' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: August 2012
Join Lorraine in Indianapolis! She will be opening the IAN conference on Friday morning. See details on sidebar.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why did my mother keep me a secret?

“My mother kept me a secret; she betrayed me; she dishonored me with her silence,” cried an adoptee who found her mother in her 30’s .

The truth is that we mothers betrayed ourselves as well as our children.

Lorraine and I gave up our infant daughters in 1966. We and the other single mothers at that time were programmed by our families, religious authorities, social workers, advice columnists--indeed the entire culture, through and through--to try to forget and go one with our lives, to pretend our children did not exist. The message was crystal clear: Spare yourself and your family the SHAME that you had sex out of wedlock, SHAME that you opened up your body to a man who did not respect you (and in my case ignored the signs of his flawed character), SHAME that you were dumb enough not to take precautions or demand that he did.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why is adoption reform ignored by The New York Times?

Jane and Lorraine, 1983**
This morning's New York Times carries the last column of Arthur S. Brisbane as The Public Editor,* who comments weekly about the paper's coverage, good and bad. In it, I found this nugget:
"I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing 'there is no conspiracy' and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.(Emphasis added.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Returning a child to her father is the right decision

Finally, a voice of sanity in a contested adoption case. South Carolina law professor Marcia Zug defends the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court last month to return two-year old Veronica to her father, Dusten Brown, cancelling the adoption to Melanie and Matt Capobianco in a article in Slate.

Zug's August 23 article in Slate, "Two year old 'Baby Veronica' was ripped from the only home's she ever known. The court made the right decision"* is a welcome change from the media blizzard chastising the South Carolina Court. The popular refrains "ripped from the only family she has ever known and "what about the best interests of the child"? repeated endlessly in this and similar cases are simply wrong.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Akin, GOP to women: We are in charge of your bodies, no exceptions for rape

The current rage over rape and abortion set in motion by the incredibly inane comment of Todd Akin, GOP Senate candidate in Missouri, has set us to thinking about our own adamantly pro-choice position: a woman's body is her own and it is her own to decide if she will or will not carry a fertilized egg to term, that is, have the baby.

Akin's ignorance has upped the debate over whether abortion is ever palatable to some, because all he really did is state what true anti-choice zealots believe: that all and any abortion (and that includes the Morning-After Pill and IUDs) methods, regardless of the timing, are Go-directly-to-hell wrong.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How can first mothers talk to those who want to adopt?

Lorraine and reunited daughter, Jane
Dear FMF:

I am the anonymous poster who is the daughter of a very damaged adoptee. I am from Utah and I chose to parent as a single teen based on my mother's experience as an adoptee. I feel very confident discouraging any one from giving up their baby, but what do I say about adoption to friends that want to adopt?  I want them to know the true situation, but it is so hard when they feel like adoption will solve all their problems. And most of them believe that the mothers truly want to give up their children. Have you covered this before?
Let  us applaud you for dealing with the zeitgeist in Mormon-dominated Utah and keeping your baby. Yep, even for me it is very difficult to talk to people who are hell bent on adopting and telling them about birth-mother grief and the long-term impact on the adoptee. A friend wrote me about this very issue, and she remembers crying on the phone with her friend when adoption was being considered. After the adoption, they remained friends but drifted apart somewhat, as the other couple had a young child and she did not, adding however, "their adopting was a further wedge between us." She wrote, "They may not feel it but I certainly do, because today, twenty years later, adoption still finds its way into our conversation in ways that seem hurtful, or at least uncomfortable, for me."

But back to you. You can only save the world one person at a time, and you started out by keeping your child. By living in Utah, surrounded by people who think adoption is only wonderful, you are in a more difficult position than most. We have had an anonymous Mormon first mother commenting on another blog last week who wrote: "i love adoption and am SO grateful with my experience with it." Maybe what you will accomplish more than you realize is being an example to other women in Utah that it is possible to be a single mother; and you can talk to them about how damaged your own adoptee mother was by the fact of her not being raised in her family of origin.

The best thing would be to tell those who want to adopt about the difficulties of your own mother, and suggest that they read various blogs to learn how complicated it is for the adopted person to grow up among genetic strangers.

I've listed below a few of FMF posts that could be helpful. 

The longterm impact of giving up a child

An adoptive mother asks "How can adoption be less horrific on first mothers?"

The saddest story of all: Opting for adoption today

No Matter How Adoption is Done, Grief Remains for Mothers


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Helen Gurley Brown Gave Early Ink to Adoption Reform

Helen Gurley Brown in 1964
Helen Gurley Brown was a friend of mine. She was one of the few editors back in the day when I was "coming out" of the birth mother closet who supported me, gave me a pat on the back, and gave me an assignment. It was for Cosmopolitan with Brown as editor-in-chief I wrote my first piece about adoption reform, after reading a story in The New York Times about this woman named Florence Fisher and how she was shaking up adoption and demanding that adopted individuals be given their original birth certificates.

When Birthmark came out in 1979, I happened by the office and gave Helen an autographed copy; she wrote me a nice note later that I must have somewhere in my files. Although she was reviled by some of the feminists for her stance on using sex as a means to security and a better life, Helen went her own way and was certainly a feminist in the Madonna mold.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Foreign Adoptions Aren't Plunging Fast Enough

“’The era of the boom time for international adoption, I think, has passed us by’” Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, told National Public Radio reporters Jennifer Ludden and Marosa Penaloza. To which First Mother Forum says: Good by and good riddence.

Since its peak in 2004, the number of foreign adoptions has plummeted from nearly 23,000 to less than 10,000 in 2010. Considering the known corruption in international adoption--and the 115,000 American children in foster care waiting to be placed--that figure is still obscenely high.

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.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Adoptive parents say the darnedest things. To their adopted children.

“What’s Jane’s agenda?” my surrendered daughter, Rebecca, told me her adoptive mother, Norma, had asked. After an eleven year search, Rebecca found me in 1997. In April of 1998, Rebecca let me know she was coming to the west coast from her home near Chicago to visit her adoptive parents who lived near San Francisco. She needed to reassure them, she explained. (No need to fill in what she was reassuring them about.) Would it be okay if she came to my home in Salem, Oregon for a couple of days while she was on the west coast? Of course I was delighted to say “yes.”

I picked her up at the Portland airport. It was a beautiful spring day and I suggested we do a quick tour of Portland before driving to Salem. After we walked around downtown, we stopped for lunch at a popular restaurant on the Willamette River which bisects Portland.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Adoptive parents say the darnedest things. To us.

How I feel today
People say the darnedest things, right?

Is it okay to be cranky about adopters who know you relinquished a child but can't seem to help themselves from saying mildly aggressive things, such as, "They (her adoptive parents) are not her adoptive parents, "they are her parents." Period.

Really? If they are not her adoptive parents, but just her parents, how come they had to "adopt" my daughter? I stand there with a mildly stunned look on my face, and think, Geeze, you sure are sensitive about being "adoptive parents," but you know, you really don't look Chinese...and your daughter does.

Feeling very irritated today about the adoptive-parent saints who say (and have said to me) the nastiest things: