Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Sometimes when doing these posts it feels like I'm preaching to the choir. The wonderful mothers I've met online know what I'm talking about, they've been there, they understand and thank heavens for them. After 30 years I've finally found people who get it. It hasn't taken that long because they weren't out there, it's taken this long because so many of us have been silent. We were too ashamed to talk about it or too hurt to talk about it.
Now, I'm seeing a new type of mother out there, the happy mother of adoption loss. These are the mothers who have no idea what happened in the past. They don't understand why we speak out. They call us "meanies" for just speaking our truth. Even if we just express an opinion in a kind, civil tone we are called names, deleted and dismissed. They don't understand that if we as a society don't acknowledge the crimes of the past we might be doomed to repeat them.
When I was in the hospital giving birth to my first child, the one I lost to adoption, that red sign above is what I saw on the door to my room and on the wall above my bed. There were 2 of them, they glared at me, they mocked me. BABY FOR ADOPTION: the standard code for decades. It let the staff at the hospital know that they were not to let us see our children.
Because of that sign I never saw my daughter. I wasn't allowed. I was her mother, I had every right to see her, hold her and feed her. Did I know that then? No. I was a good girl and I did what I was told. I was told that seeing my baby would make it harder for me to deal with the adoption. What they actually meant was.... it would make it harder for them to take her because they knew that if I held her the chances of me letting her go dropped dramatically. Even in the delivery room I wasn't allowed to lay eyes on her at all. As soon as she was born they whisked her away and quickly wrapped her up in a blanket. I got a peek of a little arm as she flailed and I heard her cry. It didn't last long, her cry got weaker as she got farther and farther away. That was my last contact with my daughter. It took over 24 hours to find out if I had a girl or a boy. It took 22 years to find out how much she weighed.
No one could be bothered with what I was going through. I only found out the sex of my baby because I was walking down the hall in the hospital and one of the nurses asked my last name. When I told her she said with a big smile...."oh, you don't have to worry about signing the form for circumcision, you had a girl". She didn't see my scarlet brand. She didn't know I was one of those girls - BFA. If it weren't for that little slip up I wouldn't have found out it was a girl until 4 days later when I signed the papers. What a way to find out the sex of the child you've given birth to. How could women be treated this way?! And by other women? This happened to so many of us and so many people have no idea. This is why I comment and blog and run my mouth now. The young mothers coming up behind us need to know what happened then AND what's happening now.
And, to the mothers who know..... thanks for being here and understanding.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
"This choice of parenting over adoption is often the default decision, due to the mother's lack of understanding of and information about adoption. She bore the child, so, of course, she should "keep it." and how can any mother "give away her baby?" Due to this common instinctive reaction, frequently reinforced culturally and by those around her, the woman with an unplanned pregnancy is often unable to consider adoption freely and make a fully informed decision."
When I first read that paragraph my breath literally caught in my throat. Then it made me laugh. Default decision?! What else would it be? That's how it's supposed to be! Seems to me like the NCFA just doesn't like that women might actually be getting some support from friends and family, support to keep and parent their own children. They would much rather convince her that "making an adoption plan" is a much better decision. And, isn't it funny that this is what we've been saying from the other side..... women in the position of facing an unplanned pregnancy aren't getting all the information they need regarding the consequences of surrender. Maybe women are getting more informed and the NCFA just doesn't like the direction that the information is taking them.
"NCFA is expanding its efforts to revive the institution of infant adoption through sound pregnancy counseling and public communications that promote infant adoption awareness and understanding. NCFA's infant adoption awareness training program teaches pregnancy counselors how to present the adoption option to women with unplanned pregnancies."
Yes, they're going to "counsel" women right out of their babies lives. Who is paying for this counseling? Who is training the counselors? They are, so what kind of spin do you think they'll put on this counseling? Follow the money. They make money when a woman surrenders so how do you think the counseling will go? They will gear it towards encouraging a woman to surrender her baby. This is where the so-called positive language comes in - see what I wrote a couple of posts down below in Language and Lures. They are expanding their efforts because they've been hit in the wallet since the rate of infant adoptions has declined.
"A recent study commissioned by NCFA and the Family Research Council revealed valuable insights into the birthmother's choice of adoption. In-depth interviews of 45 birthmothers addressed the emotional process, thoughts, and feelings they went through in arriving at their adoption decisions. Some findings came as no surprise. For example, in order for birthmothers to feel right about their decision, it was necessary that they made the decision voluntarily. Many who felt they had been coerced or tricked into adoption, mostly older birthmothers, were bitter about it."
So this is how they learn their techniques. They study us, find out what buttons to push and then gear the counseling and advertising that they do to steer young, vulnerable women in the direction of adoption. So, they don't want mothers to be bitter - is this what I'm supposed to take from that last line? I don't feel I was coerced, I know I was coerced. Now, instead of just being open about their agenda, they've gotten sneaky about it. If they play the game right these young women will come away from this experience thinking this was all their idea and gee, they're even happy about it. Then they use these happy surrendering moms to convince more mothers to do the same thing. This is how they "build families" and bottom lines.
The last paragraph...
"For the sake of children, birthparents, and families, NCFA seeks support for advancing counseling, media, and policy strategies to revive infant adoption in America. Will you partner with us in this vital cause?"
Well, sorry NCFA, no support here. They actually strategize on how to separate mothers from their children. They want a revival! They make me sick.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Anyway, back to the point..... this series began because I felt like I needed to do this for my own healing. Although I had been through 22 years of living and learning how to cope with losing my daughter, and 8 years of reunion, there was still something more to do. In my artwork I was feeling a little stagnant. As artists we need to change and grow over time. We need to try new things. Over the years our style may change, our subject matter may change. Lots can happen as we change with age. In this case I was feeling the need for a deeper content to the work. I needed to do something with more meaning for me. I had already started a series on women and body image and I'm continuing to work on that but this was a feeling brewing inside that had to do with adoption.
These 2 topics are huge in my life - art and adoption. I'm an artist and I survived adoption. It was time to put the 2 together. Although I've lived with being a first mother from a closed adoption for 30 years, that doesn't mean I know everything there is to know about it. I started to read, google and research what was out there. I ordered books like Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away and others and what I found out was that I wasn't alone. I've learned a lot and have tons more to learn. I've met so many wonderful women out there who have walked in my shoes and understand. I've become active in speaking out about the injustices of this industry and I've realized that I need to paint this series. It's a need, a compulsion.
I'll share the artwork about this topic on this blog as I do on my other blog This particular piece started with the idea of birthdays (obviously) because birthdays are such a huge thing in our first mother world. These are the days that are the most difficult. They were for me anyway. Every year there's the reminder of what's lost. As a mom I spent it wondering how she was, what she was doing, where she was celebrating, wondering what she got for presents each year. Did she have a party? Did her family think of me at all? How big is she now? Is she okay and happy? How is she liking school? There's just so many questions and as a first mother I wasn't entitled to any of the answers.
When my daughter turned 18 I baked a cake and with my other children we celebrated her birthday. This birthday kicked off the official search for her. As a good little first mommy I didn't try to look sooner because I was told that it wouldn't be good to interfere with her life. So, 18 was the magic age when I could begin the search. Singing the birthday song to a child I had never met was a surreal experience. I could barely get the words out because of the lump in my throat but I knew that this was the beginning. It took 4 years to find her.
In the background of the painting you can see names and dates. These are the names of first mothers and the dates that their children were born. Some are found, some are not. This piece represents not only me and my daughter but all the first mothers who think about their children on their birthday. So.... that would be all of them. There's not a mother on earth who doesn't think about her child on the day of that child's birth.
Happy Birthday to all of you, from all of us first moms. We love you.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
make an adoption plan
place a child for adoption
a loving option
Thirty years ago when I was going through the process it was called giving a child up for adoption. Back then the industry just bluntly and openly shamed us into giving up our children and it wasn't just the industry, it was also society in general. Everyone saw us as unfit simply because we weren't wearing a wedding ring. It still boggles my mind that women in the 60's in maternity homes were even made to wear fake wedding rings to go outside - who did the wardens in these places think they were fooling?
Now that being single is not as stigmatizing as it once was the industry had to come up with slicker ways to coerce young, vulnerable women. Oh, they'd like you to think that they're just being kinder and more sensitive to the mother - bull twinkies! What they're really doing is sanitizing everything to make it look more appealing. (twinkies sounds better than shit doesn't it?) It's the marketing biz at it's finest.
What are adoption opportunities? They are babies. These are human beings being traded for money. This is what it comes down to. No one wants to hear that in this country we sell babies but when you break it down to it's truth, that's exactly what it is. Party A hands baby to Party B who then hands baby to Party C who in turn hands over a lot of money to Party B. What else would you call it? Well, the agency wants to call it a selfless act on the mother's part. They call it making an adoption plan. When a young woman hears these words she feels like there's someone out there who can help her figure out what to do. There's a plan - good. That means there's a direction to go in; this is productive. Then she hears it's a loving option. Well, she loves her baby and only wants what's best for her baby so she listens some more. They tell her "it's in the best interest of the child, your child will love you for it". What mother doesn't want that? "Choosing adoption is the purest form of motherly love" No.... loving your baby is the purest form of motherly love. Placing your baby for adoption sounds nice doesn't it? In reality she's placing her child in the arms of strangers. Now come the dear bmother letters. This is how they make her think that she has a relationship with the couple. How much does she really know about people from a slick, full color, 2-sided brochure? Do you believe all the ones that come in the mail selling aluminum siding? It really is a sales pitch, there are a lot of couples competing for that baby.
So, she's picked her favorite brochure and the agency is telling her what a selfless gift she's giving this couple. If she has a relationship with the couple that goes on for a few months, they fly or drive to where she is when she's in labor, sometimes they even go into the delivery room. She's exhausted and emotional. They are standing there waiting so of course she doesn't want to disappoint them. Even if she's screaming inside - give me my baby - she has all these forces outside pressuring her to hand the baby over.
Now that she has given an adoption opportunity to a couple and given this selfless gift in an act of the purest motherly love that was in the best interest of her child, she can apply for a scholarship from the agency that is only offered to women who make an adoption plan. Some of these agencies actually raise funds to offer money for college to mothers who have given their children up for adoption. Don't get me wrong, education is a wonderful thing. But.... why not raise money for scholarships for mothers who are raising their children as single mothers. Why not help them to KEEP their children and go to school. What a concept! Of course they wouldn't do that. That would hurt the bottom line.
What happens if the mother changes her mind and decides to keep her baby? It's called a failed adoption. Instead celebrating a mother and child staying together it becomes a failure. Something to be upset about. Well yes, it's upseting for the adoptive parents but a mother and child staying together is a beautiful thing. Aren't we supposed to be concerned for the child and his/her best interests? A baby continuing to hear her mother's heartbeat and feeling her mother's love is in the baby's best interest. But the new mother gets to feel guilty because she let everyone down. In my opinion the only person she needs to worry about is that new baby.
I'll keep on saying it. To the prospective adoptive parents out there.... if you want to be a parent and help a child, please look to the foster care system first. So many children need homes and someone to love them. Another option is to help a baby by helping her mother, help them stay together.
It's a dirty business using scholarships and a mother's love for her baby as a lure to bring her in and get her to give up her child. The language isn't going to clean it up.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"are YOU serious?? Do you think it's better for a child to be raised in a family where it isn't wanted?? Where opportunities are so limited. Where neglect and abuse are a way of life. More times than not, these children are a product of a drug deal, or some ignorant individuals own thoughtless sexual gratification. Reproducing like animals. You are in LA LA LAND! "
So this is how the conversation started on the National Council for Adoption Facebook page.
Hey Liz, Aaron and Sarah....did you know your mother is an abusive, drug addicted, animalistic whore? Wow! Stereotype much oh NCFA supporter?
so I responded......
"ah yes, the *all unwed pregnant mothers are crack addicted abusive sluts* argument. No one is advocating that babies stay with abusers. None of us want children to suffer neglect and abuse. Please learn more about what really goes on and who these mothers really are. So many, and I'd even guess that most are simply young, scared and needing help with resources. No one should lose their child permanently because they need a temporary helping hand. "
That response was enough to get myself banned from their website. A number of my first mother friends also posted responses and did a much better job than I did and of course they were banned too. First our posts were just deleted from the wall. Then we posted on the discussion board - many just writing their stories, their truths. Those were then deleted. We posted again, again we were deleted and now we're just banned completely. I'm glad I managed to copy and save some of the posts from that thread before they made it all go away.
They claim they want to hear adoption stories so we were just trying to be accommodating. Funny how they changed their minds since our stories didn't come with a pretty rosy glow and choirs of angels singing. They also claim that first mothers are terrified of their children finding them, that's why they don't want adoptees to have access to their own records. Why do they imagine they can speak for me? They can speak for me but I can't speak up at all? I get banned if I speak up? Well, NCFA, you can ban me from your page but that's ALL you can do. There's a lot of us first mothers AND adoptees out here and we have a lot to say about your industry. We know what the truths are because we've been living it for decades.
Keep talking people.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
"as much money as we've spent on doctor's visits, artificial insemination and two IVF cycles we would NEVER even CONSIDER giving them up"
Wow and wow again! These are the words of a prospective adoptive father on his blog He is hoping to adopt twin girls and when the girls were born their mother and father decided to take more time to make this monumental decision. They are reconsidering and these pap's are not happy. This sums up for me what is wrong with the adoption industry. You hear things that basically say..."she promised..... wah..." "I spent a lot of money, give me your kid, you can't back out now" They refer to the children as theirs. That one just amazes me. How did people get to this place of such entitlement?! Children that are still in the womb are considered their property. If this man could never even consider giving them up after spending so much money, why in the hell should he expect a woman who carried those babies for nine months, birthed them, shares DNA with them, loves them with all her heart, was physically connected to them, is bonded with them to just say - oh, okay. I promised so here you go, I don't have to think about it. So now I guess God is supposed to go to that mother and say - well, you know they really did spend an awful lot of money, you should give them your children.
I'm just so flabbergasted. I don't think there's enough words in the English language to convey how disgusted I am by this. It also amazes me how many people think this attitude is not only okay, but normal. In my humble opinion, they never should've met the mother of those girls. They have no business pressuring someone like this. They have no right to claim ownership of the babies. They would probably say that they are not pressuring her. Well, simply being there, having a relationship with her and her knowing that you're waiting for her to give birth so you can take her child or children IS pressure. Hurray for her being strong enough to take the time needed to make this decision. There shouldn't even be a search for prospective adoptive parents until AFTER the mother is healed from giving birth, has spent time with her baby, is past the post-partum hormone changes (which takes weeks) and has come to the conclusion on her own that she cannot and does not want to keep the child. Not one minute before that should anyone consider that child belonging to anyone else but that mother. How dare anyone lay claim to another woman's child before that child is even born and then actually pray for a mother and child to be separated.
I understand that people who have fertility problems suffer. I get that. I've seen family members go through it. However.... it is not another woman's job to fill that void. In this instance and many others like it, whose needs are the pap's looking to take care of - honestly? Are they really thinking of the child or are they thinking of themselves? I don't know what that mother is going to decide but whatever it is it needs to be her decision free from the influence of other people. She and the children will have to live with the consequences of that decision.
I can't even think about this anymore today. Time to do something creative.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
This painting is from a photo I took on a family trip to Indiana. I was walking along the lake, early in the morning and feeling very peaceful. I've had many moments like that over the years. I've had so much joy raising my children and my husband is amazing. We're soon celebrating our 29th anniversary. I have good friends and a full creative life. I've had a good life and I'm grateful. I'm also angry. There's been a lot of talk in the blog world about this issue so I guess I'm just adding my .02 when I say I've been pissed off for 30 years. Has that kept me from enjoying my life? No. I can put it in perspective. The anger is kind of like the grief. When you lose a child to adoption there is no getting over it. Recently there was a woman who said we as natural mothers need to "get over it and deal", "forgiving yourself is the starting point", "not all first moms want to keep their "problem". I'm sorry..... huh?! Children went from being illegitimate (a word I absolutely loath) to being a problem.
Human beings are neither illegitimate nor a problem. They are people deserving of love from the women who gave birth to them.
The women who lose their children to adoption are young, scared, vulnerable, lacking resources and not getting the info they need to make an informed decision. When they feel backed into a corner, they're not really making a choice. Instead they are getting bombarded with people telling them that they need to do this so they can finish school, go to college, it's in the best interest of the child, the baby needs 2 parents in the home, what will the neighbors think, you can't handle this...... yadda, yadda, yadda. So, you believe the BS because you're already feeling like you've shamed not only yourself but your entire family. Look at what you're doing to everyone else! This is how we were raised. We're good girls, we'll do whatever it takes to make it right so we give our children to other people to raise.
Enter the anger and grief. We're not supposed to talk about it, ever! We're supposed to pretend it never happened. So then what happens to that anger and grief? We swallow it and choke on it. It gets buried along with our self-esteem. Sometimes it's so bad we can't even breathe but can we tell anyone about it? Of course not. We're not allowed. So it festers and once a year it boils over on our child's birthday. Every year we see the month coming on the calendar. February, March... here it comes. It starts to weigh you down, you see the numbers change, the date gets closer and you get more depressed. Here it is, it's now April. As the date comes screaming toward you all you want to do is crawl into a corner and cry and cry and cry........ This goes on for literally decades. When you lose someone to death you have a funeral, you grieve and you have support from family and friends. On the other hand, when you deal with this kind of grief there's no end in sight. There's not only no support, hardly anyone knows about it. How are you supposed to just "get over it" when you have no idea if your child is alive or dead? How are you supposed to just get over the anger when your child is taken from you? You don't, you just learn to cope. You learn how to hide.
So now what. What happens decades down the road. Some mothers and their children are reunited and some are not. In my case I'm reunited with my daughter. Thank You!!!!! What a relief! I know what happened. Now 30 years later I'm here, we have a wonderful relationship. I feel like I've been let out of prison. So, for me, what's the next step? The next step is letting people know what happened. Now my job is to let people know that what happened is not right. Babies should not be taken from their mothers. The only reason to take a child from their mother is in the case of neglect or abuse. Finances shouldn't factor into it. Social class shouldn't factor into it. Whether a mother has graduated from college or not shouldn't factor into it. People shouldn't be traded for a degree. What happens now is I add my voice to the cacophony of other pissed off voices to let the world know that it's ok to be angry. I'm allowed damn it! It doesn't have to rule my life but if the rest of society has no idea that we're angry how is anything going to change for the better?
Anger doesn't have to rule my life. I have a good, happy life, but if anything is going to change people have to know the injustices that happened. If anything is going to change people have to know that the adoption industry is just that - a multi-billion dollar profit making industry that trades not in goods and services but in human lives.
I make my life what it is and I want other mothers to have the opportunity to create their lives with their children free from brainwashing, shame and the grief that comes from losing a child to adoption.