I wrote a thousand-word piece about why adoption was not the answer to abortion for a prestigious liberal magazine. It was accepted. It was handed off to an editor. She peppered me with questions about how birth mothers really fared in the long run, from whence my data came, could it really be true? Hadn't open adoption changed the landscape and wouldn't that make it all right? Or at least a lot better?
She turned the rewrite, now longer, over to a college-age (I assumed) male researcher (he left in September) who had never heard such thingsabout adoption! This just couldn't be true! was the attitude I felt from him when we spoke. I got a piece back that was rewritten in sections, a piece that I would not put my name to, and spent hours either rewriting, adding research studies, on the phone with the editor, who actually--believe it or not--wanted to get this piece published.
But any research that came from Concerned United Birthparents, she said, would be biased because groups like that would of course attract people unhappy with the system in the first place! So I couldn't use that. Ditto for studies provided by the Donaldson Institute. I pointed out that studies coming from, say, the NAACP, would certainly show that there was bias against black people, and that did not mean the data did not stand up, but that fell on deaf ears. I then turned to John Triseliotis's long-term study, published in England as The Adoption Triangle Revisited, A study of adoption, search, and reunion experiences. That would be research not collected by people who might have a built-in bias. That research was acceptable.
The editor asked me for quotes from other women like myself who had endured closed adoption in the infamous Baby Scoop Era, women who agreed to be named or at least, to let the fact checker speak to them. Fantastic, I thought, that strengthens the point! I found them quickly via Facebook, all except one agreed to use their real names. The quotes were great. I scanned the relevant pages from the Triseliotis book, and faxed them to the editor, to be poured over by her and the scrupulous fact-checker.
The editor kept asking questions; I found more data to answer her queries. Her points were always good ones, and I kept thinking: this piece is going to be bullet proof! This went on over a year, since the piece was not officially scheduled, the editor would drop it when more pressing pieces filled up her inbox, and then come back to it. I never doubted that she wanted to get it published. I wasn't sure what payment would be, since I didn't have a contract, but I kept at it because in a prestigious publication like this one, the piece would get attention and make a difference. From a thousand words, it had grown to 3,800 as we went back and forth seven times, for that is how many versions of the piece I have downloaded on my computer.
Finally, the piece was to be published, on line, that coming Friday. I was elated. I felt it would make a difference to the argument of why adoption is not the answer to abortion.
It never happened. And the editor never emailed and told me why. Perhaps the next person up the edit ladder--and my editor is pretty high up herself--at the publication read the piece and had a conniption. Maybe he is an adoptive father; maybe it was an adoptive mother who objected; maybe he is a birth father--someone had to father all those babies. Maybe he has friends who have adopted children and everything is honky-dory. All I know is that the piece was killed, and I was never told why, nor offered an explanation, let alone what's known in the business as a "kill fee," usually a pittance, but at least something that acknowledges your time and work.
You're getting this whole long story of a dreadful publishing experience of trying to tell the truth about what it is like to be a woman who relinquishes a child, a first/ birth/mother/biological/natural mother during the Baby Scoop Era by someone who lived it herself. We are believed only by our friends and partners and sometimes, family. The rest of the world pays little attention. They finally did in Australia, where in 2013 the prime minister, Julia Gillard, made a full-throated apology to the women "who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice."
The story she tells of Margaret Erle is one that never should have happened: Margaret did everything humanly possible for a teenage girl to keep her baby against the objections of both sets of grandparents. Underage at the time of the birth in 1961, she and her boyfriend, George Katz, married secretly as soon as they could, all in hopes of getting their son back. Margaret and George were lied to, manipulated, and Margaret was finally threatened with being sent to "juvenile detention," a real threat in the early Sixties when the birth takes place, before she signs the termination papers. Gabrielle tells not only their story, and the story of the adopted son, David Rosenberg, but uses it as a backdrop to write the history of how cultural norms unleashed a system that preyed on young women and their children, both offered up on the sacrificial altar of adoption.
One hopes that this cold and devastating assault on closed adoption will not only pave the way to more openness in all adoption, but also be a beacon for the remaining 40 states that still do not allow adopted people the free and full right to their original birth certificates. I personally go further than that, for it is my sincerest hope that both adoptees and birth parents someday gain access to not only birth certificates, but also all court and agency or attorney papers that dealt with the adoption. Just as medical records are the property of the individual, so should the adoption papers belong to us.
Gabrielle interviewed both Jane and myself for the book, and you will find us quoted there. She tells our story, as well as that of the adopted, with empathy and understanding. Like Rickie Solinger's book, Wake Up Little Susie, Gabrielle Glaser's book, American Baby: A mother, A Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption, is not only a singular addition to the literature of adoption, but will be quoted and referenced far into the future.--lorraine
PS: Link to order from the sidebar.