Friday, April 24, 2015

An opportunity to be heard

A while ago I asked mothers of adoption loss if they would like to be included in this painting. I added their names and the birthdays of their lost children. Since then I've done a number of other paintings, written narrative poetry to go with the pieces and did a book called Silent Voices.

Now I have a wonderful opportunity to continue this series of work about adoption and share it with the public in an upcoming exhibit at the 567 Center for Renewal art center in Macon GA. The exhibit will be in April 2016. My plan for the exhibit includes 14 large paintings (13 of them are done, the birthday candle painting will be included), a series of collages and a display of boxes. My plan for the collage work is to include handwritten stories from other natural mothers and also have some sheets of paper that are blank so people visiting the exhibit can add their own voices to the display.

My dear mom friends out there.... would you be willing to add your voice to this exhibit? This is a chance to have our voices heard. Showing at an art center with an exhibit that focuses solely on adoption loss from the mother's point of view is a rare thing indeed. I'd love to include as many of you as possible. Let's share our stories. Too many people have no idea what infant adoption does to the original family.

If you would like to participate, let me know in the comments. You can leave your story in the comments too and I'll write it out on paper but I would love to have your hand, your touch on that paper and then I'll make it part of the collage. You don't have to write a long thing- a paragraph or two would be perfect. You could write about any aspect of adoption. How did losing a child to adoption impact your life? How has it affected the rest of your family? What were the circumstances around the adoption? Were you able to hold your baby before relinquishing? Was it a closed or open adoption? Did you have to keep the adoption secret? These are just a few ideas.....

We can get in touch through email or you can message me on FB and thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope you'll consider adding your words. It would make the exhibit so much more powerful!

Saturday, March 21, 2015



Hand print ghosts in blue and green
fingers curl around colors
brows furrowed in concentration
making pictures never to be seen
watercolor strokes
tulips and bees
orange suns and lollipop trees
 adorn the fridge
footsteps pitter patter
paint splatters
childhood goes on in another universe
locked away from the dreaming heart

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Speaking for us again

You know..... I see articles like this and I go through such a range of emotions. I want to scream, I want to cry, I want to punch somebody, I want to laugh, I just smh. Once again an adopter is speaking for us. Once again an adopter thinks she knows what we think, what we feel and what she thinks we should do - such as "move on" from our grief.

First of all, I wish they would stop calling us "birthmothers". They are mothers, I am a mother. Period. She writes of a mother's experience after giving birth....

"They may feel a surge of connection to him, as well as pride, sadness, and grief."

May feel? Ya think? Yeah, maybe she'll be sad that she's losing her first born child. Maybe, just maybe, she'll feel connected to this little person she just grew in her womb. The child she shares cells with, a child who carries her DNA, a child she's nurtured and loved within her body for the last 9 months. It's utterly baffling to me how people can make such statements. 

"Adoptive parents who experienced the grief of infertility may use that experience to empathize with their baby’s birth mother. One mother told her child’s birth mother at the delivery, “I am sorry you are going through so much pain. I wish I could go through labor for you.”

I've talked about this before and some people may not like what I have to say but.... gonna say it anyway. When grieving infertility the grief is real, it hurts, I get that and I'm not trying to minimize it but it's grieving what could have been- what will not happen. It's grieving an imaginary child, the child that will never be. When a mother is grieving the loss of her baby to adoption she is grieving the loss of an actual child- a living, breathing human being. They are both grief, they are both real but they are completely different. I don't know what it feels like to feel the grief of the infertile and I won't pretend to. An adopter who is infertile has no idea the level of grief a mother deals with. She can't grasp what it is to carry a child and feel that child kicking and moving within. She can't grasp the sacred connection a mother has to her own flesh and blood. She can try to empathize but she will never know. I appreciate an effort to empathize but not when she still feels entitled to take the baby from his mother.

"I wish I could go through labor for you"?  She says she cares so much about the mother that she wishes she could go through the labor for her. BS! If she cared so much about the mother she would ask that mother what she could do for her to clear whatever obstacles are in the way of that mother taking care of her own baby! But of course that won't happen. That would interfere with her being able to take that child from the mother. She says things like this so she can show concern but still she thinks she's entitled to take the baby home and raise him as her own.

"Following a period of emotional chaos and grief, most birth mothers reach a level of acceptance in their lives. As your child’s birth mother becomes more at peace with her decision, she may gain renewed energy for her current life, and more clarity about her role as a birth parent and her relationship to you."

Reach a level of acceptance? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. How does she know what most mothers do? Mothers don't reach acceptance, they learn to hide the grief, they learn to hold in the tears and let them go when no one is watching, they learn to function so they can go to work everyday. In an open adoption they learn to cover up and keep silent so the adopters don't see it and decide she shouldn't have contact with her child anymore. She learns to be the good girl so she can, if she's lucky, stay in the adopters good graces because they hold all the power.

"While each contact may reawaken some of her feelings of loss, most birth mothers report that these contacts help them to move on from the sadness and be more productive in their lives."

The loss isn't reawakened, it's always awake. Every minute of every day for the rest of a mother's life. That doesn't mean a mother doesn't have a productive and fulfilling life, even a happy one. It just means that the loss is always with her. The lost child is not replaced with the birth of more children or a fabulous career or anything else the mother might do. There is no getting around that and reunion doesn't fix it. You don't just "move on" from the loss of a child. 

And why do they feel the need to tell us to move on? Did they just move on from the loss of their fertility? Did they say- "well it wasn't meant to be that I have children so maybe I should focus on volunteering or fostering children"? No. They jump through hoops, pay a lot of money to the industry, have business cards made that they can hand out to pregnant women who aren't wearing wedding rings, hire people to design slick full color brochures advertising themselves as better than mothers who are poor, in a bad situation or are just unsure of themselves, place ads on Craigslist and use crowd funding to get other people to help them buy a baby. 

Adopters, please stop. Stop telling us to move on. Stop telling other adopters how to help mothers leave their children.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Am I a hero?

This post got me thinking.... am I a hero?

What does a hero look like? Does it look like a woman who is pregnant, young and not at all sure about what comes next? Does it look like someone who surrendered to pressure because she didn't have the finances or the strength to back her up? Does it look like someone who surrendered to the pressure of family and church because those people believed that having a child outside of "wedlock" was morally wrong and the child is then illegitimate and doesn't deserve to be included in the family? Does it look like someone who didn't have anywhere else to turn? Does that make me a hero?

According to the woman who wrote that post, we- meaning the mothers who bore children and were unable to keep those children-, we are heroes. What's wrong with that picture?

Not having choices does not make anyone a hero. It makes them simply choiceless. It makes them people who are doing what they have to do to survive. It makes them people who have to carry on in the face of grief that they're expected to live with regardless of how other people view the situation or how horrendous that grief is. It makes them people who carry on even though they want to just curl up in a ball and die.

Like the woman who wrote that post, the woman who adopted my daughter thanked me one day for giving her the gift of my daughter. I replied with- "she wasn't a gift, I didn't give her willingly. I was forced" There was silence on the other end of the phone. The subject was quickly changed.

Adopters are saviors and first mothers are heroes. This is what the adoption industry would have us believe. This is what they bank on. This is what keeps the bottom line healthy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

This means war?!

Imbalance of Power

I haven't been here in a while. You know how it is.... life gets in the way. There are things like survival- trying to make ends meet as a self-employed artist. It's more than a full time job. Sometimes when in survival mode that's all you can deal with. That doesn't mean I don't think about adoption and how things are going in the adoption reform movement. Oh how I wish I could be more involved. I still share articles on Facebook and comment when I can. I still read and follow what's happening. Of course there's been much more of that recently because of National Adoption Awareness Month- that dreaded month that we write about, focus on and try to use to make a difference.

If you've read here before you may know that I'm not only a first mother who lost a daughter to the adoption machine but I'm also a late discovery step-parent adoptee and I'm very proud to be associated with the Lost Daughters. Although I think and write more from the first mother perspective, my sisters there have welcomed me with open arms. I'm so very proud of my adoptee sisters and the #flipthescript campaign and the Flip the Script video that has been the talk of #NAAM. If you haven't seen it yet you must check it out.

So what got me fired up and back on the blog? The push back on #flipthescript. I just read a gem of a post by an adoptive mother. To begin, she calls the post "the war on National Adoption Month". Really? We're at war? If an adoptee talks about her experience as an adult adoptee and it doesn't conform to the industry standard of adoption propaganda, apparently thems' fightin' words. If a person who was/is adopted, talks about what it was like for her to be adopted and how complex that experience is and was for her, she's waging a war. The simple act of telling her story means she's at war? That's a bit extreme isn't it? According to the industry and it's proponents- adoption is beautiful and don't you dare say anything to the contrary. Don't you know that? Because apparently, if you talk about your own personal experience, you're making some other folks mighty uncomfortable. So uncomfortable in fact that they see it as an attack.

Her first paragraph.... and I'll answer her here since it's not likely that my comments will make it past moderation on her blog.

"Adoptees are “flipping the script” during National Adoption Month, sharing the other, unattractive side of adoption. It’s their right. I’m not an adoptee and can’t speak for them, but part of me doesn’t like seeing this opportunity of beauty turned into something that’s looked down upon."

"I'm not an adoptee and can't speak for them" Isn't that the point of flipping the damned script?? Adoptive parents and the industry professionals have had the floor for decades. It's about time the other people who live and breath adoption- the adoptees and the natural mothers- have a say. No, you're not an adoptee so you have no idea what an adoptee feels about adoption. You have hearsay, you have anecdotes by others, you have stories you've heard, you have your experience with your child who is not yet an adult with adult views. There is no triad in adoption. There are 4 sides and only 2 of them have had the country's ear until now- the adoption industry and the adoptive parents.

"Why is it beautiful? Because I can separate what my children went through, their abuse, neglect, and trauma, from their adoption. What they went through before foster care, I would compare with hell, what they went through while visiting their bio parents while in foster care wasn’t much better, but now we see new lives, new people emerging. Beauty."

What you see as beauty, your adopted child may see differently. This is beautiful for you. Maybe you can separate it but can your child? This is your child's history. For one thing... why are you sharing such personal details of your child's history with the world? This is his story, his to share when he is ready. If he's ready at all, ever. It's not up to you. It's not your life. When he is an adult, his view of adoption may be vastly different than yours and that's ok.

"That’s why “flipping the script” on adoption day is so painful. The world is taking what is often a positive event and turning the tables, focusing on those who don’t feel it was a good thing for them."

No, they're focusing on the voices of adopted people, period. That's the point. Whether that person's story is happy, sad, angry, or a mix of all of those, the point of flip the script is to give them the opportunity to use their voice and be heard- be heard without being interrupted by the people in the equation who are the beneficiaries of a corrupt and unethical system.

"Those who are "flipping the script" aren't adoptees who are happy and content with their adoption experience, they're the ones who are angered, feel like something was done to them. The ones who feel they were ripped from their first family, from their country, are hurt by positive adoption language."

Every adoption begins with loss and pain no matter how you slice it or how much positive adoption language you want to throw at it. That PAL was developed by the adoption industry and put into place for a reason- to separate mothers from their babies. That is the sole function of the new words -  to describe what is a tragedy in more palatable terms. 

The "angry adoptee". This is the most common argument thrown at adoptees (and mothers of loss). "You're just angry and bitter". Damn straight I'm angry. Does that mean I'm an angry person? No. My life is just fine but that doesn't mean I shouldn't talk about the experiences I've had and how they've affected me. And, under the circumstances, anger is a perfectly normal reaction to experiences that were beyond our control. We take back our control now by using that anger in a positive and constructive way. 

ALL adoptees have been taken from their original families in one way or another, whether taken forcefully because of abuse or taken from a new mother through coercion or by the courts legally severing all connection with the family through sealed birth records. As an adoptive parent you feel adoption is beautiful. That's great for you but don't diminish or dismiss what adopted people have to say about their life experience. 

"The adoptees who aren't speaking out (and far outnumber those who are calling out adoption) are the ones who are satisfied in life, the ones who accept their adoptive family as their own, ones who've found their birth family and either have a good relationship with them or have decided to let it be."

And here I just have to say- IMO- you're wrong. The vast majority of adoptees I know who are speaking out, are simply trying to make a difference for future adoptees. They ARE satisfied in life. They just want people to understand that adoption is far more complex than what the industry wants the public to believe. They're trying to balance out the narrative so it can be understood that there is more to the story than the story of the happy adoptive parents and the well payed adoption professionals.

"I don't want to belittle anyones experience, after all, it's their own. I can't speak as an adoptee. Maybe there should be separate months, one for National Adoption Month and a month for adoptees to share their feelings, like an Adoptee Awareness Month."

You want to give adoptees a month to speak? How generous. Why should we separated? Haven't we had enough separation as it is??? Hasn't the mic been monopolized by the most powerful voices already? I also deal with this idea as a mother of loss. We have "Birthmother's Day" which I refuse to acknowledge. I celebrate my motherhood on Mother's Day along with all the other mothers. I was still a mother after my daughter was taken from me and I'm still an adoptee the other 11 months of the year. Don't tell me when I can speak.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Savior Complex

Savior Complex

Today I finished this latest piece in the Silent Voices series. Only a handful of people have seen it as I was working on it. I was told it was - creepy but effective and potentially offensive. I guess they're both right. I don't think I could've painted an image like this years ago. We all go through stages of development and healing when dealing with issues about adoption. At the beginning of the series I was painting as a catharsis. It was my own personal therapy. As the series progressed it became more about a statement on infant adoption in general.

When I started sketching for this piece I think I had Kathryn Joyce's book The Child Catchers in the back of my head. If you haven't read it, it's an important read. I highly recommend it.

Infant adoption is seen as such an idyllic institution. People love the idea of saving babies. Who wouldn't? And it gets better.... not only do they see adoption as saving little babies, they see it as saving the baby's mother from a life of shame and drudgery, limited opportunities and poverty. Of course religious folk are gonna jump all over that. They're encouraged by their pastors and consider it a mission. Some focus their mission here in the United States and some go overseas to bring babies back to what they consider to be a much superior country.

What does that say to the international adoptees when they grow up? Do they consider their lost culture to be inferior? And what are they saving the domestic adoptees from? In days past children of single mothers were considered bastards. People truly thought they were saving a child from the stigma of being illegitimate. That's not the case anymore so what is it? Some claim it's from a life of abuse or neglect. And they would know that how? Maybe if she had some support and the opportunity to raise her child she could be an excellent mother. 

Being young does not equal bad. Unmarried does not equal bad. Young and unmarried does not automatically equal abusive and neglectful.

The comments I see from people are the typical..... "well it's better than the baby ending up in a dumpster". If they take the baby away from his mother right away, they can save the child from certain death. Why is this the view? Is this a hold over from the old days of unwed pregnant girls being considered mentally unstable and neurotic? Exactly how does putting a ring on a finger suddenly make a woman mentally stable and capable of mothering?

So, in the process of saving the baby, the baby is traumatized. The baby grows up with a feeling of abandonment and no knowledge of her beginnings - in the case of closed adoption. And in the case of open adoption (we know that 80% of those close in the first couple of years) she has knowledge of her history but is still left with the feeling of abandonment. In both cases, in the majority of states, her birth records are sealed, hidden from her and she's treated as a second class citizen.

Now what happens to the mother who is saved from this burdened life of motherhood? She is left with a lifetime of grieving that can in some cases become debilitating. It can lead to a life of depression, anxiety and sometimes even suicide. 

The two people who are supposedly saved don't seem to be faring all that well. But... the infant adoption industry seems to do just fine when all this saving is going on. They're making some good money. The adoptive parents seem to be doing just fine. They're growing their family and scoring some religious points in the process. The industry loves to encourage this, it's good for their bottom line and the churches love to encourage this because it brings more followers which is good for their collection plate.

In the meantime, the babies and mothers are the ones sacrificed at the altar of greed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I Could Breathe Again

I Could Breathe Again

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.