Sunday, September 26, 2010

One Life, Two Minds

Just recently my friend Robin at Motherhood Deleted mentioned dissociative disorder on her blog. I was thinking about that same thing.

"Dissociative disorders are so-called because they are marked by a dissociation from or interruption of a person's fundamental aspects of waking consciousness (such as one's personal identity, one's personal history, etc.). Dissociative disorders come in many forms, the most famous of which is dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). All of the dissociative disorders are thought to stem from trauma experienced by the individual with this disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience too traumatic to integrate with his conscious self. Symptoms of these disorders, or even one or more of the disorders themselves, are also seen in a number of other mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder."

When I was in the maternity home I wrote letters home to my folks. I have those letters now. My mother saved them and gave them back to me just last year. What an odd feeling. When I read them it was like I was reading the letters of a stranger. I didn't recognize the handwriting, I didn't recognize the words on the page, I didn't know the person who wrote them. It was like I was another person altogether. It was also interesting to me to note that on papers that I had written on previous to going to the home and after the adoption, my handwriting was completely different. In those letters I was telling my family what they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear that I was okay. They wanted to know that I was handling things. They were the only people in my life who actually knew where I was and why I was there. I didn't have anywhere else to go afterwards but back to them so they were my safety net. I had to keep them in my world and on my side, where else would I go if not back to them?

Over the course of the years when I looked back to the girl I was at that time and the situation I was in, I know intellectually that I did the only thing I could do but there still remained the thought that I beat myself up with - the thought that I was 19 when I got pregnant and 20 when she was born and why couldn't I stand up to everyone around me and say - stuff it.... I'm keeping my baby! Why wasn't I strong enough? Do other mothers have this residue of guilt hanging around like some guest who's overstayed their welcome by about 20 or 30 years? Now as a middle aged adult (ok, slightly passed middle age) I know that going down the road of shoulda/woulda/coulda does nothing but hurt me.

Looking back now is like looking back on two people - the girl I was inside who was scared, sad and out of options and the girl who was working to make it to the other side. It was like I had divided myself in two in order to protect myself. It was a defense mechanism for my psyche. I was in survival mode. Understanding this and knowing that I did what I had to to survive helped me realize that I could let go of any last feeling of guilt that was hanging around. I could allow that I was young, naive and believed what I was told. Under those circumstances I did the best that I could with the experience that I had. It's easy for so many of us to look to the past and say... well, I would've done this or that. It's really easy for other people to tell us what we should have done. I've learned so much over the years about not only myself and how to heal from the damage done, but also about the adoption industry and the damage it does. The me of now needs to let the me of then off the hook. Does that make any sense?

The mind is a fascinating thing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

1980? What?!

There are many who are amazed when I tell them that I surrendered my daughter to the adoption machine in 1980. They think that because it was 1980 I surely had a choice in the matter, that it was my decision. WRONG! Some people think - how can that be? The BSE (Baby Scoop Era) was over then. Was it? Really? It was over for a lot of the country but there were many pockets of our fine nation where it wasn't over, not yet. The attitudes of the BSE still prevailed.

Some are amazed because they just don't know what happened to young women during the time of the BSE. They know that girls went away but they didn't really think anything beyond that. What happened to those girls when they went away? They have no idea of the treatment that so many were subjected to. They know that they left. They were told that their friend or neighbor went to take care of an ailing Aunt or they got a job in a different city, that was the story. There were probably some who believed the story and some who whispered behind their hands ...I'll bet she's "in trouble". What they didn't know was that those girls and young women were abused, humiliated, had their rights violated, were isolated and imprisoned, were punished for basically being human. They were kept separated from their babies, not allowed to see or hold their own children, labeled with signs stating BFA - baby for adoption - that told the hospital staff how to treat them. This happened in the 50's, 60's, 70's and yes, the 80's.

Some folks don't want to believe that this happened in the 80's. That's their prerogative. I know what happened because I lived it. I know that this horrible treatment of women and children was still going on in the 80's because I was there, I experienced it. I've read stories from other mothers who surrendered after I did and they were treated the same way. All those things that I just described above happened to me. I don't say this to gain sympathy. I say this and talk about it because too many people just have no idea what happened. And many, if they do know what happened during the BSE, have no idea that this stuff was still going on into the next decade.

What I don't understand is there are some people out in adoptoland who say yes, there is coercion going on and they would like to see reform happen BUT if you surrendered in the 80's it was your choice, you could have run and taken off with your baby. I just read this on a blog recently. Wait a minute. If there's coercion going on now that means that there are girls being brainwashed and signing surrender papers under duress. If that's the case in 2010 then isn't it possible that that is what happened to girls like me in the 80's? We were coerced as well. So does that mean we had a choice? I didn't have a choice and I'm sure I wasn't the only girl in the whole of the United States who was in that position at that time. The difference is it was actually more abusive back then, and the industry was more open about it. They have new and different techniques now. They've studied us to see what works and what doesn't.

Just recently I had an email conversation with a woman who works in a pregnancy center. Every time she responded to one of my letters it was as if she never even read them. I got back the usual adoption lingo - you know the words.... adoption is a loving option etc..... She called me closed minded and unfair. She said I couldn't go back decades and try to second guess what happened and that I needed to take responsibility for what happened. It's amusing to me when the pot calls the kettle black. It's insulting to me when someone who has not walked the same path that I did presumes to tell me how I was treated and what I could have done.
oh well.........


Saturday, September 18, 2010

From the heart of an adoptee

I thought I would share someone else's blog post with you. Karen at Assembling Self writes lovely poetry. I also like what Judge Weatherford had to say. Moms aren't the only ones who feel the loss.

Birth Bonds - The Severing of Biology in Adoption

As leaf to tree, as flower to bee, as cloud to sky and rain.
Like foot to toe, and face to nose, and person to a name.
Together these, like fish to sea, forever will belong.
Just as notes an artist wrote, or lyrics to a song.
Like tracks to a train this perpetual chain is what the world is based on.
There are links between each living thing and dusk that turns to dawn.
A stopped hand on the clock, a lost key to a lock, are vital connections gone.
Like pasts left behind, that we need to find, in order to carry on.
I hope you know what I'm trying to show, the point I'm attempting to make.
Like a child to it's mother, or sister and brother, some bonds aren't meant to break.

It still continually surprises me, after 12 years of involvement in adoption reform and education, that people do not grasp the vastness of having your genetic and biological foundation taken from you when you are adopted. Only through our eyes, those that can clearly see, can anyone comprehend that the world revolves around family and heredity everyday, and through generations that came before them. It was said best by the honorable Judge Weatherford to an adoptee upon their petition to open adoption records.

"The law must be consonant with life. It cannot and should not ignore broad historical currents of history. Mankind is possessed of no greater urge than to try to understand the age-old questions: "Who am I ?", and "Why am I?" Even now the sands and ashes of the continents are being sifted to find where we made our first steps as man. Religions of mankind often include ancestor worship in one way or another. For many the future is blind without sight of the past. Those emotions and anxieties that generate our thirst to know the past are not superficial and whimsical. They are real and they are "good cause" under the law of man and God." - Hon. Wade Weatherford, S. Carolina Circuit Court Judge

Thankfully there are those out there who are recognizing an adoptee's right to their biological background. I've seen great progress in the last few years. But, it is far from enough. Money has and is still playing the largest part in separating children from their parents and extended family. I was sickened recently in finding an adoption website that claimed to do extensive "birthmother marketing". Along with the claim "Some of our adoptive parents had babies within as little as four months". What is next "negotiable down payment", "money back guarantee", or "low monthly payments"???

Those in charge of this have no real understanding of the life long devastating effects of closed records adoptions. Wait, strike some of that, they do but are too caught up in the profits and benefits from the adoption machine and they refuse to listen those harmed by this system. Why are people who have no true understanding of any aspects of adoption involved with the daily function and perpetuation of it? They act as sheep blindly being hearded by groups such as NCFA who are wolves...and you guessed sheep's clothing. They profit off of our our pain and suffering in the guise of creating "families".

Let the voices of adoptees be heard. We are more numerous than you think. So many are out there feeling lost, alone, and misunderstood seeking and searching, as I was for so many years, who have not found their voices yet. Until that time we will speak for them.

Thank you Karen

Friday, September 17, 2010

Moms and Stereotypes

This painting to my left is a collage piece done by my dear friend Kelli. Kelli is my closest friend, my co-author on our art instruction book and my teaching partner. She's also an adoptive mother.

This piece is a portrait of me. You can see the letters BFA very clearly on my forehead in the painting and the words they represent are running through the background. It's about me and my story as a first mother. You see, Kelli has been my friend for over a dozen years. She knows everything about what happened, she's lived it with me, cried with me and she was sitting there when I got the call from the agency telling me that my daughter was found and wanted to have contact with me. As I sat there listening on the phone and crying with relief she was motioning me with signals - do I get the tissues or do I get the tissues and the champagne?

In adoption world there's a lot of animosity toward adoptive mothers. I understand why. I see the sense of entitlement, the selfishness and the cruelty of many of them. I know that they are the people who create the demand part of supply and demand in the adoption industry. Without the demand of the adopters there wouldn't be the agencies willing and able to exploit young, vulnerable women out of their infants. Now here comes the "but"..... I also know that this is not the story for every single adoptive mother. There are some who "get" us. They understand, as well as they can, what we've been through and support our efforts 110%. There are some, like my daughter's adoptive mother who was there with open arms, making me part of the family from the moment I found them. It really bothers me when mothers like me - mothers of adoption loss - assume that ALL adoptive mothers are responsible for the evils of the adoption industry.

There's lots of stories out there and not everyone's story is the same. In Kelli's case, she adopted her niece when the girl was 6 1/2 years old. Kelli didn't start out wanting a baby. She and her husband had no intention of having children but when a family member was in trouble, in an abusive situation and needed a permanent home they stepped in and took over. Their niece became their daughter but that little girl always had contact with her first mother. She stayed in her family, she knows where she came from and she's always had contact with all of her original family. Kelli was called Aunt Kelli for a long time. She left it up to her daughter to decide when and if she wanted to call her mom. She eventually did decide to do that but Kelli left it up to her. This was kinship care. This is what I wish would happen more often for kids who are in trouble. In my opinion, my friends saved this girl's life. This is what the industry ought to be about, finding family first who can take care of children that are truly in need.

We, as first mothers, don't like the stereotype of the unwed mother as crack addicted slut who can't get her act together long enough to take care of her children. There are a few adoptive mothers out there who don't appreciate and don't deserve the stereotype of the selfish, greedy woman who thinks of no one but herself and her needs. There are also adoptees angry with first mothers and make the assumption that all of us just gave away our children without even looking back. Hogwash. Another assumption made, another roadblock to getting something done and fixing things. There's a lot of anger out there from all sides. I don't know what the answer is. I wish I did. I just think we all need to do a little more listening and a little less assuming.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Adoption Bullet

It's Sunday morning and I'm relaxing, eating breakfast and listening to the quiet in the house. I got on line and read Robin's blog about the night she last saw her daughter. She wrote about signing the surrender papers and it was like I was transported back to 1980. There I was again, sitting in a room with a large desk, the woman behind the desk with her bobbed grey hair, looking at me with no expression. As I sobbed my way through the signing she said nothing to me, just pushed a box of tissues across the desk. Now here I am, 30 years later and reunited with my daughter, and this scene in my head can still reduce me to the sobbing girl I was then. The pain comes rushing to the surface screaming. It stops at my throat choking me until I let it out and have a meltdown.

A couple of days ago I wrote a message to a young pregnant woman who wrote on a public page that she just decided to give her baby up for adoption. I felt odd writing to her, a complete stranger. I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing by saying anything to her. I don't know her situation. I don't know if she's being pressured (after her reply to me I think she is). Now after re-living that moment in the adoption agency, remembering once again what it was like to leave the hospital without my daughter, I know I did the right thing by contacting this girl. She's still pregnant. She has no idea what's in store for her if she follows through with this. She needs to know what this will do to her and her child and you know the agencies aren't going to share that info with her. It's up to the moms who have been there before to tell her what she's going to face. It's also up to us to share with her any knowledge we have of resources that can help her if she decides to keep her baby. My guess is that the agencies aren't that forthcoming with that info either. I'm starting to compile a list of websites that might be a help to her. If any of you know of some good sites I can add to the list please let me know.

Girls/women in this situation need to know that there is help out there. It such an overwhelming feeling to be in the position of being pregnant and alone. What an easy target for the agencies and their greed. Every time I hear of another infant adoption all I can think about is that mother sitting in an office or even her hospital room still recovering from the birth, signing that paper and what it's doing to her. I think about that baby crying for his/her mother. I see the posts from the happy, smiling couples who are advertising that they want a baby. I want them to leave that mother alone. I want her to know that there's other options besides the so-called "loving option".

The girl I contacted may never write to me again. I may never know what she decided but I had to at least give her the information I never got. I had to tell her what I wish someone had told me. I couldn't dodge that bullet but maybe there's a way to keep other moms from getting hit.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marketing Madness

In my recent travels through websites and Facebook pages I've come across more and more stories about folks advertising that they are looking for a child to adopt or agencies that are marketing to the unwed, pregnant mother. When I'm on my own Facebook page I see ads popping up on the sides that are advertising adoption agencies. Simply because I look at pages on this topic it automatically generates these ads. When they appear I can feel my blood pressure rise and my teeth grind.

This webpage called midwest voices has a guest columnist talking about his volunteer work with a Kansas City adoption agency.

"As a volunteer for a local Kansas City adoption agency, my caseworker supervisor has been training me to assist her as a “child scout”; connecting children with people who wish to adopt. Based upon the family and individual requirements (some are potential single parents), I search upon national websites, like AdoptUSKids to help connect “forever families” with children seeking homes."

The first sentence alone had me twitching - "child scout"???? Doesn't that just say it all? Scouting for babies. Isn't it obvious who the agency is working for? It's all about the PAP's. ......."with children seeking homes." Do you really think that those newborn infants - if they had a voice - would be asking to go home with strangers? Are these babies seeking homes? Who do these babies really want holding them?

"Presently, given the many State and private databases, I prepare search documents in MSWord, tables that are the result of “screen-scraping” data from the websites; tedious but crucial and much appreciated by adopting people with whom we work. But, what if we had a national “Facebook-like” platform to help fuse all of this information and share it? For the techies out there, yes this begins with a comprehensive “requirements document” to explain what everyone needs.

What if Facebook donated some of their time, talent, and treasure to this human endeavor?"

So, now they want to get FB to donate their time to help them find babies to sell. Why am I still amazed by this? I'm continually appalled at what people will do but this shouldn't surprise me. Sandy at Musing Mother came across another agency trolling on Craigslist. I've even heard of prospective adoptive couples handing out business cards to pregnant women who are not wearing a wedding ring. Just how low will they go? Well, it seems that all I've managed to do in this post is ask questions. Some of the answers are obvious but how low will they go? I hope we've already seen the lowest.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pain Wars

My pain is greater than your pain. I see a lot of this kind of thing going on in the adoption world. I just read another great post from Declassified Adoptee about adoptees supposedly not understanding the pain of infertile couples. Like Amanda said, adoptees live in the real world too and have the same issues that everyone else deals with. The same can be said for us first mothers. Many, many first mothers deal with infertility later on after losing their children. That child they lost to adoption may have been the only child they will ever have. They certainly know what that pain is like.

I understand what the pain of wanting a child is like. I lived with that pain for 22 years before I found my daughter. I had 2 more children after the adoption but that doesn't lessen the pain of losing the first one. Children born later are not replacements for the first. They are beings in their own right, separate from the first. The longing for the first one doesn't go away. This is what I want to say to people who say that we, as first mothers, don't understand the pain of yearning for a child. I think people who say such things haven't really thought that through. Unfortunately I know it all too well.

People on all sides of this issue have a tendency to live in their own little bubble of self-interest. I think we all behave that way at times, not wanting to hear what the other side has to say. We all want validation of what we've been through and there's nothing wrong with that but we also have to listen to other people's stories. Not all adoptive parents are demanding, greedy and filled with a sense of entitlement to other women's babies. Not all first mother's are drug addicted whores that can't be bothered to clean up their act for the sake of their children. Not all adoptees are angry with first mothers. You know that the big business beast known as the adoption industry is just eating it up. It probably loves to see the animosity between the 3 sides of this triangle. We end up playing this game of "I went through worse stuff than you went through" and then end up bickering with each other.

What is the point of that? Shouldn't we be focused on the children and what's good for them? While there's all these little battles going on out there in the field, there's the industry and it's weapons of manipulation taking more and more prisoners. Those of us affected by adoption all have pain in one way or another. In order to make people aware of what the industry does we have to talk about that pain and show them what the tools are that the industry is using. Maybe I'm dreaming, but wouldn't it be nice if instead of bludgeoning each other with our pain and complaining about how we don't understand each other, we could work together and use it to change the source of the pain?


Friday, September 3, 2010

Peddlers of Flesh

I came across this site on Facebook today and just had to post it here. When I told my hubby about it he called them flesh peddlers and he was right! I sure hope there's some other people out there that find this just as offensive as I do. I'm not just talking about first mothers either, it should be offensive to everyone. They make this look like a vacation package. Look! Absolutely free! All for the simple act of giving us your child. Take a look at the photos on the left of the page, there's actually a smiling young mother holding her very pregnant belly with one hand and shopping bags with the other as if to say.... look at me, I'm out shopping and having a good time, yay! All I have to do is give birth and then I can go back to my life without any hassles.

This is not the only place that offers packages and deals. After seeing this I really don't want to hear anymore about the industry no longer being coercive or manipulative.

OK, time to go back to Robin's blog and know that life CAN be good. Make sure you visit, you've got to see the photo she posted.

Peace and have a good holiday weekend.

Tattoo Tales

I never thought in a million years I would ever get a tattoo! Not me. Nope. Never.
Well, as you can see, never say never. After 2 major events in my life in the past 8 years I decided I would do it. The first event was finding my daughter. After I found her I started thinking.... maybe. Then last year was the cancer diagnosis and surgery. I had radiation early this year and now I'm fine. That was event number 2.

Since I decided to get the tattoo, I thought, I want to be able to see it all the time otherwise I'm not going to bother so I put it on my forearm. I came up with the idea for the design and my hubby did it in photoshop for me. It's lovely having a hubby who does graphic design. The design is a triquetra, for me representing mind, body and spirit. The red ribbon running through it forms my 3 children's initials - E, A and S. For me this celebrates life and the reunion of my 3 children.

So now I'm curious. Are there any other moms out there who got tattoos relating to the adoption of their children? If so and you don't mind sharing, what did you get?