' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: June 2010
Join Lorraine in Indianapolis! She will be opening the IAN conference on Friday morning. See details on sidebar.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Adoption Posters at Abortion Clinics...Why Not Truth-Counselors at Adoption Agencies? We volunteer.

I missed an article in the New York Times over the weekend--Campaigning for Common Ground in Abortion Debate--even though I knew something was in the works because the writer, Sue Dominus, contacted me beforehand asking me if I thought open adoptions were a more humane option that a closed adoption for a mother who surrenders her child. Yes, is the short answer; but...is the long answer, they are typically not enforceable contracts. Anyway, Dominus' piece was about putting "consider adoption" posters in abortion clinics: She writes:
"Imagine this: a woman enters her local Planned Parenthood office and notices, in the bathroom, a poster that says: “Questions about adoption? We can answer those, too.”

"Such posters, which should be up in the hallways of at least 15 abortion providers in New York within the month, are produced by the Adoption Access Network as part of a campaign to make adoption a subject that patients and social workers alike feel more comfortable broaching in abortion clinics. The thinking is that all the clinics’ clients, whether they seem uneasy about abortion or not, should have a clear understanding of how adoption works, rather than just be handed a list of references — a list that essentially says, adoption is fine, but it’s not our thing."

I was too late to respond at the Times site, as the comments are closed, but another columnist, Amie Newman, managing editor of Reality Check, also joined the chorus of people who think the posters are a good idea. Newman wrote at Reality Check and republished at The Huffington Post, Pro-Choice and Adoption: Outside the Culture Wars
"...there is nothing wrong with posters on adoption or educating providers more thoroughly about what open adoption looks like. But adoption is not a "distraction" from abortion and, given the option, most women we saw at the health center seeking to terminate their pregnancies did not change their minds, even after being provided with more information about adoption - even open adoption (laws about which vary from state-to-state and is far from cut-and-dried)."
My response (expanded somewhat here): 
How about a poster in an adoption agency suggesting that there is a better option--abortion--than the lifelong grief of surrendering a child to genetic strangers? How about having an abortion/adoption counselor on staff to talk to young women about the fact that you do not surrender a child to be adopted and "get on with your life" as before? I volunteer.
It has been more than 40 years since I surrendered my daughter to be adopted by total strangers, and though I found her when she was fifteen and we had an open adoption after that, I never got over the deep loss and emotional trauma of giving her up. I never got back my old life I never got over the pain and sorrow that adoption means to two people: mother and child. Neither did she.
Were her adoptive parents bad people? No. Was she anything like them? No. Did a sense of abandonment infuse her life, despite everyone's best efforts? Yes. Did she feel second best after her parents had biological children? Yes. Was she wrong in thinking that? Not from what I observed. Whose swimming meets did they go to, whose diving events did they not have time for? You guess. Did she look like them? No. Did her other mother come to hate me as our relationship continued through the years? Yes.

Putting up "consider adoption" posters in abortion clinics is absurd. The woman or teenager is at the clinic seeking an abortion because she has already made that choice and to force her again to confront it is no better than the medical procedures that at least one state has forced on pregnant women choosing an abortion: that they have a sonogram. [At least Newman above found that talking about adoption to women set on abortions rarely, if ever, had an impact.]

After reading comments here and elsewhere it appears that those who think the adoption posters in abortion clinics are a great idea are anti-choice people, hoping for a last minute change of heart, or those eager to supply  the market maw of those who would adopt. After all, available white infants are in short supply.

They should spend some time reading about what life after surrender is like for first/birth  mothers, whether in open adoptions or closed. And the woman/teen who is considering adoption for their children her child should be counseled that this child is quite likely the only child she will ever have. A large percentage of women who surrender a child to adoption never have another. As fellow blogger Jane has just written: Should women considering adoption be warned about secondary infertility?
Maybe adoption agencies would consider putting up posters advertising that fact? Ya know, I kinda doubt they will, even the supposedly cool ones like Spence-Chapin. 

Damn, the Dominus piece made me mad because the attitude was that the posters are such a great idea--but no thought of equal time for our side of the story. I know Sue; she's from the demographic of women who are the adopting class today: middle class, reaching the end of their fertility years and having trouble reproducing, and able to afford agency fees...and so they want to adopt. Trouble is...too few available babies. Since I know so many of those thirty/fortysomething women who adopted, I'm sure she does too.--lorraine

Jane here. I’ll support Planned Parenthood clinics talking about adoption when I see adoption agencies talking about abortion and nurturing. In other words, NEVER!

If Corinna Lohser of the Spence-Chapin Adoption Agency and Cristina Page, founders of the Adoption Access Network, were serious about bringing “prochoice standards to the field of adoption” they would create an Abortion Access Network and train adoption agency staff to talk to their clients about abortion. After all, it's a lot easier to find an adoption agency that an abortion provider.

Lohser should take a look at Spence-Chapin’s website. The “Caring” in its tag line, “Adoption Service and Caring since 1908, is surely not code for abortion. Spence-Chapin is an adoption agency. Its website promotes adoption with happy birth mother stories and pictures of attractive couples waiting to adopt. The “choice” lingo is just another way to lure in pregnant women by recruiting Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers as runners.

It’s clear that while Page talks about options, the only one she really wants women to choose is adoption. Look at her language:
“Page also reminds us that applying pro-choice standards and a women's rights lens to the adoption experience means not just expanded rights and options for birth mothers but for those gay and lesbian parents desperate to adopt but often kept out of the pool by more religious-in-nature or conservative agencies. Developing a network of pro-choice adoption agencies changes family rights. Anecdotally, she tells me, pro-choice adoption agencies have an active pool of gay and lesbian parents wanting to adopt.”
Referring to pregnant women as “birth mothers” when they haven’t given birth let alone given up their child and referring to gay and lesbian couples as “parents” when they aren’t, shows Page’s mindset: With the right kind of sales job, pregnant women will “choose” adoption and meet the needs of Page’s real clients, gay and lesbian couples locked out of the Christian adoption market.

Significantly Page and Lohser say nothing about the other option, “nurturing.” The problem isn’t that abortion providers don’t talk about adoption. It’s that adoption agencies don’t talk about nurturing and don’t help women find resources so they can keep their baby.

If you want to comment, click on: Pro-Choice and Adoption: Outside the Culture Wars
And have fun noting all the adoption ads at the bottom of the page. Cute. You can't win. They are why I can't take regular ads here, adoption agency stuff just pops up. Not cool.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Should women considering adoption be warned about secondary infertility?

Advertisements designed to lure women into giving up their babies often ask them to think of the needs of infertile couples, to give the joy of parenthood to others. Ironically, the ads do not tell expectant mothers that they may suffer their own infertility after surrendering their child although this is a real possibility.

Well-behaved women rarely make history reports on a survey of first mothers in Western Australia (WA) which found that 13 to 20 percent of the mothers did not have other children. The study did not compare these numbers with the population at large. However, according to the Pew Research Center, in the 1970’s (when it’s likely the women in the WA survey gave birth) the childless rate in the US (likely similar to WA) was 10 percent for all women.

Although the WA study did not analyze individual cases, it did find that 60 percent of the respondents said that adoption impacted their decision or inability to have other children. This is consistent with what I have heard from birthmothers who did not have other children. Some attributed it to the inability to conceive but most said that they just didn’t feel right having another child or that they simply avoided sex.

Whatever the reason, women considering adoption should know that the surrendered child may be the only one they will ever have.

On a personal note, I remember reading in teen and women’s magazines before I gave up my daughter Megan in 1966 about birthmothers who did not have more children. I got the idea – I’m not sure how – but I think it was embedded in the magazine articles -- that subsequent childlessness was due to selfishness; these women refused to have other children.

The morning after Megan was born, one of the doctors stood at foot of my bed and commented in an off-hand way, “I hope this experience doesn’t discourage you from having more children.”

“Oh, no!” I exclaimed. I was not going to be (or at least appear to be) one of those self-centered girls who refused to have more children. (In retrospect the conversation reminds me of the line “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play.”)

Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. WadeUpon reading Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade the doctor’s comment and the magazine articles were put into context. According to the author, historian Rickie Solinger, the US government promoted adoption in the post World War II era as a way of increasing the white population. Social engineers encouraged single white girls to gave up their babies and then to have more children thus producing enough white babies for two families. (At the same time, policy-makers worked hard to discourage black women from having any babies.) White women who obstinately failed to have other children were thwarting an important goal of adoption.

I did go on to have three more daughters. While having more children did not make up for the one I lost, I believe it did blunt the pain.
Lorraine here:

BirthmarkI did not have any other children other than the daughter I surrendered in 1966. Because I wanted a career in a traditionally male-dominated field--daily newspaper journalism--the times largely made that impossible as children and career did not mix easily way back when. Though had I married the young man I was in love with prior to the relationship that resulted in my daughter, I think I might have been able to see a different path, as he wanted children or at least, a child, and was also totally supportive of my having a career, even having no issue with my keeping my own name, rare for the times. However, that did not happen.

I also felt in the deepest reaches of my soul that I could not give one child away, and keep another. It seemed too cruel to the child given up. How could I keep one child, abandon another? I know that is faulty reasoning, but it is what I felt to be true. Whether that was an excuse to keep me from having another child to pursue my career or not is something I will never know.

However, soon after I surrendered my daughter to adoption, I met and subsequently married someone I should not have married, and was adamant about not having another child. I'm not saying this proves anything, but I would have to be among those counted for secondary infertility, as would Linda, who has blogged here in the past. I wrote about this in greater detail in my memoir, Birthmark. 

As a post script, after my daughter was relinquished, I was super vigilant about NOT getting pregnant again; the one time I was a few weeks late I was checking with a clinic to get an abortion ASAP. I was frantic. But it turned out I was not pregnant. However, I would never never have considered going through the pain of relinquishing a child again; without question I would have chosen an abortion. Your doctor, Jane, instinctively seems to have understood the sorrow that you were going through--and would encounter for the rest of your life. Which is more than I can say for a lot of people who are so against mothers who search.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Know Thyself...How do adoptees do that without knowledge of who they were when they were born?

Our last post, Do Adopted People feel an emotional connection to their birth mothers? One woman says NO garnered a lot of reaction from readers arguing over whether or not there is an inborn emotional connection to the woman who gave birth to you. I expect we'll get more.

A few people said they felt no connection to their birth mothers or family, and were not interested in pursuing more of a relationship with them than a "first look." It was the encapsulation of that feeling found on another website which started the ball rolling.

I've always known exactly who I am, save for a few thoughtful moments when I was four or five and imagined that my real mother might be someone else. So I can not know what it is like to be without knowledge of my real heritage, family, mother and father, brothers, cousins, etc. But I can not imagine not knowing and not going to the ends of the earth to find out. And not wanting to meet "those people" who gave me up for adoption. I'm saying it that way here because that's what it has to feel like. You can say, My mother made an adoption plan, but geeze, that doesn't get at the heart of it and obfuscates feelings. I practically laugh in the face of anyone who uses that kind of absurd language. Of course, on one level it's true: a bereft and penniless young woman sitting across from a social worker talking about relinquishing her unborn child is, in one sense, making an adoption plan. About giving up her baby. But she's giving up her baby. That's why she's there, that's what is behind all the less harsher words. Giving up her baby.

But I digress. When that baby is old enough to understand the switch that occurred shortly after birth--wouldn't anybody want to know why and how and who did it? I know a couple of seemingly well adjusted people--two to be exact who are among my circle of friends--who are adopted and have not searched. Well, that's not exactly true.

One man, at the behest of his wife when she was about to have their baby, went back to the agency in Minnesota where he was adopted and learned what he could about his biological mother and father's medical history at the time he was born. (Which might be vastly different 30 years later, but never mind.) However, though the social workers offered, he did not want to have the agency reach the mother and see if she was interested in contact. This happened many years ago as now their child is in medical school; the current law, according to the American Adoption Congress site, has a birth mother-veto system in place with the agencies acting as intermediaries. This is a very intelligent guy who has held high positions in the top echelons publishing' he's chosen to publish a couple of books about adoption that other publishers rejected. This is someone with a good mind. About everything else, he is curious. And yet he says No to learning more about himself? It's a puzzlement. It's an psychic wound, deeply buried.

Another adopted friend, a woman, also smart and savvy who once held a responsible big job in public relations, actually went so far as to hire a searcher. But when the searcher said he had to go to the state house where she was born and adopted to look up records, she pulled back and never went forward again. Case closed, for both of these people who are in the Sixties. For each, finding a birth parent alive now is chancy.

I don't get it. To not know more about yourself? To just pull down the curtain and close off that part of you? I have a hard time understanding anyone who simply closes up that part of his "self," and locks away inside the desire--the need!--to search for his roots, his true heritage, his birth parents. "Know Thyself" is the beginning of wisdom, the cornerstone of Greek philosophy. It is inscribed in the forecourt of the temple of Apollo at Delphi. It's what Socrates is all about.

These ruminations today come after reading the many insightful, often sad, sometime argumentative, sometime defensive, comments at the last blog, and will serve as a lead in to the poetry of my granddaughter, the granddaughter who was given up for adoption by my daughter. Hmmm, does that make me the birth grandmother or just the grandmother? Both, I will take both. I will take what I can get. I will be here for her. She is coming to visit in just over a week; I think she is as excited as I am. It will be our first meeting.

In the verse, she struggles with wondering who her father is.
Letter to my Father

dear mr. so & so:
                                    I hope to
survive your surname without
your surname. I strive to augment
your interpretation  of a "who
am I this time?"           story by
introducing you to a tall tale
tell all of my own. I
remember the MC HAMMER
and Barbie Doll families
that made me possible.
I am the plastic on plastic
lovechild  and may be  that
made me possible. You didn't
make me possible. You didn't
                             make rent.             

Dear Mr. So & So,     
the rules you were
taught about                order.
Forget the way my mother
called you by your name.
How can I teach you
that anyone can bastardize
scripture and get away with it.
                                    Amen. &
the dish ran away with the spoon.

Dear MR. SO & SO:
                              You forgot                                                           
the spoon.

Mr. So & So:
                         Please do
not be angry. I read Baldwin's
The Fire Next Time and wanted
to talk to you about it. I read
Baraka's The Dead Lecturer
and wanted to talk to you about it.
I read until my eyes blurred
on Vladimir Mayakovsky's words
about his Mamma, until my eyes
stung as I read a few words
about himself. I too
"am as lonely as a man
on his way to the blind." Please
do not be angry.

Mr. So & So:
                                    (In Blue)
Something about a Thelonious
Monk sound 'Round Midnight
and a piano.                 Something
about hands on a piano. Something
slower about  hands on my mother.
Something slower about   hands
in an approach to may be
,writing in effigy of touch
and the fictile sense
of the pen in my
hand on the paper.

Dear Mr. So & So:     
                                    I'm eager
to hear about the weather, however,  
I wonder, how ever did you get into
the business of                        (x?)
I've always wondered how I'm going
to get through to you
without            a name.  Maybe I'll start in
Chicago.  I've always wanted to
visit.  Maybe you can teach
me about your business.  Maybe
I can teach you about your                
(x?).  About you. What color is your
raincoat?  And, what color is your
briefcase? And how broad is your
nose? What color is your
lover?              (x?ox?o)

Above are two books above are about the interracial experience. Repossessing Ernestine: The Search for a Lost Soul by Marsha Hunt is a memoir of an African American actress, singer and writer who, after working on the stage in Europe, found her white grandmother in a nursing home in Memphis. Mick Jagger is the father of her daughter, Kris.  

The Girl who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow is a novel about a young girl who is bi-racial and raised by her black relatives after the death by suicide of the main character's white mother.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do Adopted People feel an emotional connection to their birth mothers? One woman says NO.

"What birth mothers often don't understand is that their adopted children feel no emotional connection to them. That's not about our 'anger'. It's just that we don't relate to your emotional world because we've lived in the world made possible by our adoption and we have lives that are separate from yours. I met my birth mother after my own son was born. Nada zip sense of emotion toward her one way or another. It was helpful to get some medical history, but that was perfunctory."
Well, that is bracing. It is from a comment by OnceUponADiva and posted at the site mentioned in yesterday's blog post about the Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva, after I left my comment dissing the plot lines of the last two episodes at the show's websiteIf anonymous OnceUpon is right...then we have the answer to why so many reunions go south after the first meeting, why adopted people come forward and then slink away leaving many birth/first mothers sad and clueless about the lack of relationship with their "found" children. Yes, I know it happens both ways--birth mothers slink away too, but today let's discuss it from the perspective of the adopted person.

I beg to differ with OnceUpon on her blanket statement that "adopted children feel no emotional connection" to birth/first mothers. Many do, as evidenced by the comments of adopted people who visit FMForum. If there was "no emotional connection" then even seeking a reunion would not happen; if there was no emotional connection, we would not have the adopted people writing here, writing memoirs. There would hardly be the commotion over sealed birth records that is being played out in state after state.

My daughter and I had hills and valleys in our quarter-of-a-century relationship; she would come and she would go and she would come back. Though I have to speak for her since she is now longer here to do so, she gave plenty of evidence that she felt a strong, unbreakable, emotional connection with me.

What I have noticed in my unscientific observations over the years is that when the adoptee is raised in better social, educational and financial circumstances than that of her birth, there is a greater sense of distance from the biological parents than otherwise, as well as a certain relief that one was raised in a better social class than if one had not been adopted. This is especially noticeable in the memoirs of Sarah Saffian and A.M Holmes. A man I once knew who had been adopted into a Town & Country lifestyle was somewhat devastated when he learned that his birth mother had been a laundress. He was Harvard educated and wealthy, though he had practically no relationship with his adoptive father, who had divorced his mother; he felt letdown and somehow betrayed by his mother's lowly station in life. None of this class distinction and distancing is particularly surprising, I suppose, but must be somewhat devastating for the birth mother to sense and then hear that she "did the right thing" from her child.

So, dear reader-who-is-adopted, what do you think? This blog today really needs your input. If you have met your first mother, do you feel an emotional connection to her? As far as you are able to acknowledge, have class differences between you and your birth mother come into play? Please comment here--this is a hot topic--and I urge you to leave your thoughts as well as at the Drop Dead Diva website.--lorraine

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Today's Adoption Chat: List of great data sources; Drop Dead Diva debacle, blog notes

Sometimes when are you writing letters in support of legislation and want more data than your personal story to make an impact, Joyce Bahr of New York's Unsealed Initiative has put together a beefy list of various sources. Here is the link to her blog today: National Adoption Month 2010

And for some exciting blog news: I added a link to a "Home" page so that people who find BirthMother, First Mother Forum because they are Googling, say, Ethiopian adoptions, or what first/birth mothers wear to weddings of their children (it happens), and come across those posts, but are not sure how to find the current post can do just that. They only need to hit "Home" at the top of the sidebar! Also listed there today as a separate page is an explanation of the New Jersey law, though the fancy formatting of NJCare leaves something to be desired as it does not compress for this blog. However, I think you can read enough to understand what the law does, and does not. You can also email them if you have questions.

Continuing this ramble: Sunday night I came across Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva, a normally cheerful and sometimes poignant show about a gorgeous thin and vapid aspiring model who died and came back in the body of a plump, thoughtful and savvy lawyer....and it's about 9:13 p.m. Sunday night (digital clocks make time retrieval amazingly precise) and what is the first thing I hear? Two lawyers with their clients arguing over whether the teenage first/birth mother (Client A) will return the child to fortyish single woman (Client B), who was promised the child. Surrender papers already signed.

F@#K I say, can we never escape adoption? How about an adoption-free Sunday?

Apparently not. The birth mother presented a pleasant demeanor and personality--clean hair, no drugs, good skin. The story line is that her boyfriend (father of the child) has returned, and they are going to be a family; the mother is contending she was pressured to sign the surrender papers under the influence of post-partum depression. (I did not see the first part of the show so do not know if how soon after birth she was signing away her baby.) But the adopter-in-waiting is already claiming, this is MY baby, as if the kid were a piece of furniture. No sympathy for the birth mother, nada, who does have the baby in her possession. (I missed the part where she took back her baby.) The nice new adopting mom does fess up she she did not try to have a child when her ovaries were in good working order. (At least the writers got that part right.)

But wait! Why is the new "family" driving a shiny new red truck as they leave the courthouse? Where did they get the money? They are supposed to be poor. Needy. Turns out the adopting mom-in-waiting paid the girl $20,000...hmm, sounds like a bribe for a baby, no?

Eventually it comes to light that the birth father collected several $20,000s from people wanting to adopt his white, squeaky-clean infant. Once the teenage real mother finds that out, she caves immediately and hands over the child. Case closed. Tidy ending.

Angelle, a reader, just reminded me that the week before--the week before!--the plot centered on a father who had amnesia for several years, regained his memory, and came back to reclaim what he could of his old life--including a relationship with a child who was born after he disappeared. However, his wife had him declared dead, married his former best friend, and the new "dad" was the only father the child knew...and so even though the real dad is suing for at least visitation, he ultimately is convinced to walk away and stay dead to his child. I mean, WTF is up with that? And the idiot writers on this show? Are they all adoptive parents or wannabe adoptive parents--like I suspect--and they are getting their "opinions" on adoption out there through the plot lines?

I admit I don't know what to do in cases like this. Writing to ever single show and legislator one is supposed to takes more time than I have. Of late, we've seen a couple of shows where the writers did get it right. We wrote In Plain Sight**** Gets Adoption Reunion Right just last week. I eagerly await Mother and Child to get out to the sticks where I live. See Jane's review: The Movie: Mother and Child packs a wallop.

But if what I've just written about Drop Dead Diva makes your blood boil, you can watch the whole episode or just leave a comment here: http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/drop-dead-diva

As I am going to right now.--lorraine
Granddaughter Lisa is writing her side of our reunion-so-far story. Look for it soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Part 5: A (birth) granddaughter's rejection turns into a YES!

So, continuing the story of my other granddaughter, the one who was relinquished to adoption. The story so far in brief is this: My daughter, Jane, whom I gave up for adoption, had a daughter almost twenty years to the day she was born (see Learning my daughter had given up a daughter for adoption) and relinquished her to a closed adoption (Part 2: The daughter I gave up for adoption had a daughter she gave up for adoption. As the years passed, she did not want to talk about this daughter, her first, see Part 3: A granddaugher adopted by strangers, the years tick by. Her name is X and the last installment is about how I had reached out to her through the Wisconsin Adoption Search Registry, but got the word back from the state-appointed searcher, Jacy Boldebuck, that she was not interested in meeting me. Part 4: Reaching out to my missing (birth) granddaughter but being rejected....

I failed to note in the last post that I had also made one step in finding her: I listed her birth information that I recalled on the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR) even though I was not sure if her birthday was April 2nd or 3rd, 1986. Shortly after that I got an email from a Mary Wielding, saying that she could find her for me. But it was not my granddaughter herself, and so something pulled me back from telling Mary to go ahead. So I let it be. I understand so completely how it feels to have a fear of searching, thinking that rejection may be at the end of the line, and perhaps I was still raw over the loss of my daughter, who died by her own hand, in 2007. If Lisa was not searching for me, I was not ready to search for her.

And I will add that the need to find my granddaughter was not as emotionally pressing as it was to find the daughter I had surrendered to adoption. That was a killer, and I would have climbed over any legislator's body to get her records, if necessary. I had put all the clues about her birth and relinquishment (date and place, etc.) in my memoir, Birthmark, and hoped that she would find me that way, but it did not happen. I did hear from one young woman who hoped I was her mother, but I was not; an adoptive mother also called me thinking I was her daughter's other mother, but I was not. Time passed. Actually a few years went by, as my daughter was in her early teens in 1979 when I published Birthmark.

With my husband-to-be's and a male friend's encouragement, I put the "order" in to find my relinquished (birth/first/only) daughter shortly before I got married in the fall of 1981. "You're never going to be able to put this to rest until you find her," my friend Peter had said. "You aren't going to go in a grab her, so what's the problem?" The fee was $1,200, which I gladly paid.

But as I said, finding the missing granddaughter was different, and I felt rejected--hell, I was rejected! Because of my daughter's severe PMS and suicide during an episode, she had been contacted but turned down the opportunity to know me. It stung. I retreated.

So, nothing happened for about a year. Then after I began writing about the low rate of reunions effected by the Wisconsin program, and wrote Most Birth/First Mothers Want Contact but still the secrecy lingers on with information on what other women and searchers reported, I again got an email from the same Mary who had contacted me a year earlier. She was reading the blog and wanted again to know if I had changed my mind about locating my (birth) granddaughter. Mary lived in Wisconsin. She assured me she could most likely find her. Linda and I emailed about it. Finally, I said, What the hell, I might as well take this opportunity, maybe it won't come around again. Find my granddaughter, I said, she was born in April, in Madison, in 1986, on one of two dates.

Two days later Mary called me with her name and probable whereabouts! Within the next couple of days I got pictures of her from her high school yearbook and some other basic information, including what appeared to be a current address. She was living in Minneapolis and had graduated from St. Thomas University in St. Paul. She had kept the name--Lisa Marie--that my daughter Jane gave her. I was pleased with that. Because Lisa is biracial, Mary and I were pretty sure we had the right person at her nearly all-white high school. But--now what?

Do I contact someone who has told the official state worker she does not want contact with me? Do I "interrupt" her life? Do I bother her? Am I stalking her? Do I upset her? What? A first/birth mother searching for reconnection and reunion with their "birth" children is what so many people find so upsetting, it was the cause of the recent blowup with my friend, Yvonne. What do I do here? My granddaughter has actively turned down knowing me....

Lisa Marie was on Facebook but oddly enough, neither my husband or I could see her page, or even
that she was there, though other people could. My nephew in Tampa could. My brother in Michigan could. Fellow blogger Linda could. Mary Wielding could. Had she been given the name of her mother when Jacy called her, and looked up Jane's obit? And now, had Lisa simply blocked me and my husband, whose name was also in the paper? That seemed the only logical explanation I could think of.

Nothing again. Months went by--let me see, probably five or six or seven. But Lisa was not exactly an invisible presence in the world. Of course I Goggled her and found that she tweeted, but you had to be invited; she had spoken at a conference on social work in Chicago when she was in college and her picture was on line, she had some poetry in an on-line magazine. I learned that she had supported Obama, been involved in a dance group of some sort in high school, and the theater. I'm a dancer, can't carry a tune more than three or four notes; her mom went from being terrified of speaking to joining Toastmaster's and winning at least one trophy for one of her speeches. I saw that Lisa followed Time magazine on line--hey, I'm a political junkie, to some degree, used to be a newspaper reporter; my daughter's father--her grandfather was Irish--a newspaper reporter, a political columnist and a terrific writer with real flair. All signs pointed to someone--a granddaughter--I'd really like to know. Someone who was, er, more than a bit like me.

Every now and then I'd google her again and one day I discovered she had started a blog. Well, blow me over. The kid writes! My granddaughter is a writer! So I started following the blog, 2speakease's Blog. She writes about the music scene in Minneapolis/St. Paul (her grandfather, Jane's dad was a huge jazz fan, had a collection of hundreds of early jazz records when he died), about her struggles with being an artist, her poetry. I see a link to an adoption site: Adopted & Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora...certainly a political adoption site, something her mother was never interested in except as something I was involved in. She's applying to writer's retreat; she's involved in the black writing scene in Minneapolis; she posts news about readings and publishes some of her poetry. I'm amazed, but still keeping my distance. Incidentally I have very little information about her birth father, so I can draw no parallels to him or his family.

Then on the anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut's birthday, November 11 (and also my deceased father's birthday) she writes about how much she likes Vonnegut and puts in a plug for her favorite bookstore, Micawber's. Well, blow me over. Jane, her mother, worked for Kurt and his wife, Jill Krementz, for a short time one summer as a nanny taking care of...their adopted daughter, Lily. I knew both Kurt and Jill, had lunch with them several times, they came to my house; Jane and I are featured in Jill's book, How It Feels to Be Adopted. This is now getting really freaky, right?  

I left a comment just before Christmas, wishing her a Merry Christmas and adding: I've been thinking about you. It's posted there. At the end of the year, she writes about people using her blog to tell their stories...and she posts her email address. I think about contacting her for a few days, and one night before I go to bed, as I'm drifting off, I know that in the morning I will write her and tell her, in brief, her story as I know it, and about the similarities in our interests. And that is what I do in the morning.

I hit send, and wait. Four or five days later, I get an email back from her.
Dear reader, she is coming to visit in two weeks. --lorraine
Note: Mary Wielding has been ill and is dealing with cancer. Prayers wanted. And note to Laura, I did add Mary's name in the notice about her on the right in the sidebar, but you did not leave your email that day you contacted me through the comments section.

If you are interested in transracial adoption, you might find In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories thought-provoking.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fathers Day 2010: Unmarried Fathers Who Fight for their Rights to be a Dad

This Father’s Day let’s raise a glass and toast John Wyatt, Ramsey Shaud, Jon Klaren, and all the other childless fathers who took on the system and lost. And let’s make another toast to those fortunate fathers, Otakar Kirchner and Dan Schmidt, who beat the odds. And finally let’s toast Erik Smith, the Ohio paralegal working with fathers all over the country in danger of losing their children to the rapacious adoption system.

Unmarried fathers Wyatt and Shaud are the latest in a string of men victimized by Utah’s relaxed residency laws, allowing the State to become a safe haven for would be adopters. Utah laws, reflecting LDS Church doctrine of eternal togetherness for sanctified families (father, mother, and children) and oblivion for unsanctioned ones (father and child or mother and child), are a God-send for unscrupulous segments of the adoption industry.

Wyatt’s baby was born in Virginia and surrendered by the baby’s mother to a couple who took the child to Utah. Shaud’s baby was born in Utah where her mother relocated from Florida, apparently induced to do so by a Utah adoption agency. Both men took every step required by their homes states and Utah to protect their right to nurture their child; nonetheless, Utah trial courts upheld the adoption of their children. Both cases are on appeal. We told Wyatt’s story here.

Shaud’s story as reported on The Daily Bastardette:
“Shaud filed a paternity claim in Utah and a notice in the Utah putative father registry five days before the birth. Shaud’s notice was mailed on January 12, 2010 and marked received by Utah Vital Statistics on January 14. The mother consented to adoption on January 19, and an adoption petition was filed.

[Vital Statistics did not process Shaud’s paperwork until January 20, making Shaud’s filing one day late.] Moreover, the date of receipt on the envelope had been altered from January 14 to January 20. The adoption was then ordered without Shaud present.

[Through an attorney, Shaud] filed a motion to intervene in the adoption …. A judge ruled that Shaud had preserved his right to due process. For unknown reasons the judge was replaced by Judge Robin Reese, who reconsidered the matter. Reese refused to admit … evidence about Vital Statistics activities and denied Shaud’s intervention.”
The State of Utah is not alone in its zeal to separate fathers from their children. Other states also have laws cleverly designed by the adoption industry to screw unmarried fathers. Klaren lost his son in left-leaning California because his attorney failed to tell him about an important deadline.

As we wrote in our post about Wyatt’s case, prior to 1972, unmarried fathers were legally dead when it came to the adoption of their children. (Of course very much alive if the state wanted them to pay support.) In Stanley v. Illinois, the US Supreme Court held that unmarried fathers had the right to nurture their children. States immediately adopted laws designed to give the appearance of  recognizing fathers’ rights while denying them in fact. To the horrors of the adoption industry, however, fathers actually asserted their rights and in a few cases, they prevailed. Thanks to well-financed public relations campaigns by the would be adoptive parents and allied adopters in the media, two of these cases, Baby Jessica (Dan Schmidt) and Baby Richard (Otakar Kirchner) made headlines. "No More Baby Jessica’s" and “Save Baby Richard” ranted the press as though the children were being sent to where the wild things are rather than to the loving arms of their fathers. (Jane will have a review of Baby Richard: A Four-Year-Old Comes Homein the coming weeks.)

Adoption industry lobbyists and legislators, contending they were motivated by “the best interest of the child”, worked overtime to shutter fathers’ all-ready small window of opportunity. Whether this commitment to the “best interest of the child” was based on narrow religious views or the need to keep children – and money -- flowing into industry coffers, the result was the same: more traps for unwary fathers to navigate.

An irony in all this? These state laws fly in the face of a national priority articulated by the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships: “Supporting fathers who stand by their families, which involve working to get young men off the streets and into well‐paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood”.

Now that is a policy we can get behind. Let's hope the White House sinks some teeth into that initiative.
Here's a book on birth fathers and their experiences.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Plain Sight**** Gets Adoption Reunion Right

So after watching the documentary Google Baby on HBO2 and brushing my teeth to get the bad taste out of my mouth about how these babies-to-order are being put together like clam chowder and gestated by poor Indian women, I saw that one of my favorite crime dramas, In Plain Sight, is on. The show is not so much about solving a crime, but dealing with the lives of the people who will go into the witness protection program after they testify against the bad guys.

Whaddaya know? The episode, The Born Identity (get it?), is about a man who is adopted and...before he goes into the witness protection somewhere he wonders if these people running the program (Mary and Marshall, the leads), can find his birth mother. He'd been living in the basement of the public library, and we already know he left his other family at 15 and moved to Seattle and lived off the grid since. He's a well-read genius with an IQ of 142 who discovers a bomb in a garbage can and can identity the two men/terrorists who left it. He's been looking for his (first/birth) mother for oh...ever since he left his adoptive home...some twenty years ago. Said he didn't fit in. 

Well, the show got it RIGHT; the male lead, Marshall Mann, is knowledgeable about Primal Wound theory and says they need to find his mother for the guy before he disappears into the witness-protection anonymity; Mary Shannon, whose father walked out on the family and she does not know his whereabouts is cynical and against it; but they get someone to check the record for the guy and  Presto! locate his first mother. Trouble is, she's dying. All the dialogue was spot on, and they locate his mother in a hospice in California. They race there but she's already gone, and the after gathering is taking place.

The son speaks to her last husband (she'd had four, but spent the last 12 years with this one) without saying who he is. Then Mary notices a picture of the dead woman and the husband at a very young age and says, Who is this?

Husband: That's me--we were together when we were seventeen.

Mary Shannon: What happened to the son she had?

Husband: How did you know? Etc. There was never a day gone by that she did not think of our son. Our parents went crazy and there was no way we could have kept him. We drifted apart after that....

So by now I'm frigging weeping as father and son reconnect.

At the end, the man in the witness protection program will be transferred to the same city where his father is, and the last scene is of them going off on a camping trip. Blown away, I was. A really warm ending to the horror of Google Baby. Sometimes the media gets it right. Yeah, I know reunions are hard, but some of them do work out as we'd like all of them too.

In Plain Sight is one of the best dramas on cable, 10 p.m. EST, 9 CST Wednesday evenings. I think there is only one left in the current season--reruns over the summer? You can watch full episodes here, but as of this morning, The Born Identity from last night was not up. It should be #311.--lorraine
I've been under the weather lately, my eyes have been killing me from too much time at the computer, trying to keep the blog fresh and work on my book. Our house is being reshingled, we are looking for new deck furniture as yard sales are not coughing it up (so we are looking on line), the episode of my once-close friend, Yvonne, appears not to be over...now she's in the hospital and I got a call last night from a friend who apparently knew nothing of our current contretemps and how Yvonne wants to get together and celebrate my birthday. Life is strange as the Moody Blues sang. It was The Moody Blues, right? And yes, I promise everyone the ending to the story of my missing granddaughter is coming soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NJ Bill Voted out of committee to full Assembly. At bleeping last.

The adoption-reform bill in New Jersey was voted out of the Assembly Human Services committee last night: Six Democrats voted to send the bill to the entire Assembly; four Republicans abstained from casting a vote. (WTF is wrong with all of them? Or is it just a matter of, this is a Dem bill, we don't want to vote for it or any human rights that Dems support?) But I digress.

The testimony ran on for hours, and the hearing lasted from just after 2 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. What I heard (had to leave at 6:30) was incredibly powerful, at least from our side of the fence. Longtime reform activist Pam Hasegawa pointed out--by quoting the actual law--that the legislation from the Forties does not indicate anywhere that it was meant to guarantee secrecy and anonymity from one's own child; an African American woman spoke powerfully about her need to know, despite that she found her first mother but has respected the woman's desire for no contact; another spoke of not being able to get a passport because amended birth certificates stamped more than a year after their birth prevent you from doing so since 9/11; others talked about the serious health risks of not knowing your actual, FIRST FAMILY medical history--your real medical history, that is, as your adoptive family's medical history has nothing to do with you and is meaningless to a doctor; another spoke of treatment options for herself and her children that are frequently determined by what runs in the family. Your biological family. One woman who did not learn she was adopted at 41 said that she realized she had been giving doctors false information all her life. I thought: and her "loving" but not real mother, her adoptive mother, let her do so. What is "loving" and "caring" about that? That woman put "her" daughter's life in danger for 41 years.

Even I can forget how tragic and stupid and deeply emotional it is sometimes to not have your birth certificate, the information about your biological, birth, original, natural, real first family. But it was all there yesterday in strong, irrefutable language. As I listened on the computer, I both cheered and got glassy-eyed. Our heroine, adoptee activist Elaine Penn, did speak, in clear, forceful language even though her first mother is someone...who's somewhat deranged. First-mother activist Judy Foster was great too, her voice breaking when she got caught up by the emotions of the moment. One adoptive mother, also a NJ legislator, spoke in favor of the bill. Hooray for her!

I had to leave when another adoptive mother was speaking against the bill in a cheerful, chirpy voice. Damn her, I thought, she's never been without her birth certificate, she's never wondered whom she is, who she was when she was born, whom her real parents are.                                      

I also heard an adoptee testify against the bill; I can not for the life of me understand why the woman just can't let it be. If she doesn't want her non-fake birth records, fine. But why deny the thousands who do? What is so fearful to her that she has to actively work to punish others who want to know the truth of their identities? She's like a house slave speaking out against the end of slavery because she might lose her home if all slaves are emancipated, and the Masta can't provide any longer. 

Some of the antis were clearly rattled by the emotional, powerful testimony, but still they droned on, talking about how changing the law will increase abortions, while we have the statistics to prove them wrong. Here's the summary from American Adoption Congress:
"The data reveals that if access has had any effect on adoptions and abortions, it has been to increase adoptions and decrease abortions."(For a state by state breakdown see here: Abortion and Adoption Data from States Who Have Enacted Access)
But still the anti-choice crowd (I hate Right to Life as their appellation, I'm right to life too, I'm against the death penalty) lie and repeat this falsehood as if it were written in the Bible. It must be because they have imprinted in their minds the defeated and weary women at the point they surrender their children, days or weeks after giving birth. Hell, I was obsessed that the birth of my daughter not be posted in The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle where I had been a reporter back in 1966; but I never wanted her not to know who I was. I always hoped for and planned for a reunion, no matter how. That was the saddest truth of relinquishment: that the damn surrender papers stipulated that I never be informed, no matter what happened to her, whether she was in need or not. And she was in need, desperate need, as regular readers know. Now tell me, dear legislators opposed to this bill, how in the hell this makes the old legislation in the "best interest of the child? It does not.

Archaic adoption laws such as those in New Jersey and Michigan and New York and 38 other states are in the supposed best interests of the affluent people who are the adopters, plain and simple. They were written by the adopting class, they were for the adopting class, and today they serve only those of the adopting class who are against open records for their children, no matter their age. As for the few women who hide from their children? The state has no such vested interest in protecting them; if that were the case, they would also "protect" putative fathers who do not want to be named. You have a baby; you owe that individual the right to know his or her identity, plain and simple. Your anonymity tramples the right of others. Your anonymity takes away that person's right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We need another court case to make its way to the Supremes; maybe the conservatives and libertarians on the current Supreme Court will see through the fallacy of sealed birth records, and how it applies law unequally to a whole class of people.

Waiting to Forget: A Motherhood Lost and FoundBack to New Jersey: The NJ Senate has passed the bill four times since 2004, the last in March. Yesterday was its first hearing in the Assembly. (Change of leadership, change of legislation.) Now the bill can at last move forward to the general Assembly for a vote.

I know this bill and all such bills that contain any restrictions--or give that handful of birth-comes-first mothers who are afraid of their children, afraid of contact, afraid of facing reality the opportunity to file a veto riles those who oppose any legislation that does not provide unfettered access to original birth certificates to all adopted people.

People, get real. This bill and the others like it pave the way for a shift in attitude in the mind of the adopters, the numskulls who apparently run the NJ ACLU, the legislators who will vote on these bills, the Catholic Church who typically oppose giving adoptees their original, unamended birth records. But once it becomes clear that no great harm occurs in the land, this cruel and unusual legislation will topple. Consider the Emancipation Proclamation. From Wikipedia:
"The Emancipation Proclamation was criticized at the time for freeing only the slaves over which the Union had no power. Although most slaves were not freed immediately, the Proclamation did free thousands of slaves the day it went into effect[2] in parts of nine of the ten states to which it applied (Texas being the exception).[3] In every Confederate state (except Tennessee and Texas), the Proclamation went into immediate effect in Union-occupied areas and at least 20,000 slaves[2][3] were freed at once on January 1, 1863.
"Additionally, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for the emancipation of nearly all four million slaves as the Union armies advanced, and committed the Union to ending slavery, which was a controversial decision even in the North. Hearing of the Proclamation, more slaves quickly escaped to Union lines as the Army units moved South. As the Union armies advanced through the Confederacy, thousands of slaves were freed each day until nearly all (approximately 4 million, according to the 1860 census[4]) were freed by July 1865.

Near the end of the war, abolitionists were concerned that while the Proclamation had freed most slaves as a war measure, it had not made slavery illegal. Several former slave states had already passed legislation prohibiting slavery; however, in a few states, slavery continued to be legal, and to exist, until December 18, 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was enacted."
Sometimes good work that upends old wrong ways takes time and happens in steps. --lorraine 
PS: To listen to the testimony, go to: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/MEDIA/OLS_MEDIA_PLAYER.HTM?wma=!{A}http://rmserver.njleg.state.nj.us/internet/2010/AHU/0614-0200PM-M0-1.wma!

PPS: I've posted one anonymous comment from those opposed; that's it. If the antis want to post here, they need to leave their real name and their url or email address. Then we will consider it.

PPPS: Both books above highly recommended: one is by photographer Jill Krementz How It Feels to Be Adopted and tells first-person stories of adolescent and teenage adoptees with pictures, great for young adoptees dealing with the issue; the second is a wonderful memoir of a birth/first mother, Margaret Moorman, Waiting to Forget: A Motherhood Lost and Found

NJ Bill Voted out of Committee to Assembly. At Bleeping last.

The adoption reform bill in New Jersey was voted out of the Assembly Human Services committee last night: Six Democrats voted to send the bill to the entire Assembly; four Republicans abstained from casting a vote. (WTF is wrong with all of them, I want to know. Or is it just a matter of, this is a Dem bill, we don't want to vote for it and any human rights that Dems support?) But I digress.

The testimony ran on for hours, and the hearing lasted from just after two p.m. until 7:30 p.m. What I heard (had to leave at 6:30) was incredibly powerful--at least from our side of the fence. Pam Hasegawa pointed out that the original legislation from the Forties has no indication legislators meant to "promise" anonymity or secrecy from one's own child; an African American women spoke powerfully about her need to know; others spoke of not being able to get a passport because their amended birth certificate was stamped more than a year after their birth; others talked about the problems with health information. One woman who discovered she was adopted at 41 said that she had been giving doctors false information all her life--well, I forget how tragic and stupid it is sometimes to not have your birth certificate, but it was all there in strong, irrefutable language. I cheered as I listened on the computer, and I cried. Elaine Penn spoke too, in clear forceful language even though her first mother is someone...who's somewhat deranged.

Some of the antis were clearly rattled by the testimony but still they droned on, talking about how changing the law will increase abortions, which we have the stats to prove them  wrong (check the AAC site) but still they state this falsehood. It must be because they have imprinted in their minds the weak and weary women at the point of surrender. Hell, I was obsessed that the birth of my daughter not be posted in The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle back in 1966; but I never never ever wanted her to now know who I was. That was the saddest truth of relinquishment.

But now the bill at last moves forward.--lorraine

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Part 4: Reaching out to my missing (birth) granddaughter but being rejected....

So, continuing the story of my other granddaughter, the one who was relinquished to adoption. The story so far in brief is this: My daughter, Jane, whom I gave up for adoption, had a daughter almost twenty years to the day she was born (see Learning my daughter had given up a daughter for adoption) and relinquished her to a closed adoption (Part 2: The daughter I gave up for adoption had a daughter she gave up for adoption. As the years passed, she did not want to talk about this daughter, her first, see Part 3: A granddaugher adopted by strangers, the years tick by. 

In 2007, shortly before Christmas, my daughter who was plagued by multiple problems such as severe epilepsy and acute PMDD, depression, and sometimes galloping neuroses, committed suicide. She took a gun and put a bullet through her head. Life just was too hard to continue, and in some ways, her suicide was a not unreasonable reaction to her multiple sorrows. I know that sounds hard, but please take that on faith. I've written about her issues here and will do so more in the memoir I'm working on. She left behind a good husband, and her other daughter, Kimberly, a high school sophomore, and two families--her adoptive parents and two brothers, and me and my family, husband, uncles, cousins. 

When I was in her office at her home in Reedsburg, Wisconsin a few days later, her other daughter and I pulled out one of those extensions for a typewriter that are a feature of old desks. There, taped to the wood, were two baby photographs of her first daughter, whom Jane named Lisa Maria. Kimberly knew about Lisa, and so that hurdle did not have to be overcome then, but it was still surprising to find the pictures of the daughter she did not talk about. I was glad to see them there; I was glad that Kim saw them too.

Now, what to do? I knew that once Lisa turned eighteen the state of Wisconsin (where she was born and adopted) would track down her mother and father if she so chose; I decided I would write a letter to the Wisconsin state adoption search program, and hope that my granddaughter would come looking for her birth/first/natural parents, and at least find the letter along with the news of her mother's death. Then I waited.

In 2009, I read an interview on line with Jacy Boldebuck, who heads the adoption-records search program in Wisconsin. (First Mothers who reject a reunion? How many are there??) in which she stated that approximately half of the natural parents she calls refuse contact with their (birth) children. WTF?

This figure was so out of line with what I was hearing and learning from other searchers, that I was stunned, and said so here at the blog. Many other searchers wrote to me about their varying rates of success. Linda Burns, in Texas, a birth/first mother herself, reported nearly complete acceptance with the numerous searches she and her husband had done. (There are several posts about this at www.firstmotherforum.com.)

I then spoke to Ms. Boldebuck myself, to clarify and expound on her alarming rate of success, or failure, and during that conversation I mentioned that Jane committed suicide when she was having a severe bout of PMS. I said I understood it because I had been troubled by the same demon, but eventually brought it under control with simple progesterone, a treatment I could not get Jane to follow rigorously. She took medicine for her epilepsy, anti-depressants for her depression, etc., and now, she had to take more pills to control her moods? Before she reached for the progesterone that month, she had a meltdown on a Saturday; I was on the phone with her for several hours that day. By that evening, I think she understood how crazy she had been. And I believe she simply foresaw several more years of this kind of craziness overtaking her, and decided it was too much to bear. By Tuesday night she was dead.

What, said Ms. Boldebuck? If you can get me a doctor's note about your PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder ), or advanced premenstrual syndrome), I will inform your granddaughter, this is something she needs to know! My gynecologist was retired by this time, but we have stayed in touch, and he did write the necessary note about my condition. Off it went to Madison, Wisconsin. I waited. Within a few weeks, Ms. Boldebuck called me and said that she had spoken to my granddaughter, she was educated (which was some comfort), but she was not interested in further contact.

Hopes dashed! I could hear the disappointment in Ms. Boldebuck's voice, and I knew that she had hoped she would have called me with different news. I was pretty sure she had done what she could to have Lisa call me, within the constraints of the state regulations, which I assume are pretty cut and dried. No cajoling reluctant adoptees or birth/first parents! It was April of 2009. I was upset, but not that upset, or so I thought. She was not my daughter; I had not given her up; the feelings were not nearly as intense as the need to know my daughter, Jane. I called Florence and talked to her.

At around the same time--everything happens at the same time--I had a tooth that had broken off part of its root and was getting infected--and the tenth anniversary of my own dear mother's death was coming up, May 1st, but I wasn't focusing on that. One of my good friends, Tamar, was rather amazed at how well I seemed to be handling Lisa's lack of interest in her heritage--in me!

On May 1, 2009, the actual anniversary of my mother's death, I was sitting in a dentist's chair being prepared for the tooth extraction when I just lost it. Yeah, I cried. The dental assistant held my hand, I told her about my mother's anniversary, and I tried to get it together before the dentist--an old guy I really did not like--came in the room. But the tooth came out in one swift tug, thank god. I realized later that day that I was not only crying about the infection in my gum, my mother, I was also weeping for my lost granddaughter. I was weeping because I wanted to know how she was, where she was, who she was, and she was rejecting that contact.--lorraine
I thought I would finish this in this installment, but it's getting late, and I'm tired. Tomorrow is the day of testimony for the adoption bill in New Jersey. See the sidebar for more information. And tune in at 2 p.m. EST through audio streaming on your computer. One of our regular commenters, Elaine Penn, is scheduled to testify.

And if PMS is your problem, see Consumer Guide Women's Home Remedies Health Guide by Michelle Harrison, one of our readers and poster from India. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Part 3: A granddaugher adopted by strangers, the years tick by

The story so far: My daughter, who was adopted, had a daughter she relinquished to adoption when she was twenty. The girl's paternal grandmother offered to raise her, but daughter Jane was opposed to that. To catch up, earlier posts, are linked above and here and here. (They are not running concurrently.)

So...I had to accept that my granddaughter was adopted by genetic strangers, a deplorable ending to my not keeping my daughter when she was born 20 years earlier. By the time Jane told me the fable of the "white lawyer mother" and the "black doctor father" I was not only aware of Jane's prediction to lying, but had read about it as a possible outcome of simply being adopted in the first place--with feeling that the life she was living was somewhat of a "lie."

Her situation was compounded by the fact that Jane apparently had been sexually abused by her paternal adoptive grandmother's life-in companion. I say "apparently" because when Jane finally revealed this, at eighteen, to both me and her adoptive family, the man denied it, he continued to live with the grandmother afterward, and her adoptive parents did not know whether to believe Jane or not. By then the lying had infiltrated so much of her life and her relationships. I too was somewhat skeptical but quite quickly my husband, who had written about the devastating effects of child sexual abuse, and I came to believe her; this was one story of hers that never altered, she never forgot what she told us, as would happen with other stories.

God, I hate writing this because it's revealing hard truths about my daughter; not that she was abused, she was a victim, not guilty; but because the lying was such a factor in her relationships. In time I rarely bothered to contradict her when I knew something could not possibly be true; there was no point in doing that because it only led to further disagreement, and despite everything, I preferred having a relationship with her as it was to not having one at all. Florence Fisher, adoptee-rights pioneer, and I talked about this over the years.

Now before anybody gets crazy, understand that I know only a small percentage of the adopted population are going to react in this way, but there it is: "a rich fantasy life usually spun around two sets of parents....themes of loss, abandonment and rejection, and the child behavior problems often included lying, as they felt they had been lied to...." --David Kirschner, Ph.D, in Adoption: Uncharted Waters: A Psychologist's Case Studies. . . Clinical and Forensic Issues, With Practical Advice for Adoptees, Parents and Therapists
And lying is also common among people who have been sexually abused; Jane would later tell me that she was sent to a therapist--I think her name was Connie--to whom she could not/would not tell the truth about the abuse when it began, and so she began learning a pattern of lying that would later affect her life far beyond the therapist's office.

But it was no made-up story that Jane had a baby she relinquished for adoption. That year, she sent an elaborate Mother's Day card, with the most loving messages she had ever sent and she wrote on it how much I meant to her and how now she understood more about me, and us. Shortly after that, she came for an extended visit. I hugged her, we wept together, she was quite simply, fried emotionally, fried like an egg on a hot rock. She brought pictures of Lisa, she gave me one and kept two others on her night stand. We did not really even talk about the experience much; there was nothing to say. Now she knew. Now she understood more about me, though in a way I had hoped she would never know.

Six years passed.

Jane had another daughter in 1992 in a short lived marriage. Because of her epilepsy, she had a hard time managing a job--she only was able to hang unto low level jobs even though she could be book smart--and she had a hard time balancing work and taking care of her daughter. Jane did not talk about Lisa, and though my other--first--granddaughter was on my mind, I was hesitant to bring her up. Whenever I did, I could sense Jane bristling on the other end of the phone line, I would hear a protracted silence. I thought of her real, biological father, Patrick, who shut down any emotionally difficult conversations and situations. He would simply change the conversation or walk away; though he was very much present when she was born and our relationship continued, after I found her he refused to meet Jane, always having one excuse after another. So now his daughter was acting the same way. A couple of times I called Jane on Lisa's birthday, three days before her own, but it was clear she did not welcome the calls or the reminder. If she was not home when I called, she did not return the call, as she always did otherwise during the periods she was talking to me.

God, just that last sentence alone reveals how difficult our relationship could be. Up and down, in and out, on or off, I never knew what to expect from week to week. The slightest remark could set her off and away--and sometimes it was nothing I did, but what was going on with her adoptive parents--no correct that, her adoptive mother. She was agreeable after I found Jane, but then came to hate me. I do not think that is too strong a word. What's the worse thing her mother, Mary, could say to Jane, and she did: You're just like Lorraine.

BirthmarkAt this point, Jane and her daughter were living with Jane's adoptive parents. One time I sent Jane a notice about legislation to open records in Wisconsin, adding maybe you want to do something about this--write a letter, perhaps? It's up to you, you don't have to do anything, but I thought you would like to see this. She'd read my memoir Birthmark and knew I continued to stay involved in adoption reform, one way or another.

But she was not me; she had a lot of her biological (birth seems absurd here, and plays up the absurdity of the term--he was not present at the birth) father's denial of anything emotionally difficult in her. Quite honestly, when I sent the flier I had focused on her being adopted in a sealed-records state, and her always saying she was glad that I had found her--not on her being a first/birth mother too. My mistaken conclusion? She would be interested in reforms occurring in her home state. Lisa was almost never talked about. At the time, I somehow did not recall that she was a (birth/first) mother who chose a closed adoption when she could have had an open one. Florence agreed that if I wanted to have a relationship with Jane, it only would be on her terms, and that included not talking about Lisa. To do so would jeopardize our already fragile relationship at that time.

Consequently we never spoke the changing legislation in Wisconsin, but one day a year later when I was in Wisconsin to see my other granddaughter, Jane's adoptive father said that she started swearing about me when she got one of my letters. He wasn't sure what it was about, but I knew it had to be that. I knew. So I would never talk to her about what I was doing after that, and generally that was a time that I took a vacation from most adoption-related matters and wrote other books, worked in Manhattan on a magazine. I wanted my life to be about more than losing a daughter to adoption.--lorraine 
To be continued.

PS: Adoptee and reform activist Elaine Penn, who found her biological mother in New Jersey (read the amazing story of the explosive reaction of the strange and less than wonderful, er, woman who bore her) will testify in Trenton on Monday, June 14, sometime during the hearing on the original-birth-records bill under consideration there. You should be able to hear it on streaming audio by linking to the New Jersey legislature and poking around a bit for the live hearing: