Saturday, February 12, 2011

Preserving Families

A lovely lady in Gatesville, TX wrote to me to tell me about this organization alley's house. Their mission:

"Empowering teen mothers and their children to achieve independence through support services, education and mentoring."

Yes! In traveling through their site I couldn't find any indication that they were promoting adoption. They're a group of people dedicated to helping young moms by giving them support, help with goals, structure, education, parenting etc.... Just imagine how many families could be preserved if there were more places like this. Imagine how many mothers could keep and raise their children well if more federal dollars went to places like this instead of toward pushing the adoption agenda through huge tax incentives, grants and loans.

Convincing a poor, young, single mother to surrender her baby does not in any way help that mother. It causes heartache, despair, anxiety, depression and sometimes even suicide. Supporting her through programs with volunteer mentors, helping her to get her diploma and go on to college is going to allow her to raise her child and make a better life for herself. Unlike the adoption agencies who use college scholarships to entice mothers to surrender their babies, these folks believe you can keep your child and get educated.

I'm all for that. If anyone else knows of an organization similar to this one, please let me know. I'd like to add them to the list of resources for single moms.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Me and the girls

There was a show on a few years ago called the Gilmore Girls. My daughter Sarah and I would be glued to this show every Tuesday night for 7 seasons. The main characters were Lorelei and Rory - mother and daughter, and it was about their relationship. At the time the show was on Sarah was about the same age as Rory so there we were mother and daughter watching mother and daughter. I also have to confess that we love the show so much we now have all the seasons on dvd and the boxes travel from my house to Sarah's and back again and we're still not tired of watching, much to our husband's dismay. The show had really great writers, it was smart and funny.

Anyway, the point is, the mom/daughter relationship wasn't the only reason this show resonated with me. In the story line Lorelei was 16 when she got pregnant, didn't like the plan her parents made for her, which was to marry her boyfriend so she left with her baby. She was taken in by a woman who gave her a place to stay and a job that would let her have some flexibility so she could care for her baby. Basically she had support, she had some help so could keep and raise her daughter. The writers on the show never mentioned the "adoption option" and I often wondered why. Maybe they thought it would be too deep emotionally, although they did get into other tough topics. They also got into Lorelei's struggling relationship with her parents - the after effects of her pregnancy and running away. There was plenty for me to connect with in this story.

During the years of watching I often fantasized about what it would have been like to have had that kind of support. What would it have been like if I had just been given a chance? I know it would've been hard but maybe I would've ended up sitting there on Tuesday nights with both my daughters watching the show. When I see girls now talking about the reasons they surrendered their babies to adoption or why they're thinking about surrender I just want to cry. I want to warn them, I want to shake them awake. The main reasons are usually.....

"I can't give my child the life he deserves"

"The adoptive parents are better off financially"

"My child should have 2 parents"

"I'm not ready to parent"

So, the first one - what exactly does that mean - the life he deserves? What a child deserves is the mother who gave birth to him. He deserves to be loved by the woman who nurtured him in her body for 9 months, the one who loved him before he was born. He deserves to know where he came from, to grow up seeing the faces of others who look like him and have mannerisms like him, who walk like him and have similar tastes as him. He deserves to know the other folks in his tribe.

Reason number two - they're better off financially. Well, there's always someone better off financially. There's always going to be someone who has more money than you. It's all relative. Money comes and goes, situations change. Adoptive parents can lose jobs too. They're not immune to crisis. Mothers should not lose their children because they're poor. Children should not lose their mothers because their mothers are poor. Ask about resources. Ask for help.

Number three.... having 2 parents. In a perfect world maybe but we don't live in one of those. Adoptive parents get divorced or one of them dies. There's no guarantees in this life. Single moms can and do raise children every day. So do single dads. No, it's not easy but the really hard stuff in the beginning is temporary. Your status as a single person could possibly change too.

And finally - not ready? Honey, no one is every ready for being a parent. Those 9 months of pregnancy is you getting ready. Your body is preparing and during that time you can be getting your environment ready, putting a plan into action. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world and the best job in the world and you don't want to miss out on it. It's day by day and that's how you learn. The joy of having your child with you and watching her grow will far outweigh any hardship you encounter.

Adoptive parents are not superhuman. They're people just like the rest of us - some split up, have problems, some are loving and some are not. With some support to get started you are capable of taking care of your child. You have no idea what you're in for when you surrender a child. No, it doesn't get easier over time. When the agencies tell you that it's a lie. The grieving goes on and on. Having an open adoption doesn't mean it will stay open. That's also a lie. Don't get all your information from adoption agencies and their counselors. Don't base your decision on pretty brochures with lovely photos of smiling PAP faces, picket fences and puppies. These are nothing more than ads designed by marketers. All they're saying is "pick me, pick me". Don't allow yourself to be matched with a couple and be pushed into a relationship with them when you're pregnant. Don't allow them into the hospital when you're in labor, in delivery or your room afterward. All of these things are designed to manipulate you into doing what they want - giving them your baby. The main thing is find out about all your options not just the "adoption option".

I love that the writers of the Gilmore Girls created a character who was strong and followed her heart, someone who got help and raised her daughter as a single mom. Yeah, I know it's only a tv show but it was a positive example out there in tv land of a mom who kept her baby and raised her well. I appreciate that.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Half Blank

My husband and I were talking/dreaming the other day about a trip we'd like to take. He's been to Europe but I've never been. I'd like him to show me the sights - you know - do the tourist thing, see castles and country side, maybe do a river cruise. It's not something we can do anytime soon but for the fun of adding to the dream I thought I'd look into the requirements for a passport. I've never needed one before so I never thought about it. The first thing I noticed was the requirement for the original birth certificate and that the date on the certificate had to be within one year of the date of birth.

Well, my birth certificate is amended and is dated several years after my birth because I was adopted by my Dad. He's the only Dad I've ever known but he's not my natural father. I guess this makes me an adoptee-lite along with being a natural mother. I haven't talked about this other connection I have with adoption before because of the conditioning I grew up with. I didn't even find out about my adoption until I was 26 years old and here I am - 52 and just now talking about it - it took another 26 years. My family felt there was such a stigma connected to adoption that they didn't want anyone to know, even me - the one most affected.

Since becoming involved with the adoption community I've read stories from adoptees about finding out the truth as an adult. I can relate. Although I was raised by my mother and knew her side of the family, there is still another entire family I know very little about. To find out that you are not who you think you are is mind blowing. It's like your world tilts on it's axis and nothing is the same again. I remember one of the first thoughts I had was.... wow, I'm not really Cuban? that's just bizarre. Even the simple act of looking in the mirror changes. I didn't think any differently about Dad and I didn't/don't love him any less, it just brought another whole element into the equation about my identity. When I think about how much the news affected me, I can really feel for the adoptees who find this out when they're older and have zero information about either side of their natural families.

At the time I found out about my adoption it was 6 years after losing my daughter and my third child was just under a year old. I was trying to raise 2 little ones and keep my self together in dealing with the loss of my baby girl. There was a lot going on to say the least so I stewed on it for a while but then put it away. I had to focus on my kids. Now that I've started this blog, talk to other people in the adoption constellation, write letters and comments to people about access to OBC's for adoptees, all this stuff about my own adoption comes rushing back to the forefront. I don't know what that means for me. I'd like to find out more about my natural father's family. Maybe it'll mean no passport for me, not sure in my situation. I haven't researched enough yet to know.

There's been a lot of talk about Oprah's mother and her shame. I understand. It seems like it doesn't matter what angle you're coming from there's shame and secrecy involved. No more lies, no more shame, no more hiding. Done already.