person's point of view as the most hostile and one-sided comments of a few here. Even taken out of context, the whole piece left little doubt of your feelings.

    I do not hate adoptive parents and do not use the term "adopter" for them, because I believe they ARE real parents. They certainly are the psychological parents of the adopted child, they are Mom and Dad, they are the ones in the parent role.

    The reality of adoption though is that there is another set of "real parents" who are real in a different way, but just as vital to who the adoptee is. Nurture is real, but so is nature. All the adoptee's parents are real, and it is a shame when either side tries to vilify or denigrate the other.
    Nobody wins and the adoptee in the middle loses,

    You say you do not want the birthparents to be a "literal" presence in your life. Instead you make them up as plaster idols, insubstantial, unreal fairytale figures you can be grateful to, drink sentimental toasts to, but whom you fear coming to actual life, not as abstractions but as human beings.

    Birthparents are not sacrificial saints, but fallible humans who have suffered a great loss because of circumstances you do not know, and at this point, chose not to know. The story may not be pretty, they may not want your thanks for a "gift". But their real story is your children's heritage. It is their truth, just as growing up with you and your wife as mom and dad is their truth. Neither one cancels out the other.

    Your children's birthparents ARE a literal presence in your home, every time you look into your children's eyes, see the talents and problems that develop, the many little quirks that come from heredity, not evnironment.

    Keep reading here. We are a wide spectrum of commenters including several adoptive mothers. For most of us, and for some of our children, adoption has been no fairytale. We are all real, just as you are. We will try to understand your pain if you will try to understand ours.

  18. bio says: "we will be happy, if either one of our children so desires, to go with them or facilitate in any way their desire to make contact with their birth mothers if and when the time comes."

    And what if they want to go alone? What if your adopted children, once they become adults, want you to have no part in their search and/or reunion? Will you be so magnanimous, or will you attempt to "go with them or facilitate" (e.g. control) the situation?

    Because quite frankly, it's not about you. Adoptees have to face how they feel about adoption on their own. The best thing you can do as an adoptive parent is be open-minded and give them the space let THEM tell YOU how they feel. I don't know if your kids are of age, but how do you think they will react when they find out you have written an entire book about their experiences? Did they get any input into what you said, any choice as to whether their adoption stories became public knowledge? Most adoptive parents (e.g. adopters) are perfectly willing to tell their adoptees' sides of the story as well as their own. And many of us adoptees are tired of having words put in our mouths. I suspect the first mothers on this blog feel the same way.

    "I would never want to leave the impression that my wife and are anything but eternally and daily grateful for the extraordinary sacrifice and the endowment with which the birth mothers of our children have blessed us, our home, and our family."

    Your adopted children are neither an "endowment" nor an "angelic presence". They are human beings with their own thoughts and feelings. You had the choice to make adoption part of your lives. They didn't.

    "Be assured that our children are very aware of the circumstances under which we became a family. They know where they are from. The story of how we came to be a family is cause for constant celebration in our home."

    That's your interpretation, not what is actually going on inside their minds. You have no idea what it is like to be adopted unless you ARE adopted, or make the very deliberate and difficult effort to put aside your own assumptions and actually listen to adoptees and their (birth/first) mothers. Adoption begins in loss. There is no getting around that and every adoptee, no matter how outwardly acclimated, experiences that loss. Therefore, adoption is not and never will be a "constant" celebration for us, nor for our families of origin.

    As for being "hostile," go over to Pound Pup Legacy and read about anger and dehumanization: http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/35462

  19. Bio, you referred to

    "the utterly preposterous notion that I was in any way equating birth mothers with "niggers" or "cunts" -which would be disgusting if it weren't so absurd."

    Um, actually Lorraine is a journalist and author and she quotes good. Her quote was as follows:

    "Mr. Hansen says that when he hears a kid on the bus ask a girl if she's ever going to look for her 'real' parents, the word evokes in him the same feelings as if he had heard 'nigger' or 'cunt.'"

    That's pretty much verbatim what you said. She did not say you compared birthparents to "niggers" and "cunts".

    So now that you made that big a boob of yourself, I'm much less inclined to consider anything else you said seriously but do feel sorry for you thrashing around in this forum. One thing I suggest: keep coming here. Read for awhile and try not to make a judgment. Don't rush in with a characterlization of your own intentions as "generous [and] trying to engage you" because you aren't, and you aren't doing that.

    One a-parent said it beautifully on my blog recently. Your kids' families--are they family to you, extended family, or are they "those people" or people who made this abstract sacrifice so that everything turned out well for you? Do you really think of them as family? Please think about this issue and please come back here and read.

  20. BTW, Bio, did you know there are really good searchers in Russia and because there is a much bigger paper trail there than, say, compared to China, you have an OK chance of connecting with extended family there even if it's not the first parents?

    I suggest you check outhttp://tinyurl.com/oolyo5

    and even if you don't post for awhile, you will be able to read about other a-parents who have regular contact with the extended family (mostly from Eastern Europe).

  21. Sorry for posting 3 separate times, everyone, but what Maryanne just said should be compulsory Adoption 101 for a-parents. M, you hit the nail on the head when it comes to the convenient distancing of first parents by making them saints and feeling all warm fuzzy about the child's country of origin in int'l adoption:

    You say you do not want the birthparents to be a "literal" presence in your life. Instead you make them up as plaster idols, insubstantial, unreal fairytale figures you can be grateful to, drink sentimental toasts to, but whom you fear coming to actual life, not as abstractions but as human beings.

  22. I pretty much agree with everything maryanne said, except for her interpretation of the passage in the book, which I still don’t see as reflecting any hostility whatsoever at birth parents. The hostility expressed is toward those who blithely use the term "real parents," unaware of the fact that it implicitly consigns adoptive parents to the role of "fake" or “stand-in." The point is that it is a hurtful phrase, and I had never been hurt by a phrase before. The story really has nothing to do with birth parents, which may be what pisses you off so much.

    As to the question of how APs (your term) glorify birth parents and their sacrifice, I guess I betray myself as someone raised in the Catholic church, but I don't see pain and suffering as being at all incommensurate with the possibility that an act may be "loving." In other words, I would suspect that being crucified (as a for instance) is about as horrible an experience as a person can endure. Billions of people are nonetheless able to reconcile that fact with the idea that Jesus' sacrifice was the supreme gesture of love. How that works is something of an eternal mystery, granted - and I wouldn't want to be mistaken here for espousing doctrine. I'm simply saying that when an AP characterizes a birth mother's sacrifice as being "loving," that does not mean they are necessarily imagining a gesture of selfless magnanimity, or that they are dismissing the obvious pain involved, or that they believe the birth mother had them in mind. Quite the contrary, they are recognizing the pain, and invoking a rather classic and time-tested (albeit mysterious) concept of love to explain a sacrifice which probably does surpass any other imaginable.

  23. Moreover let it be noted, when “Adopters” (lovely word, that, you’re right) speak of the “lovingness” of the sacrifice of the birth mother, what they are really doing is struggling to offer their children an account for the fact that they were not originally kept. They are, that is to say, trying to do the impossible, since often they have no idea of the reason their children were not kept by their birth mothers. In absence of that explanation, they are simply wanting for their children to feel like their destinies are the product of an ultimately loving and unknowable intention. So sue us. Our purpose is not to ignore the birth mother’s pain, or to candy-coat her experience, or make her into a saint. It is to try to preserve and nurture the emotional well-being of their children (AND perhaps to begin to initiate them into a deeper understanding of just how extraordinary, multifarious, and often mysterious a thing “love” truly is). That way may seem saccharine to you, false, overly romantic and deluded, but something else to bear in mind about APs is this (if I may be allowed to generalize): Many of them, if not most, if not all, have themselves endured an awful lot of pain to come to the place they have, and the experience of finding their children and becoming a family leaves them feeling blessed in a way that surpasses anything they could possibly have imagined for themselves. They are experiencing a kind of love that they thought the universe had denied them. Right or wrong – and this is not a matter for you to decide – they (many of them) regard the fact of their parenthood, the fact that these particular children came into their lives, to be nothing short of a miracle, as nothing short of a miracle could possibly explain such a sense of unwarranted and yet particular blessing. All of which is to say, they are (many of them) transformed human beings, who when they talk about love and destiny and what is natural, are coming from a very new and unusual place – for them. These words have a new meaning to them. They are struggling to express the extent of their gratitude. If it irks you, the idea that sometimes it sounds like they are including you in that expression when in fact they know nothing about you, or that their expressions don’t seem sufficiently to countenance the pain of those whose suffering has made their joy possible, count to ten and breathe. They are just trying to say thank you to the universe and to assure the universe that they will never ever ever forget or take for granted their sudden and stunning good fortune. That doesn’t mean they are the thoughtless, narcissistic idiots-who-nontheless-respond-positively-to-being-lectured-to-like-dimwits that you think they are (osolomama). There is room in their hearts for both gratitude and empathy. They just don’t always get expressed at the same time or in the same way. But they are predicates of each other.

  24. Bio,

    Funny you agreed with most of what I said without apparently getting it. You are a real parent. So am I. Saying one is real does not cancel out the other and does not equate with the foul words you compared it to. Your reaction indicates you have a problem, not that the kid who said "real parents" was to blame.

    Suppose it were me on the bus, overhearing a stranger say they were adopting a child, and my first reaction was to want to go over and "take him out at his knees". A bit of violent over-reaction, no? Who has the problem here, the innocent stranger using common language or the person with the violent over-reaction coming out of personal anger or insecurity? Both adoptive parents and birth parents can overreact to words spoken by strangers having nothing to do with them.

    Please don't compare my giving up a child to Jesus dying on the cross. I am hardly that holy:-)What it felt more like for many of us was being a lamb led inexorably to slaughter, and not a slaughter we assented to. Every story is different, of course, but not knowing the real story behind your children's surrenders does not mean you can make one up. Yes, you can say she loved them and was a good person. You can also find out more of the truth, as Osolo suggested.

    Osolo is an adoptive mother. I think you missed that. She is not a birthmother lecturing you, but one of your own group disagreeing with you.

    "The Universe" does not care about you or me or any other insignifigant human being, and does not grant wishes or children. The Universe did not take your children away from their birthparents, nor drop them magically in your home. That was all done by agencies, lawyers, the people whose fees you paid. It would be more appropriate to thank them.

    By the way I see nothing wrong in being grateful and thankful in a general way for your children, and the wonderful change they have made in your life. Most parents, by birth or adoption, feel that way about their kids, that they are a miracle and that we as parents are lucky to have them. I feel that way about the three biological children I was lucky enough to get to raise, and about the one I was not able to raise, but now have a relationship with.

    But "the Universe" did not cause me to surrender my first child, nor did it destine him for the dysfunctional family he happened to get. My circumstances at the time and an inept agency did that.One can be grateful for good fortune without resorting to dubious mystical beliefs.

    Yes, you are fortunate to have your children and it fine to be thankful. I understand that you and other adoptive parents who suffered from infertility went through a lot to get a child, and that most adoptive parents are decent parents who love their kids, just like most parents who give birth to their kids. But they are not as a group, "better" or perfect, or more entitled to special treatment from the rest of the world.

    As I said before, we are all just human and imperfect, on both sides of the adoption divide. Good and bad, beautiful and ugly. We can't make each other up, but better to deal with as much openness as possible with who we as birth parents and adoptive parents really are.

  25. Bio, you can say I lectured you; that's fine. I didn't intend to--more like tried to rock your world. You can't theologize adoption any more than you can theologize a pyramid scheme. But it was you who cut yourself off from knowing the details of your children's original families and now you are saying that it is OK to substitute the words love and sacrifice because you don't know anything. But this is all just a bunch of pablum to feed your kids. The truth is so much better even when it is hard. It's so much richer for this family to be visible and real than invisible and angelic. Recently it was revealed on one search list that a 21-year-old adoptee from Russia had kept her original mother's photo by her bedside for every day of her life, despite the fact that she had been neglected and abused in Russia.

    As usual, though, Maryanne has beat me to the right words. She is right on with the idea of the universe neither surrendering children not granting them for adoption.

  26. Well...woman IS the nigger of the world! Just ask John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

    As a person who bears (proudly) the label of one of THE most radical anti-adoptionists in the nation, I have can only say this. People - all people - adopters, first parents, foster parents, non parents...ALL vary greatly from thr orst of the worst to the best! I have heard from them all!

    Look at th folks who jump through all th hopps an dpay all that mony to adopt just to abuse - or even KILL - the prize thy opbtain! That's a whole lots worse even than these ignorant folk!

    One can only hope that somewhere along the line they either wise up and get educated -- or get what they deserve back from the kids they raise: a royal kick in the arse, or worse...because we also know that adoptees like all other human being run the gamut as well, and some commit parenticide.

    But please, please, please let us not generalize this stupidity and closed-mindedness to all who adopt. God bless my dear friends like Margie and Jennifer and so many others I have known for decades like Alyce and Carol G. and Jane...

    ***I suggest we all look for this book on Amazon and review it!***

  27. Need to get going on those reviews cause right now this book has a FIVE STAR rating on Amazon...based on3 reviews, no doubt their parents and best friend.

    Copy and paste ENTIRE link or search for it on Amazon: Brotherhood of Joseph.

    (What does that title mean, anyhow?)


  28. "Yeah, she was adopt

    parents as "real parents" is quite common and always has benn. Hell, 50 years ago, I had people aske me about my "real parents." It's the adopta PC police that put the kabosh on that.

    I'd say the bios and adopters are "real parents" since each have their own role.

    I own a home in St. Petersburg, and am really offended (a nice word for how I feel) over your contradictory view of Russian women. You toast these selfless women who gave you YOUR kid, yet you didn't want her to have a literal presence in your life. Lovely. I'd take a Russian woman over an entitled man anytime. Of course, mom may be a street junkie or a drunk. Or maybe stuck in some god-forsaken village in the Urals with a drunk abusive husband.

    The Universe did not deliver your kid. Pubic policy, bad circumstances, advertising, a pricey adoption agency and their paid thugs, lawyers,and an over-arching American neo-colonialist foreign policy did.

    If I were your kid,I'd get back to Russia as fast as I could.

  29. Maryanne
    Let me begin by saying that I really appreciate the overall civility and respect of your comments, which is why I’m happy to respond to your points.

    First, the anecdote on the subway. I know that I am a real parent, yes. That doesn’t change the fact that when the young man used the phrase, and when 99% of the people on earth use it, they are invoking it for the specific purpose of distinguishing a person’s “birth” parents from the ones who adopted and raised them. For the reasons I’ve explained, this is an obvious sleight and THAT is what the anecdote is about. For your analogy to hold, you would not merely have to overhear someone on the subway discussing the intention to adopt a baby – I, after all, have no problem with the idea of children tracking down their birth parents. You would have to hear them phrase it in a way that you felt spat at and diminished your experience.

    So here’s how the analogy would work: You’re on a subway. You are 8 months pregnant, but for reasons you know better than I but which are beyond your power to control, it appears that you will be having to give the baby up for adoption. You are overwhelmed. You are trying to reconcile yourself, but the whole idea goes against every instinct you ever had. You feel already that this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done and that it’s going to continue to affect you for the rest of your life.

    Two well- to-do couples, early 30s walk on the subway. One of the women says, “Hey, so did you hear, we’re going to be adopting a baby next week!” Your ears perk up; perhaps there will be some nutrition in this for you. Perhaps this will be exactly what you need to hear. The other woman seems very excited. She’s jumping up and down, but then out of nowhere her husband turns around and says (without anyone in the subway so much as blinking): “Wow, congratulations. So did you get to meet the incubator?”

    Now do you want to take someone out at their knees?

    For someone contemplating adoption, as I was at that time of the incident, it hurt to hear those words “real parents” used the way that young man did – not because I was offended at the idea that the young woman might actually track down her birth parents, or even at the fact that this young man’s first question should have been about the birth parents (though that did strike me as remarkable). It was the phrase “real parents” that hit me, because it diminished me, and diminished the extraordinary effort I was girding myself to make. For the record, I did not take the young man out at the knees. I winced, and I still wince when I hear the phrase because of the clear insult it does to me, to other like me, and to the authenticity of the bond that my children and I share. When my children are asked who their “real” parents are, call me crazy, but I want them to think of me and my wife. Alas, according to current popular usage, the world does not agree with them. When my children find that out, as they surely will, it’s going to confuse them and hurt them too.

  30. Also to Maryanne,

    "Please don't compare my giving up a child to Jesus dying on the cross. I am hardly that holy:-)What it felt more like for many of us was being a lamb led inexorably to slaughter, and not a slaughter we assented to."

    I take your point. I appreciate your description of your experience, and I am sorry you had to endure such a thing. In fact, I think that that kind of effort represents the best use of a forum like this: for people to share what their own experiences have felt like, as opposed to parsing the efforts of others and telling them why they “don’t get it,” “how this is typical of people like you,” or what their “problems” are. My purpose in citing Jesus was simply to point out that in a lot of people’s minds, loving gestures can entail great sacrifice and excruciating pain, and that certain people’s impulse to describe a birth mother’s sacrifice as “Loving” may therefore not be as pollyannish as it sounds (though I would also want to make clear that I myself am actually NOT one who has, or who ever would ever venture to characterize the motive or the experience of my children’s birth mothers, because I agree. We shouldn’t tell stories we don’t know.)

    (I also, for what it’s worth, cannot let your reply pass without noting that in order to disavow any comparison to Jesus, you strangely enough settled on what is the other most popular way of describing his sacrifice, that he was a lamb being led inexorably to slaughter. The passage, when I first looked at it, read to me a little to me like, “Please don’t compare me to Michael Jordan. I was just a guy with a basketball winning my sixth championship in eight years.” But in any case again, I am sorry for what you went through, and I thank you for sharing it. I will definitely bear it in mind as I go forward.)

  31. As to what the universe does and does not do and whether it cares, we may simply be having a philosophical difference, or semantic, I’m not sure. Again, the fact that agencies and human frailty were involved in our lives and fates in no way discounts the idea that “universe” made it happen. Those seem to me to be different descriptions of the same effect, and in invoking a more universal concept I’m certainly not presuming to suggest that I, or adoptive parents who feel themselves blessed, all of a sudden think they understand the universe better or more clearly. Simply that we feel more intimately than before we are subject to unaccountable, unknowable, and unpredictable forces (including clerical error) that for some strange reason are shining on us for a while. Admittedly, we would like to know why, and we would like to say thanks.

    Likewise, if you read the rest of my book, which I certainly don’t expect you to, you would see that it is premised on the very ideas that you here have expressed two or three times: that all our stories are unique, that the attempt to graft one persons experience onto another is vain and potentially destructive. I state very clearly at the beginning of the book that no moral is to be taken from our story. I shudder to think that anyone would use our experience, or me, as a model for their own, or as a how-to guide. There is no agenda, political or otherwise. I wrote the book for two reasons: one was that the path of infertility treatments and adoption is one that more and more people are walking these days, but that the public forum didn’t include that many accounts from the man’s perspective. I also wrote it because I am a storyteller and it struck me that the story of what finally happened to us was extraordinary one, notwithstanding the fact that I was an integral part of it. In attempting to relate what I was feeling as I lived through the various events and chapters of our struggle, I’m certainly not suggesting that those feelings are, or were, the appropriate ones or that I was always being fair or generous to others. For much of the account, I’m a complete dick, in fact -- coarse, over-reacting, under-reacting, misplacing anger, misunderstanding, giving myself too much credit, giving myself too little credit. That’s all a part of what was going on. What is in the book is there because it stands as evidence of just how difficult and disorienting the struggle to have a family can be, and because it might as such function to offer some consolation and fellowship to other who are going through something similar. Because yes, all our stories are different, but the feeling they stir in us are not, so we may not be quite as alone as we sometimes think we are, especially in our darkest hours.

    With that, I actually am going to sign off of the site for the time being. I’m sure I’ll be back, as I think the perspective conveyed here are instructive, but I have a ton of work to get to, including a new story that I dreamed up just last night. It's called “Corn-cob in a henhouse.”

    Peace to you and your families.

  32. bio says: "When my children are asked who their “real” parents are, call me crazy, but I want them to think of me and my wife."

    Of course you do. And that's fine, as far as it goes, but to deny the fact that these children also have another set of parents is facile and insults their intelligence and the sacrifice made by their families of origin.

    "Alas, according to current popular usage, the world does not agree with them. When my children find that out, as they surely will, it’s going to confuse them and hurt them too."

    Well, that's up to you, isn't it? You could prepare them for that eventuality by discussing adoption in open and honest terms--even if you find it personally uncomfortable--or you can continue to project a fantasy which is sure to damage their identity formation and emotional well-being. If you're so gung-ho about being the "real parent", then do what is right for your kids even if it completely rocks your world. Isn't that what "real" parents do?

    "I have a ton of work to get to, including a new story that I dreamed up just last night. It's called “Corn-cob in a henhouse.”"

    If you didn't want to discuss adoption, you shouldn't have written publicly about your experiences. I guess you didn't consider the fact that first mothers and adoptees are just as capable of wielding their keyboards as you are. Too bad. I think we could learn a lot from each other if you would bother to treat us like human beings.

  33. Bio,

    Just in case you check in again here; the "lamb to the slaughter" analogy I used probably came out of my Catholic background:-) Yeah, I know, "Lamb of God" and all that! That stuff sticks with you no matter what. And yes I see it was way too close to Jesus on the cross. to convey the difference in experience and intent that I wanted to convey. Maybe cow going down the chute in a modern slaughterhouse works better. Most of us felt helpless once we were on the adoption track, even when in retrospect and reality we can see we were not, if alternatives had been offered.

    This has little relevance to Russian adoption, but in the USA and Catholic countries like Ireland, that overwhelming sense of Catholic guilt and self-sacrifice was used against many mothers who could have and should have raised their kids to get them to surrender, especially those who were in Catholic Homes for Unwed Mothers. Check out the movie "Magdalen Laundries".

    Many of us are understandably leery of religious justifications for surrender and adoption. There is much good and beauty in the Catholic Church which is why I am there every Sunday, but also much corruption, cruelty, guilt, secrets. lies and organizational hypocrisy. This is just as true with adoption as with the pedophile coverups.

    Peace to you and your family as well.

  34. Yeah, but why do you feel so "spat at" over what some person on the subway says when if you'd think about it for 2 seconds you'd realize your kids have 2 sets of parents? Both real. OK, you're gone now. Bye.

  35. Dear Bio aka Brooks Hansen:

    I once met a prospective adoptive grandfather who was telling me about his son's travails in trying to adopt from Russia. I knew he did not have a clue as to my connection adoption. I thought about keeping still for about a nanosecond, but there was such a sense of entitlement about his attitude, about how horrible this experience was and difficult, and how much credit his son deserved for all this and so I shared the news: that I was a birth mother, had reunited with my daughter and that she had spent summers with my husband and me.

    The man looked at me and said:
    You are our worst nightmare.

    And Mr. Brooks Hansen, you and your wife are mine.

  36. Osolo, thanks for saying what I was trying to say in way too many words. Saying one set of parents is real does not automatically mean the others are not, hence, no reason to be enraged unless you need to be the ONLY "real" parent which he says he does.

    Triona, great comments too and you are spot on that it is up to adoptive parents to teach their children the realities of adoption, not "the world". Adoption is a different parenting situation with some extra things that have to be considered, like what happened to the original parents?

    Reading the part written to me about being called an "incubator" and wouldn't that make me mad shows how little he knows of the horrendous comments like that people make to us and around us every day, because nobody thinks that one of "those women" is in their social circle.

    I am soooo slow, I just got the final "corn cob in a henhouse" dig. Yeah, we just peck, peck, peck at poor Mr. Corny.

  37. How about this:

    One time I (birth mother) was referred to as a "reporductive agent."

    If you can't even handle hearing the words "real parent" without going apoplectic you should never have adopted. For your child, I am sorry.

  38. On this subject, and if Bio does wander by here again:

    Dawn Friedman's latest post in which she says that the more she is a bridge to her daughter's first mother, the more she is a mother.


    An excerpt:

    ". . .taking on that job of being her bridge foundation, of supporting her as she reaches to her other family (to her other mother) is the central piece of BEING her mother. It’s the beautiful irony of open adoption — I become more Madison’s mother and I earn my mothering — by stretching to meet her other mother so that Madison can be her child as well. And — this part is central — denying her other family would lessen my motherhood. I would be diminished in my role if I couldn’t see the truth of my daughter’s life, which is that adoption does not erase family ties."

  39. There is a lot of talking across one another here. It don't think it is deliberate misinterpretation but rather an inability to be objective. I'm a reporter, too, so I know that my own bias informs my writing and my selection of facts to some extent, which is why my writing on adoption tends to be analytical rather that news reporting.

    I appreciate that Mr. Hansen is hurt by the idea that he is not a "real" parent. Clearly he was not maligning first mothers although, when he read it in someone else's voice, even he took it that way. The setting in which he heard an adoptee's biological parents referred to that way seems to have really stuck in his mind. What is troubling is that his response was centered on himself -- which is how many many verbal adoptive parents come across. His first concern was not how that ill-informed remark made the adoptee feel.

    Maireanne is quite correct; both sets of parents are very real. And I think it would be beneficial to an adoptee to know both sets of parents; that does not mean it would be entirely positive. Knowing my own biological background confirmed that for me. However, I would have been far better served if I could have observed and learned about some of the peculiarities of my family of origin prior to the age of 50.

    Those of us who are adopted, are very aware of the insecurity that is engendered by adoption under the best of circumstances. I don't think it is beneficial to an adoptee to be surrounded by similarly insecure people.

    Love, by itself, cannot solve all problems. Love can motivate the search for solutions and it can support the process and the outcome. Until adoption is once again focused on finding a home for a child who needs one instead of finding a child for a couple that wants one, these problems are not going to go away.

  40. Pennagal, great comments!

    Mr.Hansen's kids are still very young, no? I think for some adoptive parents who go through a lot to get a child, the child becomes at first just a goal and prize, and is not really seen as separate person until they start to grow up. One hopes that Mr. Hansen will shift the emphasis more to the kids as they grow and less to himself and his insecurity.

    We all know the many terrible things that are supposed to happen to the unplanned, "unwanted" child in a family, but has anyone ever looked into the detrimental effects of being the "too wanted" child, the result of years of assisted reproduction or adoption that was difficult and expensive?

    I think this might place an awful burden on a child to live up to some unrealistic expectations of the parents that the kid be superior and "worth it", and cause problems if the child does not fit the mold set for him as the golden prize baby. In international adoption I could see this being a problem if the child did not fit some ethnic stereotype the adoptive parents had about people from "that country" , like that Russians are literary or Asian girls are passive. In any adoption or high tech reproduction, in some ways the kid has to be more than just a kid to justify how hard it was for the parents to become parents.

    Any thoughts on that?

  41. Pennagal, I often like your contributions. I'm not sure of the value of objectivity here. The very strength of a forum on adoption is the individual POV of each member. That's how we learn. I doubt there is even such a thing as objective truth, although there may be universal principles we can agree on.

  42. maryanne, your observations are astute. I was exactly that to my adoptive parents, a goal and a prize. In their world being childless was tantamount to social suicide. They needed the privileges being parents would bring, such as meeting "the right" families through contacts at school and other parent-related events. I don't know if anyone has researched the detrimental effects of being the "too-wanted" child, but they should. When adoptive parents go through the expense and ordeal of assisted reproduction, plus the expense and ordeal of adoption itself, there is a strong pressure upon the adoptee to live up to that "investment." In my case, my adoptive parents seemed to be under the assumption that by adopting (e.g. purchasing) me, they could mold my interests and personality--even going so far as to hire psychologists to try to force me into that mold. This backfired to the extent that we are now estranged. I can't speak to the effects upon international adoptees, but I do know that trying to meet the unrealistic expectations of being the long-awaited and finally-attained "prize" is emotionally overwhelming and impossible to achieve.

  43. Lorraine, I think you've given bio AKA Hansen WAAAAAYYYY too much time and space here. AND publicity. Let's not let AdoptAuthor's idea about going to Amazon and reviewing it go unnoticed.

  44. "Let's not let AdoptAuthor's idea about going to Amazon and reviewing it go unnoticed."

    Which would mean we'd have to read it first.

  45. Kippa, agreed. Need to read it before reviewing it.

  46. I am an adoptee and an "adopter". In my case, I was not given a name at birth. I was abandoned at the hospital by my first mother. Yes, I would like to find her and tell her thank you for giving me life and my first opportunity to be all that I could be.

    As for my son, I was able to name him at the hospital and am still in touch with his bio-grandfather and the lady who connected us together (this was a private/non-agency adoption).

    As was mine. The social worker called my mother the day after I was born.

    I know nothing of my birth family, but I know much about my son's birth family. I am so glad that we do.



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