Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter weekend

It was Easter weekend when I met my daughter for the very first time. I remember flying in to Columbus OH airport, (not a very long flight from FL although it felt like an eternity) and getting off the plane. No one was at the gate to greet me so I headed to the baggage claim area. I think I hyperventilated all the way down there. At one point going down the stairs I thought I would faint. My breathing was labored, my pulse rapid, I had to stop and lean against the wall to try and catch my breath, all I could think was - I'm about to meet my daughter! It was only 22 years in the making and the year that we met was also her birthday weekend.

I didn't know what to think. I know what I was feeling - pure terror! I wasn't afraid of her - I was afraid of all the emotion that the reunion was going to bring up. I was afraid I would be a blubbering idiot in front of all these people - all these people being her adoptive family. What would they think of me? What would she think of me? I figured some of them would be at the airport to support her and that was fine and dandy. I'm the one who made the decision to go alone for the reunion so I had no one there holding me up. It was my own fault. For some reason I felt like I had to do this on my own. I was alone throughout the pregnancy, I was alone when I gave birth, I was alone when I signed the papers and I needed to be alone to meet her. It was between me and her. There was one thing that she and I shared - and no one else - and that's her birth. No one else can lay claim to it. Her adoptive family could sing happy birthday to her but it was me who was there. It was me feeling the labor pain. She arrived in this world through me. No matter what else happened it was me and her.

So since that reunion it's been me and her figuring things out, getting to know each other and feeling our way through the labyrinth that is reunion. We took things slowly and it was worth it. We've been remembering our connection and learning how to navigate it. She's learned I'm 'momma' and I rejoiced the day I heard her say that word. I remember crying with joy the first time she called me that. There's just no describing what it feels like to hear your daughter call you a term of endearment for the first time ever, decades after giving birth. It's a tricky thing to feel like someones mother yet at the same time be on the outside looking in. It's a weird place to be. How far do you go with the 'mom' thing. She has another mother, the one who was there when she was growing up. I wanted to be the one who was there but wasn't allowed to be. It took a long time to figure out how to fit in now that she is grown up. I think we got it figured out though. It was hesitant at first, became a friendship over time and then it grew and filled in the spaces that make up 'mom and daughter'.

Because her birthday is so close to Easter, this holiday used to bring with it a grieving. While I was having fun watching my other 2 children hunt eggs there was a sadness that sat just below the surface. I didn't dare think about it. That got completely turned around in that spring 9 years ago as I sat next to her, shoulders touching, on a bench in Ohio, watching my grandchildren play in the yard. Easter once again became a time for new life and this year I get to celebrate another new life with my granddaughter's first Easter.

Life is good with all my children and grandchildren in it. Happy Easter Liz, Aaron, Sarah, Josh, Kory, Jakob and now Maxine. xoxoxoxoxo

Friday, April 22, 2011

Religion and adoption

This is interesting. Take a look at this article Evangelical Adoption Crusade.

Here are just a couple of small snippets.....

“We expect adoptions will continue to rise as new movements within the Christian community raise awareness and aid for the global orphan crisis,” Bethany CEO Bill Blacquiere said.

One result has been the creation of “rainbow congregations” across the country, like the congregation Moore helps pastor in Louisville, Highview Baptist. An active adoption ministry has brought 140 adopted children into the congregation in the past five years. These children don’t recognize the flags of their home countries, Moore proudly noted at a 2010 conference, but they can all sing “Jesus Loves Me.”

So incredibly sad, nothing short of brainwashing and child abuse in my book, and more.....

"As the numbers have dropped, the adoption industry has constricted, with the closure or merger of 25 percent of US agencies since 2000. The shuttering of Guatemala in 2008—what Luwis called “the gravy train” for many agencies—was a major factor. JCICS felt the squeeze too. In an internal 2009 document, the organization described financial shortages that forced it to halve expenses and staff in recent years.

“In the last few years, a bunch of top placing agencies in the US met together kind of clandestinely,” recalls Luwis. “To me it was a ‘saving our rear’ meeting. I take no salary. But for some of the others, this is their livelihood. They place thousands of kids; this is the way they’ve done it, they’re not going to change.”


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resolve to keep talking

I learned about this organization Resolve - The National Infertility Association from a post on Facebook. They are lobbying to get tax credits for people suffering from infertility because the cost of treatment is so high. I find that a wee bit frustrating. Are there tax credits for those of us who have been through cancer? I'll be paying on those medical bills for years. Cancer is a life threatening crisis. Is infertility a life threatening crisis? They call it a crisis on the website. Now I'm not trying to minimize the pain that people feel when faced with this problem, yes I know it's painful, but how about a little perspective. The catastrophic and dramatic language that they use to get their point across can be a bit much. You're not going to die if you don't have a child.

Of course this group is also pushing adoption, it's all over the site. Adopters already get a huge tax credit to help them with the cost of adopting yet most natural mothers who surrender their infants are doing so because of lack of financial support. Why is that? If the adopters were really concerned about doing what they could to help children they would be adopting an older child from the foster care system who really does need a home. And....those adoptions cost very little if anything. Suppose a baby's natural parents aren't able to be there for the child and a family member is raising that baby. Where is the big tax credit for them? If they're really concerned about children why don't they do something to help single mothers instead of taking their children away from them? They don't because the adoption industry and groups like this push the adoption agenda which is of course money in their pockets and because they're more concerned about their own crisis of childlessness.

Resolve is having a family building conference next month. This is from the site....

So, You Want to be a Parent? Nothing can Stop You! The keynote speaker at Southwest Region’s 19th annual family building conference is Bill Grundfest, an award-winning writer and producer. “If what you want is to be a parent, nothing can stop you," Grundfest said. "And, once you are, the ‘how’ you became a parent will make no difference to anyone, least of all to you.” (bold my emphasis)

Well Mr. Grundfest, I beg to differ. Do you really think that if a couple become parents through infant adoption that it will make no difference to anyone?! How about the mother who will be grieving for her child for the rest of her life. How about the child who has been taken from his natural family, has been cut off from his history, has had his birth documents falsified, who as an adult is still treated like a child and not allowed to have his own personal records. What about all that?

When are adults going to start showing more concern for children and less for themselves? Everything I said above may sound like a broken record but every time I come across another site like this and attitudes like that of Mr. Grundfest I get pissed off all over again.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It just is

Well, I'm an artist so usually I post a painting of mine or some sort of image to go with the post I'm doing. I didn't really have anything in my body of work that fit what I had in mind for this post so I did a search for an appropriate image. I Googled "image of angry women". I went through 10 pages of images and what I found were pictures of crazed, maniacal, gun toting, knife and/or rolling pin wielding, curler wearing, mascara streaked, hair ripping pictures or cartoons.

Good grief! Is this what people think of when they think of us being angry? Why are we portrayed as such ugly, awful witches(some with brooms even) for simply being angry? Lots of us are pissed off and with good reason. Robin did a very good post about this. Robin and I both just joined the One Million Pissed Off Women page on Facebook. In just a very few short days the membership has grown to 5602 members, at least that was the count when I last checked it while writing this. It's grown every time I look at the page. By the time I post this it might even be over 6000 members. Does that say something about how we feel as females about how we're treated? Take a look at the page to get an idea of why we're pissed off.

There's a lot being talked about on the blogs about anger. Read what Melissa had to say at Yoon's Blur. This is from the adoptee's point of view. Amanda from Declassified Adoptee had this to say about that post...

"Perhaps it is time for others to investigate why they react to your voice and other adoptee voices the way that they do, before deciding we're the ones who are wrong :-)"

Yes, yes, yes!

Now here's something else I've heard.... "just because you had a bad experience with adoption....." That's one to send me over the edge, clinging perilously to the branch that's sticking out of the cliff's rock face. Whoever says that doesn't even have to finish the statement and I'm seeing red. This was said to me by a beloved person in my life. It took me days - literally - before I could even function normally after that discussion. How dismissive and patronizing! Yes, my experience with adoption sucked. Does that mean my experience was unusual and should not be shared? Does that mean it's not worthy of expression so others can understand what the history of adoption is? Does that mean I shouldn't care about what happens in adoption now and do my part to help keep children and their mothers together? Does that mean my anger at the system that tears families apart is not justified?

Here's another one.... "it's in the past, why dwell on it, you can't change what happened then" Well no, of course I can't turn back the clock and change what happened but I sure as hell can do what I can to keep someone else from going through what I did. The only way to help prevent that from happening again is to talk about what happened then. If the generations coming up don't know what happened, how are they going to know how to prevent it?

Another one I've heard in reaction to the fact that I'm now painting and blogging about adoption.... "I don't want you to become angry" BECOME ANGRY?! Again - BECOME ANGRY?! I guess as natural mothers we got very good at hiding and suppressing our anger because it's amazing to me that anyone would even question our anger. We were forced to be mother's without our children. We were told we weren't good enough to raise our own babies, we apparently shamed our families, we were supposed to just move along and give our children to better people who were more deserving than us, we were to forget and move on and quit complaining. So what's to be angry about? Once knowing the truth, how can anyone (especially people who are parents themselves) not understand the anger that we've lived with? I've been angry for over 3 decades! I didn't show it all the time because I've been living a life with my husband, raising my other 2 children and in the meantime stuffing the anger down. It's the way us natural moms survive - stuffing the anger.

I learned a lot over the years about how to deal with it. I did a lot of reading, meditation and introspection. I wanted to be the best mother I could be for the children I raised but of course the past had an effect on my mothering them. I leaned toward over-protecting them out of fear of losing them like I lost their sister. I even had nightmares over the years about losing them to awful accidents. I'd wake up crying, not able to breathe, with one thought in my head - I lost one child, I can't lose another. My poor kids grumbled for a long time because I made them wait longer than their friends to get their driver's licenses and it was purely out of fear. That may seem like a minor thing but it's just one example of the constant effect that adoption had on me and the other people in my life.

Science has proven that stress and emotion has a huge effect on our physical being. Could it be that all the years of suppressing the emotion related to adoption had something to do with the cancer I dealt with just a couple of years ago? Was it purely coincidence that I had uterine cancer? I guess there's no way to know the answer to that but it just seems strange to me that the place that was the center of the most extreme emotion was also the center of an extreme disease.

So, what's healthier - bottling up all this anger and emotion or using the anger to make things better? Seems to me it's worth the risk of being considered a bitter, angry bitch, be authentic about the adoption experience and hopefully wake people up rather than keep silent and keep swallowing what was done to us. If we swallow it, it's going to come out anyway and we might not like how it happens. Just because we express our feelings about our adoption experience doesn't mean we're actually bitter, angry bitches. It just means we're expressing our emotion about that experience. It's a feeling that doesn't need a judgement, it just is.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Not a bit

This butterfly was a painting project I did for the city of Lakeland. They were doing a fundraising auction to build a children's playground and a bunch of us artists were fortunate enough to be chosen to contribute art. This particular project was special to me not only because it was to benefit children but because the city of Lakeland is where I was living when I was pregnant with my daughter lost to adoption. Near this park is where I had to sign the papers when she was 4 days old. When I was designing the pattern I was going to paint on the wings I decided to incorporate my daughter's initials into the design (thankfully this project came up after finding my daughter so I actually knew her initials). So, in this small way, Liz and I are always together in the town where I spent those months carrying her.

You see, mothers don't forget. Our sadness over losing our children doesn't turn into joy and warmth knowing that our babies are with other people who have more money or are married. I bring up the butterfly because our children, although not with us, are part of everything we do, everything we think, everything we feel. Last night I was looking through some websites and came across yet another rah, rah, happy adoption site. These sites always have questions supposedly asked by pregnant girls/women considering adoption (I doubt they're genuine questions considering how similar the questions are from site to site). I see this one all the time - "Will I feel sad forever?" The reply was...

"NO! There may always be a bit of sadness in your heart. But will be replaced with the joy, warmth, love, security and financial support your baby will have with the adoptive couple."

Oh, BULLSHIT! Seeing this nonsense just burns me. How dare someone, who has no idea what the hell they're talking about because they haven't lived in these shoes, give that kind of answer. These are the kinds of outright lies told to young, vulnerable pregnant girls in order to convince them to give up. After their baby is gone they're left to deal with the grief day in and day out for many, many years. Sadness will be replaced with joy? A mother without her child doesn't feel joy about the adoption no matter how long it's been. Sadness replaced with warmth and love? No and no. Love for who- the couple who took her baby and is raising her baby as if born to them? Love for the other woman who is being called mommy instead of the child's natural mother? Sadness replaced with security and financial support - well that just doesn't make sense. She might feel the security and financial support if she had been adopted by the couple along with her baby. I'm pretty sure what they meant to say was that the sadness would be replaced with love knowing the security and financial support their child will have. But here's the thing - there is no knowing. No one has a crystal ball. Those pretty brochures with the smiling, perfect looking PAP's could be false advertising just like the lies told above. There's just no way to know.

In the 22 years without my daughter I cried on a regular basis. There was an underlying depression that never left me and when her birth month rolled around every year I would be overcome with grief. Every day of my life I was searching. Every time I saw a child around her age I would wonder - could it be her? I worried that the people she ended up with could be abusing her (thankfully that wasn't the case but it does happen sometimes). I even wondered if she was still alive - could there have been an accident? maybe she was sick? You just don't know. That's not "a bit of sadness in your heart". That's living with constant uncertainty and depression. That's living with a piece of your heart far, far away and never knowing when or even if it will ever be returned to you.