' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

We want to have a family. Is Adoption ever a good solution?

Sometimes we get comments on earlier posts that are simply begging for a response, as was this one left the other day at the blog: They call me "biological mother." I hate those words.
I am a potential adoptive mother and am curious if, as mothers, you feel that there is ever an acceptable situation for an adoption. I very badly would like to raise a family and adoption is our only option. If we are successful in adopting, I would like for it to be an open adoption (if the child/ren's mother is interested in that).

I guess my questions are: IF mothers (and adult adopted children) see adoption as an acceptable situation, is open adoption generally the most desired choice (within the community of mothers who share feelings about such things)? Also, in your opinion what IS the most loving, sensitive way to distinguish to a child their parentage? It would be my desire to ensures/he knows that s/he is loved by both the mother who allowed him/her to be adopted and the woman who is raising him/her with love. Of course, as the child/ren's adoptive parent, I would want for him/her to call me mom (or some derivation) and still treasure the mother that allowed me to share the joy of motherhood.

I hope that my questions don't offend. I simply want to have the joy of a family and to instill a love in the child/ren I raise both for the family they lost and the family they've gained. I hope you can help as the opportunity for me to parent via adoption may be near. --Hayley
Let's start out about whether answering whether we approve of adoption in the first place, an issue that comes up here every now and then. We are not against all adoptions, but we want to insure that any adoption that does occur is done purely because a child needs a home, not because someone has a home she/he/they want to fill. There is a huge difference between the two. The pressure to find children to "build families" for people who knowingly postponed pregnancy past their fecund years has led to all sorts of abuses in adoption, particularly in the international marketplace for children, something we have written reams about here at First Mother Forum.

Because of the pressure to supply babies, and the money to be made from that, a whole culture of adoption has grown up here in the United States with little emphasis on how to help women keep their babies. Pregnancy crises centers are often places that might be more aptly called "shotgun adoption centers." At the same time, various church groups, such as the erroneously named Christian World Adoption, and a Mormon group that was found to be snatching children from Samoan families, and others have gone over seas to harvest children for the Western market. Fully half of the babies exported from Guatemala during that country's civil war were found to be have been stolen, as a recent government investigation revealed.

But these stories, while they are in the news, somehow do not filter down to many prospective adoptive parents, or society at large, and we end up as we are today in a culture that promotes adoption to the point where young women on The Bachelor start saying that when they want to have a family, they want to "adopt." When celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie make news when they adopt, again more people think that is a good way to fill their bare bassinets.

Given all that, Hayley, there are children right here in America who do need stable, loving homes. They are the children in foster homes whose natural parents can not, or will not, ever come back for them. They are the children who need homes. These are the children we hope you will consider adopting. And we know that there will legitimately be children with no resources in Haiti, but rushing to adopt there and remove children from their culture is not something we encourage.

We do encourage all young women who have babies to try to find ways to keep their children, as we have dealt with the grieving aftermath of having relinquished, and have heard the unhappy outcomes of many adoptions--from the point of view of the adopted. As an adoptive father, and a psycholigist, once said in a court case of a woman hoping to get her records unsealed: Adoption is always painful.

It is certainly always painful for the actual mother, the one who gives birth to her child, and it is always painful for the child to learn he/she was relinquished by someone for reasons unknowable, incomprehensible, reasons that always feel like abandonment to the child who becomes an adult one day. Adoption always leaves scars. We appreciate that in researching adoption you stumbled upon First Mother Forum, Hayley, and hope that we give you some food for thought, no matter what you eventually do.

You raised other issues, and we will deal with them in future posts.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Attending your daughter's wedding when you are the First/Birth Mother

Dear Birth Mother/First Mother Forum:

The daughter I gave up for adoption and I were reunited a year ago. She is getting married and wants me to attend. I'd like to, and am pleased she wants me there, but I'm freaking out over what to wear, the correct protocol, where I'm going to sit, and with whom, how I'm going to be introduced, will there be a receiving line and where do I fit into that--you name it, I'm freaking out. Some members of her family know I'll be there, but I'm sure some won't know who I am. How can I put on my best behavior and not feel horrible at the same time?
--Adrift in Adoption Land

Dear Adrift:

Oh, this day is probably going to be hard. Acknowledge that, grit your teeth, and move forward, and focus on not adding to the drama of the bride, and being an "issue" of your own. We at FMF dealt with this exact same cause for high anxiety some years ago, and the situation itself was clouded by the fact that my daughter's adoptive mother, aka Other Mother, at that very moment, and I, first/birth mother, were having an argument that I admit, was festered by our daughter. I told my daughter something she wanted to hear, she repeated it to Other Mother as a way of expressing that opinion herself, but said, Lorraine thinks...and it was NOT what Other Mother wanted to hear, and that resulted in my receiving a very angry letter, an upset bride-to-be who was now freaking out herself, and phone conversations with me that went on and on and on.... This was mere days before the wedding. More about this contretemps later.

I assume, dear Adrift, that the wedding is in the home territory of the adoptive family, and that they are picking up the check. Cavil all you might want to about details, that means you are their guest and need to act like a guest. Focus on the fact that your child wants you to be present. However, do control your freak outs, or have them at home privately, with your own friends and family, before the rehearsal dinner, which you may be asked to attend. Or not.

Unless asked, you do not buy a dress that looks as if you are part of the wedding party; unless asked, you are not part of the receiving line (yes, I know, ouch); and you do not complain about where you are sitting. And I am hoping that your daughter/son will be sensitive and not seat you at the same table with Uncle Horace and Aunt Beatrice who think you should not be there at all!

The best of all possible worlds is that your daughter/son has met other members of your family and they were also invited and are present to a) offer moral support simply by being there; and b) will make up your table. That way, when everyone who knows Who You Are looks you over to see what you look like, they will see that not only does the bride/groom--your offspring--resemble you, but also your other children, or siblings, who are First-Aunt Sally, or First-Uncle Tom. Look, she has the same kind of hair as her mother. Look, they really do look like...mother and daughter. Trust me, that will be going through more than a few minds, and that will give the guests something to put in their personal portmanteau to ponder anon, as well as the people present who are, at that very moment, considering adopting.

So, yes, dear Adrift, just as you imagine, you will be on view. Other Mother will also know that and be none too happy, try as she might be to ignore you. She is quite likely dealing with a certain frisson over the fact that you are there at all. She is likely going to be privately upset over how much you do resemble "her" daughter--whom she has taken care of when you were not there for every scraped knee, every emergency ride to the hospital, every glass of split milk and dental bill. She is likely to be dealing with her own personal demons that day, and the more you resemble the bride/groom, the steeper her mountain of hard lumps to climb. Your very presence forces the adoptive family to confront that indeed, there was life before adoption. "Their" daughter has another family. Who looks a lot like "their" daughter.

But that does not mean you have to be treated like No One, a Nobody. You are the reason the bride/groom is having a wedding, after all! But we can imagine various scenarios: that you are asked to pretend you are simply a friend, and not her mother. You may be seated as far away from the wedding party. You may be not acknowledged during the event. You will probably not be dancing when they ask for the parents of the bride to take the floor. And given all that, attending may be more than you feel like putting yourself through. If that is your choice, explain to the bride that although you love her and wish her every happiness, you will feel more comfortable having a private celebration with her and her intended. You might take them out to dinner with whomever you wish, or no one else.

As for my own daughter's wedding, yes, the Other Mother and I were in a terrible state because Other Mother was sooooo very angry at me. Understand, I had been a part of their lives since I reunited with my daughter when she was fifteen, and now it was 18 years later. To even the tables somewhat, I sent my daughter $500 days before the wedding to pay part of the expenses (it was a simple country wedding at a VFW hall in a small town in Wisconsin farm country). My two brothers, their wives, and two of their children, aged 8 and 10, would be attending. And after Other Mother declined--as Jane knew she would--daughter Jane had asked me to read a part of the ceremony from a lectern. Talk about being on view! Talk about freaking out over what to wear!

I live in a resort community, and all the local stores were full of late summer resorty casual clothes, and nothing was right. At a trendy vintage clothing store in town, I toyed with buying a striking lime green Norma Kamali number that would have announced in spades: New York City Career Woman. Fortunately, I got a hold of myself and shopped on. I considered going into Manhattan, but I was not up to it. Finally, one Sunday about two weeks before the wedding, my dear husband took me in hand, drove us to a mall about 50 miles away (Manhattan is a hundred), and so I shopped. Macy's, etc., but still I came up with nothing. This one was too dressy, this one too blah, this one, I dunno, but it was not right. Finally, as we were leaving, I noticed a huge building with a Lord & Taylor sign. Let's try that, I said.

It was there, right inside the door, in this enormous warehouse under weak fluorescent lights: a pale yellow cotton sateen suit with short sleeves, pearl buttons and simple tailoring. It seemed a little boring at first (considering the Kamali number dancing in my head) but I tried it on, told the woman managing the communal dressing room what this was for--the wedding of the daughter I gave up for adoption, imagine her surprise!--and dear reader, it was perfect. Original price, $379; here at the last-resort mall outlet: $79. Sold.

Handy style guide 
As everyone had arrived a day early for the festivities (my brothers came from Michigan, me and my husband from Long Island, New York), I had arranged to take my daughter, her fiance, my brothers and their kids out to lunch the day before, and that went fine. We all went bowling afterward. My husband, Tony, is not Jane's biological father, but has been in her life as a father-figure since she and I reunited. At the church rehearsal the night before, the Other Mother and I did not speak. She would not even look at me and walked away quickly. There was no rehearsal dinner, a huge boon. I treated my daughter, and her daughter from a first wedding, to the beauty parlor (not something Other Mother would have done, just different styles) the morning of the wedding. At the church, Jane had matching corsages for both of us. Other Mother and I sat next to each other during the ceremony, and she had softened by then, and we spoke in friendly tones. There was no receiving line at the wedding reception--very casual does have many blessings for first/birth mothers.

The day went by without incident. We shared a dance with her adoptive parents. Without assigned seating, my family made up its own table of eight on the side. We did not try to be "near" anybody. In this situation, a lot can be said for the casualness of the affair. Some of Jane's family knew me, and said Hello, a cousin came up and introduced herself, said she had read Birthmark, most of the other guests and family just went on about their business. In truth, I was glad our table was off to the side. I introduced myself to the groom's mother in the ladies room; she was cool, very. I think she's always: cool.

And the day was over. It was just one weekend. I recognize that my situation is unusual, and I was indeed fortunate at how it turned out. I would not have missed the wedding for anything. But everyone, every first mother and daughter, and every situation, every wedding, is different. If you truly feel attending will be more than you can bear, say so and stay home. We owe our children love, but we do not need to demean ourselves to show that love.

PS: One occasion that I did avoid was my daughter's high school graduation. It was a few years after we met, I would have been at the graduation and party afterward alone, amidst all her other relatives, and I could not deal with being the "other" woman, alone. Though my daughter wanted me to attend, and her Other Mother did too because Jane wanted it, I knew I could not handle that kind of situation and after totally freaking out for weeks, told my daughter I simply could not come. She understood.--lorraine

What to Wear, Where: The How-to Handbook for Any Style Situation  
"Life is stressful; your outfit shouldn't be. That's the philosophy behind What to Wear, Where the second book from the authors of the popular style guide What Wear. This time Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power give readers exactly what they've asked for: specific advice on how to put together the perfect look for any social occasion. What to Wear, Where addresses more than 50 major social situations, explains what you should wear and what you shouldn't wear, and shows you exactly what the authors would wear. Loaded with practical tips and style suggestions, it is the perfect resource for anyone who wants to feel more confident about her outfit choices." --Amazon

Thank you for ordering anything through FMF. Click on book jacket or title to go to Amazon. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Putting the birth family first in adoption

As our regular readers know, my daughter Megan was adopted by a Mormon couple and is a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Her oldest child, Rachael is serving a Mormon mission in South America. Recently, I connected to the “Dear Elder” website which provides a mailing service for letters and packages to missionaries. “Dear Elder” sent me an email last week recruiting volunteers for Orphanage Support Service Organization (OSSO), “a nonprofit charitable organization that provides volunteer opportunities to serve … in over 10 orphanages in Ecuador for the purpose of providing them with various types of support…. Volunteers provide one-on-one nurturing to these disadvantaged children who might otherwise never realize their potential. “

Sounded good but my cynical nature took over. I checked out the OSSO website to see if the orphanages were really just a vehicle for proselytizing. Not so: “None of our projects or programs will be used to propagate religious or political ideas that are contrary to the wishes of the institutions in which we are working.”

Hmm, I thought, that’s good but maybe these orphanages are just staging areas for infants slated for adoption in the U.S. We at FMF have written about the rampant corruption in foreign adoptions, fueled in part by the desire of Americans to obtain infants without the annoyance of birthmothers.

OSSO’s office is in Rexburg, Idaho, where a branch of the Provo, Utah-based Mormon college, Brigham Young University is located. Idaho is, of course, also the home state of most of the wacky Baptists who tried to take 33 non-orphaned children out of Haiti.

As those in the adoption reform movement know, the LDS Church is sort of an institutiona non-gratis. The Church pressures single pregnant women to surrender their newborns to “Temple-Worthy” Mormon couples. LDS Family Services is a powerful opponent of legislation to allow adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates.

I wrote to OSSO and asked about its role in adoption. I received this amazing letter from Rex Head, the OSSO contact in Idaho.
“Our goal is to try and do what is best for each child.

When we receive a new child the very first thing we do is to try and find out about her family of origin. We often spend a great deal of time and resources determining if her family of origin is able and willing to properly care for her. If they are not we then see what if anything can be done to help that family become able or willing to care for their child. …. Sometimes we are able to return the child to her family sometimes we are not. If we do, we follow up to make sure the situation remains safe and supportive of the child.

We do not believe that poverty alone should be the reason to seek adoption as an alternative. For example one of the children in our care has a loving mother but is not able to support him as he needs to be supported because he is severely handicapped and caring for him is a full time job and she is very poor. We have tried to employ her in our orphanage but her temperament is not appropriate to work with a large number of children. So we have helped her find other employment. The demands of her job are such that she just cannot care for him during the week so he is with us during the week where he gets therapy, medical attention, good food etc. On the weekend he goes home with his mom and sister.

It is our belief that even the best orphanage is not as good as a good permanent family, so for those who cannot be returned to their families and it looks like the family situation is not likely to change in a favorable direction, or their family is unknown, we do the paper work and legal work so that they can be considered for adoption. We do everything possible to place her inside the country with Ecuadorian adoptive parents. There are however many many more children available for adoption in Ecuador than there are families wanting to adopt so if there are not Ecuadorian families wanting to adopt international adoptive families are considered. In our orphanage we have 22 children, 20 of them have disabilities….

Although we don’t do them [adoptions] ourselves we do allow them to happen even encourage them when needed. I appreciate your concern, and I am very aware of the great injustices done in the name of international adoptions.... There are about 50,000 international adoptions each year. It is a big business where much money is spent to find the youngest cutest healthiest whitest babies and sell them to the highest bidder. Sorry if that sounds rather commercial that is what it is. In some countries it is a very profitable export crop….

Please see the other side of the coin. There are 5+ million children living in orphanages worldwide. Most of them are full of children who are not young enough, healthy enough or white enough to be considered export quality and so the mainstream adoption world never knocks on their door.…. Those children have a right to a family that loves them and if such a family can be found it should be a crime of the highest order to keep the child and family apart no matter where the family lives.”
I almost cried when I read this letter. I thanked Rex and sent off a small check. You can donate to OSSO through its website, www.orphanagesupport.org.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When you have a family history of breast cancer, take this test. Or, Do not pass Go, Go directly to jail.

Did you know that genes can be patented? That's right, ever since 1982 when the U.S. Patent Office let a group of inventors "own" a specific gene. Today more than 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities.

What does this have to do with adoption?

Plenty, if you are adopted most likely you do not have access to your family medical history. A company called Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City (in our least favorite state) holds the patent on breast- and ovarian-cancer genes, and they have developed the only test so far which doctors recommend for women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer to see if you are carrying the discordant gene. You see the problem, right?

If you don't know if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, what do you do? Pop for the test, of course. It's around $3,400 and good luck getting your insurance company to cover it because you say you're adopted. Earlier this month, Myriad reported its profits increased 67 percent, to $35.4 million, for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

There have been complaints aplenty that the patents impede research because scientists are even forbidden to looked at BRCA results with permission. Amazingly enough, in the first lawsuit of its kind, the American Civil Liberties Association, while no friend of adoptee rights, no sirree--and the Public Patent Foundation of Cardozo School of Law argued earlier this month in federal court in New York that patents on these genes are unconstitutional because they restrict research and thus violate free speech.

The lawsuit, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al., was filed on behalf of researchers, genetic counselors, women patients, cancer survivors, breast cancer and women's health groups, and scientific associations (ED: too bad it does not include the American Adoption Congress and "women adopted as infants without access to family medical records") representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals. The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which hold the patents on the genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. The lawsuit charges that patents on human genes violate the First Amendment and patent law because genes are "products of nature" and therefore can't be patented. 

All of this reminded me of being in Albany a couple of years ago to lobby for an open-records bil for adoptees. One of my fellow lobbyists was a woman who flew up from another state. She had been born and adopted in New York, and so records were tied up in some dark dank corner of Albany. She talked about having medical tests that might be unnecessary, and the expense, trying to explain to the doltish legislator she was speaking to, Daniel O'Donnell, why this made her feel less than equal to well, say the guy she was talking to. (We've talked about Mr. Daniel O'Donnell of the Albany Assembly before.)
O'Donnell (of the Upper West Side of Manhattan) stopped her and said that he would never never as long as he lived, no matter what she or I or anyone in the whole wide world might say, vote for open records for adopted people. She continued on, tears welling up in her eyes. O'Donnell treated her as if she did not matter.

If I'm getting off the track here, excuse me, because every time I read about O'Donnell (and I do read about him now and then), who is a major player in getting gay marriage passed in New York, I see red. While O'Donnell is fighting for the rights of his own group--a right I support, and wrote in favor of years ago in USA Today--he can not see beyond the blinders imposed by his sister, adoptive mother Rosie O'Donnell. He once told another lobbyist that Rosie and he were afraid that if the records were open--and Rosies' adopted children knew the truth of their origins--that their birth mothers would come back and attempt to extort money from her; he told Joyce Bahr of New York's Unsealed Initiative that giving adoptees their original birth records was unconstitutional, the court cases that she showed him to the contrary notwithstanding.

And adopted individuals' need for a health history? Phfft! Not our concern! Apparently we haven't made the case yet, and it does seem to fall on deaf ears, such as O'Donnell's and all the others who oppose our bill or hold it up on committee--it's in the Health Committee in the Senate and Thomas Duane, who chairs that committee is not at all interested in moving it along. He recently referred to birth mothers who might be found as "fair game," as if we were all fearful of the phone call that might open the door to the child we lost. (See sidebar for more on Duane and how to reach him.)

Let's hope U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in New York decides in favor of not letting a corporation--any corporation--own a human gene. The ruling was stupid in 1982, and stupid it remains.--lorraine
I don't know what is up with the white space here but I can't get rid of it. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Joyous Reunion

Oprah Winfrey’s reunion show Thursday was inspiring and refreshing.

“It’s a validation thing. When your birthmother looks for you, it’s validating that you were never forgotten. It heals a piece of you. It’s a gift, honestly.” Pam Slaton, an adoptee and professional searcher who reunited rapper Darryl McDaniels (DMC) with his mother, spoke these words as she sat next to a mother and daughter she had reunited the day before.

The mother, Linda, had given up her daughter 42 years earlier when she was 15. Linda had no choice; her mother refused to let her come home with the baby. Pam accompanied Linda back to Rosalie, the home for unwed mothers in New York City where she gave birth to her daughter in 1968. It was Linda’s first return, an intensely emotional experience. She remembered “the joyfulness of giving birth” and the sorrow of walking out without her daughter. “I knew the day I was leaving and I knew the last time I held her was the last time I held her” she said sadly.

Laura, Linda’s daughter, had tried unsuccessfully to find her mother. “I have lived all my life without a family. I have been dying for a family. My life was difficult. I used to think from the day I was born I’ve been rejected; that I haven’t been able to find anyone who cares about me…. When you’re adopted, you never know why the person gave you up. You never know if they decided that they didn’t want you. You were an accident. They didn’t care; you weren’t worthy of their love.”

There were no platitudes (“I’m grateful that my birth mother made the difficult decision to give me up. I never would have had this wonderful life.” “I knew I had to let her go. I made the right decision.”) It was just a mother and daughter who never should have been separated coming together, bringing with them Laura’s husband and three children and Linda’s son. (Oprah dutifully warned the audience that not all reunions end up this way.)

At the end of the show Troy Dunn “The Locator” admonished the audience about not delaying their searches (the reality of mortality.) “Think about the unloved ones in your life. There is still time to move them over to the loves ones list. There is no better time than today.”

Later that day I read on the Bastard Nation list that the South Dakota Senate had tubed a bill to allow adult adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates. I just wish these obdurate politicians had seen Oprah’s show.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A First Father's Story: After the Reunion

This is the final part of Joe Sanchez' account of the adoption of his daughter Margaret, his search, and his reunion. The picture is of Joe today.

I left our first meeting thinking that this was the somewhat awkward beginning to what would eventually be a very close friendship. Since then (six months ago), I have not seen Margaret. We continue to exchange e-mails, but hers are mostly about her children’s activities. Talk of a future meeting has always been initiated by either Charlotte or me, but nothing has materialized. On the contrary, a recent e-mail indicated that Margaret and her children would be spending a few days in Orlando, which is about 60 miles from where I live. She does not even hint at the possibility of getting together for a couple of hours.

I can understand that adoptees or birth parents who have experienced difficult and even painful reunions will probably think that I should be thankful for any kind of relationship with Margaret, even if it’s limited to what I have described. My problem is that I have no clue as to how Margaret feels about us. Prior to finding her, I spent a lot of time trying to anticipate how Margaret would react. I did not give much thought to what my reaction would be. Driving home from our reunion, I realized that she had become extremely important and I still don’t know why. If I had children, perhaps I would realize that what I’m feeling is parental love. I do have many close friends and I know that I want at least that kind of relationship with Margaret. I’d like for us to be comfortable enough to pick up the phone and share news, worries, joys, concerns and plain gossip with each other. Her e-mails consist mostly of anecdotes about her children, but nothing that approximates an expression of emotion in her part.

Neither Charlotte nor I think of ourselves as Margaret’s parents. Our parents are the people who raise us and I would never expect a 45-year old woman to think of me as her father just because we share DNA. But isn’t there some place between parenthood and being relegated to the level of an Internet acquaintance?

It would be easier to accept the status quo if I knew why Margaret does not want to go beyond it. But as much as she may physically resemble me (and she does), the woman is an enigma. I have never had trouble relating to people; some of my friendships go all the way back to elementary school. But yet my birth daughter is a mystery to me and to my family. I have three siblings and about a dozen nephews and nieces–all of them were thrilled to hear that I had found Margaret. For fear of overwhelming her, I asked my relatives not to contact Margaret all at once. Only three of them have contacted her; she treats them with the same reserved politeness she uses with me.

Interestingly, Charlotte has been more accepting of the situation than I am. She feels that we’re fortunate that Margaret wants us in her life at all; if our daughter is satisfied with seeing us once a year, so be it. To me, that's not good enough. I don’t know why there should be such a difference in our reactions to Margaret. Is it because I’m the one who tried to find her for so many years? Is it a cultural or personality distinction–as a Latino, I'm more inclined to express my feelings and Charlotte is a WASP who is more reserved and cautious in her relationships. Margaret may look like me, but maybe she has inherited Charlotte’s personality.

Some answers will come if and when I get to know Margaret better. Given my age (66) and the paucity of our contacts, I fear that we may never go past the present.

I just don't know if there is anything I can do to draw her out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cont. : A First Father's Story: Search and Reunion

This is the second part of a three part story by Joe Sanchez who lost his daughter to adoption in 1964; the final segment will be posted tomorrow. Joe is pictured here with Charlotte, his daughter's mother.

About 19 years ago, I was diagnosed with a serious heart disorder. My condition was asymptomatic (and so it remains), but I was told that data showed a strong genetic link. This irregularity is known for causing sudden death among adolescents and I immediately thought of Margaret and any children that she may have. Of course, I hoped that once Margaret knew about her birth parents, she would immediately ask for identifying information (which Pennsylvania would have provided). In addition to the heart problem and several other health issues of importance, I did feel a certain sense of responsibility. What if Margaret and any family she may have needed help? What if she had searched for us and run into obstacles?

When I contacted the state of Pennsylvania requesting that my heart information and the health history of my family and Charlotte’s family be submitted to Margaret, I was told that my name appeared nowhere in its adoption records. In fact, there was no birth certificate which listed me as anyone’s father. The state had turned me into a non-person.

I did not give up. Over the following years, I experienced the roller-coaster ride that typifies many searches. I retained attorneys, bought search "instruments" and periodically pestered the state with requests for information. Glimmers of hope would be dashed by bureaucratic rejections; I would get discouraged and months would go by before I renewed my efforts. During all this time, Charlotte was not prepared to participate in the search since she had never told her second husband about Margaret. She thought his reaction would have been extremely negative and possibly put their marriage in jeopardy. I had no choice but to respect her concerns.

Fate intervened in three ways. By chance, I happened to see a notice in one of the online adoption groups. A female adoptee born in the Philadelphia area was searching for her birth parents. Although the dates did not match Margaret’s (October of 1964 instead of November of 1964), I wrote to her (Barbara) hoping she might have some information on the best way to work with the State of Pennsylvania. We became fast online friends and even met at each other’s homes. As an adoptee, Barbara gave me insights into how Margaret would react to a search. She was also an attorney and she confirmed that I had done everything I could do. My only remaining hope was that Margaret would launch a search and find us.

Secondly, Charlotte’s husband, who had been ill for several years, passed away. At that point, she informed me that she would be willing to participate in the search. Again I filed all of the medical information and again nothing happened. It took months to learn that (1) I had been interacting with the wrong county. Contrary to Charlotte’s specific request in 1964 (as corroborated in our letters from that time), the adoption had taken place in Delaware County which is where she lived and not in Philadelphia County, which is where she gave birth; (2) The reason my name appeared nowhere was that Margaret’s birth certificate showed Charlotte as the mother and the father as "unknown" (hardly the kind of information which would make an adoptee eager to find her birth parents). The decision to delete my name was made by someone in Charlotte’s family. It wasn’t until Pennsylvania told me about it that Charlotte learned why I had been excluded in 1964; and (3) Margaret had not initiated any search.

Thirdly, with Barbara’s help, we drafted a petition to the judge whose court had the authority to order that the medical information be forwarded to Margaret. He turned the case over to an excellent social worker who quickly found Margaret. She provided the information to our daughter and also told her that her birth parents were willing to be contacted.

It took Margaret two months to decide that she wanted our names and e-mail addresses. As the mother of two teenagers, she had quickly acted on the cardiac information. She and the children were tested and no signs of any heart abnormality were found. It then took her another six weeks to finally contact us via e-mail.

Over the years multiple scenarios had run through my head: our daughter could have died; she could be disabled; perhaps she did not even know she had been adopted; she could be reluctant to hurt her parents by searching for us; or maybe she wanted nothing to do with her birth parents. I didn’t dwell on any of these possibilities since I had no idea what I would find.

As it turned out, Margaret had been raised by a wonderful mother (widowed when the baby was only two) and had enjoyed a happy childhood. Her mother passed away a few years ago. Margaret is a college graduate, married for nearly 20 years and the proud mother of the aforementioned two children.

After a month of exchanging very cordial e-mails, I suggested a meeting. Charlotte and I are about equidistant from Margaret’s home town and we spent a weekend there. We talked with her for hours, mostly relating the story of the pregnancy, the adoption and the search. Our letters from 1964 were an invaluable tool since they described our mindsets during the pregnancy.

Margaret was an attentive and interested listener; she asked no questions. Although she was always pleasant, polite and gracious, she showed very little emotion. Neither did we. Charlotte and I had gone over the letters on our own and we’re not the kind of people who display feelings in public. We might have if Margaret had reacted differently, but she was consistently poised.

Both in the e-mails and in person, Margaret repeated how grateful she was for what we had done for her. Before she was "found," Margaret had been asked to write 25 facts about herself and the first thing she mentioned was that she was adopted:
"I am adopted. This has never been a big issue with me, just a fact
about my life. There was never a time I didn’t know I was adopted. I’ve been asked if I ever wanted to meet my birth parents, but I haven’t really pursued it. The main thing I’d express was thanks and appreciation for giving me such an amazing mother and family."
We were so grateful that Margaret was not resentful (the stereotypical "How could you give me up?" scenario) that we accepted her comment without question. It is not so much an implied criticism of us as praise for her adoptive mother. Modesty aside, I think that Charlotte and I would probably have been very good parents under normal circumstances, but not in 1964. And after reading an autobiographical essay by Margaret’s adoptive mother, I concur with her assessment--she was indeed a terrific woman.

Tomorrow WHAT NOW?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A First Father's Story: Surrendering our child (Final)

This is the first of three parts by birth father Joe Sanchez. The next two installments will be published tomorrow and Thursday (2/17/10).

Charlotte, the woman who would later become my wife, and I were sophomores in a Pennsylvania college when she became pregnant in 1964. From the outset, her family took over the decision-making and she was placed in the Florence Crittenton Home, an institution for unwed mothers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Charlotte and I had recognized that in order to keep the baby both of us would have had to drop out of school, moved in with one of our families and rely on extensive help in order to raise the baby. We did not feel we were in a position to give the child a proper home environment. However, keeping the child was largely a moot point; Charlotte’s parents were adamantly opposed to our marriage, and she accepted their decision. They had hoped that their daughter’s relationship with me would end with the pregnancy. Our letters show that abortion was never an option; not only was it illegal in 1964, but neither Charlotte nor her family would have considered it.

I tried to keep the pregnancy a secret from my family. My mother and stepfather opened one of Charlotte’s letters and became aware of the situation. Both of them, as well as my older brother, assumed that we would be married and keep the baby. Of course, the family would help us. Understandably for a Latino-Catholic family, they stressed that the only thing for me to do was to own up to my "mistake" and make amends by marrying the mother of my child. They did not understand how Charlotte’s parents would simply "give away" their grandchild. It was hard for them to accept that the matter was completely out of my hands. When my family realized that there would be no marriage, the subject was dropped and, except for my announcement of the baby’s birth, it never came up again. After my mother died at age 92 in 2006, I was told that she always made a point of remembering my daughter’s birthday. She never said anything to me, but apparently mentioned to my siblings how much she regretted not knowing what had happened to her granddaughter.

To be fair, I was hardly the most suitable candidate for inclusion in Charlotte’s family. I was born in Cuba, had lived in Spain where I had to drop out of school at age 11, and as of 1964, had only been in the United States for seven years. Nor did my family represent anything that approximated the socio-economic status of Charlotte’s parents. They were both college graduates, and her father was an editor at Philadelphia’s biggest newspaper. By contrast, my mother and stepfather had never made it to high school. My stepfather loaded car batteries on trucks, my mother sewed in a textile factory, and my brother was a steelworker. Why would Charlotte’s parents want her adult life to start out with a baby, a foreign-born husband, and a motley crew of in-laws?

Although Charlotte and I had no way of knowing for certain, we believed that the baby would be placed in a safe and loving home, and receive all of the advantages we could not give her. We never regretted the decision and rarely even mentioned it. To us, there was no point in discussing something that was out of our hands.

Except for filling out a questionnaire, I was never consulted about anything. In fact, Crittenton had specific rules prohibiting contact between the expecting mothers and their boyfriends, the prospective fathers. Charlotte and I managed to stay in contact on a daily basis through letters. We still have all the correspondence from those months and the letters include numerous exchanges about the adoption. We were told that the adoptive parents would be fairly young, college educated, and Catholic–the preferences Charlotte had listed.

She gave birth to a baby girl who was named Margaret, my mother’s name. and she relinquished all legal right within 24 hours. Once the adoption took place, Charlotte and I never discussed our daughter. We hoped that our daughter was with people who loved her, and gave her the kind of life we were in no position to offer her.

Last year we learned that our daughter's adoptive parents were in their 40s at the time of the adoption,  not Catholic, and did not even live in Pennsylvania. I guess the child of two college students is more "attractive" to adoptive parents. I should also note that race seemed to be a big factor. As the result of my Latin surname, they requested a picture of me--I suppose they wanted to ascertain that I was Caucasian!

Charlotte and I were married two years later, shortly after graduating from college; we enjoyed a very happy life for 18 years. By choice, we never had children. When we were married in 1966, we had expected to have children. However, after postponing the decision for years (graduate school, Peace Corps service, starting new jobs) we came to the conclusion that we wanted to maintain a lifestyle without children. As with many other choices in life, we were well aware of the trade-offs. We simply thought that remaining childless was right for us and never regretted it. The fact that Charlotte had given birth to Margaret was not a factor. When our lives took different paths, we were divorced in 1988. As painful as the divorce was, we remain very good friends to this day. Charlotte remarried and her second husband did not approve of her staying in touch with me. Our contacts became more sporadic, but the link was never broken.

Tomorrow: THE SEARCH

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Generation Gap: Do Women from an Earlier Era See Relinquishing their Children Differently? A Different View

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's November, 2006 report, Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process which Lorraine refers to in the preceding post is excellent and well worth reading. However, I think the jury is still out on whether women from the Baby-Scope, pre Roe v. Wade, period see relinquishing their children differently that the open adoption mothers of today. I relinquished my daughter Megan in 1966. If I had been asked how I felt about my “decision” during the next 20 years, I would have answered I was okay, that I did the only thing I could have done.

In fact, in the early 80's, I read a letter to Ann Landers from a birthmother telling of her intense, endless pain. I remember being incredulous. While I had not forgotten about my child (as social workers in my day promised), I worked at putting my feelings aside, and other than an occasional, sometimes intense, sense of loss, I was generally successful. I was actually quite proud of myself for having control.

It was not until my mother died in July of 1988 almost 22 years after my surrender that I began to suffer profound and frequent episodes of grief. I began replaying the events leading up to my pregnancy, Megan’s birth, and the surrender. I realized that I could have -- and should have -- kept her. Since our reunion in 1997 these feelings have lessened somewhat and I have been able to focus more on the present than the past.

Other birthmothers have told me that they repressed their feelings for many years. In fact one birthmother recounted how she volunteered at an adoption agency, giving talks to prospective adoptive parents about what a good decision she made. Then she reunited with her daughter and her protective wall crumbled.

We can't know until 20 or more years have passed whether open-adoption mothers are more at peace than my generation of mothers.

Tomorrow, we're moving to a new writer and a new topic. Birthfather Joe Sanchez tells us about his search for his daughter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Generation Gap: Do Women From an Earlier Era See Relinquishing their Children Differently?

Didn't know the blog was screwed up! Have been away from computer for more than 30 hours! Read below for changes, and er, a fix. Didn't know there was nothing there! --lo

So, do birth/first mothers who relinquished during the Baby Scoop Era, as I did in 1966, in general feel differently about their decision to do so than mothers who relinquished later on? The discussion going on in the comments at a previous post, No Relinquishment Regrets, indicates that they do. In general. And in reading other blogs (including at adoption.com or was it adoptionvoices?) which kicked me off for having an alternative opinion), it's not been lost on me that younger (birth/first) mothers, mothers who relinquished without the intense societal pressures that those of us who relinquished in the Fifties, Sixties, even the Seventies felt coming at us relentless as the rain do feel differently than we do.

I've poked around looking for research and it's sketchy. We start here with what British adoption researcher John Triseliotis  reported in 2005 in The Adoption Triangle Revisited (with Julia Feast and Fiona Kyle):
"Most of the birth mothers featuring in this study gave birth to their child, and parted with them, in the 1950 and 1960s when harsh attitudes, along with same and stigma, surrounded non-marital birth. As a result, and to maintain the secret, many birth mothers and their families built elaborate stories and fictions to disguise the pregnancy and birth, with many of them being sent to mother and baby homes or to another part of the country in order to conceal the pregnancy. It is not surprising, perhaps, that many came to feel that it had not been their decision to part with their child and suggested that it was taken out of their control."
[This is a hard nut for me, because on the one hand, I feel this way--that my choice was not really a choice, even if my parents were not directly involved, they were involved--and on the other hand, I feel that taking responsibility for one's act is leads to greater acceptance by one's found/reunited child. In my own situation, in time I was able to say to her that I--not society--gave her up. Simply saying: I'm sorry that you had to be adopted without caveats as in The devil, the times, my parents made me do it, leads to a stronger basis for a reunion of hearts and minds--and forgiveness. Just, I'm sorry you were adopted. I'm sorry I did not keep you.

Those few words eloquently express one's own responsibility for the child you gave up for adoption. Some may disagree, but I think most adoptees would like to hear those words at least once, even. As for forgiveness, we may feel pressures were so inevitable that we do not need forgiveness, but maybe adoptees need to feel they have the power to give it; however, if we say we were not to blame, how can they forgive us?]
To continue with Triseliotis: "A significant minority, however, were clear that the decision had been theirs. Because of the stigma and the absence of emotional support and understanding from the immediate family, or the child's father, and because the decision had been taken out of their hands, the great majority also came to feel lonely, isolated, abandoned, vulnerable, powerless and largely victims. Equally, some of their parents had found themselves torn between the wish to be supportive and the fear of shame. Furthermore, and because the pregnancy had become a taboo subject, it could not be talked about within the family and so no emotional support could be made available either.
[Which leads to older-era birth/first mothers not telling their husbands, children, etc., and makes for a difficult transition (or none at all) when the adopted person comes back into one's life. So--if you are reading this and have not told your spouse, your children...just do it. They may be hurt because you kept this secret from them, but in most cases, it will lead to a better understanding and the support you need. Just do it. A group from New York's Unsealed Initiative was back up on Albany lobbying last week, and again, they ran into someone who obviously had knowledge of some birth mother hiding deep in the closet and mentioned, when discussing the bill that would give adoptees their original birth certificates, how birth mothers are "fair game." Indicating that as "game" to be shot, they do not want to be found. When, in fact, most birth/first mothers hope to be rescued from a lifetime of wondering about their offspring.]
Triseliotis: "Some doctors, nurses and other professionals, e.g., moral welfare workers, were said to have shared the parent's and society's censorious attitudes, reinforcing both the shame and concealment of the pregnancy and birth. They, too, were said to without emotional support and saw adoption as resolving all the concerns and also providing the child with a 'good home.' This meant that birth mothers were again deprived of opportunities to express their intense grief and feelings of loss."
Hello...Yo, that is that how I felt. I only told one girl friend in Rochester [she drove me to the hospital, hoping I would not deliver in the car], one who was back in Michigan but we did not talk often, and Patrick, my daughter's father. Who saw adoption as the only solution.
But younger women do not approach giving up their child to be adopted with the same pressures, and by and large they do feel relinquishment is a real "choice," and thus are able to take responsibility that it is their own decision, and in making that decision, are genuinely of the mind that they are doing the best by their child. And while that does not change the maternal feelings of loss (that is hormonal, instinctual), it seems to have led to a lessening of the type of deep-seated and unending grief that mothers of my era harbor. From the Evan B. Donaldson 2006 report on birthmothers and their grief:
Current research on birthmothers concludes that being able to choose the adoptive family and having ongoing contact and/or knowledge results in lower levels of grief and greater peace of mind with their adoption decisions.
Women who have the highest grief levels are those who placed their children with the understanding that they would have ongoing information, but the arrangement was cut off. Such contact/information is the most important factor in facilitating birthparents’ adjustment, but only 13 states have laws to enforce post-adoption contact agreements in infant adoptions.
And from anecdotal evidence, those 13 states are not doing much to actually enforce the contracts. If an adoptive family changes their phone number and moves away, who is going to find them and haul their asses into court/jail? The local sheriff? And if the adoptive parents are pillars of the community, or otherwise "upstanding" citizens? And the sheriff is going to do exactly what?

Not much. I am taking the women at face value--that is what they are saying, that they are more at peace with their decisions than I was--but yeah, everyone, there is a part of me that has a hard time buying that.

And everyone, no matter when you relinquished, long ago or last week, give yourself a break tomorrow--buy yourself a flower, eat some chocolate, forgive yourself. afor the time being, we'll have to rely on anecdotal data. Stay tuned.

And despite everything, buy yourself a flower, have some chocolate, it's good for the heart. Yes, it's winter but spring can not be far behind.--lorraine

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Don't I Like my Birth Mother?

In a day I'll post about the difference (in general) between first/birth mothers of my generation and some of the later-day moms who relinquished as that has been a debate going on in the comments section of earlier posts. But this evening as I was catching up on one of my new fave TV shows, Life Unexpected on The CW, the speech by Kate, the birth mother who is trying to build a relationship with Luxe, her daughter, hit me between the eyes. A recap before we get to the speech:

Luxe has been lying to her friends at school about her background, pretending to be a rich kid just in from boarding school [instead of a kid who did not get adopted and went from one lousy foster home to another], but she gets suspended for selling a huge bong lamp aka drug paraphernalia. (I know that sounds weird, but the bong lamp is a touchstone of the show.) Mom Kate brings the social worker's file on Luxe to the school and begs to have the suspension lifted, but some snarky girl at school Xeroxes the file and posts it all over Luxe's locker...about her not having parents, being in foster care, etc. (Her letter to Santa written as an eight-year-old will piece the heart of anyone who hoped to be adopted and wasn't.) Luxe's friends drop her, but Luxe gets to get back at Kate and "outs" Kate as Not A Single Women But As Someone Engaged to her co-host on their morning radio show--when she is supposed to be single. Will this ruin Kate's career?

Luxe spends the night at Baze's (her father) apartment, Baze tells Luxe she is going to have to work it out with Mom Kate. In the morning, Luxe meets her and before she gets a chance to say much of anything beyond "Hey," Mom Kate speaks:
I just don't know how many more times I can say that I'm trying. I can only do what I think is right....I didn't out you on purpose. I didn't Xerox your file, I didn't post it on your locker, but you outed me on purpose...I don't know if...I can't do this Luxe. Not this way, this isn't working.

I know you have been through a lot and I have a lot to learn about being with you, but right now I don't know how to do this better than I'm doing it...and even with all of that you still keep pushing me away, you keep leaving. It feels like ever since you got here all you do is leave and if you don't want to be with me, we can all Freda [the social worker, maybe, not sure who that was], you can get Baze approved [to be the custodial parent], we can find you someone else, we'll figure it out. Because I'm not a perfect mom. You know, this is my best and at some point you are going to have to take it or leave it. It's up to you. 
Well, I don't know how many times I said that same speech to my daughter--or thought it--because as many of you know, she came, she stayed, she left. For months at a time. Around a year once. And it was hell. Then she would come back only to do it again, a few years later. Up and down, in and out, warm love or cold rejection, I never knew when one would turn into the other.

And Linda and Jane, and Allison and Karen and Denise and and so many other first mothers I know have the same experience--it doesn't matter who found whom either. It feels like no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, no matter what we say or don't say, our found children want to leave, want to hurt us, want to tell us to shove it and show us how little we matter to them. It's a way of showing us what it was like to be abandoned without warning--just as they were when they were too young to object.

So we first/birth mothers weep and go over everything we said: Was that the offending sentence, the comment that got us black-listed? I should not have said that. But usually that is an innocent comment, not worthy of such analysis. For many of us, it feels like our children are lying in wait for us to do something that they can say: See what she did? She used the "guest towels" when she wasn't supposed to. She wore the wrong kind of dress to my wedding! She introduced me to the lady at the grocery store as her "daughter." She asked me to write a letter in favor of open records--who in the hell does she think she is? The nerve! She said that girls were harder to raise than boys! I'm leaving! I'll show her! She means nothing to me. Nothing. I'm outta here.

And on into the night.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Latest Craze: Giving Away Baby

Unlike fellow blogger Linda, I was not stunned at reading what was purported to be a response to a request for feedback from birthmothers on the online adoption agency, AdoptHelp.

“I am not aware of any birth mothers who regret their decision” claims the unidentified writer. I saw this as a marketing gimmick, probably coming from an employee of AdoptHelp’s PR department. Testimonials from apparently satisfied customers is a time honored way to snare in innocents whether you’re talking about Wall Street (think Bernie Madoff) or the Stork Market.

Birthmother Melissa Busch, who also goes by Melissa Valencia-Manerini, takes it a step farther, exulting her adoption experience on the Huffington Post as “amazing, positive, and has continued to feel like the best possible choice I could have made at the time” just as her decision “to have an abortion many years later” was. Busch is a board member of Portland’s largest domestic adoption agency, Open Adoption & Family Services, a fact she does not disclose on Huff Po.

Busch notes that it is difficult to answer the question “Do you have any children?” because of society’s negative view of the type of woman who would give her baby away and a lack of public understanding of “genuinely open adoption which has revolutionized adoption practices and the experiences of all parties involved.” Busch argues that adoption ”is a legitimate pregnancy option for all women faced with a pregnancy decision” and there is “nothing strange, scary, secretive or shameful about it.”

We at First Mother Forum agree that openness in adoption is a positive step and that women who lost their child to adoption should not be shamed but beyond that Busch loses us. Treating adoption as just another consumer choice (do you want fries, coleslaw, or fruit with your burger?) or worse, as a matter of pride, is baffling. This is, after all, a child, not a choice.

The birthmothers that we know and who post on this blog had few options. In fact, many had no option but surrender. Busch, however, was in a relatively comfortable position. She tells us that she and her daughter’s father were very much in love and, until her eighth month of pregnancy, they were going to “parent.” However, she continuously felt “that what I could give emotionally, physically and financially was not enough to be the kind of parent I wanted to be.” (It crosses my mind that her feelings of inadequacy may come from reading too many books on child-rearing which make the most natural of acts incredibly complex while promoting zillions of expensive baby gadgets.)

Although Busch tell us that her relationship with her daughter has "grown over the years," Busch does not tell us how her daughter feels about her mother's unwillingness to “parent” her. It may be that Busch has never thought to ask her.

What’s really scary is that we may be seeing the beginnings of a new craze. Just as adopting has become fashionable in many communities so may be surrendering. Instead of boasting about where your child is going to college (my son planned to go to State U until Harvard gave him a full scholarship), mothers may jump for joy when that thick envelope arrives accepting their unborn child into Spence-Chapin.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Anti-Abortion Ad at the Super Bowl; No Relinquishment Regrets?

I've tried in vain to avoid all things adoption, but once again it was front and center and unavoidable. I just finished reading Gail Collins' When Everything Changed, a history of the women's movement from the 60s to the present, and of course she discussed Roe v. Wade and out-of-wedlock pregnanices. I sent this e-mail to Lorraine last week:
And I was just reading this chapter about the decline of the double standard in Gail Collins' book; she's discussing the Pill. She quotes a woman who attended my college a decade before me and married her senior year, which was rare in the 60s: Judy Riff remembered that one of her friends at their all-girls Catholic college got pregnant her sophomore year, "and one minute she was there and the next minute she was gone. It was like she was never there.....I don't know what happened to her." The very idea of having a baby out of wedlock "was just so awful....," Riff said, "that probably would have to be the worst thing that could have happened to any of us."

Now, this was my college, but 1967. You know I was a sophomore when I got pregnant in 1976. I had conversations with just about all the girls in the dorm, and several of the sisters, and the sisters agreed with me, sadly, that I wasn't the first, and I wasn't going to be the last (single and pregnant). Thank GOD I had the support of my classmates. Actually, I thought about that when I got pregnant, they could have thrown me out. Thankfully, they didn't. I remember making up a final exam and Sister Lucille brought me a glass of milk and cookies (perhaps a reward because I didn't choose abortion?). And I'm reading this on the 34th anniversary of the day I met [my daughter's father]. I conceived on the 31st, tomorrow. Happy anniversary to me.

And that chill up my spine coincided with the debate over CBS's decision to run an anti-abortion ad while rejecting a gay dating service ad during the Super Bowl. For me, it's a very real possibility that all the rights that Lorraine and Jane and so many of my sisters fought for my generation and our children and grandchildren are slowly eroding...I have a very strong feeling women vacuuming in frilly aprons and pearls may actually once again become a reality, and a woman's right to choose will cease being a right.

And finally, Lorraine shared this gem that was forwarded from another blog earlier this week:

Birth Mother Question: I was just wondering if you get any feedback from birth mothers a year or two after placement regarding their outlook on adoption and their decision to place? As a birth mother who placed a baby through AdoptHelp two years ago, Mark asked me to answer this question. I have spoken with many birth mothers who have placed over the years through my support group on the Web. The good news is that I am not aware of any birth mothers who regret their decision. [Emphasis mine] I have talked with some who wished that they weren't in the position they were in. Then again, I also have talked to women who have placed twice, who couldn’t be happier because there was no other option in their opinion. Every woman, no matter what their story, although they have had their hard times, does not for a single second regret what they did. They know they did what was best for their child, and they respect their story. It has changed more lives than one, and as birth mom’s, that’s what we strive for. Changing not only the lives of our child, but the life of the parent or parents that will love and nourish our child. From my experience, most birth mothers have the same outlook; they are proud and stand with their heads held high! [Emphasis Mine]

Posted on Friday, November 14, 2008 at 08:01PM by Registered CommenterAdoptHelp in Birth mother Questions, adoption, birth mother, place baby for adoption, pregnant Comments Off
I was so stunned by this statement that all I could say was the birthmothers this commenter has spoken to must have been lobotomized. As for women placing children for adoption twice--once was painful enough. And yeah, like Judy Riff said, it's up there with the worst thing that ever happened to my daughter and me. In my thirty-four years in the birthmother sisterhood, I have yet to meet or speak to a birth mother who doesn't wish things could have been different. The only birth mother I'm aware of who is at peace with her decision is the twenty-something woman who posted a FMF comment many blogs ago; I'd like to talk to that woman in about twenty years to see if she's still as happy about her decision.
Just some random thoughts to ponder on a snow day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Let's Hear it For the Haitian Government

Let’s hear it for the Haitian officials who stopped 10 Americans with a busload of Haitian children at the Dominican Republic border. Let’s hope that images of these Americans sitting in a Haitian jail discourage others planning to save children while supplying the rapacious American demand for foreign children.

We at FMF thought sanity had prevailed over the initial rush to bring Haitian children to the US for adoption and we could turn our attention to other events. After all, respected voices in international adoption, including Susan Soon-Keum Cox, Vice-President of Holt International Children’s Services, and Jane Aronson, director of Worldwide Orphans Foundation, have urged restraint. (Red Tapes Holds Haitian Families Together and Putting the Brakes on Haitian Adoptions

We were overly optimistic.

Haitian officials caught these Americans, eight whom were affiliated with two Baptist churches in Idaho, trying to cross into the Dominican Republic with 33 Haitian children. Led by Laura Silsby, CEO of PersonalShopper.com, an online shopping assistance company, they were on their way to Cabarete, DR where they had turned a hotel into a makeshift orphanage. Operating under the auspices of New Life Children’s Refuge which Silsby had incorporated on November 25, 2009, they planned to build new facilities in nearby Magante which would eventually hold 150 children and provide them “with a solid education and vocational skills as well as opportunities for adoption into a loving Christian family.” These facilities would also include “villas for adopting parents to stay while fulfilling requirements for 60-90 day visit” according to the New Life website.

At least some of the children were not orphans. Their parents told reporters for the NY Times that they agreed to allow their children to go with the missionaries because the missionaries had promised the children would receive an education in the DR. The missionaries told the parents that they would be able to visit their children and the children would be free to come home for visits.

We’ve seen this before. The mass removal of Native American children and Australian aborigine children. Operation Babylift and Pedro Pan. Orphan trains and Georgia Tann. A fanatical rush to save children resulting in needless suffering for them and their parents. Meanwhile, there are 123,000 American children are in foster care awaiting adoption.

In other news on the Haitian front, fifty children were brought to Utah under the auspices of the Wasatch International Adoption Agency Monday night. WIA is planning to bring 15 more who are “stranded” in Haiti, caught up in bureaucratic red tape” according to ABC news in Ogden.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mormon Myths and Adoption Records

Lorraine’s post Mormons on Meeting Your (Birth) Child generated many comments about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ position on single mothers, adoption, and reunion. We encourage our readers to read the excellent letter on Feverfew from “M” correcting some of the statements about LDS beliefs. “M” identifies herself as a lifelong Mormon “who is currently attempting to live the precepts of the LDS faith while reconciling my adoption experience with the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I consider myself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, I don’t consider myself to be a typical “Mormon” by any means because I tend to question with boldness the very existence of God.”

As many of you know, my daughter Rebecca was adopted by Mormons. Early in our reunion 12 years ago, I tried to learn about the Church. I’ve come to the conclusion that LDS Church leaders, like clever politicians, don’t take positions on issues when they don’t have to. Much like the platforms of political parties, the Church has core doctrines. These doctrines came from God via the first prophet, Joseph Smith, and have been “clarified” by subsequent prophets or presidents as they are also called.

Like political parties with their National, State and Local Committees, elected officials, candidates, precinct people, and the like, the Church has lots of “authorities”: second presidents, the Quorum of 12, the Council of 70, the president of the Relief Society, stake presidents, bishops, staff at LDS Family Services (which handles adoptions), and finally priests (every temple worthy male). These people (all men except for the president of the Relief Society) make statements about what Mormons should or should not do (have tattoos, for example – a definitely should not). But these statements are not Church doctrine and Church leaders disavow them if necessary. On the other hand, the doctrine is complicated and Mormons themselves may be confused about Church teachings or, in attempting to apply them, reach erroneous conclusions. Critics of the Church may twist statements by Church leaders much as Fox New Anchors distort remarks by Democratic party leaders, adding to the confusion.

As far as I can tell, the Church has no official positions on adoption or reunion although it strongly encourages adoption (“Placing the infant for adoption through LDS Family Services helps unwed parents do what is best for the child. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive family”) and discourages reunions.

As I have written here, LDS Family Services is a major player in the National Council for Adoption (NCFA), the leading opponent of open records legislation, comprising a quarter of its member agencies. The Church however, has never taken an official position on opening records, leaving it to LDS Family Services to carry the water. (Rebecca explained to me that opposition to opening records could not be Church doctrine because keeping records closed would not help prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ).

I know that if the Church prohibited reunions Rebecca would not have spent over 10 years looking for me. On the other hand, the statement by a reader explaining why a Mormon woman might refuse contact with her surrendered child which started the examination of LDS teachings is undoubtedly also true. "I wonder if many of these (possibly) Mormon mothers still feel alone, isolated, and wholly unworthy of speaking out or seeking contact. The social stigma of being an "unwed mother" still looms large in the LDS church, even if you were an "unwed mother" decades ago - it is a label that will never leave you in this culture.”

Post script. The Church recognizes that members may be confused about church doctrine. After I posted the piece above, I ran into an article from the LDS Church News reminding Mormons to stick to Church-approved documents when preparing Church lessons and activities. According to the article, the Church has prepared a "correlation" in which "we take all the programs of the Church, bring them to one focal point, wrap them in one package, operate them as one program, involve all members of the Church in the operation — and do it all under priesthood direction." The article discouraged Mormons from consulting "unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet."