Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Show

Well, there's already lots of writing and talking about Oprah's show yesterday so I'm not going to go into all the details here but I did want to put some thoughts down. I watched it at first with trepidation. Since I was at work all day and had to watch it late last night I didn't want to end up crying, angry or both right before wanting to sleep. Getting a good night's sleep doesn't happen that often anyway so adding some late night stress doesn't help.

So..... what was I worried about? I was worried that the stereotypes were going to rear their ugly heads. I had never seen any of the shows she's done previously on adoption but I heard that she was very pro-adoption. I just didn't know what to expect. As it turns out I thought it was a good show. At first I sensed, and it may just be my perception, that Oprah was angry with her mother when she talked about confronting her with the story. If that's so, I can understand it to a degree. Finding something out this huge, so many years later, is truly unsettling. But then later in the show, it was a relief for me when Oprah had her epiphany regarding the shame that her mother must have felt. I thought it was important that she acknowledge what so many natural mothers experience and why there are some who are reluctant to face their past. I also thought it important that the issue of poverty was discussed as the reason for the adoption.

I was pleased that Patricia was able to explain how she felt about being adopted, what it meant to her to find her family and other family members were able to express how the situation affected them. I thought the topic was handled with dignity and I loved it when Patricia said it (reunion) should be handled within the family. Yes! She was referring to the possible media circus of course because of Oprah's celebrity status but to me that means the government and agencies need to stay out of it when an adoptee wants an OBC or adoption records. What they do with those records then is their business.

Anyway, I thought the show was done well. I think Oprah will now have a new perpective on adoption and what it does to people, that's what happens when something hits close to home. I wish all of them the best in getting to know their families.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Statement Enclosed

I saw an excellent post this morning by Amanda at Declassified Adoptee. She was talking about silence and success. Of course this was from the adoptee point of view but I could certainly relate from the mother's perspective.

"The notion that "not talking about it" means a person has not thought about it or experience difficulty, or that their silence means that there is no different experience or difficulty for anyone, is absurd."

Oh, so true.

"And then comes you're ever popular, heard-it-a-million-times, "I know someone who is adopted and they're fine with it; they never talk about it." After hearing/reading this response so many times, I wonder why it is, to so many people, that being silent about such a big thing is a sign of success in an adoption?"

It could have just as easily read "I know someone who is a natural mother....." This is something I found when I started talking about adoption with people - the shock that they express when finding out that I wasn't just fine with the whole notion of adoption. Like adoptees, we didn't go around talking about our experience as mothers. Some of us were silent for literally decades. So, if we were silent for so many years, how were people to know what it was like for us? On one hand I can understand why someone would be surprised at how we feel and felt about the experience. Actually, if we call it what it really was - abuse, maybe people would think a little differently about it.

On the other hand though, I have trouble understanding how people could not know that surrendering a child for adoption is devastating. I've had a woman tell me that she had no idea I experienced such pain or that the pain continues for years. This was coming from a woman who is a mother herself. This is common and I don't know why. How can someone who experienced pregnancy, childbirth and raising children not know that losing a child hurts like hell and keeps on hurting? Just because I haven't gone through life beating my chest and sobbing daily doesn't mean I'm fine with what happened. I guess this is what's missing - something as simple as the thought - "I wonder what that would be like" and then mentally and emotionally be in that person's shoes for a while. We not only need our stories to be out there so people have knowledge, we also need some more imagination in the world, imagining what life is or was like for other people.

As I've written about before, many of us kept silent because were told to, because we were shamed into silence. Well, I think a lot of people prefer that we stay quiet. Being quiet about the abuse means they don't have to imagine what that would've been like. No one wants to feel pain. That's what we're about, finding pleasure and avoiding pain. If they don't hear about it they don't have to feel it. They also don't have to feel guilt depending on the connection to adoption. They don't have to feel obligation to do anything about the injustices. It's just plain easier to not deal with it at all. So the message is......all of you people who are unhappy with the way things happened or the way things are happening now, just go away.

Well, no such luck. A lot of people involved with adoption have no intention of disappearing. There's a statement enclosed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mothers in Exile

Mothers in Exile
mixed media

When I think of mothers like me who have lost children to adoption there are words that come to mind.... fractured, hidden, sad, exiled, grieving, broken, secrets, lies, missing, searching, darkness, compartmentalize, anger, denial, waiting. And then there are words like survival, strength and perseverance.

This is who we are. We grieve our lost babies. We love and cherish the babies we gave birth to later. We spend decades waiting for the day when all our children will be in the same room. We are women who were never able to have more babies and grieve the loss of their one and only. We separate the broken part of ourselves from our family lives so we can continue to live. We only let it peek through when the crack in the facade just can't be held together another second. For many of us that day was a birthday, that month was the birth month. We are the women who lie when asked how many children we have. We say two when we want to SCREAM 3!

We walk around in hiding. People would never guess this inner world of a mother of adoption loss. We're not supposed to tell. Pretending becomes second nature and it's this pretending that allows us to keep going. But, we can only keep going that way for so long. The damage that pretending does becomes too great and we have to start the reveal. Little by little we come out from behind the door and let people know what happened. Then some of us find, amazingly enough, that the world didn't cave in when we told our secrets. We even find other mothers who lived it and know. We find people who are willing to listen even if they don't understand and people who are so shocked at the stories we tell that they don't know how to take it in.

So, we persevere, keep telling the story and get a little bit stronger every time. We write, we paint and we sing and we try to make sense of the senseless acts done to us and our children. We're the mothers coming out of exile.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I just read this article that someone posted on Facebook. This is an adoptive father talking about the injustices in the adoption world. First of all, he refers to women like me as "the birthmother". I just can't help the way it gets under my skin. He might as well say - "the walking uterus" or "the womb". It's like we aren't even people to him.

His first complaint: the long wait for an infant. He's in Canada and according to him there's a minimum wait of 10 years when doing a public adoption. The wait is shorter when it's a private adoption but "the birthmother" still has the right to change her mind up until 30 days after the baby is placed in the home. *gasp* The baby's mother has an entire month (insert sarcastic tone here) to change her mind. I do have to say though, at least she has 30 days. Here in my state of Florida there is NO time to change her mind. Once the paper is signed - that's it. It's done.

His second complaint: foster homes are overflowing with children. "In Canada, our system still weighs heavily the rights of the biological parent over those of the child." The writer is speaking of the child being in foster care for a period of time while the parent has a chance to remedy whatever the situation is. Isn't it in the best interest of the child for the parent to get their act together so they can raise their child? If they're not able to do that, shouldn't a family member be found first before giving the child to a stranger? And, when it comes to giving the natural parent a chance, how long is too long? I certainly don't have the answers and of course it should be considered on a case by case basis but it sounds like if it were up to this guy, the child would be taken and adopted out right away.

His next complaint: "I wish that it were different, that families would adopt these children." In other words - someone else's family should adopt them - not him and his family. He's still going for the newborn. "Our motivation is not charity. We want infants," Aha! There it is. He's complaining about the wait time for infants and the number of children in foster care but he doesn't want to be the one to take one of the children overflowing the system.

So.... to sum up, this is what his article sounds like to me. He doesn't want to have to wait for a baby. He doesn't want to adopt the children from foster care. He doesn't want mothers to have the opportunity to change their minds about such a huge life altering decision (life altering for her AND the baby). He doesn't want parents to have the chance to get their life together so they can raise their own children. What does he want? He says he's concerned for the children's well being but it seems to me what he really wants is someone else's newborn baby and he wants him or her now.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Unapologetic Campaign

I was taking a break from doing some art research and checking out Facebook when I saw a little video. I love it! What a simple thing - making the decision to stop apologizing for every little thing that doesn't require an apology! So many women do this - apologize not only for things that aren't wrong in the first place but for their very being. Sometimes they don't actually say these words but their behavior reflects the mindset - "I'm sorry I'm taking up space" "I'm sorry for breathing the air in the room" "I'm sorry I didn't spend a fortune on the gift I gave". What's the biggie us natural mothers are sorry for? Being human and getting pregnant.

What does all this apologizing say about us in general? Why do we feel like we're not worthy to speak up or even breathe the same air everyone else does? We bend to other's will, give in without speaking up and suffer in silence. Living like this is like living a shadow life. We're here but not really. What are we really apologizing for anyway, being female? Is that it?

From the time we're little girls we're taught to please. We had to please mom and dad, please the nuns and priests, please our teachers, please our friends, please our boyfriends, please our husband, please our bosses. We grow up with this habit so now it's.... please, please, please can we have an opinion of our own? (Funny, when you say a word enough times or write it enough times it starts to look ridiculous. Is that really a word?)

As a mom you nurture. As a parent you put your child first. When you grow up pleasing everyone and you find yourself in the vulnerable position of being pregnant you fall right back into pleasing mode. You want to do what's best for your baby of course so when your parents tell you what's best and your church tells you what's best and your counselor tells you what's best you do what you're told. All we wanted to do was make everyone happy. We were so sorry for the shame we brought on our families and communities that we lost not only our children but ourselves too.

I think it's time to join Cynthia's campaign and really think about when we say sorry. Let's save the "I'm sorry's" for when we've really done something to be sorry for. Maybe by doing that we can prevent some of the "I'm sorry" inducing behavior to begin with. Hurting someone is a reason to say you're sorry. Loving someone and creating new life is not a reason to apologize. It's time to evolve beyond those who decided that it was shameful. A baby should be a celebration. Maybe someday we can get past the nonsense of worrying about whether or not a pregnant woman is wearing a ring on her finger and in turn making her feel like she has to say she's sorry. A child's life and connection to mom is far more important than that!

PS: the woman who introduced me to Cynthia's blog was Alyson Stanfield If you're an artist and don't know who she is, check out her website and books. She has great marketing info.

PPS: and, for a dear friend of mine...... apologizing because you reused a gift bag when you were thoughtful enough to give a gift to someone is just plain silly - so stop it! ;)

Monday, January 3, 2011

I know it's just a doll but.....

She's my alter ego, my muse, the glamour girl that I'm not. She's a gift to me from my friend Kelli and she stands tall in my painting studio looking down at me from her high perch on top of the Hoosier cabinet I use to store art supplies. She's about as polar opposite of me as you can get - tall, thin and blond so that gives you an idea of "me".

I love this doll, she has a look about her that says "I'm strong, beautiful, I know who I am and what I want to say". It's a strength I wish I had way back when and I'm still working on acquiring that strength. I think it's an ongoing process, probably one that lasts a lifetime. Maybe that's why she appeals to me. She's a reminder of who I can be - no, I won't magically transform into a tall, skinny, blond but maybe in the new year I can be newly inspired to paint what I feel about adoption and be strong enough to be authentic in my words and work.

I haven't been here posting in a while. The holidays were crazy busy and I also needed a break from the topic. When I find myself crying at the drop of hat (or the drop of a word about adoption) it's time to pull back and take care of myself. Now, after spending wonderful time with the family, I'm back in the studio and feeling stronger again.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and here's to the new year!