Sunday, October 31, 2010

Being aware

Tomorrow begins November, Adoption Awareness month. I've been well aware of adoption for 31 years now. It hasn't been a good thing and it's not a good thing for many millions of mothers and adoptees. This November I hope more people become aware of what's wrong with adoption. I want to share an article with you that I first saw on Peach's blog. When you go to her blog be sure to catch the videos she has posted there. They're worth watching.

Maybe we should have a Family Preservation Awareness month.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just thinking, it's my blog - I'm entitled.

We talk a lot about the PAP's and the sense of entitlement to other people's babies that some of them have. They're the ones who drive the demand for infant adoption. In my last post I talked about what adoptees are entitled to. Lately, I've been thinking about mothers and their entitlement. Well, of course they're entitled to raise their own children. That should go without saying. Unfortunately, it seems we do have to remind people of that fact. What's even sadder to me is it seems like we need to remind mothers of that.

Girls and young women are being convinced to let their children go. You know the coercive tactics that are used against them - language, pre-birth matching, etc.... but I wonder sometimes about the ones who absolutely insist that they're handing their babies over to other people to raise because they're just not ready to parent right now. They claim loudly that they have no regrets and how dare anyone suggest otherwise. Is not being quite ready a good enough reason? How are their children going to feel about that when they find out why they were left behind by their mother? Have any of them thought about that? This is once again, more proof that the adoption industry is not about children.

So, when a mother says she's "not ready to parent"(I see this line all the time) what is it she's going to do instead of love and care for her baby - go to school? get a different job or work on the career? take time to play and be young? Well yeah, that all sounds good. Then when she's done getting the degree (the one she got with the scholarship given to her in exchange for her baby) she's left standing there with a diploma framed nicely on the wall and empty arms. Will she think it's worth it then? I have a hard time comprehending anyone who can be comfortable trading their child for a degree. Maybe down the road she'll wake up and realize what she's done. Of course then it's too late, the damage is done.

I remember hearing that it would be selfish to keep my baby, that she would be much better off with other people. This is the line still being used but when I hear women say "I'm not ready to parent", who's needs are they talking about here? They're not talking about the needs of their child. They're talking about what they are ready to do or not ready to do. They're still talking about their own needs, not what's good for that child, which is to be with their own natural family. Oh, they say they're doing it for the sake of the child but then say.... "I'm not ready". There was a time when women got pregnant they spent those months getting ready - physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, whatever she needed to do she did it. Once a baby is born you learn how to deal with motherhood one day at a time. Everyone is nervous about being a parent. It comes with the territory but you learn. There's a part of me that feels so sad for these mothers and knows that they've been worked over by the industry and when they do wake up years down the road, what they've done is going to hit them like a ton of bricks. Then there's the part of me that just wants to shake them and tell them to quit being so damned self-absorbed. Grow up and deal. Think about what this is going to do to your children.

So, here's the industry telling PAP's that they have the right to a child - someone else's child. They encourage that sense of entitlement. Then they're telling the young pregnant woman that she has the right to her freedom unencumbered by the hassle of child rearing. They encourage that sense of entitlement by reminding her of how hard it's going to be, how much she'll struggle and they'll conveniently leave out the info about the resources available to help her keep her child. And.... there sits the agency in the middle feeling very entitled to the cash.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Missing Pieces

I've heard people say recently that they didn't understand why adoptees have a need to find their original family. "They have a family, why do they need to know about the other one?" I don't understand what they don't understand about that.

I look a lot like my mother - and I mean a lot. I've had total strangers come up to me and ask if I'm related to Jo because I'm wearing her face. There was never any question where I got my curly hair from. My youngest daughter knows she has my eyes and my grandmother's nose. My son has my eyes and his father's mouth. These are things we take for granted. There's other beings in the world who when we look at them we see a piece of ourselves looking back.

When I talked to my oldest daughter - the one I found - about this issue she said that she always felt like she had a family, she loves them and they love her too but she felt she wasn't really them. There was always a piece of her missing. This is what the rest of the world, the people who don't live in that skin, don't get. Although I haven't lived her experience I can certainly understand the part about the missing piece. There's absolutely nothing unusual about her experience from what I've read. Adoptees all over the world feel the same way no matter how loving a home they ended up in. They're not only missing a piece of themselves but if they never find their natural family then they never know the true nature of who they are. Physical appearance characteristics aren't the only thing that gets passed down through generations. Seeing my oldest child with her siblings for the first time was proof enough of that. Watching the 2 girls using the same gestures, sitting in matching positions, using their voices the same way, seeing the connection between all of them that was practically instantaneous told me that the biology of family is huge.

And, of course, you have the medical issues. Every time an adoptee goes to the doctor and has to fill out a form for medical history - what do they write down? My daughter didn't know that her grandmother had breast cancer. If I hadn't found her she wouldn't have known that I had endometrial cancer or that there's a history of heart problems in the family. Everyone else has this knowledge to help them and their doctors figure out how to heal them or just keep them healthy. Everyone else knows if there's a genetic predisposition to certain diseases and from there can decide whether or not to have children of their own. They know what they might have a chance of passing down to their offspring. Why can't adoptees have this information too? Even the basic paperwork of who they are in the eyes of the state they live in is hidden from adoptees. No original birth certificates for them - only the fake ones. It's just too much. It's too much that they're missing. It's not fair to them.

From my place in the picture I saw what I was missing and it was agony. It was the only thing I could focus on because the pain was so big. Since it's been almost 9 years since finding my daughter I've been able to learn more about what she's been missing by listening to her and reading what other adoptees have written. As mothers we want what's best for our children. If adoption is going to be about the children (notice I said "going to be" since it's really about $ at this point and I can hope can't I?) then I think natural mothers owe it to their children to meet them, give them not only the medical history they need but also the answers they need no matter what the questions are. I don't care who searches for who, the adoptees deserve answers. Our kids didn't sign up for this.

When I was ready to start on the next painting in the series I remembered that I had some of my daughter's pictures from her childhood. The photo I used for a reference really struck me because of the large empty space behind her and that's when it hit me to leave her face an empty space also. For our kids there's too many missing pieces.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anger and adoption

Today Tyler Perry said something on the Oprah show that I could relate to. ~ "Anger is good, bitterness is not". He was talking about dealing with the abuse he suffered as a child and using the anger about that for a positive change. This was such a timely interview for me to watch because this also applies to us in adoption world. There are people who call us bitter and mean when all we're doing is speaking our own truth. I think they do that because they don't want to see what they're doing, what their role is in this world of adoption. It's easier to throw the blame somewhere else than look in the mirror.

Then there are people who worry about us because they worry that our anger will turn to bitterness. They're afraid that because we deal with hard issues and people who throw blame our way we'll lose our smiles and get swallowed up by the pain. I think for me it'll be the people who care about me who will help me keep my anger from becoming bitterness. It's scary to talk about this stuff. It's hard to write these things and put them out there for anyone to read but all I'm trying to do is point out the truths of the past and the truths of what's happening now.

Coming out of the adoption closet has been a relief. I can't speak for other mothers but I know that for me, painting the paintings, writing the blog posts, commenting and writing letters is something I do for me and hopefully a side benefit will be helping to change things for the better. It's hard to talk about my experiences and relive it each time I do but there's a certain freedom to it. Once it's done and out there it's very freeing. I have no idea if anything I do, paint or say is going to make any difference but it helps me to know that if I'm at least trying then the crap I went through wasn't in vain. If I thought that it was then I think it would be too easy for the anger to become bitterness and that wouldn't be good.

Just wanted to add something to this post. I was flipping through Ann Fessler's book The Girls Who Went Away and I found a paragraph that I had highlighted when I first read it. This is on page 301.

"I feel lucky. I feel lucky because I know my daughter is out there and she's fine, and healthy, and productive, and beautiful. I feel lucky that she says she loves me. I feel lucky that my children love me and understand what happened. I feel lucky that I survived cancer. And I feel lucky that I now have a voice. I didn't for so long, but you're not going to shut me up now. Keeping things inside kills you. You rot from the inside out. I did a great job of punishing myself for thirty-two years. But you just have to set yourself free, and that's what talking about it does." ~ Ruth

I was amazed when I read that.... I could've written that paragraph myself. Thank you Ruth.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reflect Here

"To the women who worked in the Magdalen Laundry Institutions and to the children born to some of the members of those communities ~ reflect here upon their lives"

The above paragraph is taken from a plaque that's mounted at a convent in Ireland. Many of you know of the Magdalen laundries but unfortunately too many people have no idea these places existed. For the estimated 30,000 women and children who passed through those convents in the 150 year history of the laundries, their stories should be told.... and told.

I worked in my studio all weekend and I think I've finally finished this piece. It's in memory of the Magdalens. As you know I'm working on a series of paintings about adoption and in the course of my research I learned about the laundries. When I learned of this the first thing that came to mind was -it's just a matter of geography.

It's simply a matter of geography that I didn't end up in one of those laundries. I was raised Catholic. So were these girls in Ireland. I was pregnant without being married. So were the girls in Ireland. The last of these laundries didn't close until 1996, my daughter was born in 1980. The girls who were there because they were pregnant had their children taken from them at birth. The same happened to me. What the geography did save me from is the physical abuse - the long hours of servitude and the beatings. For that I'm thankful.

It wasn't that long ago that women and children were being treated as slaves, and in some countries, it's still happening. Why were they treated this way? For the simple reason that they were human, they were female and they were not allowed to experience that which is perfectly natural. If she did, and if she carried the evidence of her actions for all to see, she must be hidden and punished. Some became prisoners because they were deemed too pretty - how dare they, they might attract the attention of some poor boy who can't be trusted to control his urges. We must save him from himself by punishing the girls. Some were forced to work as servants because they were raped. Again, where was the boy's responsibility in this. It was all her fault so she was to be locked up until she was purified of her sin, or until a male relative came to get her released. For some, the day of their release never came. They lived their entire lives there in the convents and there they died. They lived their lives being abused by the very people who proclaimed to live for God's love and were supposed to be expressing God's love. I included the image of a pope's mitre in the painting because as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church he is the head of state of Vatican City and as such the crimes of the Magdalen Laundries are on his head and the heads of the popes before him.

Today, as I was on my way home from the store, I passed a church sign that said "Flee from sexual immorality". Flee? I found that kind of humorous. Are we to run screaming in the opposite direction? And what exactly are we to flee from, who's definition of sexual immorality? Who gets to decide what is moral behavior and what isn't? We are sexual beings, it's just a fact of biology. We express our love for each other in a physical way. Can't we decide for ourselves what is sexually healthy? Can't we base those decisions on our own judgements and not take the word of another human who may or may not have their own hang ups about it? I think our inner compass is perfectly capable of figuring out what's right and wrong without blindly following the dogma set down by the men of centuries past.

Some of you may be familiar with Stephen Fry, the actor and comedian. Last year he spoke eloquently at a debate about whether or not the Catholic Church was a force for good in the world. In part of his talk he was referencing the church's teachings on homosexuality, AIDS and the use of condoms but I thought what he said was also relevant here.

"It's the strange thing about this church, it's obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. They will say we with our permissive society and rude jokes are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude. We like it, it's fun, it's jolly. Because it's a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult. It's a bit like food in that respect only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell."

The tragedy of the laundries is a result of a cruel society and a harsh, judgemental church. When will people move beyond this? When will churches stop shaming people for simply being human?

Monday, October 4, 2010


I painted a self-portrait a few years ago. For those of you who get involved in creative endeavors you understand this feeling. You go into the studio, or sit at the computer and in a flash the entire day is gone. That was the day I painted this. I started it in the early morning and didn't come out of the room until it was done later that evening. I don't even think I ate anything that day (I should paint that way more often).

This was done post-reunion and in a way it was about a reunification of my fractured self. When you lose a child a piece of you is missing. You go on with your day to day activities, you laugh and love and you raise your other children but there she is. She's always there, in the hair color of a little girl you see in the grocery store or the eyes of a child you see at a party and you wonder..... could she be? How can I find out her birthday? How can I find out if she's adopted?

Like I mentioned in my earlier post about looking back and not recognizing the letters I had written - the self-preservation mode - living life with adoption is like that. One part is living a life that's happy while the other part is always on the look out, always searching and longing. This portrait was not only about the experience of a mother but about the pieces of a life finally coming back together.

While reading some articles and blogs I see this quite a bit.... adoptees need to quit whining, adoption is a miracle, mothers need to get a life and stop being hateful and bitter, everybody needs to just shut up and be grateful for the generosity of the adopters. In fact, here's a real gem of an article that puts all these attitudes together in one place. The writer of this...... thing.... obviously has no clue about what really happens in adoption. She just sees one tiny piece and comes to the most ridiculous conclusions. Unfortunately this happens a lot, people only see one little segment of the picture so let's look at some more pieces of adoption world.

This is a very, very short list of adoption agencies - some big, some small. If you look through these you'll see the machine in action. These are the people who make the money, the ones who use vacation packages and college scholarships to entice young, vulnerable, pregnant women through their so-called "birthmother" outreach, one of these spends millions a year on advertising to mothers. These are the people who use counselors to advise mothers - counselors who are paid by the adopters through the agency who stands to make the money. Can you guess what they're advising them? Questionable ethics here? These are the people who claim they can get a baby in 4 months because they are results driven!

These are the tools the agencies use. They teach the hopeful couple how to advertise. There are now businesses popping up that help with the marketing to the mothers. If the couple doesn't have that artistic flair these folks can make their brochure stand out among the crowd.

This is big business so there are now lots of ways to finance buying a baby. Grants and credit cards are available and the government now gives a tax credit of 12,000.00+ to couples adopting a baby. It's amazing how willing everyone is to help adopters get a baby but when a mother needs help to keep and raise her baby it's frowned upon.

Then you have the very many reunion registries that adoptees and mothers are pouring over for years, hoping and praying that they can find the part of them that's missing. The powers that be don't think that adults should be able to have their own personal histories. Adoptees are not "allowed" to have their original birth certificates. They're treated as if they're still children and can't be trusted to handle their own relationships.

When you put the pieces together, adoption doesn't paint a very pretty picture.