' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Saving Our Sisters: Keeping your baby better than being 'nice'

Monday, May 16, 2016

Saving Our Sisters: Keeping your baby better than being 'nice'

Saving Our Sisters's photo.
Tears, sisterhood and stories are the order of the day when natural mothers and adoptees get together as we did last weekend at the Saving Our Sisters summit in Kansas City. Saving our Sisters is devoted to helping women keep their babies and avoid losing them to adoption.

How different the climate today is regarding adoption from when I and others relinquished in the Baby Scoop Era (post WW2 and the early Seventies) was clearly demonstrated as we talked among ourselves. Young and vulnerable women of all ages are pushed into thinking that giving up their child is the "right" thing to do for more reasons than infected our thinking back in the 1960s. Far too many who meet the prospective adoptive parents end up feeling they don't want to disappoint those "nice people" who would be such a great family--if only they had a baby. They have been calling and expressing their concern for the well-being of their "baby mama" during the pregnancy, and lulling them into believing that they, the adoptive parents, are truly concerned about the feelings and well-being of the pregnant woman.

Barbara Thavis and Lorraine. Barbara organized our
excellent accommodations at the airport Hilton. 
All that evaporates when the new mother changes her mind over night and wants her baby back--the very next morning. Florida, for instance, has no revocation period. One woman even spoke of signing a document abrogating the legal revocation period in her state, without fully understanding what she was signing, and certainly not knowing how she would feel after having her baby.

Another told of the adoptive family--extended family, that is--who ended up in her room at the hospital shortly after she gave birth, and basically had a pizza party to celebrate the baby she was giving them. If ever that sounds like a nightmare, that is it. Others felt coerced by family, lack of financial support, the family-to-be exerting pressure to give up the baby. Others talked about adoptions that were supposed to be open but were quickly slammed shut, or nearly so. Lawyers who assure pregnant teens they are representing them find out all too soon the lawyer is really ONLY there for the adopting parents.

Lorraine with Emm Paul 
One woman got a photo via email of her son while she was attending the conference--a photo that only showed the back of his head! Others talked of similar pictures, photos designed to not let the mother fully see their children, but photos that perhaps fulfilled the letter of an "open adoption" agreement. One woman told of being blocked on Facebook so she couldn't see her child. A few spoke of being shamed in their church, and felt coerced into relinquishing their children because that was the "right thing" to do. Another was told by a social worker when she came to discuss a pregnancy she felt unable to handle that she was a "cognitive thinker," instead of being offered any support for keeping her child. Some who attended had never met another first mother before--not any who admitted to being one. I have purposely left off all names here, but these stories are common to many.

What united us all was the profound sense of loss that leads to unresolved grief after adoption enters it. One women lost her child because she had no family support or other resources, but seven years later, graduated from college--with a second child--and became a math teacher. One woman lost her child only because of poverty and a lack of support from her family. A first grandmother thought it would be best for her daughter to go to college rather than raise a child, but then saw how her daughter crumbled after relinquishment, and how the loss of the child affected everyone in the family, as well as the young man who is the father.

Lisa Nelson-Woolsey and Linda Russell Kats
CUB President Patty Collings, Lynn Johansenn and moi
First mother Lisa Nelson-Woolsey of Derby, Kansas, said that when she counsels a woman who is facing a crisis pregnancy, she doesn't rush in and tell her about the horrors of losing a child to adoption, but instead goes at it slowly, offering help rather than outright condemnation of adoption, and eventually bringing them around to the idea of keeping their children. Lisa showed how Biblical quotes that urge protection of "women and orphans" actually leads to: family preservation, not breaking families apart. She's become quite well known in her church for counseling women, and eventually her minister asked her how the congregation could help and what she needed. Her answer? Diapers.

Now she has a whole closet full of diapers and other necessities to give to women who need practical help. Lisa, one of the founders of Saving our Sisters, and first grandmother Linda Russell Kats of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma gave a joint presentation about the Christian attitude towards adoption--but with a bent to preserving mothers and families, not rendering them apart. Linda is a therapist specializing in adoption issues. Several women spoke of trying to find therapists who understood their grief, but found them wanting in understanding our particular sorrow that does not lead to resolution or "adjustment to the situation."

Lynn Johansenn, SOS founder and conference organizer, told stories of rescue and help to first mothers who needed practical help, because that is often what it comes down to: Women lose their babies because they have no where to turn for assistance. Often their families turn their backs and without their support and financial aid, they lose their children.
Pamela Salela and Carolyn Pooler

First mother Pamela Salela from Springfield, Illinois and I, mothers from the Baby Scoop Era, spoke of the different atmosphere between when we gave up our babies, and that of today. We also felt unprepared to raise a child, and that our children needed two parents, rather than one, but we did not face the enormous pressure to "make another couple happy" with the "gift" of our babies that women face today from the plethora of adoption agencies eager to move children from their family of origin. We were not assaulted with the happy-dappy version of adoption that is so prevalent now.

Carolyn Pooler of Kansas City, who has been active in the Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement, and is adopted herself, was giddy with joy at having recently found her father's family through DNA. Andrea Kelley, adoptive mother, told me she found one of her children's mothers in Ethiopia, and has founded an organization to reconnect family members separated by adoption. Expect to hear more from Andrea later.

My educated guesstimate is that at one point or another, every one in the room had a tear or two in their eyes as the stories of loss tumbled out, one after another. Some of us like myself have been talking about losing our children a zillion times over the years, but in this sympathetic atmosphere, I got teary myself more than once--even during my reading from my memoir, which hasn't happened before. Others who came had never met another woman who said she was a first mother before, and there we were--strong and standing in spite of our loss, new mothers and old, from all walks of life, political leanings and spiritual beliefs. With camaraderie and understanding we bonded, over intimate talks, over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thank you, Lynn and Lisa!

It is so healing to be with other women who have walked in our shoes.--lorraine

For information on how you can help, Saving Our Sisters has a Facebook page. Practical and/or financial help is always needed. Always.

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
"... a fascinating narrative and Lorraine Dusky’s convincing and self-aware indictment of the interlocking pieces in the 1960s machine that forever scarred her life and that of the daughter she surrendered in a reluctantly decided and reluctantly closed adoption."--Marianne Novy, author of Reading Adoption: Family and Difference in Fiction and Drama


  1. Excellent post Lorraine! SOS, an organization that needs our full support.

  2. I couldn't agree more Jane!

  3. Love the Photos! What a great group of women. SOS is such an awesome organization for all the help they provide to mothers and their babies. But mostly I like that they bring the message of 'truth' about what adoption does to women and their children, against the popular narrative in this country which is based in lies, deception and coercion to young, vulnerable mothers to give their children to PAP's.

    Hope to attend next time!

  4. Thank you Lorraine for the great overview, it was everything you said and more. SOS is growing into a wonderful and NEEDED service organization. Thank you to all who came, a very special blending of reality. please support this in your own areas.

  5. Thanks Lorraine, for a wonderful recap of the summit! If I'd known about it sooner, and known that I wasn't going to AAC, I surely would have attended. There is nothing more powerful than being among a group of women who have experienced this loss and understand the trauma. I felt it 18 years ago when I attended my first PACER birthmothers support group. I will continue to support SOS in any way I can and hope to attend the next summit. This is a group that acts, rather than just talking.

  6. I really enjoyed the entire experience. Made a lot of new friends, some I had only known online. And I believe that when you read, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Your presentation was very powerful, and I think that the intimate setting truly let some of us reveal the emotions we keep hidden inside. Thank you. Looking forward to reading my signed copy of your book!

  7. How can I donate to SOS? Can you please post a link so I can donate to this worthy cause?

  8. I've looked at their site before (read about it on another blog), and it's hard to figure out how to get tied in to help. I'm in the Bay Area, and I'd be very willing to support a mother who was trying to keep her baby- so often, I think it's just the seemingly big things that are really small if you just have some help (support with caring for the baby right after birth, help bridging the gap between jobs, figuring out child care). I think this is a great idea. But I can't figure out how beyond the small group of people involved, anyone else is able to offer actual support. I'd love to get involved, but maybe it is just for first moms? I understand if that's the case.

    1. To donate financially, check out the Concerned United Birthparents website, and there is a link there to Saving Our Sisters. In some cases, the women have given time and physical aid, such as driving somewhere to pick them up and helping them get situated. Contact them through Facebook. A couple of the women have been trying to leave comments at FMF but been thwarted. In the meantime, I am working on getting the whole blog moved to Wordpress, but with help! I fear losing the whole damn thing--we have 1,150 posts now, as we have been publishing since July 2008.

    2. Tiffany, I'm sure SOS would be happy to have your help. They have postings (somewhere) of all the ways people can help. Finding resources in your area so they know what is available and can give advice to moms as to where to go. Driving, babysitting, shopping, a hand to hold on a rough day.

    3. Thanks! I sent a message. I would be happy to help support a mama any way that I could. I know money is nice and often one of the big issues (and I'm happy to donate as well), but often, it is the lack of actual, physical support and in-person help that is the problem. I know so many first time mamas who have always planned to keep their babies become very overwhelmed by everything after birth. Someone being there to help can make all the difference.

    4. Tiffany, you are so right. Sometimes actual physical support is what's needed. Bless you for realizing that, and asking how you can reach out. Sometime it is a matter of the person who needs help knowing you are there.

    5. Us mamas need to stick together if we are going to help mamas and babies stay together. I am genuinely serious about my offer. I did send a message to SOS, and if you all ever hear of a mama or soon-to-be mama in need in the Bay Area, please let me know, and I will help in any way possible. No mother should choose adoption out of desperation, but we can only fix that if we provide help and support. Words are nice, but actions are better.

  9. Linda Russell KatsMay 19, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    This summit was so incredibly heartening and warm. So many committed and standing strong first mothers, first family members and one adoptive mom in one place. I felt so privileged to be included and learned so much from each experience shared. SOS has just begun to make an impact in helping women in surprise pregnancies to stay out of the court system. Education, sharing stories, and reaching out when we hear and see the need. Thank you Lynn Johannsen for making it all happen and Lorraine, Carolyn and everyone who made the commitment to be there, including my daughter. As a mental health therapist I saw the summit as cathartic for all of us because of the understanding we share. Here is to many more summits to come and many more families to be preserved!

  10. So happy to read about his organization. God bless all these women who are helping to preserve families and also to dispel the myth of adoption that the church likes to believe. The bible actually does not support adoption (Moses returned to his real family and the only other adoption story I remember is Hannah dedicating her son, Samuel, to God. So she gave him to the high priest of the synagogue as a gift to God -- not to another woman.) The NT talks about being "adopted" by God, so I think that is why the church likes to lump adoption by humans into the same group, and make it sacred and noble, but it's not the same. The bible talks about lineage and roots and bloodlines. No human being is seen as being entitled to take another woman's child and call him/her his own. Barren women prayed to God for their own children.

    With that said, please know that some of us unfortunately were groomed in the '80s to choose adoption. Especially those raised Catholic, and/or those raised by parents more worried about what the neighbors thought. So sad...I lost my son in the early '80s and I read so much about the '60s and '70s. For some of us, things didn't get better, and our children, whom we thought we were helping by choosing adoption, had immense pain as there were very few children who were adopted as infants during that decade. They must have felt so very alone and so very different.



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