' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: January 2012
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Monday, January 30, 2012

When adoptees' Right to Know becomes a philosophical debate, adoptees lose

Diane Rehm (Photo courtesy of WAMU.)
Diane Rehm
Birth mother privacy has been in the news of late, beginning with a Diane Rehm on NPR show that ostensibly was about DNA analysis that leads to connecting adopted people to their families. And that show came after a New York Times front page story about DNA analysis two days earlier. Sometimes it is third cousins who can connect, because they have also had their DNA decoded, but third cousins lead to second cousins and they lead to first...and a body might be able to connect the dots back to one's original mother.
Holy Cow! Uncles are shocked, children faint, husbands leave! Horrors! goes the collective gasp from the people who see all rights as equal competing against other rights. (One wonders what they would have done during the era of slavery, but never mind.) Competing-but-equal rights regarding human identity was the opinion of the self-styled expert, Kimberly Leighton, there to discuss adopted people's right to search-and-connect after DNA matches. Leighton says near the end of the show that she is an adoptee who searched and found, something I missed on first reading of the transcript.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

High number of adoptions in the US is a national disgrace

The number of domestic infant adoptions in the United States borders on a national disgrace. Each year somewhere between 14,000 and 25,000 American mothers lose their children to adoption. In today's day and knowing what we know about the effects of adoption, this is a tragedy.

The data is hard to come by. According a recent report of the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services,* data on voluntary domestic infant adoptions is not collected systematically. A 2003 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention put the number at less close to 14,000, about one percent of children born to never married women. The percentage for single white women surrendering was 1.7 percent; for black women it is near zero.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Open or closed: Losing a child to adoption is painful

An adoptive mother asked recently whether those of us in the Baby Scope Era would have had less pain if we had had an open adoption. (The Baby Scoop Era is the period between World War II and Roe v. Wade when a large number of single middle class white women lost their infants to adoption because of the stigmas placed on unwed mothers and their children.

When my relinquished daughter was born in 1966, I thought that it would be wonderful if  I could have some continuing contact with her. I envisioned a secret child whom I would communicate with through a trusted friend.  I fancied myself like the Bette Davis character, Apple Annie, in the 1961 film Pocketful of Miracles. Annie, a disheveled old woman sold apples on a street corner  to support her daughter hidden in a Spanish convent. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

To understand ourselves, we must know where we came from

Maternal Grandmother Agnes
Where do we get our talents, our drive, our sense of ourselves? Last night at dinner a woman asked me if I had had a good relationship with my grandmothers, and I had to say, one died before I was born and the other was sickly most of the years I knew her. She died when I was fourteen, and because we did not live in the same town, I never knew her well.

But then I found myself telling my dinner companion more about my grandmothers. The one I did know, Agnes (photo at left), was divorced from my grandfather, a rarity and a scandal back in those days--the Forties and Fifties--and especially a scandal among Polish Catholics, who are among the most conservative and steadfast Catholics anywhere. I barely knew the man she had been married to, my grandfather, nor did I know know why my mother seemed not to like him, or why we almost never visited him. I remember that at his funeral--when I would have been about fourteen--my mother and her older sister were dry-eyed and grim, a younger sister was full of tears. I wondered why there was such disparity in how they were reacting to their father's death.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

To Tell or Not to Tell (the unvarnished truth), that is the question

 The truth--who has claim to it? When do you have to tell someone the Truth? When you know something and they don't but maybe it affect their live? Ah, the internal conundrum.

A few months ago we included a notice about The Ethicist column in The New York Times in which The Ethicist (the name alone would freak me out) told a man who had fathered the girl across the street that he had no right ever to tell her he was her father, unless her mother, and her legal father (who thought he was her biological father) all agreed beforehand. The Ethicist came down on the side then of withholding the truth from the individual. You can see this probably did not sit well with First Mother. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

People say the strangest things to first mothers

As a birth mother you hear the strangest things. And just as adoptees have "trigger" words and ideas that are upsetting, here are a few situations and words that trigger us:

We tell our found or reunited children what a terrible experience giving up them was, and they listen intently, seem to comprehend our pain, but later we hear them saying or writing something to effect that that adoption is such a great institution and they are "glad" they were adopted. We hear: I am so glad you worthless, lower class, fill-in-the-blank person did not raise me. I am so relieved that you didn't get your clutches on me and I was lucky enough to escape. This attitude has found its way into more adoptee memoirs than I can count, starting with Sarah Saffian's Ithaka  and continuing through The Mistress's Daughter by A. M. Holmes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Romney urges single woman to give up her baby--or be outcast from LDS

Mitt Romney, as a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, pressured an unmarried woman to give up her unborn child to be adopted. That revelation comes from The Real Romney, a new book excerpted in the February issue of Vanity Fair.  In the book, co-authors Michael Kranish and Scott Helman tell the story of one Peggie Hayes, who had a long-time connection with the Romney family.

Hayes had joined the church with her mother, and knew the Romneys so well that as a teenager, Hayes baby-sat for the Romney boys in Boston. In her last year of high school, however, her mother abruptly moved with her daughter to Salt Lake City. Peggie married, moved to Los Angeles, had a daughter, divorced, and eventually moved back to the Boston area, where she made contact again with the Romneys. She stayed a member of the Mormon church.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When "best interests of the child" violate reason and decency

Last week Harry’s Law presented the familiar drama of a child adopted illegally and his natural parents suing for his return. We know from the beginning that the judge, lacking the Wisdom of Solomon, will rule for the adopters (the most perfect of couples), citing the best interests of the child.

The Harry’s Law segment had a contemporary twist: the aggrieved couple is Chinese. Their child was stolen by corrupt Chinese officials and given to an African-American couple. The Chinese parents come to the United States and sue for return of their child. The judge, an African-American who had been adopted as a child by a white couple, rules for the adopters, repeating the old platitude about how it’s not about the rights of the parents but about the rights of the child. To overcome any lingering doubts the TV audience might have about the correctness of the decision, the Chinese girl is shown happily singing and swaying to Gospel music along with African-American children.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Neither a rape, nor time, erases this first mother's love

Many of you have privately sent me a link to the story about the 94-year-old birth mother, Minka Disbrow, who was contacted by her 77-year-old daughter and their six-year-reunion since then. Though it is old news by now, I keep finding links to it in my mailbox. Even my husband, who rarely forwards adoption stories to me, got into the act. Minka Disbrow, the mother, is celebrating her hundredth birthday, the Associated Press did a story about the reunion and relationship with her relinquished daughter who reached her six years ago. The ages of the women involved make people sit up and take notice. I love Minka Disbrow because she is a brave women indeed. 

Part of the story that is almost overlooked is that the child, now named Ruth Lee and the mother of a retired astronaut, was the product of what could have only been a brutal rape.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hollywood celebs beget babies any way they can

Having children via surrogacy and adoption continues to be popular in the world of fantasy and entertainment. Sixty-eight year old Robert De Niro and his wife, 56-year-old wife Grace Hightower, became the parents of a daughter, Helen Grace Hightower, via a surrogate this past December. De Niro has three other surrogate produced via surrogate, a son with Hightower ands twin sons with former model Toukie Smith.

Rickie Martin, Mathew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, Elton John, and Nicole Kidman have all become parents in the past few years thanks to women who "donate" their eggs and women who carry the babies.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why First Mother Forum is moderating comments. Again.


Late last night, after an upsetting day, an adoptee who follows this blog--and has her own blog--emailed me and suggested that many of the comments at the previous blog post would most likely be upsetting to my granddaughter.  I had a vague feeling like that myself, and was quite anxious about the blog all of yesterday as the comments veered into analyzing from assumption and were often wrong. Then I would have to answer the assumptions and presumptions and questions, and in doing so reveal more about the situation than I felt comfortable doing on a public blog. Seeing War Horse in the evening did not distract me as I love horses and this is an disquieting movie. I came home, then read the email from the adoptee, and knew I had to do something.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dealing with an adoptee's 'no contact' request

How should we first/birth mothers respond to a relinquished son or daughter who is unwilling to have contact? is a discussion that began in the last blog post. It is a question I've heard many times and also had to deal with myself--and now with my (adopted out*) granddaughter.

What's difficult for us birth mothers is to know when we might send them a note or an email or a card because we find it hard to believe they don't want to know, somehow, that we are still thinking of them. I've heard adoptees say that they did appreciate getting that one card on their birthday--it answered the questions: Does my birth mother think ever think of me? Is she thinking of me on my birthday? Does she even remember my birthday?