' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption in the media: Social Q's and This is Us

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Adoption in the media: Social Q's and This is Us

Adoption finds its way into many facets of media today.

a) In the Social Q's column in the Style Section of The New York Times today, under the heading "All Facts Aren't Equal," a 14-year-old who signed himself as Gabe writes that when he and his family and friends recently were hanging out and shouting out random things about each other. He said of his 13-year-old brother: "My brother is adopted!"

He adds that indeed his brother is adopted, but wonders if it was right for his parents to tell him that he hurt his brother's feelings--since "...that's not logical." He goes on to say, "I was just stating a fact--like if I had said his eyes are blue. I don't think I have to apologize. Do you?"

Ah so. Honesty from the mouths of babes; coming from another family is something that is always there for the family, and the adoptee.

b) Adoption issues are certainly played out with the interactions of the two adolescent boys in the flashbacks on NBC's This is Us this season. First we have a grandmother not being able to fully integrate Randall, her adopted grandson, into her thinking about three children who are the focus of the show; to her, it's the biological children, the twins, and Randall, the adopted son (who is African-American to boot) who she--not purposefully meanly but surely mindlessly--interacts with differently. Not only does his not being a biological grandson infuse her interaction, she also is oblivious to the routine racism that creeps into her conversation.

There's more: Kevin, the biological son, is a brat towards Randall, who is quiet, sensitive, the nerd, the brainy one going to private school. In contrast, Randall constantly makes an effort to get along with his brother. The issue of Kevin's less-than affectionate interactions with his brother repeats itself throughout the series, for last season it was part of the plot line as the two, as adults, reflected back on that time. Sibling rivalry, especially among children who are near in age, is par for the course, here it is infused with adoption. Kudos to the writers of This is Us for handling the problem with sensitivity and honesty. Unless you have been living under a rock you know that This Is Us is a huge hit and it well deserves to be. A critical success as well as popular fare, it was nominated for five Emmys this year. Sterling K. Brown, who plays the adult Randall, won as best actor in a drama series; his acceptance speech was memorable.

Likewise I give four stars to New York Times columnist Philip Galanes for his response to the 14-year-old who wants to know why shouting out "My brother is adopted!" wasn't a good idea. Galanes immediately gets to the heart of the topic by pointing out that his brother's being adopted is probably a complicated issue for him. Even if he loves being a part of the family, "thinking about his birthparents (and how he ended up with you) may make him sad sometimes."  Galanes added: "And you announcing it to a gang of kids would sting." He urged Gabe to put himself in other people'e shoes, and when they tell you that something hurt, believe them, and apologize. Then forgive yourself. "We all make mistakes."

I especially liked that Galanes covers a lot of territory in his short response with this pithy phrase that some adoptive parents wish to skirt over--how he ended up with you. The adopted brother ended up with family other than his original one    because another mother from the one he calls Mom gave birth to him, and for some reason did not keep him. 

There are so many issues with adoption--sealed birth records and intractable legislators who don't get it spring to mind--but the sense of abandonment is the big one. I often think that if adoptive parents could deal with the issue honestly at the earliest possible moment--Why was I available for adoption in the first place?--and all adoptions were fully open, a great many of the problems of modern adoption would at least diminish. Adoption has changed a great deal form the old days of only closed adoptions, and everything hush-hush, but we've heard from so many adoptees here that we know that is not true in a great many cases. Still so many adopted people feel they cannot talk about "adoption" with their adoptive parents because anything said will hurt their feelings. So everything about family issues, roots, heritage, adoption (if mentioned at all) must be covered with a layer of protective gauze. It must feel smothering to adoptees. In my mind's eye I can see a picture of a face swathed in gauze while trying to speak truth.

Everybody wants to know their true stories, whether they are pretty or not, they are at least their own. And I've seen enough of the nasty comments that adoptive parents write to first mothers on Facebook to know that we are indeed very very far from that utopia.--lorraine
PS: My home continues to be in an uproar. My office is still not completely organized--and I was going to do make progress this morning instead of writing a blog! We are redoing a bathroom--taking out a tub, putting in a shower--and everything from the bathroom (cleaning supplies, linens, my personal stuff) plus all the stuff that goes into redoing a bathroom (and it's a lot!) is in the living room. There's dust, there's no place to sit down, and Tony and I can't wait until this is over.

Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self 
An oldie, but to my mind, a keeper. I read it and learned a great deal about my daughter, even though we had been in a relationship for more than a decade at the time. I'd recommend this short book for all members of the triad: first mothers and fathers, adoptee and adoptive parents. Maybe especially adoptive parents.


  1. I was impressed with Galanes reply as well.

    This obstinate refusal of so many to face the wrongness in adoption practices, like the inability of some to face the facts that the child has parents. Other parents and they are likely a very big part of their adopted child's world. It's not like there aren't numerous studies, reports, and blogs by adoptees and natural parents for those who promote adoption or receive a child through adoption or society in general to --get a clue--!

    The whole process needs a massive change for it to truly be in the "best interest of the child". Because currently, it isn't in the "best interest of the child". I don't know that it ever has been. It is in the "best interest" of many adopting parents and those who procure children to supply for adoption's demand.

    I would that folks would consider that if they add themselves to the 'want to adopt' market, they are adding intense pressure. They are adding to an already huge pool of those that want a child through adoption. Thereby creating intense pressure to find more product to supply that demand. That's the plain truth. Sick sounding isn't it?! Talking about a human infant or child as a product. But demand for children to adopt has put great pressure on those who procure those children for the marketplace and that pressure gets transferred to the mothers and fathers of those children. The money to be made off the sale of human being...sick! It's sick to sell a human being, it's sick to make money off a transfer of human flesh. Sick. Sick. Sick!

    It boggles my mind that money is given till the child is 18 to strangers to foster a child who's mother or father doesn't (at the moment) have the finances to care for their own child. It boggles my mind that they are now paying even parents who adopt for the child's care through their 18th birthday or till 21 I saw someplace. WHAT? They willingly spend enormous amounts of government (taxpayer) money to pay strangers to raise the child of another even if that same money could have been used to keep the child with it's mother/father. Society will happily fund the acquisition of a child for strangers (adoption fundraisers), but refuses, with bitter hatred and damning judgement, funding for the child to be raised in it's true family. THEREBY giving the "gift" of lifelong feelings of abandonment and "not good enough" to the adoptee... and frequently the mother and father as well. Many children who are taken/surrendered for adoption end up going 'through' foster care. The mothers often abandoned by the father and their families and unhelped by church or social services. Why?? Because they need product for the market = BABY.

    Oh but you're young, you'll have more children. Hah! Another damn lie. Lies on the amended certificate, lies to the mother and father. This whole practice is full of lies.

    Blessed ( ) they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without ( ) dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a LIE. (Rev.22:14-15)

    Until they stop making lying documents that say our children were born to others, until they stop lying and saying 'love' is all a child needs (because if that was the case you should have left our children with US), until they stop lying and saying our children's heritage and family connections do not matter (closed records), until they stop telling mothers and fathers that they can have more children (mothers often don't! That's like saying 'Oh here give us this baby you can make more. We want this baby' (TOUGH, so did I). Until they change these things, they love and make lies.

    1. Great post Lorraine and great reply Cindy! So much needs to be changed. Just recently I did a little research for Saving our Sisters into the Idaho adoption and Safe Haven laws. The most shocking thing I found was that not only are prospective adoptive parents allowed to interact with a pregnant girl, but if they spend any money before the birth and she refuses to give up the child after the birth, the girl is responsible for paying the proposed adoptive parents back and she can be sued in civil court for damages. It doesn't say if this includes legal fees, but doesn't exclude that, but certainly food, clothing. So where is a girl desperate enough to take the "help" going to get that? She won't.

    2. " THEREBY giving the "gift" of lifelong feelings of abandonment and "not good enough" to the adoptee..."

      Yep! That certainly hits the nail on the head.

  2. I was visiting my family last month. I watched an episode of This is Us with my aunt, who is a fan of the show. Randall was looking to adopt a child. I got upset when some social worker told Randall and his wife that the expecting mothers are already committed to adoption and so it was guaranteed to happen.

    I said out loud: "Not true." At the commercial break I explained my thoughts to my aunt in greater detail.

    We really need to get rid of this idea that a pregnant woman is already a birth mother.

    1. Steve, I agree with you.

      I also think this is one of the most insidious and horribly effective form of adoption coercion, and is actually brainwashing/grooming.

      I certainly experienced this. My social worker told me to write a letter to my son's new parents, reassurring them that they were his real parents and I was just a vessel. She told me that, without such assurance from me, they'd be full of anxiety.

      I was 8 months pregnant at the time.

      Believing that I could only be a hopeless mother because I was so young, I had to make sure that the people who adopted my son were happy so that he didn't absorb anything negative.

      So I wrote that letter.

      What I didn't know was that his adoptive parents would not be selected for another three months, and that the purpose of that letter was solely to get me to tell myself that I was just a vessel, a birth mother, even before I gave birth.

      I was also told by doctors that I couldn't breast feed, even though I wanted to, just in case me and my son bonded. I had no experience to know I could overrule that authority.

      I also didn't know that my son's prospective adoptive parents' marriage was teetering, and that they were in mortgage arrears as a result of substance abuse issues. My social worker knew.

      Most importantly, I didn't know that my son would automatically suffer negatively, just through the act of being separated from me, his mother. By the time I gave birth to him, I did not know I had a right to think of myself, and act as, his mother.

      The brainwashing that occurred before my son's birth ensured that I had no strength or certainty or confidence to challenge anything once he was born. I was groomed to believe I was not even his mother.

    2. Steve, yes! I must have glossed over that part or walked out of the room for a second because I was a little fed up that the story after dealing with Randall and her original father last year, we were now going to have more adoption! Thanks for pointing out what the social worker said, but surely that is what some social workers probably say. On the other hand, I have heard from agency workers that some women come in and there appears to be no chance that they will keep the baby--the father is someone other than the woman's husband; she is without resources and cannot possibly see how to keep another child, etc. Yet of course we know that women can and do change their minds after birth, and keep their babies.

    3. I like the kid's straightforwardness. Ultimately, it depends on how the adopted person feels, but this kid shouldn't be punished for not complying with the 'as if born to' nonsense.

    4. Cherry, your reply tugged at my heart. I am so sorry, and I just wanted to let you know that it is truly terrible what happened to you. It's horrible for me to even fathom that situation... I feel like you were failed in every way possible. There are no words that could begin to touch on what you experienced. I just wanted to let you know that you are heard.

    5. Thank you so much Tiffany, that brought tears to my eyes. Like many other women in my position, I very rarely feel heard, and that's why I come here.

      What makes it all very difficult to live with is the myth that I somehow didn't care - that I 'just walked away' 'couldn't be bothered to do the hard job of parenting' and all those other phrases I often hear when people assume the motivation of mothers like myself. My experience of that time is feeling caught up in a nightmare of inescapable and overwhelming influences which constantly intruded upon my very real yearning to be near and to keep my son. I cannot tell you the pain of knowing that I was eventually overwhelmed, and what that subsequently did to both myself and my darling son.

      I know from reading previous postings you've made, that you see the immense suffering of those who are separated from their children, and it has meant the world to me that you do. It has made the world, vitally, just that little less lonely. This experience can be very lonely indeed.

      I also love your contributions here because they open my eyes and also soften my heart. It would be so easy to become embittered by this experience, and some of the comments I've heard from adoptive mothers about first mothers has been breathtaking in their callousness. Your contributions here have helped me maintain my warmth and humanity when the grief and rage of living this adoption experience could do the opposite.

    6. Cherry, I wish I could give you a hug.

      Without sharing details, I know it's a myth to say that birth mothers don't care or that it's so easy for them to walk away. I saw firsthand that the experience is like a soul breaking. Moms don't give up their children for adoption because they don't love them enough.

      I feel so defensive for you- I know how society makes first moms feel, and it's just crap. It makes me angry, and you aren't deserving of it.

  3. I don't think his note denoted punishment as much as talking to his brother about blurting that out. But yes. I myself liked that out of Gabe's mouth flew the truth. A lot of children find out they are adopted from cousins and friends--because their parents talked about it and the cousin or friend overheard it. I suppose this happens less today because more parents are better informed, but lord the stuff you can read on Facebook directed to natural parents in supposedly open adoptions!

  4. Barbara, what you said about repaying the money if the mother changes her mind is common. As far as I know, it is Gladney's policy also, and that becomes pricey if the teen has been staying at the home before the birth; then she is liable for her room and board if she keeps her baby. This is so coercive that it boggles the mind that agencies get away with it. Honestly, this is something that should be outlawed, due to the intense pressure it puts on the woman/teenager to give up her baby.

    I am not opposed to having the pregnant women/teen meet the parents if she so chooses, but then I think she ought to meet more than one set or single parent, so there is less pressure, as then it is her choice.

    But I am adamantly opposed to them being in the hospital, cutting the cord, being there for the birth, etc. I know some social workers say that sometimes the pregnant teen or woman is alone and has no one with her, but if the prospective adoptive parents are there it cements the idea that she is giving birth for them! in both the minds of the prospective parents and the mother herself. Rather she be alone than have someone who is kind and nice--so she delivers a baby for them. Being alone in the hospital during birth is a matter of hours or a day; giving up a child is a lifetime.

    1. To my knowledge, it is standard that if the mother keeps her baby, she is obligated to repay the adoptive parents the money they spent on her. Attorneys tell me they never try to collect because the mothers don't have any money. Mothers may not know this of course.

      These laws are necessary because some women try to scam PAPs. They demand money with no intention of giving up their child. In some cases, they get money from multiple PAPS; in some cases they are not even pregnant.

      Agencies which offer full open adoptions do allow expectant mothers to meet more than one couple or single. Amy Seek met many, many. When she didn't connect with PAPS the agency referred, she went to another agency. So, yes, mothers can shop around. Of course many may not be unaware of this.

      The adoption system definitely needs reform but We also need to work on keeping expectant mothers from going down the adoption road in the first place.

    2. I have heard of some of this. It seems to me that both the prospective adoptive parents and pregnant girl would be better served if prospective adopters were not allowed to give anything to a young woman with a view to obtaining an adoption. It would give some protection to the girl from being manipulated and to the adopters from being scammed by unscrupulous people. Who is going to change this, though, I don't know. It seems like I read that in Australia only the government can arrange adoptions and there is a cap on the fee. For anybody to arrange an adoption outside that framework is illegal. Nothing can be planned until after the birth, not even a meeting. That wouldn't solve everything but I understand their adoption rate has dropped to very low numbers.(I can't find documentation of this but I did read it.) I wonder if there are any US states with more progressive laws such as Australia's?

  5. Great post and comments, all important points. Cherry, every time I read a few more details of the circumstances surrounding your son being ripped away from you, I am horrified anew. Wish we could travel back in time and change the outcome of your story.

    I continue to be impressed by how "This is Us" is handling adoption and, more recently, fostering. The foster child, 12 year old Deja, reminds me a lot of my own foster daughter, Nina, who just turned 11. I had the unexpected treat of getting to see her on her birthday. Sadly, after years of a rough and unstable existence with her mentally ill mother, she was taken by Child Protective Services yet again and placed with a different foster family. While it makes me sad, angry even sometimes, that Nina has not had the benefit of a carefree childhood, she, like Deja, she has been forced to become strong. And, like Deja, she is fiercely loyal to and protective of her mother, the mother to whom she has been the caregiver these past few years. I am rooting for both foster daughters, Deja in TV life and Nina in real life, to channel these qualities of strength and fierce love in ways that will make them shine as young women and beyond.

    1. Thank you so much Jay. I would give absolutely anything to be able to turn back time. I know I'm not alone with this desire.

      I hope that as Nina gets older, she understands that you are a constant and loving part of her world that she can gain strength and solace from. I cannot imagine being 11 and facing both changes in my own body and changes in my external world, I can only imagine how immense all of that is for a young girl to deal with. I think your role in her life will be crucial for her future. I wish you and she the very best.

    2. Jay--My heart sank when I heard what happened to Nina, as I know how you worried when she went back to her mother, who was clearly struggling with life. You worried what might happen to Nina, and it did.

    3. One little thing, Jay. I know some women whose experience certainly was of having their child ripped away from them, but that wasn't mine and the lack of a truly clear and identifiable act has made it extremely difficult to understand what happened.

      It was only when I unexpectedly wrote 'I loosened my grip and you were lifted away' that I understood what had happened. I hadn't purposefully given him up, I hadn't had him ripped from my arms - I had absolutely lost confidence in myself and, as a result, my grip on my son loosened. Once that had happened, there were plenty of arms, all ready to take him away.

      That's why Steve is right - calling a woman a birth mother before her baby is born is absolute coercion, and as effective as hell.

    4. Thank you, Cherry and Lorraine. I am slowly finding out details regarding how unstable Nina's life became over the past 3 years, as her mother went off her meds and descended back into a mentally ill and drug addicted state. Nina was forced to become strong - to take care of herself and her mother as best as she was able. My desire to want to nurture her makes me go see her whenever I am given the chance to do so. It is hard, because Nina has distanced herself from me emotionally. Perhaps she is protecting herself as she does not know when or how often there will be opportunities to see me, perhaps she is being loyal to her mother who, at some point at least, told Nina I am trying to steal her away from her (I have since found out that she regretted saying that to Nina, but I don't know if she expressed that to Nina). No matter the reason, it hurts because I love her so much and she has closed herself off from me, emotionally. She is civil, pleasant even, but stiffened when I hugged her. And said "Thank you" when I said "I love you." So I will stop trying to hug her or express my love but I will never stop being there for her. Hopefully, some day, she will feel she can lean on me (as a family friend or aunt or whatever, not her mother whose place I never want to occupy).

    5. Jay, your instincts are so clear and good for Nina. Her pulling back from you is both a question of loyalty (and she's grown up some) and a self-protection mechanism, I would guess. You may be able to be the friend she needs in time. Or not.

    6. Dear Cherry, I do believe you were emotionally victimized and blackmailed into giving up your son - so, in that sense, he was ripped from your arms. I bet it is confusing when it doesn't happen in an overtly abusive way, and I have no doubt you engaged in blaming yourself, the victim, from time to time over the years. I only see an act of brutality and you and your son as victims of it. You were too young and vulnerable for the outcome to have been any different. To this day, pregnant women who so much as whisper the possibility of adoption are called "birth mothers" practically from the moment of conception, giving the prospective adoptive parents a feeling that they have rights where none in fact exist.

      Lorraine, my father once said to me that the key to avoiding inflicting grief on your child and on yourself as a parent is to have no expectations that your child will feel a certain (positive, loving) way towards you. I try to live by that principle. If there is any way I can help make Nina's life easier, I will go for it because I care deeply about her. Whether she will reach out to me, care for me, etc. is not a burden that is fair for me to place on her. I try not to place that burden on Lenny either, although it is a bit harder given that I am raising him and have a mother-son relationship with him day in and day out. You have often said something similar - those who want to be in your life, will be.

    7. Jay, what a shame that Child Protective Services didn't place Nina back in your home.

    8. I just don't know, Jane. I don't know why we were not contacted. On paper, she only lived with us as a foster child until she was 23 months (even though we subsequently saw her and had her stay with us regularly until her 7th birthday), so maybe we were not considered a family with whom she has an established relationship. The last time Nina stayed with us, 4 years ago, she said promise me you will never move from this house. Last year when we saw her briefly before the 10th birthday, she said "Do you still live in that mansion?" That "mansion" (regular old house) is here for her whenever she needs stability and safety and love, is all I can say.

  6. Regarding the Gabe situation.

    My older daughter is our biological child and our younger daughter is our adopted child. One time, several years ago when my older daughter was around 5ish, she was upset with her little sister. She angrily said, "Well, mama loves me more because I was in her tummy and you weren't." I immediately took her aside in that moment, got her calmed to a state where we could talk and she would hear me, and we had a very serious discussion. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say, the talk ended with her understanding the depth of the seriousness of what she said, and she was very apologetic to her younger sister. I also reinforced with both girls that a mama's love is equal, and they do not get to decide my feelings for me- if I say I love them equally, I do, and my behavior has always and will always reinforce my love for both of them. Nothing similar has come out of my older daughter's mouth since that day. However, given how young she was and the fact that she is a human being who makes mistakes, over the years, I have periodically had conversations privately with her about how much damage can be caused to her sister by casting her adoption at her as a weapon. It is a topic I consider important to bring up and reiterate every year.

    I view it as my parenting responsibility to both of my daughters: first, to protect my younger daughter because I am her mother and it's my job to protect her, even from her own sister; second, as my older daughter's mother, it is my responsibility to instill in her empathy, kindness, and compassion, and that begins with how she treats and views her own family; third, I needed to ensure that both my daughters learn that no matter what the world says, to dad and mom, birth or adoption makes no difference in our amount of love for our children, and we will not tolerate a lessening of our adopted daughter's worth in our family (we recognize the differences it can cause our daughter in other ways, of course).

    Gabe's parents failed both of their kids, IMO, when he said that. I know I viewed it as a parenting fail on my part when my older daughter used adoption against her little sister in that way, and it was on me to make sure it was corrected and didn't happen again, and to ensure my daughters knew her those angry words were not the truth and did not represent reality.

    1. "I have periodically had conversations privately with her about how much damage can be caused to her sister by casting her adoption at her as a weapon."

      I like that expression,'using adoption as a weapon'. Very concise and very powerful. It can be used that way, and I believe often is when there are bio-kids in the family, too. I grew up in a large family with all bio-kids except me. Wouldn't recommend it.

      Thank you, Tiffany.

    2. Tiffany, I think you misunderstood. Gabe's parents were the ones who said that he, Gabe, needed to apologize to her brother for blurting out in front of friends that his brother, who was there, is adopted. I'm guessing there was a lot more to the conversation that began after that, just as you initiated the conversation after your older daughter used adoption as a weapon against her younger sister. Sibling rivalry is tough stuff--and especially when one is adopted.

    3. Lorraine, no, I saw that.

      Gabe is 14. Given how many opportunities I have had to discuss the complications of adoption with my older daughter (who is biological) who is half Gabe's age, I struggle with his complete naivete (or at least his attempt at it, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt) over how difficult it is to be adopted. Gabe's parents have apparently never made clear to him before the age of 14 that his younger brother's adoption is a sensitive subject that does not belong to him to share with others, and I call that an adoptive parent fail. I'm being totally fair, too- I called it an adoptive parent fail when my older daughter used adoption against her little sister.

      The way Gabe presented his story, he seemed utterly floored by the very idea that blurting out "he's adopted" in front of a mixed crowd would be a mistake, and he seemed even more stunned that he should apologize for it. From that, I take it that his parents have never talked to him about this subject before (and I struggle with the idea that the opportunity never presented itself before now).

      My kiddos aren't perfect. Big sister loves her little sister very much, but they do get mad at each other at times. I have no doubt that my older daughter might screw up again and use adoption as a weapon against her sister simply because it's a tool in her sibling rivalry "bucket o' sharp objects I may throw at my annoying little sister" (make no mistake that little sister has a few of those same tools sheathed at her side that she uses with shocking skill!). But there's a difference between Gabe and my daughter: she will know she did something wrong, not naively wonder why her sister is so upset and why I'm insisting on an apology. That's what I took exception to- that a 14 year old was clearly never educated by his parents based on what he said. Does that make sense?

      Robin, my girls were both asking this past weekend why we can't have another baby (we didn't adopt because of infertility issues, so we technically COULD try to have another baby) because they love babies so much. I gave them some reasons why, but I did not state our main reason. My husband and I decided that after adoption (we decided this even before we did the adoption) we would be done because of how emotionally challenging it would be for an adopted child to be sandwiched between bio-siblings. It would also be hard for a biological child to have multiple adopted siblings. We decided for their mental health, they would be it- we would not have another baby or adopt another child. But I will probably never tell either of them that.

      I am just feeling my way through this parenting thing, adopted or otherwise. :) I try to spend a lot of time learning from others and listening because kids do not come with a user manual, and it gets harder as they grown bigger and have tougher questions and situations.

  7. Perhaps off topic here. Saw Thor Ragnorak. There's a scene where the man who has enslaved Thor asks Loki, "Is he your brother?" Loki responds "I'm adopted." He's distancing himself from Thor in order to appear favorably in the eyes of Thor's owner. No outcry from the adoption community as far as I know. Loki delineates he's adopted more than once in the film. It's the best film I've seen in years, by the way.

    A couple of years ago in the first Avengers movie Thor comments that Loki is adopted and some in the adoption community became upset. They saw it as an insult to adoption, though I viewed it differently. The comment exposed Thor's arrogance and did nothing to slander Loki.

    I thought the lines in both movies were hysterical because they illustrate a subtle truth. When a family member wants to distance themself from a nonbiologic relative in order to avoid shame or stigma associated with that relative, they can't help but qualify the relationship as one formed by adoption.

    In my own family my parents were quick to remind us that our FAS mentally ill brother was adopted and that his problems were his birth mother's fault. However, the two adopted children who got straight A's couldn't discuss our first family because it made our adopted mother uncomfortable.

    But I used to walk up to strangers as a young child and say, "I'm adopted you know." Drove my adopted mom nuts.

    1. Megan, what you say is all too often the case, I fear. But I once heard a grandmother loudly boast to all in a beauty salon that her grandson was going to be in a concert and he was a talented musician, and her family couldn't take credit for it because he was adopted.

    2. Yech - What that grandmother said was terrible! OK, SHE couldn't take any credit, but her adult child and spouse - his adoptive parents - certainly could, and deserved to. His great talent was inherited genetically, but if his adoptive parents encouraged, nurtured and allowed it to grow, with confidence, in this young person - they are completely deserving of taking credit for his accomplishments. Not so, this ignorant grandmother.

      A pox on this woman, who set the boundary of "because he was adopted" for her grandchild.

    3. New and Old: I see your point, but out of the mouths of everyone comes reality. It can't be stopped. I didn't feel disgusted when I heard her comment; she was saying--he didn't get that talent from my family--as in we can't take credit for this, but she was clearly proud of her grandson. Most often it's the other way around: adoptive parents take credit when their adopted children soar; but blame biology when there is trouble.

    4. Both can take some credit. I am musically talented but none of my adoptive siblings were. My genealogy research has revealed that my first father had relatives who were professional musicians and music teachers. But I never would have become an accomplished pianist if my adoptive mom hadn't pushed me to practice daily, kept me going to lessons from Kindergarten through High School, paid for music books and teachers, driven me to recitals and competitions, taken me to symphony concerts and musical theater, etc.

    5. Of courses they are both responsible for his talent...my only point in telling the story is that adoption in families is never that far under the skin. this grandmother was looking forward to her grandson's concert and proud of him!

    6. "But I used to walk up to strangers as a young child and say, "I'm adopted you know." Drove my adopted mom nuts."

      Megan, that sounds as if you wear your adoptee status as a badge of honor. If that is the case, I admire you for it.

    7. Robin, I heard often (maybe too often) that adoption made me "special."

  8. More on "adoption in the media":

    Some of you may remember the case of Anna Mae He, the little girl in Tennessee whose parents, a Chinese graduate student and his partner, also Chinese, sought temporary guardianship of their daughter with a "Christian" family, the Bakers, because they were going through financial difficulties. When the parents wanted Anna Mae back, the Bakers went through every possible legal (and psychological) maneuver to railroad the Hes and try to adopt Anna. After years of fighting (including trying to take the battle all the way to the US Supreme Court), they lost and Anna Mae was returned to the Hes when she was almost 9 years old - they then took her with them back to China.

    Anna Mae is now 18 years old, and the update below describes how she came back to the US for high school, living with the Bakers during that time. While the adults all seem to be working together now for Anna's sake, it makes me so sad to hear Anna talk of her very difficult childhood. The emotionally wrenching confusion in her life could have been avoided if the Bakers had done the right thing and returned her to her parents when she was a toddler. I also am angry at how the update has been reported - they refer to the Bakers as Anna's "adoptive parents" when they in fact never so, and they refer to Anna's mother as "birth mother." Ugh, so ignorant. Anyhow, here are the links:



    Here is the link to Anna's essay for college applications:


    And here is the link to the Tennessee Supreme Court opinion returning Anna Mae to her parents (the Bakers tried to appeal this decision to the US Supreme Court, which denied certiorari):


    1. Jay, I just read your comment--I so very well remember the He case; I spoke to Mr. He's attorney at some length and considered doing a long piece on the case if I could find a magazine interested. I could not. It was one of the worst cases in my memory, and the little girl was the pawn.

    2. As for how the Anna Mae He story is covered--society has become so used to "birth mother" that it is used at every turn, even when it is wrong. Just as people start referring to "our birth mother." It reminds me of "our darkies" are picking the cotton. Our birth mother is having our baby. Feeling very irritated tonight at the stories about this case. The Bakers were horrendous throughout the whole process, just as the horrible DeBoers were in Michigan when they fought over a little girl whose father had never agreed to the adoption.

      And we are never supposed to be er, "angry." Right? Because then we are "bitter."

    3. There was a case in Oregon a few years ago where a seven-year old boy who lived with his father and step-mother disappeared. The press referred to the step-mother as the boy's mother and the natural mother as his birth mother. That is until the step-mother became the prime suspect in the boy's disappearance.

    4. Lorraine, yes, if a pregnant woman so much as breathes on someone who wants to adopt, they call her "birth mother." This reference is rampant, and I whole-heartedly agree with you that the "our birth mother" thing conveys ownership much like slavery. Last night I looked at several adoption blogs and websites, just to see if this type of reference to "birth mother" (or worse, "birthmother") is still widespread - sadly, it is.

      The Bakers were nasty to the Hes, and tried every trick in the book to keep their daughter from them. I vividly remember a video clip on TV where Jerry Baker asked Anna Mae over and over again: "Do you want to be Anna Mae Baker (upbeat tone) or would you rather be Anna Mae He (flat, unappealing tone)?" They took advantage of the Hes financial difficulties and language and cultural barriers to the max. The Hes had no clue what was going on, and the Bakers knew exactly what they were doing. It is a miracle that the Hes were able to win the battle on the legal front despite all the hurdles and the clear imbalance of power.

      The recent updates on Anna reflect, at least to me, the prevailing attitude in Memphis that Anna Mae is "their girl" who has returned home to her "parents," the Bakers. With that type of thinking, of course Casey He is going to be "birth mother." I think it is remarkable that Casey allowed her children to go back to the US and live with the Bakers, setting aside past cruelties and focusing on what her children (thanks to being forced to linger in the US due to legal battles with the Bakers) seemed to need in order to accommodate their multicultural exposure.

      And I haven't forgotten the DeBoers either, Lorraine, nor the family Jane mentions.

  9. Great point Lorraine on the similarity of "our birth mother" to "our darkies". Both horrible and dehumanizing. Reducing a human being to a property item. A "thing" that provides labour to produce a product and is controlled by the whims of the *owner*.

    This is part of a comment I recently left on another blog, --'Maybe a way to get adoptive parent's to discontinue the [use of the] phrase "our birth mom" would be to ask them, "how much did you pay for her?" or "how much did you pay to own her and rename her?" (from mother to *birth* mother).--

    Of course they might become confused if they have an adopted daughter. Might need to start it with the question, "Your birth mother?...".

    **You're bitter**, often is the banner waved by those who cannot bear to consider the possibility, that it is actually justifiable anger against a horrible injustice. That "flag" being shoved in the face of the one who is angry, by those which want to participate in / are themselves culpable in the injustice. Whatever the injustice may be.

    1. Adding to; the "thing that provides labour to produce a product [very often against their will] and is controlled by the whims of the *owner*".

  10. "you are bitter"...well...hahah! I grew up near a community where angry girls beat each other up...so I guess the idea that "female anger" wasn't something to be ashamed of was always a part of that scene. It was just part of the culture. But, now they try to beat each other down in other ways.

    If someone was concerned that I should not be angry, I might suggest that maybe "they"should see a therapist..after all, anger is a natural part of life, especially when a person has experienced a painful loss and/ or been mistreated in the process.

    @Cindy agree...I always felt like I was like a birth-box, the christmas box,that they throw away when they get the baby..ugh..

    1. Same here Kitta, The stuff that gets tossed to the curb after the goodies are unwrapped. My son being born a week before that holiday didn't help. This time of year is a bugger some days. Man, I wish the internal body going into meltdown would lighten up...a few years into reunion and it *still* goes on. I guess it's residual from feeling, at the time he was taken, like every cell in my body was going haywire/screaming NOooooo. I don't know how so many of us survived the initial trauma.

      Kitta I like your suggested reply (~_~). They really should see a therapist.

  11. Kitta, you are your beautiful child's Mother, no matter what adoption or society tries to tell us. We may feel like it, but we are not throwaways.

    People try to keep us down BUT, (mischievous grin) I keep climbing out of the trash can and I find that really annoys them. That, in itself, makes me happy.

    Sending you lots of hugs!



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