Friday, April 18, 2014

I Could Breathe Again

I Could Breathe Again
48x36

I've been working on this painting all week. It's the next one in the Silent Voices series and is about the day I met my daughter for the first time.

Today is my daughter's 34th birthday and yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the first time we met face to face. We first reunited in 2002 but we didn't actually meet until 2003. It's hard to believe it's been so long. The memory of seeing her for the first time is so permanently etched in my brain. I think I held my breath for the entire flight to Ohio.

first hug

That night I wrote in my journal....

Well today has been many years in the making. I met my daughter for the first time. What a long day. I'ts been - up at 4:30 to get ready for the airport, 2 hour flight leaving at noon. Nothing can compare to the feeling of putting my arms around her for the first time. The relief was amazing - I could breathe again. When I got off the plane and made my way through the airport I thought I would faint! I couldn't breathe. I could hardly walk. I didn't see them up by the gates so I made it down to baggage claim. I spotted Josh first, then Cindy - oh my gosh - what a hug, and there were many more to come. Then I turned around and there she was - my Liz. She was just standing there smiling. I ran to her and then I just couldn't let go. We stood there for the longest time hugging and crying while Cindy ran around in circles shooting pictures and Sam handed us tissues. When I finally let go I couldn't take my eyes off her. Cindy was amazed at how much alike we look. She said we look like we belong together. Amy said we have some very similar expressions and mannerisms. 

So from the airport we went to get food. By this point the nerves had settled and we all got very hungry. Without knowing it I ordered Liz's favorite meal - meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. She said she had Cindy make it for her every birthday. Cindy cracked up when she heard my order.

The day we met really did feel like the first day I took a breath. It wasn't just the anxiety sitting on my chest and crushing me that day at the airport. When I finally put my arms around her it felt like I had been holding my breath for decades and at that moment I could finally take in air - as much as I wanted, expanding my lungs fully. I had been shallow breathing all that time and now I can take a deep, deep breath. 

Easter Sunday 2003


Do you remember the feeling when giving birth? - the hours of contractions, unrelenting pain and pressure, pushing and sweating, crowning, head pushes out and then shoulder and then finally the small body slips out and suddenly there's such a rush of relief. The agony is released and you go limp. The experience of meeting her was like birthing her a second time. The pressure had been building for decades, the emotion of waiting and wondering was constantly flowing in waves like the pain. The grief hitting like the tears released between contractions. And then all of a sudden - it's over. I could relax and look at her, touch her, talk to her.

It was the end of a phase and the beginning of a new one. It was the end of the unknown and the joyful beginning of a relationship. It was also the beginning of a new understanding of what was lost to both of us. Reunion brings with it a new set of  bags to carry. They're still the adoption bags but the weight has shifted a little. I could breathe again but the grief is still there. I don't think that ever goes away. Then there is the learning curve of how to fit into each other's lives. I think we've done pretty well. There are ups and downs, quiet times to get through, distance to deal with but I'm grateful.

I'm grateful I get to say Happy Birthday to her.  






Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Ripple Effect

photo credit: tried to find the original artist who posted this but could only trace it back to deviant art. If anyone knows who created it please let me know.


It's a new year. It's 2014 and I reunited with my daughter in 2002. That's a pretty good amount of time. Much has happened since then. Reunion continues to be an interesting journey. Sometimes good, sometimes painful, sometimes ecstatically joyous, all the time better than the years before when I was left hanging in the limbo of not knowing anything. The good times are the visits, the phone calls, the Facebook messages that say "love you too momma" or "Happy Birthday momma" or "Happy Mother's Day momma". Those are the times cherished. The painful times are the silent times. Times when she can't talk to me. Times when I know she's going through something but she's too far away for me to know exactly what that is and too far for me to do anything to help her.

The effects of adoption don't stop with reunion, they just change. The ripple continues. Everything shifts from the "not knowing" pain to the "this is what I lost" pain to the "I'm so freaking pissed off at the adoption industry" pain to the "my daughter suffered because of the industry" pain to the "my other 2 children also lost because of the industry" pain which brings me back to the "I'm so freaking pissed off at the adoption industry" pain.

So now.... me and my mother are in therapy. The ripple continues. I've talked about it before. It's been a very long road with her but I do have to say..... things are improving. She's understanding me better. I'm understanding her better. We're a little more comfortable around each other. Things are relaxing. She's coming to grips with her history and why she reacted to my pregnancy the way she did and has even asked for forgiveness and I'm working on the "forgiving her" end of it. These are very good things. I know for many of my mothers of adoption loss friends, this is a road that couldn't be traveled for a variety of reasons - some reasons they could control and some they couldn't. There was a time I nearly divorced myself from my parents because of my daughter's adoption. At times I wondered why I didn't or thought maybe I should have. Now I'm glad I didn't walk away from my family.

I didn't walk away because I wanted my "raised" children to have grandparents. My grandparents were incredibly important to me. I adored them and the feeling was mutual. Of course it helped that I was the only grandchild for 7 years. Can you say spoiled? I wanted my children to have that experience and my parents HAVE been really wonderful grandparents. I couldn't deprive my children of their grandparents because of what I had been through with them. It wouldn't be fair to them. They've already lost enough in losing their sister and losing the mother I could've been to them if I hadn't been through the adoption experience- there's that ripple thing again - the effect adoption had on my mothering of my other children. And of course, my oldest daughter lost the experience of these grandparents. Yes, she had her adoptive grandparents but how would her life have been different had she been raised in her own tribe, with her original family? Huge "what if" ripple.

Ok, where was I.... reasons I'm glad I didn't walk away.... the other big reason was because I didn't want to lose my little sister. How would I see her again? I couldn't walk away from her. My sister is 7 years younger than me. When I got pregnant with my oldest child my sister was only 12 years old. When my parents found out about my pregnancy they said I was the one who had to tell her. So I did. Of course she reacted like any 12 year old would - she said ok and then asked me about something else. I don't remember what it was exactly but it was probably something like - what's for dinner? 12 year olds don't grasp what's happening in a situation like that. They're completely self-absorbed and that's ok because that's how they're supposed to be at that age. Even so.... I knew I couldn't walk away from her. We may have grown up feeling like we had separate lives because of the age difference. We may have fought like siblings do. We may not have had much in common when we were growing up but she's my sister.

When she grew up and became a mom herself she questioned why things happened the way they did. The ripple effect continues. It did have an effect on her. She's seen the tension between me and our mother. She's been there for the reunion, supported me, listened to me cry. And now she's here supporting me and our mother through therapy. I'm so glad I didn't walk away. She's my little sis and I can't imagine my life without her.

Fast forward to the present. It's the holidays and my children are visiting. My youngest daughter is a new mom. Her son will celebrate his very first birthday this weekend. We had some quiet time to talk a couple of nights ago. We talked about what it was like for her to be raised by me in the aftermath of her sister's adoption. At one point she said that after finding out about her sister being adopted out she decided she wanted to adopt. The first thing my heart felt was horror. How could she want to do something like that considering what I went through and what her sister has gone through. The ripple effect continues.

Then she explained. What she knew at the time as a teenager was that her sister wasn't with us and she was part of another family. Her sister couldn't be with us so she was glad someone was out there taking care of her for us. She wanted to be that someone for another child who couldn't be cared for by their own mother. That's understandable. My girl has a big heart. Then she got older and learned more. She saw the effect that adoption had on me. She learned more about how the industry works. She learned about the supply and demand end of the business. She learned about price lists and profits. She became a mother and then the pain of adoption became unfathomable. She hurt for me. The ripple effect continues.

I see the same pain in my son's eyes. I know he hurts for me too. When I first told him about his sister and what happened, he cried. My boy as a young teen, felt the pain. He was hurt by adoption. His sister was taken from him. He felt that loss and he saw the effect it had on me. Now as a father of two girls he can't fathom how people can take babies away from their parents in the name of adoption. The ripple effect continues.

I don't want my children to hurt for me. It's not supposed to be that way. I don't want to see pain in their eyes because of something done to me so many years ago. It hurts my heart to see my children in pain but the legacy of adoption continues. The ripple effect goes on and on.

It's not only parents losing children and children losing parents. Grandparents lose grandchildren. Children lose grandparents. Aunts lose nieces and nephews. Children lose their history. Siblings lose each other. Adult adoptees lose their voices and origins.

Infant adoption. It's not what the industry wants you to believe it to be. Pay attention to the ripple effect. There is no such thing as "normal" after adoption. You don't return to a normal life. There is no normal family life after adoption. Everyone in the family is affected. Every. Single. Person. Not just the adoptee. Not just the mother who lost a child. Not just the father who lost a child. It affects the grandparents. It affects the siblings. It affects the spouses of the people who lost their family member. It affects the children of the people who lost their family member. It affects the relationship between all of these people who lost someone to the adoption industry. It's an insidious industry and the ripple effect goes on for generations.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Just sharing

This was shared on Facebook.

Adopting couple sees their purchase for the first time

(that's just my take on it - the whole "sees their purchase for the first time". They see it as seeing "their" son for the first time)

Yes, this is supposed to be a beautiful thing. People get weepy. They praise the Lord. They talk about how it's meant to be. Sorry. I just can't go there. Like I posted on Facebook... I have such a hard time with stories like this. I understand that they want a family but they are literally praying FOR a child to lose his family, FOR a family to lose a child, FOR a child to lose his medical history, FOR a child to lose his heritage and genetic history. They are praying for all this in order to fulfill THEIR wants and needs. Is that the Christian thing to do? What about the needs of the child? Where was his mother in all this? We don't hear anything about her at all. Was she coerced by the very corrupt for-profit multi-billion dollar adoption industry? Could there have been other family members willing to step up so he could remain with his own people? Are they willing to keep a connection with people who are related to him? Are they ready to deal with the questions this adoptee will have later about where he comes from and who he is?

Like I said..... I just can't go there. I can't deal with people who are so wrapped up in their own desires that they can't see beyond them. If they have such a need to take care of children, why didn't they adopt one of the many, many children in foster care who are in desperate need of a place to call home? Why did they become one of the many couples who create the demand in a supply and demand business? It's the demand of newborns that creates the business of newborn infant adoption/aka/human trafficking. Without the demand there would be no price lists/aka adoption situations. Yes, it's a business and it's a very sad business.

I don't know what to do about it except keep talking about it. I'd love to just tell people like this to go get a dog from the shelter. If you have a need to take care of a being- then take care of that being's needs and stop worrying about your own. If it's really and truly coming from your heart (and your god) then you will be focused on the needs of the other person and not so much on your own needs.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Coming to Terms



I read a blog post the other day. As Rebecca was triggered by Christine Murphy's book Taking Down the Wall, I'm triggered by Rebecca's post, not only as an adoptee but as a first/natural/birth mother. It was a difficult post to read. My adoptee status is different from most of my sisters at Lost Daughters. I'm a late discovery step-parent adoptee. It's not quite the same as what my dear sisters have had to deal with in their lives. I was raised by the woman who birthed me but at the same time, that same woman was the deciding factor in me losing my own daughter to adoption.

I know some adoptees have a hard time with that phrase - "losing a child to adoption". How do you lose a child that you surrendered? It's a legitimate question from where they stand. I can understand their problem with it. Intellectually, you can know about the coercion that happened to us yet at the same time, aren't parents, mothers in particular, supposed to move mountains to care for their children? I know as a mother, I would move mountains to do what I needed to save or help my children. But - why couldn't I move that particular adoption mountain out of the way of my oldest daughter's life? What was holding me back? My age, my unwed status, my upbringing, my parents, my naivete, my insecurity, my fear, my church - these were the obstacles that were too much for me to overcome at that time in my life.

Rebecca says....

"This anger is not an entirely new concept for me. I've acknowledged it before and identified it as "the baby rage." I've long been aware of its existence and intensity. I've simply never allowed myself to acknowledge its direction: my original mother and father."

I understand Rebecca's anger. I also have "the baby rage" toward my own original father. He certainly didn't "lose" me. He looked at me and walked away willingly and permanently. How could he just walk away from me - an innocent baby? I'm told that he never held me - only looked down at me in the crib. I'm told that his first words about me when he saw me in the hospital were "she's so ugly". He wanted nothing to do with  me. How can a man who fathered a child be that way? How could he? He failed me.

"I am angry because they didn’t fight for me. I am angry that they didn’t rise up and rage against the system that was tearing us apart. I’m angry that they didn’t realize what was truly being lost until it was too late. I am angry that they allowed themselves to be tricked into believing it would all be okay. Because it wasn’t and it never will be. Not entirely."

Just as I had no choice in whether or not I had my original father in my life, my daughter had no choices when she was born. I left her behind in that hospital, unseen and unnamed. Yes, I take the blame for not being there for my daughter. I feel the guilt daily for not being stronger and fighting harder for my daughter. I feel the guilt daily for not screaming at the nurses with their BFA protocol, the ones who took her from me in the delivery room and didn't let me near her. I feel the guilt daily of not standing up to my own mother when she told me that I couldn't bring a baby back to her house. I feel the guilt daily of signing the relinquishment forms that Catholic Social Services pushed in front of me as I sat there sobbing. I feel the guilt daily of not reaching out to others who might have helped me keep my daughter. I feel the guilt daily of what all this means for the relationship between my children as siblings and I feel the guilt of being the cause of the baby rage in my daughter.

"The baby me has no interest in the rationalizations of grown-ups. 
She is raging mad--and she has every right to be so!"

My daughter has every right to be angry with me and not be interested in my rationalizations. As an adult she says she understands and doesn't blame me but I certainly couldn't blame her if she does feel this "baby rage". She may very well feel it but may not want to express it to me. I may never know if this rage has kicked her in the gut and I'll just have to live with that possibility.

Over the years I've learned to come to terms with the guilt and it doesn't sting as badly as it used to. I'm sorry for what I've caused my daughter and I've learned to forgive the 19 year old me for not being able to fight harder, not being able to put my foot down and defy everyone. I've worked hard at being here for my daughter in the last 11 years of reunion and will continue to be here for her. Actually it hasn't felt like work at all. I spent so long looking for her that it feels more like relief. It's such a relief to call her my daughter and tell everyone about her. It's a relief to say I have 3 children instead of 2 and it's a joy to have her and her children in my life.

Did I "lose" my daughter to adoption? Yes I did. It was a forced, closed adoption. I had no choice at that time but my daughter was the one left behind and truly voiceless so I understand if there's a part of her that rages and it's ok if the rage is directed at me. I was afraid to use my voice but she was too young to use hers. What I can do is accept my part in it and I can feel better about being here for her now. It's also ok for me to direct rage at the man who walked out of my life and never looked back. He didn't try to know me. He never tried to find me even though it would have been easy for him to do so. For him there really are no rationalizations and I think that's why I haven't tried to find him. Why would I look for someone who obviously didn't want to be found?

My baby rage is directed toward my father but a different kind of rage is directed toward my mother. That's where a lot of my work is yet to be done. I've worked on forgiving myself yet I have a very hard time forgiving the woman who turned away her daughter and grandchild. Even after 34 years it's a rage that can blindside me. Many, many first mothers deal with this same issue and I've written about it before. It's an ongoing process that I'll continue to work on for the sake of my health and my family.

All we can do as adoptees and as mothers is work on mending ourselves and hopefully in the process we can connect with our families.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Little Girl Taken


Cassi said it very well over at Adoption Truth. This family was destroyed. A little girl was taken from her family because of the greed and selfish desires of a delusional, self-entitled couple. Shame on those people! Shame on the justice system. Shame on society for allowing it and turning a blind eye to what the adoption industry has become. My heart was breaking yesterday. I cried for Veronica and her father, her sister and her grandparents. I'm a grandmother of a little girl about Veronica's age. Just the thought of someone taking her from my son, her father, and us makes me physically ill. I can't even breathe when I think of it. How must Veronica's father be suffering. 

What happened when Veronica woke up yesterday and this morning? If she's like my granddaughter she would be asking about her daddy - wondering where he is. Is she asking the Capobiancos when she's going to see her daddy again? Is she asking when she's going home? What is their answer? "Sorry, you'll never see him again." or maybe "No, you're not going back, you're staying with us." What will they say when she asks if he can visit or if she can go visit him? Will they tell her that he's not her daddy any more? Dusten doesn't even have visitation. Will they tell her why her daddy won't be visiting her? How it must hurt for her to hear the answers to these questions. Is she crying for her dad now? How can the Capobiancos live with themselves? How long will Veronica cry for her father and sister before she resigns herself to being owned by strangers. This is forever going to change this child.

In the not too distant future she'll grow up and be old enough to read the news. She'll browse the internet. How many kids get online and Google their own names? She will likely do that. What is she going to find? She's going to find her early life. She'll find all the people talking about her as if she's a prize to be won. She's going to find the many stories and pictures of herself with Dusten - her father, yes, her real father. She'll see how hard he fought for her, how many years he fought for her. She'll see how many people fought alongside him. What will she think then of the people who took her away from him? Do the C's actually think they'll have her heart? Do they think she'll be grateful to them? I'd really love for them to answer these questions.

This very sad situation left me with a lot of questions but mostly it left me so incredibly angry and depressed. What is it going to take for this country to recognize the pain of this horrid industry that sells children to the highest bidder?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just thinking.....

This is a post for other mothers of adoption loss. I have a question. If you're own mother had a part in the loss of your child, how do you reconcile that relationship? How do you deal with being part of that family when your own child was taken from you and your family played a large role in it?

The bond between mother and child is huge, primal, like no other I know. I mean you share cells with this other human being. A part of me goes on in my children just as a part of me goes on in her - my mother. On that level I can relate to my own mother because on one hand I think... surely she feels that same bond with me that I feel with my children. But, at the same time, if she felt the bond with me that I feel with my children, then why was I put in the position of having to lose my own child? What happened to mothers during that time period that allowed them to feel like they could coerce their daughters into surrendering their own children? I can't even conceive of doing to my daughter what was done to me.

This is some brutal shit. I've had a very complicated relationship with my mother for over 3 decades and just recently some of this stuff has come to a head. I have to take ownership in part of it. I've maintained the relationship. I've played the part I was expected to play, I've participated and allowed the relationship to continue. Why? Maybe part of it is because of fear. Fear of what would happen if I was something other than the dutiful daughter. I have to take ownership in not standing up and not standing strong against those forces that wanted me to surrender. A part of me will always feel the guilt of not being strong enough at the time. I feel strong enough now to stand up for myself but I didn't then. Of course I was 19 years old at the time. I'm 54 now. Maybe I can take some solace in that. Maybe I can give myself a break.

So, the question is.... how much of a break do I give my mother? How do I maintain a relationship with someone who doesn't see that they played such a large role in the loss of a child - her own grandchild? How much forgiveness is expected? How much forgiveness am I capable of? - not only forgiveness of her role in this tragedy but forgiveness for myself.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dear Prospective Adopters

I woke up early this morning and the first thoughts that went through my head were about the comments I've seen on news articles about Veronica Brown and other similar cases. I've noticed a common theme among the comments by prospective adopters - the idea that "birthparents" can come back at any time to reclaim their children. I've seen many say, and I've personally heard people say, that's why they would rather adopt from over seas than adopt from within the U.S. They don't want to run the risk of parents wanting their children back. They want complete ownership.

Why is it that the child's original parents are always the ones vilified instead of the adoption agencies? Cases like Veronica's and others give the impression that parents can choose to just walk in and demand their child be returned to them. These people are either misguided by untrue news reports or are willfully ignoring the truth. I don't know of a single state where that is possible. Some states have a time period where a mother can change her mind. It  might be 3 days or 30 days and there are some, like my state of FL, where there is NO revocation period. None, zip, nada. Once you sign on the dotted line and you can do that only 24 hours after giving birth, there is no going back. You can change your mind on buying a car but you can't change your mind on forever altering yours and your baby's life.

Then why do I keep seeing these comments about the evil "birthparents coming out of the woodwork YEARS later to take the children"?

Dear prospective adopters,

Of course the first thing I would say to you would be - don't adopt. Don't take another woman's baby. You have no idea what that will do to her and the child.

Do your research. Really think about why children like Veronica end up in a tug of war. Instead of blaming the original parents, how about looking at the adoption agencies and how they operate. Really look at their practices for what they are - unethical and coercive. Really research and understand coercion. Understand that most infants were gained that way, through coercion. Notice I said most, not all. If you don't do this and you just go along with whatever the agency tells you, you run the risk of taking a baby from a family that wants and loves that baby. You run the risk of traumatizing a child for no reason other than your wants.

If you were duped out of your baby wouldn't you fight back? Instead of just blaming the parents, how about following the money. Take a closer look at what the agency is doing. If you find out after only a few weeks or months that what the agency did was wrong or that either of the parents wants to raise their child, do the right thing. Give that child back to the parents! Don't drag it out in court trying to hang on to someone who doesn't belong to you because the one who is getting hurt the most is the child. I know it will hurt you but there are other children out there who really do need you and that baby only has one natural/biological/original family. He or she has the right to be with them.

Please stop making this about what you want. Make it about the child.

If you want to do something, stop looking for pregnant girls who aren't wearing a wedding ring and start looking for the children who really need help. There are plenty of them out there. Yes, there are some really bad parents who abandon, abuse or neglect their kids. Those kids need you. They need your help but they don't need their names to be changed or their identities wiped out. They need your love, not your ownership.

Stop believing whatever the adoption agencies tell you. I know how much you want to believe them but don't. They lie. And please realize that your demand for an infant is what's keeping this horrible adoption industry going. They're not only still going - they're thriving to the tune of 13 billion $ a year. That's your money! Can you think of a better way to spend it besides lining the pockets of people who think it's ok to lie, cheat and steal babies?

There are some adoptive parents out there who get it. They've come to understand what the industry does to families and exactly how they make their billions. Please, please read what they have to say. Read what adult adopted people have to say. Read what original families have to say. It's easy to do, just google. The list of blogs is long. Don't just read what adoption agencies have to say. The agency is just catering to you and telling you what you want to hear because, of course, you're the one paying them. It's all about the money and it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be about the children.

Please.