' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: When adoptive parents meet the birth mother

Monday, August 6, 2012

When adoptive parents meet the birth mother

"Untying a Birth Mother's Hands" yesterday in the Modern Love column in The New York Times was inadvertently a stealth argument against international adoption because it adeptly portrays the anguish and pain of a woman who surrendered her child because of poverty and shame. 

The writer/adoptive mother, Elizabeth Foy Larsen, and her family--who ups and visits Guatemala so that their daughter can visit her natural mother--clearly has the wherewithal to prevent at least that single adoption. The amount of money spent merely getting everyone down there and in a decent hotel--adoptive mother, adoptive father, their two biological children, the two adoptive grandmothers--(unless they used frequent flyer miles, of course) would have undoubtedly lifted the natural mother from the crushing poverty that kept her powerless to keep her daughter. The girl's birth mother, after all, "scrambles to find jobs that pay a living wage" while her replacement family lives in a four-bedroom with remodeled bathrooms. I'm guessing but there's probably lots of marble there.

The piece reiterates the feel-good baloney that unfortunately has made international adoption seem like a good thing for people who just want to share the wealth by raising a child from a poor country with poor parents. Foy Larsen and her ilk are the problem because they create the market that fuels the billion-dollar adoption industry. And when there is a market--even for humans--people will find a way to feed it.

While Foy Larsen says they wanted to give their daughter real answers to her questions about adoption and "not rely on a fable made up by Walter and me about a woman who lived far away and loved her daughter so much that she wanted her to have a better life" what else is the reader to take from the story except that fable? The only difference is that now that story has a real face and a true story of crushing poverty, as well as the shame of an unintended pregnancy, even in 2006 in Latin America. 

Foy Larsen talks about how much easier adoption is for mothers in this country because today in almost all adoptions the unfortunate mother-to-be has the opportunity to meet-and-greet the people who hope to claim her baby. While a truly "open" adoption is better for the natural mother, today we know that a great many such adoptions are only marginally open, in that the mother does not know who the adoptive parents are in real life, or how to contact them directly. Furthermore, anecdotal information indicates that a great many--very likely the majority--of "open" adoptions close within the first few years. Adoptive parents frequently are not asked to disclose their real identities and addresses, and never do; or move away, no forwarding address or phone number. The Internet is rife with stories of heart-broken birth mothers who were lied to, and have no idea where their children are.

Another part of the equation is whether open adoptions are a true boon for the adopted. We are just beginning to hear from adoptees on the matter of open versus closed adoption, and it is not at all clear that an open adoption is any easier or psychologically healthier than the old system of closed adoption. We now hear stories of the difficulties of not growing up with siblings--full or half--and always being aware that you might not have grown in the "wrong" tummy, but instead might be living in the "wrong" family.

Foy Larsen also implies that today there is a great support system for first mothers in the U.S. with "ethical domestic adoptions [having] social workers, psychologists and studies...to help guide birth parents and adoptive parents," but people involved in international adoption are on their own. These "ethical" domestic adoptions appear to be the exception rather than the rule. The majority of domestic adoptions are independent, that is handled by attorneys or unlicensed "facilitators" and these practitioners provide zero support. In terms of "support" for birth parents, perhaps Foy Larsen means the retreats and meetings held by groups such as Origins-USA, Concerned United Birthparents, American Adoption Congress, and some adoption agencies. Go to one, and Foy Larsen would find find women who relinquished not only a year ago, but ten, twenty, thirty years ago, sitting around crying into their hankies. Yes, we first mothers do move on from that horrible first few months after relinquishment, but the wound endures and can be torn open by the smallest of incidents.

To her credit, Foy Larsen is grappling with the realities of adoption in ways that a great many adoptive parents ignore because they can. She admits that even sharing a photograph of the girl with her natural mother is difficult, as it takes her weeks to send a photograph to the other mother, even though doing so only requires her to drag an image into an email. She says that meeting the girl's mother gave her a "renewed" love for the woman, and that it will break her heart if the girl does not feel the same way. Pretty words, I thought. What if the girl in question--your shared daughter--were to ask you to let her spend the summer with her natural mother, grandmother, and her biological brother? In Guatemala? Would your ability to stretch your heart "beyond any boundaries" let her do that? Would the adoptive grandmothers who got in on this visit also willingly go along? I wonder. Given past experience, I doubt it.

Foy Larsen writes that both adoptive grandmothers jumped at the opportunity to be included on the trip to Guatemala; while the writer talks about their only wanting to "know the entirety of what is precious to them," those words rang false and hollow. Call me cynical, but I suspect their motives were much more layered: a chance to get a look at the girl's poor mother, the way they would inspect a side of beef, and undoubtedly conclude that their son and daughter are the better parents, isn't the little girl lucky? Plus, they had a reason for a vacation in a foreign country with a warm climate; and would end up with a most interesting story to tell at their weekday bridge club or around the pool at their condo.

And the girl's real grandmother? She is so broken up by the fact that her granddaughter has been adopted away from her family that she does not even attend the meeting. She cannot bear it. The writer does understand "that when it comes to adoption, grief can ripple through generations," an insight that few, very few, adoptive parents fathom or even think about.

The piece ends so very sadly, and gives lie to the title--Untying a birth mother's hands? How and from what? Now this mother is not going to grieve because she knows her daughter is loved and being raised by parents who are sensitive souls and have remodeled bathrooms? The woman doesn't even feel she has the right to walk down the street holding her daughter's hand. She wants to ask the six-year-old to forgive her for not being brave enough to keep her. 

Perhaps adoptive parents and the editor of Modern Love found this a touching, sensitive story. In reality, it is a sweetly written paean to the tender feelings of the author and her family while ignoring the larger issue it celebrates: the "right" of wealthier people to take the children of the poor. This was not a child in an institution, or a waif on a street corner in danger of being sold into prostitution one day. International adoptions such as this one ought not to happen.--lorraine
From the Times:  Untying a Birth Mother’s Hands 

For more on the dark side of international adoption from FMF and what kind of business it is:
Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption
Kidnapped in Guatemala, 'adopted' in America
 UN finds irregularities in Guatemalan adoptions--no surprise there
Abuse in International Adoption, Part 2 with new commentary
Doubly Damned by Adoption turns Victim into a Fighter
Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother (left) is what it says. I found parts of it irritating, not surprisingly, but it does cover the territory without ducking. The jacket design--two pears between an apple--does show that genetics matter. The paperback has pages of good reviews from birth mothers, adoption workers and of course adoptive parents. Click on image to go to Amazon.

And to explain the story of international adoption to a child, Families Are Different written and illustrated by Nina Pelligrini (below) is apparently much better than the newer one on the same subject, You're Not My Real Mother! by Molly Friedrich, which blithely skims over the answer of the question why a child looks different than he does. I'm going on what other folks said, haven't actually read either one.


  1. "While a truly "open" adoption is better for the natural mother..."

    Honestly, though I can only speak for myself and relay what a few "open adoption" bmoms have shared with me, being involved in such an arrangement was NOT better. Perhaps if *I* had chosen it, that type of adoption would have been less traumatic and easier to deal with. Being that *I* didn't choose adoption in any form or fashion, there wasn't going to be anything "easier" or "better" for me at all. I lost my daughter...and when the adoption was opened up when she was 9, it wasn't a relief...it was rubbing salt into a raw, gaping wound that drove me to many different counselors, through many major bouts of depression, and caused turmoil and heartbreak in my other, younger children who couldn't grasp the concept of why "sister" didn't live with us. They were then saddled with explaining to their friends/friends parents/etc. the whole crazy situation. I would have faced some of those issues anyway, probably, but from a distance. Open adoption creates new situations and problems that, without proper preparation and acceptance, will lead to major heartbreak thrown in your face, up-close and personal. IF adoption still had to happen in my case, I would have preferred to have maybe yearly updates from the agency, letting me know my daughter was happy and safe (and maybe a photograph) so that I didn't have to wonder. But knowing what she was doing and not really being able to participate as my rightful, and MUCH WANTED place as her mother was looking through the window of a candy store and not being able to have any candy. Cliche as it sounds, it's true.

    There's just no good answer...when your "hands are tied."

  2. I find many of these pieces written by adoptive parents take us on a lovely journey but the journey is always circular, landing right back at the place it started.

  3. I read the article and had the opportunity to discuss it with Elizabeth, who I know. She actually shared my (and some of your) concerns and said she had tried to edit some of it but it had already gone to press.

    She encourages letters to the editor to correct incorrect information about domestic adoption, which is not her area.

    Send them to: letters@nytimes.com or faxing (212) 556-3622. Word limit: 150

    Who or what is FOY?

  4. Mirah: She tried to correct or change things she had written because she ended up sounding condescending? Why did these people adopt? One can always answer that if they had not, someone else would have, but that is of course what the Nazis could say about turning in Jews whom the neighbors were hiding. Elizabeth Foy Larsen (see her byline) and her husband have two biological children. Or did they adopt and then Ta dah! conceive? (Adoption as a cure for infertility?)

    They are the kind of people who increase the market for babies, and the market in human flesh will be filled as long as there are people who can buy. You know this as well as anyone--better than anyone because of writing your book, "The Stork Market." The money is made by the people who make the exchange. The incorrect information about the support offered those who participate in domestic adoption is a minor point in the overall thrust of the piece--ain't we great? Aren't we sensitive to have taken the girl (with the grandparents!) to see her natural mother?


  5. You make a lot of good points and I agree with much of your post. However, assuming the adoptive grandmothers wanted to inspect the mother "like they would a side of beef" and comparing APs to neighbors turning in Jews to the Nazis is why so many APs stop reading and therefore learning.

  6. UM hit the nail on the head. Nothing knew here in this article, all these APs stories sound the same to me.

    They always claim to have learned so much since they adopted but let's be honest - it's a done deal and there is little opportunity for change. Sure, they can wax poetic about loving the birth mother and experiencing the culture, but they still lay claim to the child and they will always hold all the cards.

    The article mentions that Larsen is writing a book about international adoption. I hope the title of this article is not the title for the book as it is blatantly misleading. The birth mother's hands (and heart) are still "tied" by adoption. A reunion doesn't change that, as many of us here have learned the hard way.

    But yippee - we get to read another tale from the winner's circle! She can claim to understand the natural family's loss and continue to make the world feel good about adoption. I guess that's the point of all this adoptive parent navel gazing.

  7. Why exactly were the grandmothers going along to see the birth mother? Simple curiosity and because they could afford it. I fail to see how their presence would be valuable to the little girl; she would simply feel more pressure from more people to be detached from her natural mother, as it would be impossible for her not to understand, even at six, that everyone was watching. More people, more pressure.

    This meeting should have been about the natural mother and child, not allowing extended family to get a look at the woman. Having been the "birth mother" that people just wanted to get a gander at--not to know me, not to understand, just to Ohh and ahh, that's who THAT WOMAN is...that part of the story really annoyed me, and clued me into how clueless the writer really was.

    We do not write this blog to worry about adoptive parents and their sensitive feelings.

    We do not write this blog to hurt the feelings of adoptive parents, but if what we write offends them, that is their issue.

    I am often amazed at what I read (when I go there) at SOME adoptive parents blogs. I am amazed sometimes, but I have stopped being offended.

    I recently returned from Germany and attended a lecture in Nuremberg about how the pressure to join the Nazi movement was great and how even the lights in the stadium (which we visited) were set up to make everyone feel like one of the group, and those not "in" very "out." The speaker was a 30-something German. He was not apologizing nor defending the Nazi state of mind. He was simply stating facts.

  8. ALWAYS about not offending p/aps...

    Offensive, hurtful, and presumptuous things are written about first mothers ALL THE TIME, but we're simply supposed to chalk it up to p/aps being "uneducated" or "uninformed" about firstmom issues. Even on a "firstmother's forum" we're expected to censor what we say to assure that p/aps stick around so we can educate them. Ugh. Sorry, just venting...

  9. Sara, I got inspected like a side of beef by a whole party full of the adoptive parents' friends and relatives. Amom threw a party when I came to meet them the first time after reunion with my child. I did not find out until the very end of the party that Amom had told them all not to ask me anything about my "story". She said the party was for her child, not me. If anyone had asked, they might have found out that I had a doctorate and a very successful career. Her brother-in-law was the only person to ask me about myself, at the very end of the party. He asked me what I did for a living, and his jaw hit the floor when I told him. Amom didn't want anyone to know I was successful and normal. I was on inspection, and I have no idea what she told any of them about me, but whatever it was, it minimized me. It was all about keeping me that poor slut who abandoned her baby (the image she wrongly had in her mind of me).

    I stopped caring if I turned adoptive parents "off" years ago. Of course they don't want to hear what we have to say, even if it is just that we are normal people who love their children. I refuse to live in their fantasy world anymore. If the worst thing that ever happens to them in adoption is that their little feefees get hurt when they finally get to hear what WE think about THEM, then they have nothing to wail about. Trying losing your child to an unknown fate and having him come back an angry stranger. So much for the "better life" with "the perfect parents." Blah.

  10. "ALWAYS about not offending p/aps..."

    Also known as "don't scare the white folks."

  11. I just sent a letter to the Times. The more letters they receive, the more likely they are to print anything. letters@nytimes.com

  12. I did not say AP feelings should be considered on this blog. I just wish there could be discourse about adoption without bringing in the Nazis. I have seen that analogy numerous times and it is offensive (and not to APs.)

  13. Are the thought police at work here, Sara? The German group think surrounding Hitler is a good analogy because it is something that most people can understand as an analogy, and relate to it. I can't think of anything else quite so apt. I don't think Lorraine meant to be offensive or used it to raise blood pressures, or that she throws around ugly comments directed towards adoptive parents.

  14. I was told by the adoptive father that I had "raped" his family as a result of honoring my daughter's wish to come live with me, her father and her brother. Additionally, he made an unsuccessful attempt to have me arrested and tossed in jail. Interestingly, it was me that he was after and not my husband who is the nfather. It's always the mother and the men get a pass. Maybe it's because by some we're considered "baby abandoners."

  15. Yes, how foolish to hope that the Grandmothers went along because they were invited for moral support and had a genuine love and stake in this meeting. And in that coming it showed the tremendous interest this family had in making this work.

    You state the meeting was ONLY for Guat. Mother and child in question but as a minor, clearly other people needed to be present. Just common sense and quite frankly we don't know what that little girl wanted or whom she wanted with her.

    Would you be happier if word came that the adoptive family lived a hobo lifestyle rather than comfortable existance and remodeled bathrooms?

    Frankly you lost me when you began focusing on those details and making sweeping generalizations.

    To imply this Adoptive family should have looked at the U.S. first, begs the question of why not children from around the world? Are they less deserving then?

    Additionally pretending that if they had simply thrown money at this birth family rather than pursuing an adoption would have kept this first family intact is simplistic and naive. Money can't combat systemic bias against young/unwed mothers or social cast systems and inequality.

    I looked right past the Hitler comments as fairly pathetic. I think you are deliberately trying to stir the pot on this one as heaven forbid an adoptive family be seen here in an even mediocre framework. But its your blog to do with as you please.

    Additionally it might be well to note that the Guat. Grandmother chose not to attend because it was SHE who forbade the fistmother from keeping her child. Much as my own Mother did so many years ago I might add.

    So much for your crystal ball and presumption of shattered feelings and faith.


  16. Exactly what what the grandmothers "stake" in this meeting? How was there presence going to change anything? But okay, that's a matter of opinion.

    Obviously, the girl's immediate (adoptive) family should be there, had to be there, and I never suggested otherwise.

    The writer of the piece, Larsen, herself made it clear that the financial circumstances of the two mothers were vastly different, and in doing so suggests that this may ahve played into the decision for adoption--as well as the shame factor. The piece in the Times is unclear whether the natural grandmother, upon learning of the unintended pregnancy, would have urged her daughter to give up the child, and certainly does the writer does not say what you have stated, which you seem so adamant about.

    For reasons like that, your comment was almost not posted.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. @ Anonymous (JJ)who said "To imply this Adoptive family should have looked at the U.S. first, begs the question of why not children from around the world? Are they less deserving then?"

    I ask you less deserving of what? To be ripped from their parents and family to live in a county of milk and honey with strangers who they will be directed to call mom and dad?

    To be deserving of living a life where private schools and Nike and Adidas shoes are the gold standard of living well?

    Look up humanitarian imperialism and see where your logic fails. It is not a better life for a child to be taken from their home county and family to be "saved" by entitled American citizens who can pay for a baby who has miles and a whole culture to seperate then from their real family.

    There are children in the US in the foster care system who would do well to have adoptive parents to call mom and dad. But they are "damaged goods" who are not womb wet and fresh and therefore not as desirable.

    In case you did not know people are not as sympathetic to those adoptive parents who would take a poor child from his mother,family and culture to save him from that life. We are over being grateful that those with money and means who can coerce a child from his mother in the dream that he will have a better life. So get over yourself. We are done drinking the Kool Aid and do not think being raised poor, African, Chinese, Guatamalan, Mexican etc., is a bad thing at all. You the American adoptor is not the savior of the world. Betchta didn't know that did you?

  19. I think "The piece reiterates the feel-good baloney that unfortunately has made international adoption seem like a good thing for people who just want to share the wealth by raising a child from a poor country with poor parents" is a very good line.

  20. Anon/J.J.

    The natural grandmother did not forbid anything. On the contrary, she has not forgiven her daughter for giving up her baby.

    From the article:

    "For all the abundance around that table, there was a noticeable absence. When we set up the visit, Helen had told us that her mother, who didn’t know about her granddaughter until she was a 2-year-old “Clifford”-watching American kid, had wanted to join us. A week earlier, the searchers had forwarded us a message saying that she couldn’t get time off from her job.

    “I’m sorry your mother had to work,” I said.

    Helen looked down at her fried chicken. “That’s not why she isn’t here,” she said. “She was worried that if she saw her granddaughter, she wouldn’t be able to let her go.”

    I knew that Helen had hidden her pregnancy to preserve her family’s honor. Until that afternoon, I had always imagined that was what her mother would have wanted. Suddenly I understood that when it comes to adoption, grief can ripple through generations.

    “In Guatemala, grandmothers treat their grandchildren better than they treat their own children,” she said. “She still hasn’t forgiven me.”

  21. This is not one of your better posts, in my opinion. Correcting myths about open adoption? Fine, that's your area of expertise. But assigning motives and marble floors to people based on what you've learned in a 1,000 word essay? Undercuts everything else you have to say. As someone else said, this why most APs won't stick around for the other good info you have to share. But as you and Jane have said before, this is a place for venting, not creating understanding.

  22. 2nd Mom, sorry you took down your comment; it was excellent. Hope to see you again.

  23. From Anon: "But assigning motives and marble floors to people based on what you've learned in a 1,000 word essay?"

    Is an essay published for the sole benefit of the writer? I hope not. An essay often becomes a springboard for further consideration of the topic. Our interaction with a piece may include "assigning motives" or offering a completely different point of view (or being in complete agreement!). That's how we grow.

    My take on the marble - it's just a way of pointing out the class bias inherent in international adoption. Isn't that how the whole concept of adoption is sold? Telling mothers it's OK to give the baby to someone who has a beautiful home seems fairly routine in both international and domestic adoptions.

  24. Many thanks for commenting on this Times article. Personally I found it not only callous but deeply distressing. I am astonished by the remarks that your criticism might disaffect p/aps and hence deny them an education. Your analysis is aptly educational. Adoption has long provided a means of taking children from poor women and giving them to rich ones. There is no instance where this remains more obvious than in international adoption. This adoption scenario clearly violates the spirit of the Hague convention. The writer exudes magnanimity and empathy while completely failing to appreciate the fundamental and glaring injustice before her. I hated this article. It reminded me of Marie Antoinette and 'Let them eat cake'

  25. If anyone is interested, here is a previous article by Elizabeth Larsen:


  26. from the piece by Larsen in Mother Jones:

    "We never discussed adopting from the U.S. foster care system or an Eastern European orphanage; we wanted a baby who had never spent an hour in institutionalized care." and " (Wanting a girl, we'd opted for the sure bet that adoption offers.)"

    That kinda limits their choices and states their preferences: they put in an order for a healthy girl, infant whose only trauma was being taken from the mother who knows her. Their order for a baby girl was filled. If people keep doing this, no matter how sensitive they are to the "issues" there will always be children available, one way or another. The way to end a lot of moving babies from poor countries to wealthier ones is to have the market for them dry up.

  27. If my daughter's adoptive mother had made it possible for me to know my daughter I would have been so happy. This woman who wrote the article is also giving the little girl Spanish lessons so that she will be able to speak to her mother when she is older. I did not find her a terrible person.
    Yes they had enough money to support the natural family ten times over but so do many adoptive families. They are the ones with money. I agree with you totally there is something very ironic about the money spent on one visit how it could have kept mother and daughter together.

    I think it's not likely that she would have sponsored that for the girl she now raises. I do agree with you there, it's not right and it's unfair but that said, if it had been me with my daughter I would have been overjoyed to know where she was and to have had her in my life as a child.

    I had been promised a very semi open adoption that promise was not kept. I found that extremely painful to live with. So when an adoptive mother makes that effort and she doesn't have to then I see it as a good thing.

    Please don't stop your opinions though, I smile at the comparisons to Nazi Germany and encourage it too. What you say is not untrue, it's quite true, everything, thank you for your input.

  28. Hey, K, thanks for the vote of confidence. I too would have loved to have known where my daughter was when she was six. It was at that time when she first had her seizures, and her doctor was trying to find out more about me--of course the agency did not even answer his letter. At the same time, I was writing to the agency about the birth control pills I took after I was pregnant and did not know I was. I believe they caused her lifelong struggle with epilepsy, and the strong drugs she had to take to control the seizures.

    Sorry to hear about promises not kept regarding how open your adoption would be; but as we know here, that is so common that every woman being promised an open, or "semi-open" adoption (what does that mean, exactly?) ought to doubt it, no matter how nice and caring towards the birth mother the prospective adopters are at the time of surrender. Promises and concern for the mother is often heartfelt at the time but they turn into a sham when the adopters go back on their word. Have they no honor? Have they no shame?

    Far too many just want the baby, and will do whatever it takes to get him. So much for that "destiny" fairy tale adoptive parents fill their heads with. I am not talking about all of them, of course, but you know who I mean.

  29. Mary Elizabeth ColemanAugust 18, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    L- I am an AP who is part of an open domestic adoption, as you define a truly open adoption so frequently in the blog.

    Our daughter turns one in a year and I would like to start by thanking you for your posts and blog. It is often difficult to read and makes me feel uncomfortable more often then not. I think that is likely a good thing.

    I am not so naive to say my so vary adoption is different and will save you having to read through what we have done to try to make sure our adoption is ethical...

    We adopted yes because we wanted a child. And yes we have biological children. And no our daughter was not a gift and she is not in the family god intended her to be in and I am not trying to save the world or do good or steal a baby at any cost. I do believe there are people who want to do all those things and will go to any length to get a baby.

    We are the front end of our relationship, the four of us (though aside from that with our children and as is often the case I do the heavy lifting of maintaing our family relationships rather then my husband) and I am often left feeling like I am damned if I do damned if I don't... this relationship is not one that is well documented and although there is some evidence open adoptions may be better in the long run for adoptees, we do not know.

    I keep writing and deleting. I am not very articulate. I am reminded of the quote "You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope...Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God. --Thomas Merton"

    My point is not that you do not have a valid and important message, or that you should worry about APs feelings or write to them, or that in a forum specifically for first mothers you should sugar coat, but just wishing outlaid there was a way we could correct adoption myths in a way people would listen (I get that this is not the intention of your space nor should it be) Truly horrible people have adopted and have done so unethically in a way that has ruined both first mothers lives and adoptees lives and in some crazy way, adopters lives when the lies they were told turn out not to have an semblance of truth and they realize too late they are raising another person's child. I feel very lucky to have found your forum and it decidedly changed the course of our family in a way that I don't have words to tell you how much I appreciate.

    Our daughter's mother choose to place her with our family. And I am not waxing poetically to say that i love her and she is family. For those of us who are trying to negotiate uncharted territory could talk to one another without vilification. I suppose i could look more to AP blogs but like you L, most make me want to vomit.

  30. Thanks for your comment, Mary Elizabeth. It's gratifying to know we've made a difference..

    It's hard for first mothers to get our voices heard even when we try to sugar-coat the message because our message is so contrary to what people believe. And of course, the adoption industry spends millions reinforcing the myths. They dismiss us as "angry" and "anti-adoption" much as racists, sexists, and homophobics smear the objects of their discrimination and derision.

    People are more likely to listen to adoptive parents. We encourage you to speak and continue to speak.

    We also need to work together. Sadly, there are many divisions in adoption reform groups.

  31. Mary Elizabeth ColemanAugust 18, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Oh, I wish there were an edit button!

  32. Lorraine asks "why did these people adopt". It is very clear from the article why they adopted. They wanted another child, the ones they already had were insufficient to ensure their happiness. It seems safe to assume that the reason their other children weren't enough was that one of them was not a girl since the biological children were boys and the adopted child is a girl. It appears, reading between the lines, that Mary Elizabeth Coleman may have adopted for similar reasons.

    Given the difficulties adoption often presents, I am interested that so many people adopt for what some might consider superficial reasons (e.g. Infertile couples and perhaps some adoptees and natural mothers).

  33. I truly enjoy this blog and as an adoptive mom, I believe it is critically important to understand the other points of view in adoption. I feel that your blog has educated me, opened me up to new ideas, and implanted in me a deeper understanding of what is wrong with the adoption industry.

    I am in a domestic adoption, a path we specifically chose in great part to allow any future children the opportunity to know their first parents. It was also because I feel IA is very challenging in the area of ethics and corruption. So, I really cannot speak from the point of view of someone associated with IA.

    However, I do find the tone of attacking a specific mother very distasteful in a case where the adoptive parents are going far above and beyond what most IA parents do. I thought this was part of the purpose of this blog- to educate, to enlighten, to bring change. Here, right here, is change. Parents involved in IA wanting their child to have contact with her first parents.

    It is a terribly tragedy that poverty forced this mother to give up her child. Awful. Wrong. But vilifying her adoptive parents when they are trying so hard is also wrong. I definitely agree with you that their money could have helped this mother.

    But do you have the firsthand knowledge that the mother was willing to accept the money if offered? Do you know if the adoptive parents knew the first mother only needed to overcome financial difficulties and she could have kept her child? Do you know for a fact that taking these trips do not come at great cost for the adoptive family? Do you know they have remodeled bathrooms with marble, or are you using hyperbole in an attempt to further make your point at the cost of real people?

    Adoptees and first mothers are often lied about in popular media. They are made into exaggerated stereotypes. First mothers are often classified in less than glowing terms. All of this I know you know. It's wrong. It must stop. We must listen to the voices of those who know and stop treating them with contempt. But this isn't going to happen when those voices vilify the very people (adoptive parents) who could support them in their cause.

    I think the reason this particular post bothered me is that it spoke in specific terms about a specific adoptive mom and applied feelings, emotions, beliefs, lifestyles, choices and actions to her with no basis in fact. Isn't this very thing exactly what we all (adoptees, first parents, and adoptive parents) think is wrong about adoptees and first parents?

  34. I hear you Tiffany, and I know that Larsen was trying to make the right moves in taking the girl back to Guatemala, but so much about the piece--after I read it carefully and thinking through about what it was actually revealing--really upset me. What the piece does is aggrandize the adoptive mother writer in the typical way, and clear the path for her to have been part of the system that makes it okay to have the child adopted. We know a great deal about corruption in adoption in Guatemala at this point (we have several posts on it you can search) and while this case does not appear to be one of them, if the adoption industry was not so alive and well in the poor country such as Guatemala and India and Nepal and you-name-it, this adoption would not have happened.

    The graf about the great support system birth mothers have in America implies or actually states, Gosh gee, that makes giving up your child almost fine and dandy was most offensive. That's like saying what a great support system we have for veterans of war returning with PTSD or a missing body part, and thus, war is fine. Whether or not that was written by Larsen--according to another blogger that was added by the editor--but still, it fits right in, doesn't
    it? Most people reading are left with the impression, Well, sure, giving up a child here in the USA is so much better where those poor girls can get counseling for their wounds.

    You are upset that I analyzed Larsen's writing and came to my conclusions about her, but that is what writing lays you open to. Trust me, with the publishing of Birthmark in the Dark Ages of 1979, I am well aware of that. That is what happens when you write. People make assumptions because of what you write, because you give them the information to do so. That is the price of writing. That is the risk of writing personally.

    I also found particularly offensive that a visit to the girl's other mother turned into such a family vacation, and it did once the adoptive grandmothers were invited and came along. That was really hard for me to stomach. You may read that differently, but having been looked over by the adoptive parents when I met my daughter, knowing--because she told me--how she had to act in front of her parents when I was around, I can say that I am eternally glad that I did not have to be inspected by their parents, and that my daughter also did not have to perform in front of them. Under the circumstances of the visit, I think the little girl was under tremendous pressure to act correctly for the whole family.

    Other first mothers have not been as tough as I have been about Larsen, but this piece was really like a hangnail in my brain.

    That said, thank you for commenting and airing your feelings. I do try to be understanding towards adoptive parents as I know they are not all hateful towards birth mothers, and obviously you are one of them.

  35. Lorraine, thank you so much for your reply. This is why I keep coming back here- you are so respectful in your discourse with adoptive parents. I truly appreciate that.

    I heartily agree with you about Guatemalan adoption. I knew about the corruption there years ago, and I wasn't even in the adoption loop. If (and that's a very hypothetical if as we just would not because of the rampant corruption) we had adopted from there, we would have hired a PI to ensure the child we were adopting truly needed a home. We know several people from Guatemala, and the kidnapping and such that takes place there is so very scary. I cannot imagine anyone in good conscience adopting from there in light of what we know. I agree with you that this definitely does raise some questions about the integrity of the people adopting that should be discussed.

    That being said, I stand by what I said about assigning feelings, emotions, and lifestyles to a particular person without knowing any facts. I frequent adoptee and birth mother blogs because I feel these are voices I need to listen to. I'm quite used to the rather... harsh tone used to describe adoptive parents. Do I think I personally deserve it given the particular details of our adoption? Most of it no, although I do feel I deserve some of it. But I don't take offense because I view myself as part of a larger collective- "adoptive parents." This collective, as a whole, has failed our children and their first parents. We deserve harsh words and criticism. Unfortunately, when one of us fails miserably, it reflects poorly upon the whole. That is just how it is.

    I just wanted to clarify that what made me uncomfortable about this post was it was taking one specific person, not the group as a whole, and assigning thoughts and feelings to her and her parents as actual fact. Like I said, you don't know if the first mother would have taken the money, even if offered, and if that would have made a difference. For instance, in the case of our adoption, financial assistance would not have changed the underlying circumstances for our daughter's first parents. The particular circumstances surrounding their decision were completely out of our control to change or help with. I am certain there are other adoptive parents for whom this is also true (although I am also sure it is in the minority). Her parents may not have wanted to "inspect" the first mother like a piece of beef. You say you assume this based on your experience. I feel that to take a particular person and speculate on situations and present them as the truth... it doesn't lend credence to your argument, which is otherwise quite valid apart from this particular person.

    I understand writers open themselves up to this. But it doesn't mean that I agree with it.

    I appreciate your thoughts very much. And even more, I appreciate your response to me. I think this discourse between adoptive parents and first mothers is so important, and I truly appreciate this blog. You have given me some additional things to think about, and I feel that perhaps I should do a bit more research into this particular mother's adoption situation to understand it better.

  36. Tiffany: I am only going to reply to this: under no circumstances should the adoptive grandmothers have been there. No circumstances. Their presence changed the whole tenor of the trip, whether or not they were at the actual meeting, and as I recall, it is implied that is why they went.



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